How do Mormons feel about Trump and Hillary?
By Emily Geddes
Mormons are one of the most reliably Republican demographics in the United States, and have been for a good 50 years or so. In normal campaign seasons, Republican candidates often take the Mormon vote for granted and Democratic candidates usually decide it’s not worth expending effort in heavily LDS areas where they are guaranteed to lose anyway. The last few presidential election cycles, however, Mormons have been in the spotlight far more than normal.
Of course, Mitt Romney’s presidential runs in 2008 and 2012 prompted hundreds of articles about Mormonism, but this year, there have been a surprising number of posts about Mormons again – this time because of their uncharacteristic reluctance to support the Republican nominee.
Quite a bit of digital ink has been spilled on this topic. While there are plenty of Mormons who will vote for Donald Trump for various reasons, the candidate himself has noted that he has a “tremendous problem” in the majority-LDS state of Utah. (Recent events have led several LDS politicians – but not all – to denounce Mr. Trump or even to withdraw their previous endorsements.)
Mr. Trump’s comments about Muslims and refugees don’t sit well with most Mormons and many have concerns about his commitment to religious freedom. With our history of both being refugees and being persecuted for our religion (see Governor Boggs and his infamous Extermination Order), we tend to be pretty sensitive to such things. The Church itself does not endorse presidential candidates, but took the unusual step of issuing a brief statement after some of Mr. Trump’s incendiary comments about religion and immigration.
Many Mormons are also thoroughly disgusted by his crudity, his racist and sexist comments, his downright mean personal attacks, and his well-documented history of blatant lying and serial adultery. As a people who strive to follow Christ’s injunction to “love one another” and who covenant to “mourn with those that mourn… and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places,” Mr. Trump’s demonstrated lack of empathy, self-discipline, or a moral compass is a turn-off for many Mormons.
On the other hand, it’s no surprise that Hillary Clinton has garnered little support among Mormons (though it is noteworthy that she wrote an op-ed for the LDS-Church-owned newspaper The Deseret News and her campaign even opened an office in Salt Lake City). In spite of their distaste for Trump, Mormons in the United States remain predominantly politically and socially conservative. Many simply can’t bring themselves to vote for any pro-choice, same-sex-marriage-supporting Democrat, and hold the same negative views about Secretary Clinton as other conservatives in this country.
Like many Americans this year, some Mormons are holding their nose and voting for whomever they consider “the lesser of two evils” with distaste – more of a vote against the other candidate than a vote for either. One friend explained to me that while she personally finds Mr. Trump repugnant, she is planning to vote for him because he is the candidate most likely to nominate conservative Supreme Court justices and implement the conservative policies she supports. Another friend described his shock as a life-long Republican to find himself leaning towards voting for Secretary Clinton. Unable to stomach either of the major party candidates, several reliably-Republican Mormons are looking to third party candidates, mostly either Libertarian Gary Johnson or latecomer independent conservative (and Mormon) Evan McMullin.
On a side note, more than half of the world’s LDS population lives outside the United States and those international Mormons I have contact with are categorically horrified at the thought of Donald Trump as the president of the United States.
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