An overwhelmingly negative response swept public opinion in response to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ statement asking members to vote against Proposition 2.
Proposition 2 is an initiative in Utah to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana in the state for those with qualifying illnesses.
The Church’s announcement relayed that they, alongside other local organizations, fear the legalization of medicinal marijuana will incite a public health threat among young adults, arguing that it will make marijuana “more available with fewer controls.”
The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Utah PTA, Latinos in Action and the Utah Sheriff’s Association stood alongside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the announcement.
Elder Craig C. Christensen, president of the church’s Utah area and signee of the announcement, said, “We urge voters of Utah to vote no on Proposition 2” and asked for state officials, medical experts, community leaders and patients to “find a solution that will work for all Utahns.”
Members of the community have jumped onto various social media platforms to voice their disapproval of the Church’s involvement in political affairs.
“I know that churches exist, and they want to help their followers make the right decision, but I think telling someone (how) to vote is taking away their freedom of choice,” WSU freshman Han Johnson said.
In the state of Utah, approximately 55 percent of the population identifies as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But according to the Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Politics poll, released earlier in July of this year, about two in three Utahns support the campaign to legalize medicinal marijuana.
While many politicians are members of the LDS Church, this is one of the few times the church has been so openly and directly hands-on — and financially invested — in moving forward political issue.
Meddling like this can make community members question the roles of religious institutions in politics and separation of church and state.
“I was always taught in Sunday school that you are not supposed to tell members of the church how to vote,” said Trace Wayment, WSU freshman and former member of the Mormon church. “I was always taught by bishops, ‘We can’t tell you how to vote. We just say what we want and let you do what you want,’ and this feels against that, completely.”
Some believe the push for Utahns to vote against Prop. 2 stems from the Church’s big pharma stocks, which were revealed earlier this year to total over $1 billion, according to the website
“Growing up, if you’re not LDS, you’re ostracized,” Johnson said. “So seeing this now with Proposition 2, seeing how they’re literally denying people medication that helps them because it’s going to hurt their profits, is really disheartening
While there continue to be estimates and polls predicting the outcome of Prop. 2 in November, one of the major contributors will be the public’s vote. There are currently 1.4 million registered voters in Utah, a majority being between the ages of 31 to 40 with 28.8 percent, as noted by VoterRecords.com.
Young adults, between the ages of 18 to 30, take fourth place with 14.4% of registered voters.
Those who wish to register to vote for this upcoming election, held on Nov. 6, can do so by going to vote.utah.gov.