why mormons don’t like trump

by isaac black

A poll of Utah voters back in December showed Trump was the fourth most popular candidate in the state, trailing Cruz, Rubio and even Ben Carson. Though he continues to lead the Republican field, he recently inspired Mitt Romney, the archetypal Mormon politician, to summon all his civil, good-natured bluster in taking him down a peg.

While Trump has considerable support among evangelicals, he has failed to win over similarly devout LDS Church members. He’s clearly not religious, despite his fumbling attempts to demonstrate otherwise, and while Cruz, Rubio and Carson have talked more openly and convincingly of their faith, it seems strange to me that evangelicals would be significantly more forgiving of Trump’s lack of churchiness than Mormons. Rubio, who enjoys more support than Trump in Utah, is an “inactive,” i.e. lapsed, Mormon, a religious status considered worse than being a “non-member.” Additionally, Trump is the most pro-choice candidate, something which would seemingly upset evangelicals more than it would Mormons, whose church’s abortion policy is technically pro-choice.

I can’t speak to the evangelical mindset, though when considering Mormons’ lack of enthusiasm for Trump the Mormon concept of “the world” is useful. “The world” is something like the Babylon of Rastafarianism, a mindset typified by wanton, selfish living and sexual license. Mormons are constantly reminded to live “in the world but not of the world;” i.e. to be a part of the broader society without adopting its moral permissiveness. Mormons are very attuned to cultural markers of worldliness, which can speak louder than a person’s actual or stated beliefs. Mormons are known to boast of spotting fellow Mormons by their “countenance,” a kind of beatific image which comes from “living the Gospel.”

This attentiveness to others’ lifestyles isn’t merely Mormons’ being busybodies. There is a pervasive insider/outsider dynamic to the culture which comes from a history of being driven out of their homes, even having their murder sanctioned by the governor of Missouri. After settling in Utah, Mormons were investigated by the federal army. Mormonism eventually gave up their cherished belief in polygamy at the threat of having the church’s assets seized. While the last of these events occurred nearly a hundred years ago, the suspicion of outsiders persists.

Trump reads socially liberal. He’s a brash, New York media figure who carries with him the reek of sexual scandal. He’s expressed pro-choice views in the past (something which, along with support for equal marriage rights, has earned the active Mormon Harry Reid the distrust of many of his Mormon peers). Family is very important to Mormons. Donald Trump treated Ivana like an employee, pressuring her into a pre-nup which specified an income and offering her a cash bonus for bearing children. He also raped her.

On top of it all, Trump’s comments about shutting down mosques and barring Muslim immigrants didn’t play well with Mormons. Mormons show an affinity toward Muslims, possibly out of sympathy for another maligned, misunderstood religious group formed by an iconoclastic prophet. In the wake of Trump’s comments, the LDS Church issued a statement affirming its support of religious liberty, and chapels opened their doors to invite Muslims to come pray.

Naturally, the Mormon community is not monolithic and each voter will have her own reasons for liking or disliking Trump. But based on my experience in the Church, these concepts are important and may help to explain why Trump’s wave of appeal has hit a breakwater in Utah. My prediction for the primary in June is that if Rubio is still in the race, he and Cruz will split a plurality of votes while Trump will trail in a distant third.