Commentary: Shame on Lee for exploiting our shared faith for political gain

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, speaks at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump at Phoenix Goodyear Airport Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Wednesday, Utah Sen. Mike Lee stood next to Donald Trump at a rally at the Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Arizona, and like an agitated carnival barker, bellowed out his appeals to the various attendees:

“To my Catholic friends ... think about Amy Coney Barrett and think about The Little Sisters of Nepal. To my Protestant and Evangelical friends, we have to remember that it is by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we have had four years of prosperity and peace. And to my Mormon friends [oops!] ... to my Latter-day Saint friends, think of him [theatrical gesture toward Trump] as Captain Moroni.”

And thus, in one fell swoop, he managed to exploit not only the faith he shares with a majority of his constituents, but also the faith of Catholics and Protestants/Evangelicals. Later that night, in a Facebook comment, Lee attempted to justify his behavior by claiming that it was his right to speak as he did. Certainly, it was his right. But was it right?

As an elected representative of the people of Utah, Lee has a solemn responsibility to measure and weigh his words very carefully. And on Wednesday, he used his words to blaspheme and leverage both his own faith and the faith of others for political gain — and that is reprehensible.

But, as Lee compared President Trump to Captain Moroni, let’s go ahead and examine that analogy. Captain Moroni is one of the few scriptural heroes in The Book of Mormon whose character is described in detail. In Alma 48:11-18, his attributes are outlined.

“And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man.”

In order to avoid the draft, Donald Trump received medical deferments. According to his one-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, “Mr. Trump claimed (his medical deferment) was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. ... He finished the conversation with the following comment: ‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.’”

“[Moroni] was a man of a perfect understanding.”

Trump apparently doesn’t even read his presidential briefs. According to Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser from 2017-1018, “It’s worse than you can imagine ... Trump won’t read anything — not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers, nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he’s bored.”

“A man that did not delight in bloodshed.”

According to an ABC News report:"Frustrated with a record number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2019, Trump at one point asked in a private meeting with close aides whether the U.S. could shoot migrants below the waist to slow them down. The account, first reported in a book excerpt released by The New York Times, was confirmed to ABC News by a senior administration official who was in the room at the time, as well as several other sources who were later briefed on the conversation. According to two sources familiar with the matter, Trump in private meetings raised the prospect of shooting migrant families seeking asylum at the border as early as November 2018 and again in March 2019. He also floated a similar idea publicly at one point, suggesting that rocks thrown by migrants will be considered a firearm and potentially warrant lethal force." And Trump routinely alludes to violence at his rallies:

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell ... I promise you I will pay for the legal fees.” “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.”

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

“A man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country.”

A free and fair election is the foundation of our liberty and freedom. And yet, Trump has repeatedly undermined the election process through a disinformation campaign about vote-by-mail and fraud. A recent study by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard determined that “Fox News and Donald Trump’s own campaign were far more influential in spreading false beliefs [about potential voter fraud] than Russian trolls or Facebook clickbait artists.”

Trump’s repeated refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power further undermines the liberty and freedom of our country, as do his other attacks on the fundamental values, norms, processes, and institutions of our constitutional democratic republic.

“Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people.”

Instead of offering “thanksgiving to his God,” Trump routinely credits himself with his own perceived success. “Nobody’s ever done a better job as president,” he often claims.

When asked if he seeks forgiveness for his sins, he said, “I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t.”

“[Moroni was] a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.”

All presidents need recreation and relaxation, but Trump has visited his own resorts and clubs over 280 times since taking office and “has been at a golf club once every 4.92 days so far.According to thegolfnewsnet.com, Trump has been on the grounds of his golf courses or played golf elsewhere 293 times since becoming president (as of Sept. 27). The cost to taxpayers of his golf addiction has totaled in the tens of millions of dollars. The Secret Service has reportedly spent at least $550,000 in third-party golf cart rentals.

“Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ.”

It is inappropriate for us to judge the sincerity of another person’s faith. It is also inappropriate to promote any candidate or elected official as being endorsed by God.

“And this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; ... yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.”

We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But if Lee insists on comparing President Trump to Captain Moroni, then Trump’s habitual violations of commandments must be considered. Let’s look at just one of the basic 10 Commandments: Thou shalt not bear false witness (or lie).

According to The Washington Post Fact Checker, Trump is now averaging “more than 50 false or misleading claims per day.” These are verifiable untruths, not misrepresentations by a biased media. And we won’t even mention such commandments as thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt have no other gods before me, and love thy neighbor as thyself.

No, Sen. Lee, President Trump is nothing like Captain Moroni. And we would respectfully ask that you leave such shockingly inappropriate comparisons out of your public discourse from now on.

Megan Rawlins Woods

Megan Rawlins Woods, Garden City, is a graduate of Brigham Young University, a wife, mother of five and a member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

Sharlee Mullins Glenn | founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government

Sharlee Mullins Glenn, Pleasant Grove, is a writer, a teacher and a community organizer. She sits on the external advisory board for Brigham Young University’s Civic Engagement Program. She lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah.