Is Elder Uchtdorf More Liberal?

A common belief in pop Salt Lake City Vaticanology is that Elder Uchtdorf is one of the more progressive members of the Quorum of the 12. This may be true, but for being such conventional wisdom there is very little hard data to back it up, which is the case for most speculations about the inner-workings of the Quorum of the 12 and First Presidency. While the mid-level Church Office Building leaks like a colander at times, very little verifiable information about the inner workings and personalities of the Quorum of the 12 and the First Presidency makes it to the public. They run a pretty tight ship. 

This means speculation is based on tea leaves more than anything else. As far as I can tell, the belief that he’s more progressive is based on the data points of:

  • He’s Western European. This seems to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Americans sometimes have this image of Europe as like us but all Coastal Democrat, when that’s not the case at all. In some ways Europe is more “conservative” than Rupert Murdoch’s wildest dreams. Cases in point: while the draft tore American society apart, many European countries with no discernible external security threats still required service in the military until fairly recently, various European governments pay religions directly out of tax money, and if I’m remembering correctly Iceland had some real legislative momentum towards banning pornography recently. Of course, what’s “conservative” and “liberal” is always in a state of flux, but which policies cluster with which ideologies is very different across the ocean, and extrapolating his mere European-ness onto current hot American issues in 2023 or, say, female ordination is a bit of a stretch.


  • He doesn’t talk about culture war issues. While this is true, neither do most of his colleagues. There are 3-4 other Apostles that occasionally address them, but even then it’s a small portion of their total corpus, even if the howling that inevitably occurs when they do makes it seem like a bigger piece than it is. 


  • He or a family member of his donated to Democrats. This is one of the few hard pieces of meaningful data. Still, given the fact that at the time the Democrats were running against a man WHO TRIED TO OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT (and no, I’m not exaggerating, and I mean every cap), I’m not going to take this as super predictive of his views on, say, MTF transgender athletes.


  • He mentioned in General Conference that Church leaders have sometimes gotten things wrong. This is in concert with other official materials that have been released with the Church’s imprimatur, but it at least shows that he’s not super uncomfortable saying the quiet part out loud. 

I might have missed something, but taking these data points together I think we can reasonably conjecture that he’s not a Heartlander, John Bircher, and/or MAGA type. Anything much beyond that in regards to particulars is highly speculative, and I don’t get the sense that he’s much different from his colleagues. I suspect he’s pretty traditional and TBM in terms of beliefs; that comes both from his direct and clear testimonies as well as my priors about the highest councils of the Church (that in terms of the basics the theological Overton window is pretty narrow in those spaces).

20 comments for “Is Elder Uchtdorf More Liberal?

  1. Democrat? Seems maybe a stretch. More liberal than his colleagues? Seems like a pretty reasonable conclusion.

  2. I believe the evidence points to political moderation. And I also think his communication style has a lot to do with his public image. He speaks to people empathetically where they are at. Elder Uchtdorf comes across as one who understands our flaws. He’ll poke fun out our collective foibles, yet does not demean. He seems willing to see nuances and limits black and white thinking.

    Elder Uchtdorf lives in my area. He is known for shouting instructions and cheering his high schooler grandkids on at soccer games in German. He also has a reputation for ripping down local mountain trails at breakneck speed on his bike. I chuckle (and feel sorry for him) whenever he gets surrounded at Costco by members wanting a selfie with him. He is approachable in ways that many current GAs (who also in my area) are not.

  3. Not sure we could accurately say he is “more” liberal than the other Q12 but…
    I get the sense he is very much not like his colleagues.
    More likeable
    More approachable
    More like the members
    More NOT like the other 12
    More chill at conference
    More uplifting
    More positive
    More like Jesus

    How cool is it that a German airline pilot made it to the top of the chain!
    By far my fav out of the 15.

  4. This is going off memory, but can probably be either verified or disproven. Something like 10 years ago Uchtforf was one of a minority of the Q15 that was not registered Republican. He was not registered as a Democrat either, but in Utah one cannot vote in Republican primaries without registering for the party, and that isn’t true for Dems.

    Incidentally, when Elder Renlund was called as an apostle, a person with his exact name and a probable matching address was a registered Democrat in Utah. It was easily to check anyone’s party affiliation at the time. Since then it has become more difficult and I believe it requires a fee.

    Take that for what it’s worth. But it’s not nothing.

  5. In reply to @Rockwell, this is the article you are referring to. I haven’t seen an update since then.

    However, what you are referring to is that Utah previously had all voter registration records as accessible to the public, which anyone could buy access to for a fee to the county clerk or state elections office. Sometime around this article was published, someone did just that for the whole state and published every single Utah voter’s registration details online.
    Soon after that, the Utah legislature changed the law to allow individuals to choose to change their voter registration status to “private”, meaning it could not be sold but would remain accessible only to elections officials (and the individual themselves could confirm their registration online).
    That has had a variety of implications, but of interest to this discussion, I am pretty sure most, if not all, General Authorities and Officers changed their registration status to private.

  6. @Rockwell; For whatever my political spidey-sense is worth, I could also see Elder Renlund as a democrat, but again, besides that registration information, that isn’t really based on anything concrete.

  7. Anyone who wants to think Elder Uchtdorf doesn’t believe the fundamentals of the restored gospel should remember he’s the one who said to doubt your doubts (which is epistemological good sense). But the gospel is vast, and what he chooses to focus on in his talks is fairly distinct. In addition to what has already been noted, I’d say more righteousness as loving and serving others and less righteousness as obedience or purity. More focus on God’s unconditional love and grace and less focus on earning rewards or avoiding punishment. I would not call him an outlier, in that he’s not that different from some of the other members of the quorum (yes, Elder Renlund comes to mind), but probably on one end of a spectrum. And I do think there’s some correlation between what people focus on in the gospel and their political positions.

    On that donation: many Church members are opposed to Trump, notably the entire First Presidency, but fewer have been willing to actually vote for a Democrat, let alone donate to one. (I suspect that’s the reason for the First Presidency letter on partisan voting.) I’d be willing to bet the Uchtdorfs voted for Democrats at least some of the time even before Trump.

    Does this mean Elder Uchtdorf is a liberal? Almost certainly not an orthodox one. No faithful Church member can be an orthodox member of either political party these days. But he’s a good reminder to those who think GOP stands for “God’s Only Party” that that simply isn’t the case.

  8. I assume that Elder Uchtdorf would not be an American citizen, therefore he would not be registered with any U.S. political party.

  9. Old Man, as I understand, Germany does not allow for dual citizenship except in rare cases — so the Uchtdorfs would have lost their German citizenship unless they applied for and received a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung or retention permit for political or economic reasons.

  10. This is more of a question not a comment and it is for “Old Man”.

    When some one becomes a naturalized American citizen they must swear alliegence to the USA and give up the citizenship they hold in any other foreign countries.

    How did the Uchdorf’s keep their foreign citizenship and become dual citizens when they were naturalized.

    In my family many of us have duel citizenship because of my French citizen mother.

    When we were born we were registered with a French government consulate, that gave us dual citizenship.

    Being born in the USA and having a mother who was a citizen of a coutnry that allowed dual citizenship we were awarded duel citizenship.

    When my cousins immigrated here with citizenship in France only, they were required to give up all alleigence to France when they were naturalized.

  11. Whether Pres/Elder Uchtdorf is a Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter to me. Nor whether he’s a German or American citizen (or both).

    What matters is he projects a friendly warmth that is deeply missing from other GAs. He has experienced all sides of life, having been a refugee twice. He was raised during turbulent times in Europe. And appears to be less judgmental than other GAs. His charisma may have been partially responsible for his being moved back to being simply an Apostle. And he was an airplane pilot.

    Uchtdorf is a great ambassador for the Church. He seem comfortable visiting refugee camps and high government officials. There is much to admire in the man. And he apparently drinks diet Cokes.

    if conservatives want to claim him that’s fine with me.

  12. American law does not require a person to give up their prior citizenship when they are naturalized in the United States. It is confusing when one sees that the oath of allegiance for a naturalized citizen requires the person to “renounce . . . allegiance and fidelity” to foreign states. However, in American law, this oath does not amount to renouncing legal citizenship in another country. It only indicates that a dual national is held to the full obligations of U.S. citizenship, regardless of conflicts that may arise with citizenship in another country.

    The law of some foreign countries does require a person to give up their citizenship when they are naturalized in another country. Germany is one of those countries! But, as commenter ji writes, there is a way for a German to retain German citizenship when seeking naturalization in another country. It appears that Elder Uchtdorf obtained this permission.

    See this article about an American Independence Day speech in which Elder Uchtdorf said, “I hold three citizenships. I am a citizen of the United States of America. I am also a citizen of Germany. And I hold a third cherished citizenship; I am a citizen in the kingdom of God.”:

  13. Brett: as of three or four weeks ago, only Pres. Nelson had had his voter registration hidden from the public. Here is how they were registered when I checked within the last month.

    Pres. Nelson–no voter record found **
    Pres. Oaks–Republican
    Pres. Eyring–Unaffiliated *
    Elder Ballard–Republican
    Elder Holland–Unaffiliated **
    Elder Uchtdorf–Unaffiliated
    Elder Bednar–Unaffiliated
    Elder Cook–Unaffiliated **
    Elder Christofferson–Unaffiliated
    Elder Andersen–Unaffiliated **
    Elder Rasband–Republican
    Elder Stevenson–Republican
    Elder Renlund–Unaffiliated
    Elder Gong–Republican
    Elder Soares–no voter record found (probably not a US citizen)

    * = was registered as a Republican when I checked in October 2020

    ** = was registered as a Republican when I checked in 2015

  14. I agree, Stephen. Elder Uchtdorf doesn’t seem different (to me) from the other apostles–not in any significant way, at least.

  15. I find Elder Uchtdorf’s conference addresses to be more kind and gentle, with more emphasis on God’s love and grace than, say Elder Oak’s talks. I don’t know that makes him more “liberal”, but he does tend to focus on these and similar topics. I find this to be refreshing. For too long we have heard “hell fire and damnation” from the pulpit.

  16. If you wonder why progressives relate to Pres/Elder Uchtdorf, read about his recent talk at the cemetery at Ft Douglas. He talked about about the evils of war, the power of forgiveness, and the importance of not being judgmental. You can find a summary of his talk in

  17. A balanced assessment until the “WHO TRIED TO OVERTHROW THE GOVERNMENT” bit. It always suprises me when members buy into the media caricature of Trump. A flawed man for sure, but with all that we know now, shouldn’t at least agree that that is the media’s agenda talking?

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