Just before the Democratic National Convention kicks off Monday, Joe Biden’s campaign staged a national virtual event Saturday in which a parade of Latter-day Saints told fellow church members why they support the former vice president.
And sometimes they also said why they see President Donald Trump as wicked. It came during an event where participants opened and closed with prayer, quoted scriptures, repeated teachings of church leaders and sometimes shared testimonies that helped put Biden in a divine light.
“We can probably all agree that Donald Trump isn’t good or right,” said Abigail Woodfield, president of BYU College Democrats. “I see this election as a way to correct what is good and right in this world.”
Atlanta attorney Bryndis Roberts said, “On the one hand, we can continue with divisiveness and exclusion. Or, on the other hand, we can move forward in unity and inclusion. That’s why for me, as a Latter-day Saint and as a Black woman, I am supporting Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. [Kamala] Harris.”
Dr. Robert Taber, co-chairman of LDS Democrats, said Democrats in the church will likely hear “a lot this election from supporters of the Republican president about tradition and how that means we, as Latter-day Saints, must support him,” as most members have voted Republican for decades.
But he said church tradition also includes those members who flooded the airport in Salt Lake City a few years ago to protest Trump’s ban on immigration from Muslim countries, and more recently members who marched for “school safety, fairness for women, and Black lives.” He said it also includes former Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced he will vote for Biden.
Scott Howell, the former minority leader of the Utah House, said he is often asked how he can be a church member and a liberal. So he quoted writings from the late church apostle John A. Widtsoe.
The apostle defined a liberal as “a crusader for the betterment of human race,’ and wrote in a church magazine that “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not need to look elsewhere for a more liberal church than ours.”
Howell added, “I am here to tell you that our country needs Joe Biden and we need to stand tall in our wards [congregations] and our stakes [clusters of congregations] and in our community and not be afraid to be LDS and be a Biden supporter.”
Howell also told stories from the 30 years that he has known Biden, including how he reacted — according to reports of church leaders — when they presented his genealogy to him in a private meeting when he visited Salt Lake City and the Huntsman Cancer Institute a few years ago.
“Joe opened up the book,” Howell said. ”He began to cry. He said his entire life he wanted to know about his [ancestors]. He tried to find out about these good men and women. And that’s the character of Joe Biden.”
He added, “He’s religious. He’s Catholic. He’s dedicated to it.”
Several participants ticked off lists of policies where they say Biden may be closer to Latter-day Saint beliefs than Trump.
Roberts said the election “gives us the chance to move forward on women’s rights, pay equality and reasonable day care for working parents. It gives us the right to move forward for good, decent, affordable housing for all and to adjust an inhumane immigration system where we no longer keep children in cages.”
“Immigration and refugees align greatly with what our church has focused their efforts on,” said LDS Democrats-Idaho Chairman Jordan Morales.
Josh Dickson, national faith engagement director for the Biden-Harris campaign, said Biden shares many values held by Latter-day Saints, and has been working to reach out to members.
“We believe that Latter-day Saints see strong contrast between the Biden-Harris family-first opportunity focus agenda and President Trump’s continued attempts to separate children from their parents, put kids in cages, abuse his power, deny refuge to the stranger and normalize racism and incivility.”
The Democratic event came after the unveiling in recent days of a Republican group called, “Latter-day Saints for Trump,” led by former Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. That group attracted attacks on social media for using a picture of the faith’s Salt Lake Temple as the background for pictures of its board members. The church declined comment on whether that was appropriate.
Howell, the former state senator, also attacked the ad during Saturday’s Democratic event, complaining about its use of “our very sacred temple that is used for healing, not dividing. The temple is a healer. For them to use that and for them to go out and promote that the way they have, it’s just dead wrong.”
Also on Saturday, more than 200 Latter-day Saints signed an op-ed in The Arizona Republic opposing Latter-day Saints for Trump, saying it gives the impression that the church supports a president that signers said is the antithesis of many of its beliefs.