Mormon bishop apologizes for political gaffe — sort of

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Democrat donkeyYesterday, Mormon bishop Mark Paredes apologized — sort of — for last week’s blog post in which he cited his “disgust for [Sen. Harry] Reid’s political prostitution” and said he did not know “how someone who is a standard-bearer for the Democratic Party” could pass a Mormon temple recommend interview.

A FoxNews article summarized the quasi-apology that Bishop Paredes emailed to the Associated Press over the weekend:

“I do apologize for the tone of the article, for giving the impression that I was criticizing Sen. Reid in my role as an LDS bishop, and for implying that I am in a position to judge the senator’s temple worthiness,” Paredes told The Associated Press by email.

“However, I can’t apologize for criticizing his advocacy of certain issues and on behalf of certain interests … Any criticism I had of Senator Reid was based on his actions (e.g., defense of the gaming industry, advocacy of a certain social agenda), not his political affiliation,” he added.

Not his political affiliation?

This last sentence suggests that Paredes was critical of Sen. Reid’s political positions and not his political party. But in fact the whole article was critical of both — and went out of its way to declare the utter incompatibility of LDS teachings with the platform of the Democratic Party.

Here are a few choice statements from the original post:

  • “While the 2012 Republican platform is almost unreadable, at least it does not contain statements that directly contradict LDS teachings. This could be one reason why 11 out of the Mormon Church’s top 15 leaders – and the only ones considered to be prophets by the faithful – are registered Republicans  . . .”
  • “Democrats famously support a woman’s unfettered ‘right’ to murder her baby in utero. The LDS Church is officially an anti-abortion church . . .”
  • “As everyone who follows this issue knows, the Mormon Church is unequivocally opposed to same-sex marriage. As everyone also knows, the Democratic Party is an unequivocal supporter of ‘marriage equality.'”
  • “Mormons who understand their church’s moral teachings can’t support gay marriage. Reid apparently believes that he is more inspired than our top 15 leaders – all of whom have signed a public statement declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman — on a major moral issue. Serious Mormons don’t believe this.”
  • “The LDS Church’s political neutrality can’t hide the fact that on virtually every important contemporary moral issue, at least from an LDS perspective, the Democratic Party opposes our positions.”

Using the Democratic Party as a whipping post . . . that certainly sounds like Bishop Paredes was critical of Senator Reid’s political affiliation.

I’m pleased that Mark Paredes has responded to the outcry that attended his original post, and that he seems to have realized that just because he is currently serving as an LDS bishop he doesn’t have the right to sit in judgment on someone who is not a member of his flock, as though he were personally responsible for deciding whether Sen. Reid is worthy of a temple recommend.

However, his apology, such as it is, does not go far enough. It wasn’t just Harry Reid that Bishop Paredes deigned to judge, but every Mormon who has not joined the relatively recent political trend of Latter-day Saints in America affiliating with the Republican Party.

I’m a Mormon Democrat. (Well, usually. I don’t vote a straight ticket.) Where Paredes sees that “on virtually every important contemporary moral issue,” Mormon teachings are opposed to Democratic party ideals, I see him focusing on just a few issues (same-sex marriage, abortion, and gambling) while neglecting many others. Like education and helping the poor, for example.

Bishop Paredes doesn’t just owe an apology to Senator Reid for questioning his worthiness or saying that he couldn’t possibly take the Mormon religion seriously and vote the way he does.

He also owes an apology to all of us who vote for Democrats because we do take our faith seriously, and to the much broader group of us — Republican, Democrat, independent, and whatever else — who believe one can be a faithful Mormon and vote one’s conscience in many different ways.



  • Jana:

    Nice catch. Paredes’ apology is almost as dishonest as his initial attack.

    Perhaps HE shouldn’t get his temple recommend renewed…??? 😉

  • ben in oakland

    Can I paraphrase the “good” bishop remarks for those for whom English is NOT a first language?

    “I totally didn’t say what I totally said. and I totally apologize if YOU were offended by what I totally didn’t say.”

    Meanwhile, who was it that said something about whited sepulchres and to beware of people who would bar the gates of heaven to other people? Who was it?

    Probably no one very important..,.

    at least, not to what passes for Christianity.

  • Frank

    Sounds like what he said is absolutely true.

  • Your point about critics of Mormon Democrats focusing on a few select issues such as abortion is well-taken. Obviously it would be error to conflate affiliation with a political party with unerring support of that party’s entire platform. However, as a Mormon Democrat who most definitely supports same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose (no opinion on gambling, I’m not familiar enough with the issues), I am a little disappointed that you hedged on those issues, instead of making it clear that support for those political causes does not necessarily have any bearing on a person’s testimony or personal worthiness.

    As a simple example of how a faithful Mormon might reconcile the church’s position on abortion with a pro-choice political stance, one needs only to consider the argument that legal abortion actually leads to fewer harmful “back alley” abortions. Supporting abortion rights is therefore one reasonable step that a person might take to reduce the number of instances in which the type of abortions opposed by the church occur.

    It is also wholly possible to believe that abortion is an important moral issue while vehemently opposing the government’s right to dictate what other women do with their bodies.

    It is also possible to just flat out disagree with the church’s political stance and take the well-reasoned position that abortion in many instances is not a sin, but an important and valuable medical procedure.

    The variety of nuanced positions that can be taken on this one issue demonstrate how foolish it is to judge a person’s testimony by their political stances. I also think that they demonstrate the ripe ground for discussion that exists when we don’t sidestep hot button issues when addressing the intersection of religion and politics.

  • rah

    Who he really owes an apology to is every member of his congregation who he does sit in judgement over as a ‘judge in Israel’ and for whom he has pastoral responsibility as well to the Mission president ajd the hard working missionaries whose job he just made that much harder. Think of the young black or latino family meeting the missionaries in his ward who also vote or affiliate with the democratic party. Those are the people he needs to seriously appologize to or be removed from his position of judgement. Such is the priviledge of men in his position in the church that it is very likely be treated with a slap on the wrist if that.

  • Benjamin

    I was raised in a home where the veracity of the Republican Party was second only to the Church. That may have been the only parenting mistake my parents made raising me. In 2000 I expected something akin to the return of Zion as the GOP controlled the White House and Congress for the first time in a generation. Instead I saw run away spending, rampant corruption, and foolish wars. The honeymoon was over by 2002.

    The political ideological turmoil I endured bruised my faith. My faith recovered but my politics did not. I am now an independent and my vote is only indirectly informed by faith. When someone like this Bishop conflates Republican politics with the gospel, it does violence to the Church, it’s members, and the efforts of our missionaries.

    When politics is mixed with religions it corrupts both.

  • TomW

    While Paredes’ column did not accurately represent the position of the church with regard to political parties and church standing, the fact remains that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

    a) unequivocally condemns elective abortion (;

    b) “favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship.” (; and

    c) opposes legalized gambling (

    Latter-day Saints, as always, have the agency to vote as they will, but they should be mindful to acknowledge when their views are not aligned with those of the church, and not deceive themselves or others as to where the church stands on moral issues.

    Paredes commented, and Jana cited him, “Democrats famously support a woman’s unfettered ‘right’ to murder her baby in utero. The LDS Church is officially an anti-abortion church . . .”

    While abortion advocates may oppose the author’s choice of the word “murder” in his sentence, he nonetheless captures the correct spirit of the Democratic platform, which advocates unfettered abortion on demand, and he is correct that the church is essentially anti-abortion. (A more accurate rendering would be to include “elective” in the statement, or take the language of the church’s own policy.)

    Jana also cited another comment of Paredes, ““As everyone who follows this issue knows, the Mormon Church is unequivocally opposed to same-sex marriage. As everyone also knows, the Democratic Party is an unequivocal supporter of ‘marriage equality.’”

    Is there anything remotely inaccurate about this?

    While I do not know if gambling is a part of the Democratic platform whatsoever, Reid’s support of his state’s revenue generating industry notwithstanding, the Democratic party stands starkly opposed to the church’s positions on abortion and marriage. This is an unassailable fact. And in the days following Paredes’ attention-getting column, I have yet to have a Democrat counter with specific items of Republican party platform which are comparably in opposition to LDS teaching.

    Paredes went too far in publicly commenting on Reid’s temple worthiness, but it would be accurate to say that Reid’s leadership aids and abets his party’s political actions on the issues mentioned. Furthermore, it is absolutely possible for a pro-choice individual to place oneself in jeopardy of his or her church standing as per the following from the church-published bookley, “True To The Faith” (

    “In today’s society, abortion has become a common practice, defended by deceptive arguments. If you face questions about this matter, you can be secure in following the revealed will of the Lord. Latter-day prophets have denounced abortion, referring to the Lord’s declaration, ‘Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it’ (D&C 59:6). Their counsel on the matter is clear: Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for an abortion. If you encourage an abortion in any way, you may be subject to Church discipline.”

    Those final two sentences pretty much cover the matter.

  • TomW

    My kingdom for spell check and editing privileges!

  • HarryStamper

    TomW…one of the best comments with sound arguments ever left on this blog.! Great Job.

  • HarryStamper

    Sandy….your comments are all rationalizations of facts or LDS doctrine.

    For example….in my community, 30% of all crime is committed by blacks, therefore if I ban blacks from community I would probably reduce crime by 30%…a worthy goal.

    Here’s how you describe it…”Supporting banning blacks is therefore one reasonable step that a person might take to reduce the number of instances in which the type of black crime opposed by the church occur.”……your words.

  • Fred M

    I actually don’t think those final two sentences cover the matter at all. The line “If you encourage an abortion in any way, you may be subject to Church discipline” is clearly referring to encouraging a specific person to have an abortion. The church has never and will never discipline a member for believing that abortion shouldn’t be illegal. Or Mitt Romney would have been disciplined back in ’94 when he publicly stated he supported Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose (granted, he flipped on that issue later when he was contemplating his presidential bid).

    I believe that abortion is wrong. I also believe that adultery is wrong. And that rich people not sharing their money with poor people is wrong. All of these things have been clearly condemned by the Lord. But that doesn’t mean that I necessarily feel that the government should be involved in any of them. Being opposed to something and believing it should be illegal are two very separate things.

    I personally believe that one cannot judge anyone’s spiritual worthiness by their political beliefs, be they Democrat or Republican or what have you. And doing so flies in the face of everything our leaders have ever taught. If being a Democrat or a Republican was wrong, wouldn’t they have let us know? And if they haven’t, why do Paredes et al feel it’s okay to do so?

  • TomW

    Fred, in citing the passage from “True To The Faith,” I go on the assumption that encouraging abortion in this context would be “encouraging a specific person to have an abortion” as you said. If you (or anyone) interpreted my using the quote as suggestive that one’s political views were sufficient to cross that line, that was not my intention. That said, that’s one hell of a fine line that I wouldn’t want to defend to the Lord. And having said that, let me now go in search of that beam remover for my own eyes…

  • Maddy

    If abortion is akin to murder, then why does the LDS Church allow abortion in cases of rape and incest? Clearly, there must be some differences between abortion and murder. I happen to agree with the LDS stance on abortion. But I also believe Roe v Wade is about consequences. What should the consequences be for women who seek abortions? Prison? Death? Poor women would bear the brunt of the consequences for illegal abortions, because middle and upper class women can travel to obtain safe, legal abortions out of the country. Abortion rates continue to decline as education and access to birth control reduces the number of unplanned pregnancies. Why do we not see Republicans joining Democrats in this endeavor?

    So much for the “I am a Mormon” campaign, thanks to Bishop Peredes.

  • HarryStamper

    Abortion is “like unto murder” but not murder. Abortion is a serious yet forgivable sin, murder is so serious it is not forgivable. The church takes no stance regarding civil punishments. Obviously, since the church allows abortion in rare circumstances, incest, health of the mother, rape…. access to the procedure is necessary. Again the church emphasizes rare but permissible circumstances.

  • Ben in Oakland

    Murder is so serious that it is not forgivable.

    Well, so much for the forgiveness of sin promised by Christianity.

    And of course, murder is NEVER murder when someone in authority tells you it’s fine to murder. Capital Punishment in Utah, anyone?

    This is what happens when you believe there are moral absolutes, ordained by god.

  • Harry: I don’t really follow your logic or your example, which reads like an apples/oranges situation, but just want to point out that putting that racist and completely inapposite sentence in quotes, saying “here’s how you describe it,” and “your words” does not, in fact, make the racist words mine. Nice try.

  • Benjamin

    TomW – good analysis. You have represented the Church’s positions accurately in most respects. But let me point out a common misconception.

    “Pro Choice” does not mean pro abortion. Many people who are Pro Choice abhor abortion and want to see it limited and prevented. Nevertheless, they do not think the government should outlaw it as a practical matter.

    They understand the Church outlines circumstances where an abortion may be permitted, namely rape, incest, or to protect the mother’s health. They understand that abortions will happen regardless of legality and prefer to see them performed under the care of a medical professional. They understand some people legitimately disagree with the Church’s views and respect their agency. They understand there are many moral positions the Church takes that are not written into law, and don’t see why this would be an exception.

    I don’t personally hold some of these views but I understand them and do not judge other members who hold them as having views in violation with Church standards. I think it is pretty clear the intent of the Church’s position is to preclude its members from directly participating in an abortion in any way. Being Pro Choice is not the same as directly participating in an abortion.

    Said another way, I support the right of others to drink alcohol but I do not drink alcohol nor do I wish to see other people drink alcohol.

  • Benjamin

    TomW – that’s a fine apology. Kudos.

  • TomW

    Maggie, you asked “If abortion is akin to murder, then why does the LDS Church allow abortion in cases of rape and incest? Clearly, there must be some differences between abortion and murder.”

    I think that’s where the “akin” or “like unto” comes into play. As for speculation on reasons for possible exceptions, Elder Oaks once taught a valuable lesson with regard to speculation within the context of the former priesthood ban, pointing out that many who speculated upon that topic turned out to have been “spectacularly wrong” and that the safe position is what has actually been revealed and not to read too much into reasons people come up with to explain it, which he said were predominantly man-made. While there isn’t a specific “abortion revelation” to refer to, I think the safe ground on this topic is nonetheless what the leadership of the church teaches as being the position of the church, and refraining from speculation as to why.

    Most legal efforts to curb elective abortion are directed at the provider, not the woman. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. That women of financial means have the mobility to access elective abortion elsewhere doesn’t change the morality of the matter in places which severely curb it.

    With regard to political methodologies to address unplanned pregnancies, Democrats typically lean toward education and drugs/devices which prevent pregnancy, followed by abortion if these fail, while Republicans typically lean toward abstinence education, followed by urging marriage or adoption if this fails. The former tends not to concern itself very much with the morality of unwed sexual relations, while the latter considers it a very important matter. It is difficult to reach common ground on dealing with the issue when there is a significant moral barrier between the sides with regard to unmarried sexual activity.

    And after all that, I believe that the “I Am A Mormon” campaign will carry on just fine, Bishop Paredes’ dalliance with political commentary mingled with LDS standards notwithstanding.

  • TomW

    Whoops, MADDY, sorry!

    As I was saying about the ability to edit…

  • TomW

    Thanks for your kind words, Benjamin.

    With regard to the terms “pro-choice” versus “pro-abortion,” I chose my words intentionally. The net impact of the “pro-choice” philosophy is about a million dead babies a year. That isn’t a choice, it’s a catastrophe.

    Those who truly “abhor abortion and want to see it limited and prevented” aren’t exactly helping their professed cause by empowering Democrats to do their political bidding on the matter. They will happily take your votes and do virtually nothing substantive to limit or prevent that which those voters profess to abhor.

    I do recognize that the pro-abortion voting bloc includes many people who personally oppose abortion, but who do not believe it is their place to impose their values upon others. Or they seek alternative means to reducing abortion, hoping that raining down condoms upon grade-school youth will somehow put a significant dent in the problem. (Probably not a whole lot more effective than abstinence-only education on a teen who doesn’t have any moral misgivings about unmarried sex.)

    You write that “Being Pro Choice is not the same as directly participating in an abortion,” but the net effect remains support for the status quo which enables the annual extinguishing of about a million pre-born human lives.

    Generally speaking, “pro-choice” people don’t like the “pro-abortion” label because it makes abortion sound bad. Likewise, “pro-life” people tend to reject the “pro-choice” label because it seems to reduce the decision to snuff out the life of a pre-born baby to being no more consequential than choosing chocolate or vanilla.

    Those who truly abhor the practice should probably create a new term for themselves which differentiates between those who outright oppose legislation to curb elective abortions, and those who seek substantive movement in the direction of “rare.” I’m open to suggestions.

  • Ben in oakland

    Do you support birth control, available and cheap? If not, you’re no better than the people you accuse of not caring.

    Here is the problem with legal restrictions on abortion. People have them anyway. Or they abandon the babies. Or they give them to the state.

    The rest of your analysis has a few problems. The most religious states are the most anti birth control and anti abortion. (and antigay, but that’s not what we’re talking about). They are the most pro-abstinence education, which is not education at all, but months of “just say no!”. They also have the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy, maternal death rates, and a host of other indicators of social malaise.

    Abstinence education has been shown not to work. Teaching children responsible sexuality has.

  • Stephen Kent Gray

    As a libertarian, I resent the implications that someone can only care for education and the poor is if they support left wing tax and spend policies like you implied.

    Connor Boyack’s books Latter Day Liberty and Latter Day Responsibility are good explanations of Mormon Libertarianism. I’m not Mormon myself, but understand the classically liberal underpinnings of the Book of Mormon.

  • TomW

    Ben, you ask: “Do you support birth control, available and cheap? If not, you’re no better than the people you accuse of not caring.”

    The church has no issue with legal birth control. The politics behind who pays for it isn’t an issue of morality that the church weighs in on. Support of government programs for this or any other purpose isn’t a gauge of how much a person cares. Generosity with someone else’s money does not make one virtuous.

    The context of this entire discussion is whether or not support for elective abortion is compatible with LDS teaching. It is not. The church will not discipline someone who believes the government should not restrict the practice, but that’s as far as it goes.

  • maddy

    Amen Ben.
    “Republicans typically lean toward abstinence education, followed by urging marriage or adoption if this fails”

    “if” this fails. It fails all the time. Multiple studies have shown that abstinence education does not work. Comprehensive education (including family planning, birth control and abstinence) and access to birth control has been shown to decrease unplanned pregnancies. Also, when jobs are plentiful and the economy is strong, it can strengthen society–people who can contribute financially to the creation of a family. I also wonder why men are often leading these conversations. Maybe men should address their contributions to these situations (unplanned pregnancies) and let women primarily determine what healthcare choices they want. I would like to see society evolve to the point that there are few abortions because unplanned pregnancies are rare.

    ” The politics behind who pays for it isn’t an issue of morality that the church weighs in on.”
    Are we talking about who pays for birth control?
    The LDS Church did file an amicus brief for the Hobby Lobby case.


    Every human on earth commit mistakes, but lynching is so incorrect like opinions of that bishop. This article is hateful.

  • SanAntonioRob

    Murder is forgiveable. Saul participated in the death of several Christians including Steven, then became an Apostle. King Lamoni appears to have had his servants killed if robbers took his sheep on their watch, then had a grand experience of being forgiven. The people of Ammon buried their weapons of war, and testified the Lord had “forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed”.

    Though I understand many Mormons have been taught that murder is not forgiveable, I put it in the same vein of teachings as blood atonement – an old teaching we should quickly discard.

  • ben in oakland

    Amazing that murder is never OK– see the ten commandments– but god forgives it anyway.

    Especially when HE does it.

    Even more amazing That the murderers could assure themselves that whatever they needed, their god was ready to supply it. God always seems to agree with the people who presume to speak for him.

    Nifty. A celestial Get Out of jail Free card. All you have to do is pray to Holy St. Monopolia, and prey on your fellow creatures to your heart’s delight.

  • SanAntonioRob

    Regarding the 10 commandments, yes God forgives those who truly repent of disobeying them. And thank God, because who has always kept the Sabbath holy 100% of the time, never dishonored their parents, never told a white lie, etc…

    Regarding the rest – I feel no need to respond to crap comments that don’t come close to resembling what I said or what is taught in the scriptures.

  • HarryStamper

    D&C 42:79
    “…if any persons among you shall kill they shall be delivered up and dealt with according to the laws of the land; for remember that he hath no forgiveness; …”

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843–44, p.339
    “A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness.”

    No forgiveness in this instance means the sinner must pay the penalty for his own sins, the atonement of Christ does cleanse them, they pay for their owns sins. Afterwards, they will receive a resurrection in the telestial kingdom.

  • SanAntonioRob

    I agree that there is scriptural evidence that those who committed murder will be required to endure extreme sorrow and guilt (punishment, if you want) for this grave sin. Then again, we all have to wade through sorrow and guilt for every sin we commit, especially the more serious ones. I don’t believe the Atonement was ever meant to remove that from us, only to help move us past it when the time is ready. God promises to cleanse and forgive us so that we can reach pure happiness, not remove every consequence from our actions.

    Perhaps having to endure prolonged sorrow, guilt, and some loss of priveleges is what the D&C scripture means by no forgiveness. Taking that scripture at face value would go against other scriptures, and the very promise of the universality of the Atonement. I don’t believe the notion that murderers who feel true sorrow for what they did, have changed and become better people can only recieve the Telestial Kingdom. I don’t see scriptural evidence to support that. In fact, scriptural evidence (cited above) indicates the opposite. In addition, though it requires First Presidency approval, those who previously committed murder can receive Church ordinances. What would be the point of recieving the saving ordinances if your maximum potential reward is a kingdom that doesn’t require those ordinances? God would only be giving people false hope at that point.

  • SanAntonioRob


    I apologize for my part in this prolonged thread that is completely off-topic. This is my last post on the subject. Please don’t block me. 🙂