June 29th, 2011
03:39 PM ET
By Padmananda Rama, CNN
(CNN)– The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is reminding its leaders to stay away from endorsing political candidates or offering political statements.
In a letter dated June 16. LDS President Thomas S. Monson provided LDS members with "further clarification of the church's position on political neutrality."
The letter comes at the early stages of the 2012 presidential campaign in which two Republican contenders - former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman - both have strong affiliations with the Mormon church.
"General officers of the Church and their spouses and other ecclesiastical leaders serving full-time should not personally participate in political campaigns," read an excerpt from the letter posted on the LDS official website. The statement goes on to explain this applies to fundraising, financial contributions and endorsements.
Church leaders see the letter as a reiteration of a long-standing policy.
"We've had the political neutrality statement on the website for a number of years, so this is merely a further restatement of policy and practice," LDS spokesman Dale Jones told CNN.
Many religious faiths advise leaders to stay away from political endorsements. Political activity from the pulpit could jeopardize a faith's tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.
The LDS policy also distances itself from the decisions of elected representatives. "Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position," the policy explains.
One example is Huntsman, who while governor of Utah signed a law introducing civil unions for gay couples. The church formally opposes same-sex unions.
In the U.S. Senate there are two powerful senators who are Mormons but sit on either side of the aisle. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, are both members of the church.
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