I received the following report in an email newsletter from my friend Don Jarvis (quoted with his permission):
A senior LDS apostle recently told Provoans that “We need to pray for our new president, regardless of party affliction, I mean, affiliation.” Speaking on January 25th in the Provo Tabernacle at the conclusion of an Oak Hills (east Provo) Stake Conference, Apostle M. Russell Ballard spoke warmly of the inauguration, read excerpts from President Obama’s inaugural address, advised members to read it, and said, “I like his emphasis on personal responsibility.” The audience chuckled at the “affliction” slip, but was otherwise unusually hushed and attentive as Elder Ballard voiced his strong support for our the new Democratic President.
Afterwards, I thanked Elder Ballard for his positive report and noted its difference from the angry criticism broadcast daily by KSL’s afternoon talk radio. Elder Ballard simply answered, “Well, he’s our president and we need to support him.”
A front page article in the Deseret News of 22 January quoted Elder Ballard as saying, “I left with a feeling that the people of America are going to unite behind this new president and his administration and that we need to pray for him,” … “We need to exercise our prayers and help him accomplish the great objectives that he has set.”
However Latter-day Saints feel about President Obama, I hope that we can take Elder Ballard’s counsel seriously. Moreover, I hope that we can follow the example of the Brethren in the civil and respectful way they speak about him and this new administration. In general, I actually have been quite pleased with my fellow Latter-day Saints in this regard.
Last year several of us Utah County Democratic candidates met with three different LDS general authorities. They all reaffirmed the Church’s basic neutrality, advised us to list our Church experience in campaign literature, ridiculed the notion that good Mormons could not be Democrats, and expressed a wish for better balance in Utah politics.