Why Utah Will Hand Donald Trump his Most Embarrassing Loss of the GOP Primary
Utah is red, very red. It is one of the most loyal Republican states in the nation. To illustrate: Utah has voted Republican by at least 19 percentage points in every presidential election since 1964.
With only this superficial knowledge, one might think that Utah would be a bastion for Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
But Utah is also very Mormon. In 2008, 75% of Utah voters identified themselves as Mormon (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). This strong Mormon influence imbues Utah’s culture with remarkably strong strands of reasonable and balanced positions that put them at odds with the Republican front-runner.
In particular, there are four issues of great importance to Mormons that will make it very hard for them (myself included) to support “The Donald”:
- Mormons, unlike Donald, know the pain of religious bigotry and fight against it—In the Mormon-canonized Articles of Faith, Joseph Smith (the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) wrote, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” This value and ethos runs deep in both Mormon teachings and experience: many Utah Mormons have ancestors that risked life and limb traveling across the rugged West to Utah to escape religious-based persecution in Illinois, Missouri and other states. The pain and severity of this persecution can be symbolized by the Missouri Extermination Order, an executive order issued by Governor Boggs in 1838 which stated, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state.” So Trump suggesting “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and an establishment of a database to track Muslims in the U.S. hit a particularly sensitive nerve among Mormons and flies in the face of our deep-seated belief in religious tolerance and freedom.
- Mormons, unlike Donald, believe in eschewing racism in all forms — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the people of this planet are literal Children of God, making us all brothers and sisters. The Book of Mormon states that “all are alike unto God.” While some have criticized elements of the Church’s history on race issues, today it has publicly acknowledged its complex race history and works hard to teach its members to love all and avoid prejudice and stereotypes. Many young Mormons have spent years living, loving, and serving in countries outside the U.S., myself included. I served in Sierra Leone and Liberia where the Church helped me to love people very different than me.
Donald, on the other hand, feeds people’s fears and prejudices for votes by saying blunt and calloused things such as alluding that the 11 million unauthorized immigrants are “killers and rapists” or when he blatantly misrepresented the truth by tweeting, “80% of all the shootings in New York City are blacks-if you add Hispanics, that figure goes to 98%. 1% white.”
- Mormons, unlike Donald, believe that men and women are equal— Gordon B. Hinkley, a deeply loved and respected Mormon Prophet taught that “as [God’s] final creation, the crowning of His glorious work, He created woman.” Mormons believe that Eve’s decision to “partake of the fruit” was a brave and needed choice to bring humankind into being and was part of God’s plan. Mormons also believe in the existence of a female deity, Heavenly Mother. In these doctrinal roots, Mormons believe that men and women are unique and equal, both deserving the utmost respect. I actually don’t know what Mr. Trump believes about gender roles, but one can only guess given the multitude of his misogynist comments. Here are a few of the gems: “If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired,” “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful,” and “Look at that face [Carly Fiorina]. Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
- Mormons, unlike Donald, believe in truth and honesty — The reality of absolute truth is a fundamental tenet for the Mormon faith. Joseph Smith taught, “Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth.” In another scripture, Latter-day Saints are given this counsel about selecting elected officials: “Wherefore, honest … and wise men [and women] should be sought for diligently.” Trump represents the antithesis of this counsel. In fact, the organization PolitiFact designated Donald Trump’s many campaign misstatements as “The Lie of the Year” for 2015. According to the same organization, only 9% of Donald Trump’s statements are “True” or “Mostly True,” the other whopping 91% fall in somewhere between “Half True” to “Pants on Fire.” It’s so bad that one political commentator credits Trump with deliberately creating a “post-truth” election.
For these reasons, on the eve of the Utah GOP Presidential Caucus, I predict that Utah Republicans and its overwhelmingly Mormon voters will choose to reject hate, dishonesty, and prejudice, and hand Mr. Trump his most embarrassing loss of the 2016 GOP Primary.