Miguel D. Martin: Are my LDS friends Romney Republicans or Trump Republicans?

Are they people of character, as I once thought, or was something evil lurking beneath?

President Donald Trump, right, speaks as he sits next to Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, left, as they participate in a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, on youth vaping and the electronic cigarette epidemic. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Some context. My father was stationed at Hill Air Force Base when I was in junior high school and I graduated from Davis High in Kaysville. I attended the University of Utah instead of attending the University of California as I’d planned but, after receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I left for California. My memories of Utah were fond and my perceptions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were positive.

A Catholic, I was never proselytized by church members. And I felt that the church was unfairly disparaged by non-LDS. I can’t count the number of times I was asked: “How could you live among them for so long, with their regressive values? My response: “That wasn’t my experience.” It seemed aberrational to California friends that I — a Latino community activist and knee-jerk liberal — would defend the LDS Church. But I didn’t apologize for my perceptions.

When the young LDS men with white shirts and ties, riding bicycles, were in my Sacramento neighborhood I would invite them to join me. I’d ask how the Utes were doing in football or basketball — even how BYU or USU Aggies were doing. I appreciated the intelligence and personability of these young men.

Now I am wary of them. My first thought upon seeing them is, Are they Romney Republicans or Trump Republicans? The possibility they may be Trump Republicans has me shirking their presence.

Worse, the dichotomy of Romney Republicans and Trump Republicans has me questioning long-held perceptions. Was it a façade? Was there, lurking beneath the smiling faces of my LDS friends, a repugnant, integrity impaired individual who only needed a Svengali Trump to bring out their true character?

An assessment of Donald Trump’s life reveals a man morally and integrity impaired. His character flaws — adultery, dalliances with porn stars, grab-them-by-the-p---- mentality toward women — can be ignored by Utah’s Trump Republicans but cannot be objectively refuted. His contempt for the most vulnerable — immigrants, citizens of Third World countries, for example — was, I had thought, anathema to LDS Church teachings. His personality — vulgar, petty, dishonest, vindictive — reflected personal traits inconsistent with LDS church values.

A Romney Republican acknowledges Trump for what he is and is not. He is not a man of God. Any objective assessment of his religious beliefs would reveal that Trump worships only Trump, and that he carries a Bible for photo ops. Trump could not intelligibly quote scripture if his life depended on it.

And a Romney Republican embodies all that I find endearing. People of character. People of integrity. People whose moral compass and religious values do not swirl in the winds of political goals, political aspirations and political expedience.

Either my perceptions of the church and its members were misplaced or they had morphed into something, someone, unrecognizable to me. Those who hiss Sen. Mitt Romney at public events and decry his supporters as Romney Republicans are not those I fondly remember from growing up in Utah.

The emergence of the LDS Trump Republican has done what all of those people who attempted to color my perception of the LDS Church and its members could not do in the decades since I left Utah.

The LDS Trump Republican has led me to acknowledge that the church may have succeeded in crafting a veneer that simply hid what lay beneath — a hypocrisy and morality of convenience that has bubbled to the surface as many espouse “Trump values.”

So, I sigh as I see those young men on bicycles pass by. Romney Republican or Trump Republican?

Miguel D. Martin is an attorney in Elk Grove, California.