Brian S. King: Why do so many Mormons back this president?

What’s up with Mormons approving of Donald Trump at greater rates than any other religion?

According to a Gallup poll of over 2,200 LDS voters from this month, 61 percent of Mormons approve of Donald Trump’s performance as president. This confirms what other surveys have said for months: Mormons are Donald Trump’s most reliable supporters.

I’m a life-long and active LDS Church member. I’ve served in a variety of leadership, teaching and other service positions. The Gallup poll makes me wonder how we got to this point. I remember two years ago feeling proud that Utah Republicans stood up and rejected Trump as their nominee. Yet now, most of my co-religionists not only support him as president, they go further and approve of his performance over the past year as leader of our incredible country. That is remarkable. What does such strong endorsement of Trump tell the world about who we, as Mormons, are?

For decades Mormons have been taught, rightly, by our leaders that the character of our elected officials is of prime importance in deciding for whom to vote. We are encouraged to seek out and support men and women for all public offices who act with integrity and are wise, good and honest. Prophets have taught that we must stand for charity, honesty, morality, virtue and civility.

Donald Trump stands for none of these things. He often shows open disdain for each of these qualities to which we aspire. His words and behavior are jarringly inconsistent with not just Mormon values, but with universally accepted norms of decent human behavior across all cultures for millennia.

What cognitive dissonance do Mormons display when they persistently approve of Trump? When 61 percent of LDS members admire Trump, does that demonstrate a significantly greater willingness than other religions to uncritically believe dishonest news sources? Could it reveal Mormons want an authoritarian leader, regardless of the lack of uprightness or integrity of that person?

Perhaps Mormon esteem for Trump shows that active LDS members remain committed, in a tribal way, to a particular political party even though the leaders of that party trample truth and righteousness under their feet. Does persistent majority praise for Trump simply reflect a type of affinity fraud among individuals in a relatively close-knit culture?

It is likely that LDS voters’ disproportionate approval of Trump is a combination of these reasons and others. No matter the explanation, I am deeply troubled by my co-religionists’ consistent and strong admiration of a person who so clearly exhibits personality defects we are taught to reject. This 61 percent approval displays political solidarity that trumps our spiritual aspirations for a Zion community in a powerful and damning way.

Apparently Mormons are more attached to party labels than to their supposed religious values.

Let’s not fool ourselves: Persistent approval of Trump by most LDS Church members will change us. Approval discloses not just what kind of a leader 61 percent of Mormons will tolerate, it reveals the kind of character many of us venerate. It proclaims to the world the spiritual and religious values of most Mormons.

It is not an option for me to claim to be a disciple of Christ and be quiet in the face of such an unrelenting and prominent example of indecency, discrimination and lack of charity toward other people. We must speak out in disapproval of the moral rot coming from the leader of our country.

When Mormons are among Trump’s most zealous supporters, we betray our faith. We dishonor the core spiritual and religious beliefs we claim to revere. I refuse to remain silent.

LDS Church members need to examine the misalignment between our supposed beliefs and the approval most Mormons give to a person of Donald Trump’s character.

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Rep. Brian King, Salt Lake City, listens to debate on HB60, Campaign Finance Amendments, which later failed in the House at the State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, Tuesday March 3, 2015.

Brian S. King, D-Salt Lake City, is minority leader of the Utah House of Representatives.