Opinion

Max Perry Mueller: Mormons reach a tipping point on Trump

Max Perry Mueller

RNS asked some of the country’s top faith leaders, scholars and activists to consider what changes the religion landscape will see in 2018. Find all their predictions here.

(RNS) — My 2018 prediction is that the Mormons break en masse from Trump and, to a larger extent, from the GOP.

As I, and others, have written before, the Mormons have never liked Trump. As the most famous Mormon anti-Trumper, Mitt Romney put it, Mormons generally view Trump as  a “phony, a fraud.” Trump only got 14 percent of the Republican primary vote in Mormon-dominated Utah. And, for that brief window last October when a Trump presidency seemed impossible after the release of the Access Hollywood tape, Mormon politicians led the initial “all out revolt” against Trump’s candidacy.

Yes, 61 percent of Mormons nationally voted for Trump (the Mormons have long been the most reliably Republican voters of any religious group). And yes, Trump won Utah handily, though he only got 45 percent of the vote (Hillary Clinton and the conservative (and Mormon) independent candidate Evan McMullin combined for 49 percent). Finally, yes, Trump’s favorability rating in Utah — which has hovered around 50 percent—has outperformed other red states.

Nevertheless, there are several signs that the Mormon disdain for Trump has reached a tipping point.

First, there are Mormon (and Republican) politicians, like Arizona Jeff Flake, who are naming Trump for what he is: a threat to our democracy.

Second, while Trump was graciously received by LDS Church officials when he visited Utah early in the month, these same church leaders have consistently denounced Trump’s Islamophobic policies and rhetoric, and without explicitly naming the president, have called Trumpism’s “racism, sexism, and nationalism” bigoted and unchristian.

And third, there are everyday Mormons and other Utahns, many of who took to the streets of Salt Lake during Trump’s recent visit to protest the president in general, and his decision to shrink national monuments in Utah specifically.

Watch this last group. Not only are they souring on Trump, they are souring on the GOP. To be sure, the presence of the Mormon Evan McMullin on the ticket had a large impact, but starting with the 2016 election, the GOP share of the vote in Utah plummeted from 72.6 percent in 2012 to 45.9 percent in 2016. Just as the rest of the country is moving toward favoring the Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterms, so will Utahns.

For a significant number of Mormons whom I know, the election of the widely popular mayor of Provo, John Curtis, to replace Jason Chaffetz in the House has proven that, in the era of Trump there are no good Republicans — not even Republican Mormons.

Republican Curtis enjoyed the backing of some liberal Democrats who admired him as effective, integrity-filled public servant. But with a 100 percent pro-Trump voting record, Curtis has shown that anti-Trump Mormons can’t count on any Republican to check Trump. In 2018, Mormons in Utah might help turn the ruby red congressional districts in Utah blu(ish). Perhaps more importantly, the lasting effect for young Mormon voters coming of age in the Trump era could be a generational fissure between the GOP and their most loyal religious voting bloc. 

It’s also worth it to note that Utah’s senior Senator Orrin Hatch’s strange love affair with Trump, rekindled after the tax vote this very week, might reinforce or nullify these predictions.

(Max Perry Mueller is the author of “Race and the Making of the Mormon People” and is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The views expressed in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

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17 Comments

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  • I’m white, male 60+ and LDS, married and monogamous. I haven’t voted Republican in over 35 years. I changed my party affiliation to Democrat while living in Tucson in the 1980s, and have never looked back. Once upon a time, Republicans included liberals and conservationists in their ranks. No longer. I decided many years ago that the most important issues to me were the environment and judicial appointments. I vote for candidates who support environmental issues, protection of public lands, a woman’s right to choose, and the protection of ALL of the fundamental rights in the Amendements to the constitution (of which I think the 2nd amendment is the least important).

  • Putting the kibosh on all religion in 2018 in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

  • Mormon young people might be disgusted with Trump but any quick look at the Democrat platform and agenda will tell them Trump is a blip on the radar and Democrats are antithical to any strong religous belief.

  • The Mormons have been on the earthly route to God since their founding and won’t change. Trump was elected to address issues that are above the Mormons. Nobody has to personally like Trump and Trump is not seeking fame and fortune, like predecessors.

  • This is where the definition of “strong religious belief” comes into play. If that means racism, homophobia and misogyny as practiced by the religious right then I think Millennial Mormons will embrace the democratic party. If you haven’t noticed, the democrats seem to be upholding “family values” much stronger than the party that could not denounce a child molester in Alabama.

  • “Trump is not seeking fame and fortune” lolololololol. Is there anything leader worship can’t convince you of?

  • It remains to be seen whether the drop in the GOP share of the Utah presidential vote was a blip because an untenable candidate was the GOP nominee. In 2012, the nominee was a Mormon. Even in 2008, McCain trounced Obama and George W. Bush trounced Kerry and Gore in 2004 and 2000, respectively.

  • Mormons are highly xenophobic and will vote for a Mormon regardless. Maybe the biggest change in Utah is the increasing share of non-Mormons in the state due to an influx of non-Mormons, lower birth rates among Mormons and Mormons leaving the religion as information about the truth behind Mormonism spreads online, including now the formation of MormonLeaks.com. Wards are closing in the very heart of Mormonism, Salt Lake City, at a record pace.

  • As a 61 year old LDS bishop and active Democrat, I have a great deal of hope that 2018 will be a watershed year for Dems in Utah. It’s not just Trump, people here really are tired of Hatch and want him out. My only fear is that Hatch will actually retire and Mitt Romney will be on the ballot for the Republicans – in which case you will hear the bleating of sheep on election day as everyone lines up to punch the elephant with Mitt at the top. Romney standing up to Trump will only help him.

  • Hummmm. Seems like I read that some religious beliefs involved caring for the poor, the sick, and the needy and not judging (“lest ye shall be judged.”) By those benchmarks, the Democrats are more in tune with religious morality than Republicans by a large measure.

  • Mormonism will slowly fade from society as will contemporary Christianity and Islam because of the obvious problems with the founders of these religions especially their angelic/satanic hallucinations and related prophecies. “Pretty and ugly wingie thingies” simply do/did not exist.

    A few added notes about Mormonism in 2018:

    A business religious cult based on Joseph Smith’s hallucinations which has bought respectability with a $30 billion business empire, the BYU “mission matured” football team and a great choir.

    From: lds-mormon.com/time.shtml

    “The first divergence between Mormon economics and that of other denominations is the t-ithe. Most churches take in the greater part of their income through donations. Very few, however, impose a compulsory 10% income tax on their members. Ti-thes are collected locally, with much of the money pas-sed on informally to local lay leaders at Sunday services. “By Monday,” says Elbert Peck, editor of Sunstone, an independent Mormon magazine, the church authorities in Salt Lake City “know every cent that’s been collected and have made sure the money is deposited in banks.” There is a lot to deposit. Last year $5.2 billion in t-ithes flowed into Salt Lake City, $4.9 billion of which came from American Mormons.”

    “The Mormons are stewards of a different stripe. Their charitable spending and temple building are prodigious. But where other churches spend most of what they receive in a given year, the Latter-day Saints employ vast amounts of money in investments that TIME estimates to be at least $6 billion strong. Even more unusual, most of this money is not in bonds or stock in other peoples’ companies but is invested directly in church-owned, for-profit concerns, the largest of which are in agribusiness, media, insurance, travel and real estate. Deseret Management Corp., the company through which the church holds almost all its commercial as-sets, is one of the largest owners of farm and ranch land in the country, including 49 for-profit parcels in addition to the Deseret Ranch. Besides the Bonneville International chain and Beneficial Life, the church owns a 52% holding in ZCMI, Utah’s largest department-store chain.

    All told, TIME estimates that the Latter-day Saints farmland and financial investments total some $11 billion, and that the church’s nontithe income from its investments exceeds $600 million. ”
    “Members of the church celebrate the Lord’s Supper with water rather than wine or grape juice. They believe their President is a prophet who receives new revelations from God. These can supplant older revelations, as in the case of the church’s historically most controversial doctrine: Smith himself received God’s sanctioning of polygamy in 1831, but 49 years later, the church’s President announced its recision. Similarly, an explicit policy barring black men from holding even the lowest church offices was overturned by a new revelation in 1978, opening the way to huge missionary activity in Africa and Brazil. “

  • As a Liberal Democrat I found your statement highly offensive. I served a two year mission on my own money, I teach Primary, I pray every day, I have raised my family in the Church, my wife is Relief Society President.
    How am I “antithical” to any strong “religous” belief?

  • Analogous to pasting biblical passages with one large difference. The kibosh on religion is based on rigorous historic testing.

  • the pendulum must swing till it finds its BALANCE…….and here is the mystery of godliness (SOUL) again against the mystery of iniquity (EGO): The ego in mankind doesn’t know how to be balanced hence it is “EITHER OR” while the soul is ONE, the image and likeness of God WHO IS NEITHER MALE OR FEMALE but ONE: These two forces in us, the male and female or giving and receiving, or dark and light, or evil (EMPTY, VOID) and good, rule in all people; I know this is the year that will begin a TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF BOTH FORCES within all people and the understanding that to when you fight against the opposite sex you are fighting against your own inner being that is hidden (SUBCONSCIOUS) in darkness. In Christ there is no more male or female, no more Jew (circumcised heart) or Greek (seeker of wisdom) but a NEW MAN and a NEW creation, a new KIND of being in the world that the whole world is groaning to manifest: (travail of the woman or heart): The woman is the heart in the Bible and the Male is the carnal mind, the seed of the serpent or the ego: The woman or heart is saved in Child bearing and it is the CHRIST CHILD that she must bring forth or the heart must bring forth: NOW it is the female side of David that brought forth Christ and it is the female side of all people both male and females that must do the same: HERE the woman is saved and her husband the carnal mind that is ENMITY with God and can NOT KNOW the things of God: It is time to understand the PARABLES OF THE BIBLE as OUR STORY with GOD: Everything in the Bible is within us: It is not a history book because it is written, the WORD was FROM THE BEGINNING and God sent the WORD OUT to bring it back to himself with our heart, no longer leaving it in a void: Once we all understand the truth within ourselves we will KNOW HOW TO CHOOSE politically to benefit EVERYONE and not our group, our country, our beliefs, our races, our whatever because we will KNOW we are ONE, not just hear it said, but UNDERSTAND it from DEEP within, from the lowest place in us to the HIGHEST place within us: Then we will be safe for each other and suddenly we will find PEACE on earth because of this GOOD WILL to MAN that is born through our very own heart:

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