It is no secret that Mormons are a conservative bunch. Even the shortest of trips to Utah will reveal our religious convictions against alcohol, coffee, premarital sex, vulgarity, “immodest” dress, and more. In fact, social conservatism has worked its way into nearly every aspect of Mormon life — including politics.
Except for a brief hiccup in 1964, Utah has backed a Republican for president in every election since 1952. Republicans currently make up the entire Utah congressional delegation, and Democrats hold just 18 out of 104 seats in Utah’s legislature. Mormons — and by extension Utah — are solidly Republican.
For a moment during the 2016 election, it seemed that this pattern might change. Donald Trump’s populist message fell flat on many Mormon ears, and his rhetoric concerning minorities and immigrants came across as contradictory to long held Mormon beliefs. Trump received only 14 percent of the vote in the state’s caucus, and Evan McMullin, a virtually unknown third-party candidate, was able to capture 21 percent of the vote in the general election.
This Mormon aversion to Trump was only temporary though. Since that election, it appears that Mormons have fallen in line with the rest of the Republican party. Although a handful of high-profile figures such as Mitt Romney and Jeff Flake remain critics of the president, a new Gallup poll shows Trump’s approval at 61 percent among Mormons — higher than any other religious group and a full 22 percent higher than the national average.
This poll raises an enigmatic question: How does a politician so antithetical to Mormon belief receive such a broad stamp of approval?
The difficult truth, it would seem, is that Mormons have decided that promoting a conservative agenda is more important than opposing Trump’s reprehensible behavior. It appears that they are now willing to ignore the inexcusable in order to see certain legislation promoted. The support of this president is a betrayal of Mormon identity and functions as a silent complicity to his actions.
It is important to first note that Donald Trump is not simply a brash political outsider. He is an alleged serial sexual assaulter with at least 22 accusers. He believes that African countries are “s---holes,” thinks Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and defends those who marched along white supremacists. He enthusiastically endorsed a man who faces allegations of sexually assaulting young girls and who openly promotes racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic views. He has called ”for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He is a vicious bully who picks on personal appearances, fat-shames women, and mocks disabled reporters.
Of course, the first reaction among Mormons is to claim that an approval of certain policies does not imply an approval of personality or actions. In reality though, Donald Trump the president and Donald Trump the man are one and the same. To support one requires supporting the other. Mormon support of Trump’s political agenda invariably involves a defense of him personally, and almost without realizing it, Mormons have found themselves defending not just Trump’s politics but his words and actions as well.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church, stated that “when the wicked rule the people mourn,” and that church members have a religious obligation to uphold only “good ... and wise” politicians. At least 61% of Mormons are certainly not mourning. They are ignoring the admonitions of Joseph Smith by supporting a man who is neither good nor wise. It is complacency at best and complicity at worst.
No tax cut, no Supreme Court justice, no level of economic growth, and no policy is worth compromising one’s morals and fundamental beliefs. Where is the courage? Where is the faith? It is time for Mormons to stand up and make their voices heard against this president. It is time for them to remember who they are and to live what they profess to believe.
If Mormons do not stand up and dump Trump now, we risk losing our moral credibility in the public arena, possibly for years to come.
Jack Davis, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a junior at Brigham Young University studying economics and international strategy and diplomacy.