SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A top leader with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Friday political donations made in his name to several Democratic candidates, including President Joe Biden, that violate the faith’s political neutrality rules were done by his family.
Dieter Uchtdorf said in a statement provided by church officials that the contributions came from an online family account associated with his name.
“I regret such an oversight on my part,” Uchtdorf said. “I fully support the church’s policy related to political donations from church leaders.”
Uchtdorf is a member of a top governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which sits below the first presidency and helps set church policy and oversees the faith’s business interests.
A church rule created in 2011 when church member Mitt Romney was running for the GOP presidential nomination dictate that members of this panel and other full-time church leaders and their spouses should not participate in political campaigns or give donations.
The church tries to be careful to maintain political neutrality by refraining from backing one party or endorsing candidates, though leaders sometimes weigh in on what they consider crucial moral issues.
Church officials declined comment Friday beyond providing the statement from Uchtdorf.
The fact that Uchtdorf’s family account donated to Democratic candidates is somewhat surprising considering most members of the faith known widely as the Mormon church lean Republican.
Uchtdorf’s account gave $1,250 to Biden’s campaigns in 2020, according to information from the Federal Elections Commission that Salt Lake City news organizations reported Friday.
FEC data shows that nearly $1,000 was given to a candidate through a nonprofit online fundraising platform called ActBlue that supports Democratic candidates. Nearly $600 was given to a pair of Democrats ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia that determined control of the U.S. Senate.
Uchtdorf, 80, was twice a refugee of war before he left Germany to immigrate to the U.S. and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Before becoming a full-time church leader in 1996, Uchtdorf was a pilot for the German airline Lufthansa and later served in management roles, including vice president of flight operations and chief pilot.
Members of the faith have deep-rooted conservative leanings that lead most to vote GOP, including in Utah where the governor and the state’s entire congressional delegation are Republicans.
President Donald Trump won Utah in 2016 and 2020 but never gained widespread acceptance among church members, due in part to his brash style and his remarks about women and immigrants that clashed with the faith’s culture that places a high value on manners, amiability and public diplomacy.
This story has been clarified to say that FEC data shows that nearly $1,000 was given to a candidate through a nonprofit online fundraising platform called ActBlue that supports Democratic candidates.