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Some Mormon women ask: How could my fellow saints support Trump?

First Published      Last Updated Dec 04 2016 08:25 pm

Since Donald Trump's election, I know of a few Mormon women who have stopped going to church, at least temporarily, because of the support their fellow worshippers gave a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women.

A meeting that convened among LDS women a week after the election suggests the angst felt by female believers toward Mormon colleagues covers a wide spectrum within the faith.

Crystal Young-Otterstrom, one of the co-hosts of the gathering held in another woman's living room, heads LDS Dems, the largest caucus within the Utah Democratic Party.

She and fellow caucus member Marlo Balmanno recently launched "sisters night" because they felt the women would be more comfortable talking about their feelings if there were no men around.



"Within our greater church culture, women often don't feel free to express opinions and talk openly if men are present," Young-Otterstrom said. "In these sister-night meetings, it gives women an opportunity to talk politics, something they usually keep to themselves."

Invitations to those meetings are usually restricted to about 12 to give participants ample time to express themselves in a more intimate environment.

But a post-Election Day session attracted more than 30.

Many were demoralized at Mormons' enthusiastic support of a Republican candidate whose words and behavior run so counter to the principles they learn in church, Young-Otterstrom said. Some who openly backed Democrat Hillary Clinton have been bullied and ostracized, she added, noting that the women in the meeting agonized over a Pew Research report that Trump received 61 percent of the Mormon vote nationwide.

Of particular concern was Trump's conversation, caught on tape, in which he boasted about grabbing women and trying to seduce a married woman.

"Some feel that [support for him by LDS congregants] was hypocritical," Young-Otterstrom said.

A woman, who attended the meeting but requested anonymity for fear of reprisals in her neighborhood, said she has, for now, stopped attending services. She said when she sees her LDS neighbors bear their testimonies about the Mormon gospel, she wonders what they really feel about women if they can at the same time so openly admire Trump.

Balmanno said while some Clinton supporters have been treated poorly in their congregations, "some [LDS] wards have been great." In her own ward, she said, it has taken time for some members to accept her as a Democrat, but most have come around.

It should be noted that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages members to be involved in civic affairs and politics, no matter their partisan leanings.

For many Mormons, the stances of Supreme Court nominees, who could make decisions on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, are more important than a candidate's personal morality, Young-Otterstrom said.

She and Balmanno, unlike some of the women who attended their meeting, remain active in the church that they love. But Balmanno said she was thankful to be assigned as the ward librarian, which took her out of many of the Sunday class discussions.

"I loved it," she said of the librarian appointment. "I can contribute to my church, be part of the ward but don't have to interact so much."

prolly@sltrib.com

 

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