When Donald Trump visited Utah during the 2016 primary season, he spoke at a rally saying, “The evangelicals have been so amazing, everybody is so amazing, and do I love the Mormons, OK? Do I love the Mormons!”
Now, more than two years later, it has become jarringly apparent that Trump’s professed love of Latter-day Saints is, in fact, reciprocal among a large portion of the Mormon population.
In January, a Gallup poll reported that 61 percent of Mormons approve of the president. And although Republican presidents typically enjoy closer to 80 percent approval ratings among Latter-day Saints, it still speaks volumes that Mormons approve of Trump more than any other religious group, including evangelicals as a whole.
As a devout Mormon myself, I must express embarrassment and sheer disappointment that my faith would be at all associated with the man who sits in the Oval Office. After all, Trump lives in utter defiance to nearly every Mormon teaching. Whereas Latter-day Saints aspire to the virtues of humility, honesty, chastity, compassion and overall moral decency, Trump is a stranger to these concepts. Rather, he is an egotistical, self-indulgent playboy who pays little regard to the truth or the wellbeing of others.
He possesses no loyalty to employees, political allies, wives or friends and, in the end, looks to serve only himself. I have often heard fellow Mormons express their grievances about the morally corrupt Bill Clinton, to which I must agree. And yet Trump makes the infamous Slick Willie Clinton look like a school boy.
Pastor Robert Jeffress — who once referred to Mormonism as a cult — is the leader of one of America’s largest protestant congregations, a contributing commentator on Fox News, and a staunch supporter of Trump. When called upon to offer the “evangelical reaction” to the Stormy Daniels story, Jeffress said, “We’re supporting him because of the principles he stands for, not because of personal behavior.”
Despite the irony that many Latter-day Saints are joining the political ranks of those who refer to Mormonism as a cult, I fear that many of my fellow Mormons are adopting the same kind of hypocritical thinking displayed by Jeffress and so many others. How is it possible to claim discipleship to Jesus Christ and look to spread a message of truth, love and peace throughout the world, while simultaneously supporting a man who stands for anything but truth, love and peace? Mormons in support of Donald Trump are only undermining their own beliefs and the credibility of the church as a whole.
Some might argue that although Trump has been nothing of a role model, Mormons are also taught the principle of forgiveness and should refrain from judging his undisputed character flaws. However, forgiveness is one thing. It is entirely different to look for leadership in a man whose life has been defined by moral error. By all means it is right to forgive Trump, but you don’t have to follow him.
In the end, much more than credibility is at stake. Trump’s high approval ratings among Latter-day Saints proves that many Mormons are joining Jeffress and others on the slippery slope of prioritizing party loyalty and political identity over faith and moral conviction.
As it says in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, “No man can serve two masters.” Similarly, it has become increasingly impossible to deeply regard the values of the LDS church while also offering full fledged support to Trump.
And so, I pose the question: Are we Mormons or are we Trumpites? Both is not an option.
Addison Graham, a former student at Jordan High School, graduated from Blue Springs South High School, Blue Springs, Mo., and will spend the next two years in Chile.