Journalists such as Nate Cohn of the New York Times have documented how U.S. Mormons are overwhelmingly bearish on Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol joked on Twitter over the weekend that if Trump gets the nomination and conservatives opt for an alternative candidate, the name of the third party should be “The Latter-Day Republicans.” That’s a nod to the official Mormon Church’s name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
My fellow Brigham Young University journalism grad McKay Coppins has a great piece at BuzzFeed analyzing this trend, which notes Trump’s apparent desire to persecute a religious minority (e.g. Muslims). That doesn’t sit well with Mormons, another religious minority hounded since their inception. Some Americans don’t realize Mormons ended up in Utah because haters drove them there. Utah wasn’t even part of the United States in the 1840s.
Trump’s inaccurate, negative depiction of immigrants also doesn’t sit well with the immigrant-friendly Mormon Church, which now has more members outside the United States than domestically. Trump’s verbal abuse of women, racial minorities and others also doesn’t impress mild-mannered Mormons who eschew swearing.
I was raised in the Mormon Church. As the descendant of Mormon pioneers who suffered, bled and died on foot on their way from Europe and the East Coast to settle in Utah, I understand why Trump is so morally objectionable to LDS people. Mormons are obsessed with the narrative and mythology of the Church’s founding. They dress up like pioneers and reenact pioneer treks to remind each other of staying grounded in the memory of pursuing a dream and cause greater than themselves. It is a culture of self-denial, of egalitarianism and pragmatism. Mormons have the protestant work ethic on steroids. They’re also profoundly culturally conservative. If you go to a supermarket in Mormon-heavy Utah County, often magazines like Cosmopolitan have a plastic plate to block their cover from the checkout customer who might be offended by an actresses’ cleavage.
Mormons often dress and reenact as pioneers, like the students above, to remind themselves of their persecution and exodus to Utah. | Photo: LDS Church newsroom
Trump is the antithesis of Mormon culture. He is a creature of a rich, post-industrialized, reality TV culture. While Trump bombastically trumpets his wealth, former GOP candidate Mitt Romney, a very wealthy man in his own right, shops at Costco (with big families, Mormons adore stores like Costco and Sam’s Club). While a young Trump was chasing skirts and flamboyantly playing the Manhattan party circuit, a young Romney — and countless other young Mormon men and women — were preaching and serving as celibate missionaries abroad. Mormons are heavily involved in international development through the Perpetual Education Fund and other initiatives.
I’m no longer practicing and officially left the Church, for lots of reasons, some of which I explained in The Washington Post and USA Today. But I still count many friends and family members in the Mormon Church, and I’m proud to see Mormons standing up in the NeverTrump movement to protect civil discourse and work to see that Trump doesn’t become the mouthpiece and the face of the Republican Party. Mathematically this is a possibility, and my guess is that should Trump win the nomination victory you’d see lots of Mormons ready to be modern-day pioneers. It wouldn’t be a geographic trek this time, but a philosophical exodus from the GOP.
Carrie Sheffield is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @carriesheffield and on Facebook.