SALT LAKE CITY — President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors in the LDS First Presidency are counseling Utah church members to participate in the state's political caucuses on March 22.
"We are concerned that citizen participation rates in Utah are among the lowest in the nation, and we urge greater involvement by members of the church in the 2016 election cycle," the First Presidency wrote in a letter dated Feb. 17.
Utah priesthood leaders have been instructed to read the letter during a sacrament meeting in every one of the state's congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sacrament meeting is the faith's regular Sunday worship service.
The First Presidency letter also asked Utah stake, mission, district and branch presidents and bishops not to schedule any church meetings on Tuesday, March 22, so members would be free to participate. Precinct caucus meetings for all registered political parties will be held that day.
"Our communities and our state are best served when Utah citizens fully engage in the political process through caucus meetings, primaries and other political mechanisms," the letter said.
The caucuses are run by political parties. Caucus participants will be able to vote that night in the presidential nomination race. The outcome will determine which candidates get the state's support at the national conventions this summer.
Democrats must attend their neighborhood caucus meetings to vote for a presidential nominee. Republicans can attend their caucus or vote online.
The church's letter was neutral.
"It is important to remember that engaging in the election process is both a privilege and a significant responsibilty regardless of one's political inclinations," the letter said, "and that principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of the various political parties."
The First Presidency has regularly made similar appeals in the past. The church maintains politically neutralityin matters of party politics but reserves the right to speak, "in a nonpartisan way, on issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the church."
The letter was signed by Presidents Monson, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf.