Carlson: Elder Larry EchoHawk

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Idahoans of all persuasions, political as well as religious, should congratulate their former attorney general on his call to serve as a general authority and a member of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy. It is an honor long overdue.

EchoHawk, 63, was also the 1994 Democratic nominee for governor, but lost narrowly to former Lt. Governor Phil Batt. The Wilder State Senator won 52% to 48% giving EchoHawk the distinction of being the first Native American to come close to being elected governor.

EchoHawk, a Pawnee, is currently the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. To know Larry is to like him. He’s just one of those truly fine people all too rare nowadays.

Quiet, competent, hard-working, analytical and dedicated to supporting his wife and sons, he walks the talk of “faith, family and friends.” Educated at Brigham Young, he was a star defensive back on the Cougar football team and two sons were also star players, one at the Y, the other at ISU.

The sons obtained their own law degrees and set up law offices in Pocatello. The former U.S. Marine has spent time as an “of counsel” member of that firm and has represented the Fort Hall Sho-Bans in the past.

Given the prominent position Native Americans hold in the Mormon story (Saints believe today’s native Americans are descendents of the two “lost tribes” of Israel and that Christ appeared before them in the New World), it is surprising EchoHawk was not named sooner. There are some who expect he will eventually be named one of the 12 Apostles who serve as the “board” to the LDS president and his two first councilors.

As most know it is a gerontocracy that runs the LDS Church, but at 63 Larry is thought to be a “youngster.”

EchoHawk is only the second Native American named to the First Quorum of the Seventy and as such, carries the additional burden into this ecclesiastical office of having to redress the image left by the first Native American, Navajo George Lee, who served 14 years before being excommunicated for apostasy and conduct unbecoming a member of the church.

While Elder EchoHawk is fully deserving, the timing has to be noted for it is “no coincidence.”

It does not take a rocket scientist, let alone a political scientist, to figure out the authorities running the LDS Church are positively giddy with the prospect of one of their own, Mitt Romney, being a major party nominee for president.

If there is anyone among the political cognoscenti who think Church authorities would have liked seeing EchoHawk out on the campaign trail mobilizing the Native American vote against Romney as well as speaking out to the entire electorate, see me about some hot lottery tickets to last week’s jackpot.

So, EchoHawk gets an overdue “call,” and is out of D.C. and back to Orem where he and his wife have their home. This not so subtle move should invite additional questions regarding just how involved Church authorities are in Governor Romney’s campaign.

Again, under the no coincidences rule, does one not see the heavy national media buy last fall portraying all that is nice about being LDS with paving the way for the Romney campaign? And if the press ever gets full access to the contributors’ list of those giving to Romney’s Super PAC will anyone be surprised by the number of rich LDS millionaire?

It is also a given that in caucus states many wards and stakehouses served as unofficial Romney campaign clearing houses to ensure the faithful supportive of Mitt got to the caucuses. Methinks given how well organized the Romney campaign is that these kinds of details are givens.

For a faith that has been historically persecuted and has suffered the brunt of discrimination, one would think they would be especially vigilant about separation of Church and State. No, I’m not so naïve as to not know that American politics will always be intertwined to some degree with religion, values and morals. The disturbing trend is an acceleration of Church hierarchies, like the LDS authorities and the Catholic bishops, to step into and practice a particular brand of partisan politics.

The risk of such deep involvement is in fact what exactly happened to EchoHawk when he ran for governor. Holding a fund-raiser in Salt Lake and “working” the Mormon authorities for money, struck many members of the LDS faith, egged on by a super-critical Salt Lake Tribune, as improperly crossing the line. Some believe, coming just two weeks before the election with EchoHawk then leading Batt, that the matter cost EchoHawk the election.

Of course that was a mere governorship, not the presidency. Nor will I be so cynical as to suggest race, or ethnicity, or party affiliation had anything to do with how the authorities acted then.

CHRIS CARLSON is a writer and former press secretary now living at Medimont.

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2 Comments

  1. dcroshaw said:

    As a personal acquaintance of Larry EchoHawk, I agree that he is very capable and deserving of his new calling. However, 3 things need clarification: 1. LDS church leaders do not get giddy, especially over politics. 2. LDS church buildings do not get used for political events of any kind. See the political neutrality statement at lds.org/newsroom 3. Callings in the LDS Church are not issued for political expediency.

    April 3, 2012
  2. samcrowESQ said:

    First off, allow me to state my credentials. I am a left-leaning Native American lawyer (almost – May 2012) who also happens to be a practicing Mormon. I first met Larry Echohawk when I was at BYU and he was a source of inspiration to me and gave me the extra push I needed to apply to law school. That being said I am also very familiar with the way the LDS church calls their General Authorities.

    Thus the idea that the LDS Church extended a calling to Larry Echohawk simply to pull him off the campaign trail is far fetched, uninformed and a bit insulting to Larry Echohawk. When a calling is made to someone, anyone, in the LDS church it is always contingent upon the prospective candidate’s free will to accept or deny that calling. If that person feels that accepting a position with the LDS church is something that they would rather not do then they can feel free to reject the calling and go on with their lives. No strings attached. It happens ALL THE TIME.

    This article makes it sound like Echohawk was forced to take the calling and had to agree or else. He accepted the calling of his own free will. I guess that is the funny thing about religion, some people really do believe in it. This article makes it seem as though the LDS church is really just an extension of the Republican party. Unfortunately for this theory is the fact that there are many democrats who are LDS, even prominent ones like former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The suggestion that the LDS meeting houses are used as forums for political meetings is out of touch with reality. LDS church buildings do not get used for political events of any kind. See the political neutrality statement at lds.org/newsroom.

    While I am sure that the idea of Echohawk bowing to religious pressure so that Romney could advance and allow for a Mormon controlled Whitehouse is wonderful fodder for the conspiracy theorists, it is just not grounded in reality.

    April 11, 2012

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