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A funny thing happened in the right-wing stratosphere of the Utah Republican Party.

Adherents to the strictest of tenets in ultra-conservative Republican ideology have long worn their religious fidelity to the teachings of the LDS Church and the word of its prophet on their sleeve.

Now, they find their faith shaken — some posting tweets and Facebook comments that their beloved church leaders have gone awry — because Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, one of Mormondom's highest ranking officials, boldly stood with Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders Tuesday in support of the signing of immigration-reform bills, including a guest-worker program reviled by the right.

"I know in April, I can't raise my hand to sustain Church leaders after their position…" wrote one well-known tea party activist.

"They (the LDS Church) should lose their tax exempt status," wrote a conservative Young Republican delegate heretofore loyal to the Mormon Church.

This reaction, of course, has delighted posters to a liberal Mormon blog who were chastised by fellow church members when they objected to the church's involvement in the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 ballot initiative in California. When they opposed their church on that issue, they were labeled as apostates.

Here is what they are saying to their Mormon colleagues who were critical of them, who now are questioning the church's authority because of its humanitarian stand on illegal immigration:

"I would say it's an example of LDS members who sit on the far right side of the U.S. political spectrum being shocked that the Church would take a more liberal and compassionate stance on an issue that affects many of its Latino members. Maybe it will cause those same members to re-examine their political stance on the issue — that a middle ground is necessary and appropriate," said one of the blog's posts.

"Sadly, the church needed to act to pull its own members, which most of the Legislature are, out of their backward views on immigration. Though there would be a sort of poetic comeuppance to it all, I hope that it will not require strong-arming the rest of the Utah membership to support this particular piece of legislation," wrote another.

One contributor suggested the Mormons who chastised LDS critics of Proposition 8 and now are upset with their church over immigration be treated with a barrage of "neener, neener, neener, neener" to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus.

These tongue-wagging reactions from moderate Mormons or non-members come from the frustration of watching ultra-conservative activists in Utah claim their often extreme political views are derived from the moral lessons they learned from their church upbringing.

One distraught critic of the church questioned whether the church had been lobbying behind closed doors for a more compassionate approach than the Arizona debacle all along.

That critic, of course, made it clear that church lobbying would be inappropriate, although he had no problem with the church's political involvement in Proposition 8.

I say the support of the church, and its long-held compassion toward the immigrant population, helped lead to a legislative conclusion that, while imperfect, is a far better result than what the hard-core enforcement-only bill originally intended.

Utah avoided the intolerant-bigot label that now enshrines its neighbor to the south, and LDS leaders should be given credit for whatever influence they wielded in swaying the debate in a more moderate, humanitarian direction.

For those political ideologues who long have crowned their right-wing rhetoric with the mantle of the Mormon Church, the shift from supine fealty to church edicts when the edicts are contrary to a particular partisan bent demonstrates a disingenuous strain, to say the least.

Contact Paul Rolly at