It seems that the Mormon Church can’t take no for an answer.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected church rules to control behavior around a plaza adjacent to their historic downtown Salt Lake City temple. The court said such rules restricting free speech were unconstitutional.

Apparently sensing they are unlikely to receive a reversal from the Supreme Court, the Mormon Church (LDS) is now attempting what looks like an end run, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The LDS has launched an intense campaign using its substantial influence over church members to change city regulations. They want the faithful to lobby their political leaders to alter an easement that provides unfettered speech around their plaza.

An LDS spokesman put it this way, “The church isn’t going to exert its influence on the politics. The citizens of this city are going to exert their influence on the people they put in office.”


But since so many of Salt Lake’s citizens are faithful Mormons the implications are obvious.

The Rev. Tom Goldsmith of Salt Lake City’s First Unitarian Church said, “Having lost in court, they’re now taking their losing battle to the Mormon people. It’s religious politics at its most deplorable. Salt Lake is being run like a theocracy.”

A joke amongst some non-Mormons living in Utah, is the analogy that life there is so controlled by the church it’s somewhat like living behind the “Iron Curtain,” during the Cold War. But instead Utah exists behind its own “Zion Curtain.”

City Mayor Rocky Anderson refused to roll over for LDS leaders. He later explained, “I hear a lot from people that this is one of those rare instances where an elected official has said ‘no’ to a request of The Church of Jesus Christ.” He added, “There are some members of the City Council more interested in doing the bidding of the religious organization to which they belong than they are in representing the best interests of the city as a whole.”

Once Joseph Smith the founder of the Mormon Church, was its “prophet,” “revelator” and also Commander and Chief of the Mormon militia and Mayor of Nauvoo. He ran everything in Nauvoo, which was a “theocracy.” Later Brigham Young essentially continued that tradition in Utah. Only the federal government challenged such control. Church leaders subsequently adapted their society and pragmatically did what was necessary to achieve statehood.

Utah’s elected officials are still almost always Mormons. No one else has ever had meaningful power in that state. An LDS spokesman said, “I’m mystified as to why this has been a controversy at all.” Maybe he’s right.


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