LDS Democrats announce new nationwide organization

2013-04-05T00:26:00Z 2013-04-24T06:53:49Z LDS Democrats announce new nationwide organizationBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
April 05, 2013 12:26 am  • 

Rob Taber knows the reality that Democrats aren't viewed favorably by many members of the LDS Church.

He admits that in many church circles, especially in Utah County, the word Democrat is seen on the same level as a four-letter curse word. However, that isn't stopping him from attempting to change the tradition and belief that active members of the LDS Church can only be a Republican.

On Thursday Taber announced that the LDS Democrats organization, which has been in existence in Utah for a year, is going nationwide. He hopes his group will provide a home to the LDS Democrats across the nation who have wondered if there was anyone else out there who thought like them.

"We are saying, 'here is a home for you,'" said Taber, who resides in Florida. "No one ever again at BYU will say that they are the only Democrat at Brigham Young University."

The group is set up to create similar groups as the one that exists in Utah. Nine other locations including California, Ohio and Texas are set to begin recruiting people to join their local chapters of the organization. Crystal Young-Otterstrom, the vice chair of the national group, said the group is welcoming to everyone -- liberal, conservative or moderate and those who aren't members of the LDS Church.

"We'd just like you to be able to sit calmly in a room together," Young-Otterstrom joked.

Young-Otterstrom explained that the national group plans to help local chapters organize activities that are similar to family home evenings, an activity supported by LDS doctrine wherein family members spend time together on a specific night. The events could include service projects, lessons on civic engagement or speeches from elected officials. The events don't have to be politically themed, she said, as they are simply meant to build community among LDS members who align with Democratic principles.

Taber and Young-Otterstrom believe many people will be attracted to build the nationwide group. Of the 5.4 million members of the LDS Church in the United States they believe about 17 percent identify as Democrats. That give them more than 900,000 people they can attract to their group.

And Young-Otterstrom believes those numbers will grow. She noted that the Utah chapter of the LDS Democrats is the largest caucus registered with the Utah Democratic Party. She also observed that BYU had the largest College Democrats group among colleges and universities in Utah. On a national scale Pew Research found in exit polls that about 21 percent of LDS voters cast votes for Obama in the last election over fellow church mate Mitt Romney.

As an organization the LDS Church does not endorse or oppose any political party, candidate or platform, even when a member of the church may be running for office. The church does encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities by being informed about the issues and voting in elections.

Taber and Young-Otterstrom believe their group can help LDS members accomplish just that.

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-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can follow him on Twitter at: @billyhesterman
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