How Latter-day Saints fed up with Trump could help lift Biden in Arizona

(Cassidy Araiza | The New York Times) Dan and Nan Barker, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who remain Republicans but do not support President Donald Trump, with the Arizona Republicans for Biden campaign yard sign that they created, at their home in Gilbert, Ariz., Sept. 7, 2020. Loyalty to the Republican Party is ingrained in the Latter-day Saints religion, but in Arizona, some find the president's behavior at odds with their values, and are shifting to Joe Biden.

Tucson, Ariz. • For the better part of a century, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made their political home under the Republican Party’s tent, motivated by conservative beliefs rooted in the family values, personal liberty and economic frugality of their faith.

But some church members now find themselves in a political quandary: They’re still Republicans, but they no longer fit in with the party as exemplified by President Donald Trump, who for them represents a hard departure from the church’s teachings on sex, crude language, empathy and humility.

In Arizona — the only state up for grabs that has a significant Latter-day Saint population — growing numbers are finding refuge in Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Most church members are still likely to support the president again this year. But exit polling from 2016 showed 56% of church members supported Trump, far less than the support he received from members of other faiths.

Even a small shift in Latter-day Saints' voting patterns could have a large impact in Arizona. There are about 437,000 members of the faith in the state, though that number includes children; Trump won by just 91,000 votes in 2016.

[Read more: Latter-day Saints for Biden launches list of endorsers]

Despite their reservations about Trump in 2016, members of the faith largely fell into familiar voting patterns, supporting Trump or begrudgingly casting their votes for a third-party candidate.

But Biden doesn’t cause the same reluctance among some Latter-day Saints as Hillary Clinton did. They like his temperament and personality.

The Latter-day Saints' relationship with the federal government is complicated, and some members support Trump precisely because he is shaking up the government.

There is a large group of Latter-day Saints whose members don’t like Trump’s style, but they say his policies on abortion and conservative court appointments outweigh their personal distaste for him. For many of them, supporting the president’s reelection is an easy decision.

Still, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints diverges from the president on several policy fronts. It takes a more empathetic stance on immigration and refugees, positions informed by its global reach, legions of missionaries and the church’s own history as an unwelcome religious minority in the country.