The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) often urges its followers, Mormons, to not forget their religion at the polls — and this year, they’ve specifically spoken out against legislation that would legalize assisted suicide and marijuana.
As Colorado readies itself to vote on Proposition 106, which would legitimize the so-called “Death with Dignity” movement, the LDS church has issued a letter signed by its governing body, the First Presidency, that asks them to, in no uncertain terms, oppose any such measure.
“The church maintains a firm belief in the sanctity of human life and opposes deliberately taking the life of a person even when the person may be suffering from an incurable condition or disease. Life is a sacred gift, and should be cherished under all circumstances.”
— EpiphanyOnWallStreet (@NineInchBride) October 13, 2016
The position of the LDS church on assisted suicide is actually not far off from what some other non-Mormons around the state are saying about the measure. The Catholic Church has also made their displeasure with the proposal clear. Still, those views are in the minority if polling from Colorado Mesa University is accurate — around 70 percent of respondents at least somewhat approved of Prop 106.
Mormons were, however, provided a form of exemption from LDS church leadership, saying that life should not be preserved through “unreasonable” means. That term was not clearly defined, but the letter did say that fasting and prayer could be an option for families struggling with the decision to let go of a loved one.
“While the church opposes physician-assisted suicide, members should not feel obligated to extend mortal life through means that are unreasonable. Decisions in such cases are best made by family members after receiving wise and competent medical advice and seeking divine guidance through fasting and prayer.”
The LDS church is also making sure its adherents in Arizona, Nevada, and California are aware of the religious organization’s official stance on marijuana legalization. Mormons in those states have been told to similarly oppose measures that would allow the selling and possession of marijuana for recreational use.
“Drug abuse in the United States is at epidemic proportions, and the dangers of marijuana to public health and safety are well documented. Recent studies have shed light particularly on the risks that marijuana use poses to brain development in youth. The accessibility of recreational marijuana in the home is also a danger to children.”
— PewResearch FactTank (@FactTank) October 14, 2016
These instances are far from the first time that the LDS church has inserted itself into ballot measures in states outside of Utah, where around 55 percent of the population is Mormon. That number does not exceed 5 percent in any states where the First Presidency sent the letters.
Perhaps the most well-known of these efforts was the arrival of Mormons to California in 2008 to campaign for the passing of Prop 8, which banned gay marriage. According to a New York Times article released at the time, members of the LDS church made up 80 to 90 percent of early door-to-door efforts. Michael R. Otterson, the LDS church managing director of public affairs, told the paper that their involvement was purposefully deep reaching.
“We’ve spoken out on other issues, we’ve spoken out on abortion, we’ve spoken out on those other kinds of things. But we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this. California is a huge state, often seen as a bellwether — this was seen as a very, very important test.”
In contrast, the LDS church appears to be specifically asking only Mormons to vote in line with official policy on assisted suicide and marijuana legalization, as opposed to seeking to spread those opinions to people outside the flock.
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