All right, I don't really want to talk about politics here and I hope not to make any more posts about politics (and I'll probably f-lock this one eventually), but I'll just make this post because I thought a couple of you might find it interesting.
K/B asked me two weeks ago about the LDS Church and whether it would ever come out against Trump. I said (and still say) no. The Church did not even endorse Mitt Romney in 2012, who was one of our own.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that the LDS religion believes very, very strongly in freedom of religion and the related freedom to vote our own consciences. Our theology in fact explicitly postulates that the founders of this country were motivated by the Spirit of the Lord to develop a country in which these freedoms are possible. The second, more cynical reason, is that the LDS Church will never, ever do anything
to call into question its nonprofit tax-exempt status as a religion, and making statements about any political candidate or party would put itself squarely in that bullseye.
(I believe both. If it weren't for the second reason, I absolutely believe that the Church would be tempted to speak out more. I could also imagine that if it weren't for the first reason, the Church might be tempted to do at least wink-wink-nudge-nudge kinds of statements, which I've heard from the pulpit in my sister-in-law's evangelical church and which I found horrifying.)
The Church has put out a single official statement on, not Trump, but in response to Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. It did not name Trump. It basically went, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns. However, it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom," and a couple of relevant quotes from Joseph Smith. The Deseret News (of which more later) was happy to unpack what they actually meant
, though.Utah is still red
, I told K/B, but usually the LDS church votes Republican as an extremely reliable bloc
[not wholly, especially those in California and Massachusetts, haha, but… pretty strongly so], and in this election that bloc no longer holds.
Then that tape came out.
The Church has not said anything officially about it, I think rightly so (see above).
Last Saturday, the Deseret News
wrote a very strongly-worded editorial against Trump. (It declined to go so far as to endorse Clinton.)
And now Mormons have pretty much broken against Trump.
I've seen a couple of articles about the Mormon revolt against Trump in the last several days, but I don't think I've seen anywhere talk about exactly how
important the Deseret News editorial was in the confluence of the LDS Church and politics. The Deseret News
is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is not an official Church publication. It says it is not a mouthpiece for the Church. However, in the past it used to be exactly that. It still has a great deal of power and does in fact in the minds of many Mormons speak for the Church. Last week when I was at church, in fact, people (including me) were confused as to whether the Deseret News was an official Church publication or not. (This was in a completely unrelated, religion-based context, and I had not yet seen the Trump editorial because I am not the sort of LDS person who reads the Deseret News. But there are people in my ward (in California) who read it every day.)
Anyway, probably partially because of this background and the possibility of confusion, The Deseret News
has not taken a stand for/against a political candidate in 80 years. But they have done so now. And it is a huge deal in LDS circles. It doesn't carry the weight of an official pronouncement, and certainly should not; but there are a lot of people in the LDS Church who will give it a lot of weight. There were already a lot of LDS who disliked Trump (that's a whole other story; Trump's brand of demagoguery is basically antithetical to Mormons -- ETA 10-14: for example see this Buzzfeed article written by a Mormon reporter
) but might have pushed the lever for him out of not knowing that much about him combined with conservative solidarity; but this, I think, will have given them another path, and what's more, a path that at least appears to come with tacit approval of the leaders of the Church. (The editor of the Deseret News claims he did not run the editorial by any Church leaders, and I have no reason not to believe him. But people will assume that he did anyway, or at the very least — and I also believe this — that his beliefs are shared by church leadership.) I've already seen the editorial be passed around and convince a couple of previous Trump supporters on an LDS message board I occasionally look at.
(There's also a whole other post I could make about LDS theology and women and how Trump hit that in a way that was pretty much guaranteed backlash, but this is already enough, so never mind.)
(And I should also add that I don't think the Deseret Times
affected the Mormon politician exodus from Trump which has also been happening; that seems to have happened independently (though for the same reasons that the editorial came out, see also LDS theology and women), and of course Mitt Romney has been the lone voice crying in the wilderness that is Republican politics for some time. What I'm talking about here has been more important for those people who haven't
been following the political scene super closely.)
And today (er, yesterday now) a poll came out showing Trump and Clinton tied (with Evan McMullins' numbers shooting up stratospherically — he's an independent LDS candidate) in Utah. Utah
. Maybe the poll is skewed, maybe it isn't quite right, maybe it's biased. But… I don't think it's that far wrong. I think, I really think, we're going to see Utah in play. It might not go for Clinton (I will laugh if McMullins wins Utah; I think he actually has a decent shot), but I think it is going to be close. This is something I never thought we'd see in my lifetime. And of course Mormons make up a small but decisive couple of percent in Arizona, which was balanced on the razor-edge before last weekend but now is turning…
ETA 10-14: Yesterday another, better poll came out which still shows Trump ahead in the state, but only by +6, which is still catastrophic for him compared to last week.