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Washington • Sixteen Mormons will serve in this session of Congress, continuing to give the faith a larger representation in the Capitol than in the U.S. population.
And despite the retirement of House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who had organized an unofficial LDS Church caucus, the group is likely to continue to meet on occasion for a bit of prayer and soul searching.
"We will still get together informally," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and Mormon, who now chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told me last week.
Several Mormons in Congress, including Chaffetz and Reps. Chris Stewart of Utah and Matt Salmon of Arizona, had met on a somewhat monthly basis to focus on their faith in the last session of Congress. Politics weren't welcome at the meetings, often held in McKeon's office, but sharing spiritual thoughts was encouraged.
The caucus now has another member who can join: Rep. Cresent Hardy of Nevada, a freshman. Mormons accounted for 15 members of Congress in the last session.
Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, has replaced Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat who is also Mormon.
There are seven Mormon senators. Overall, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now make up 3 percent of Congress, while the faith's followers account for about 2 percent of Americans.
The same is true for several religions: Catholics make up about 31 percent of members of Congress, but only 22 percent of the U.S. population; Jewish members make up more than twice the percentage of Congress than they do the general population; and Methodists constitute a higher percentage in Congress than in the American populace.
LDS members also hold some powerful spots, especially Utahns. Orrin Hatch is Senate president pro tempore (and Senate finance chairman); Rob Bishop is House Natural Resources chairman; and Chaffetz has leadership of the oversight panel. Sen. Mike Lee is a counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and is chairman of the Senate Steering Committee.
And, of course, there's Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader.
Joseph Smith Bible • Love, who took office last week, brought a special Bible to use in her ceremonial swearing-in with House Speaker John Boehner: An 1828 first edition of the Bible from Cooperstown, N.Y.
It's similar to the one that LDS Church Prophet Joseph Smith used in his study of religion leading up to the founding of the Mormon faith, according to Ron Rasband, senior president of the church's Quorum of the Seventy. Rasband, who joined Love's family for the photo op with Boehner, was the mission president over parts of Connecticut and New York when Love's husband, Jason, served in the area and met Mia for the first time.
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