Now that the circus we call the 2016 presidential election is coming to a close, the biggest election year story has to be the Mormon vote. The Republican nominee calls it the “Mormon problem.” The Democratic nominee campaigns in deeply red Utah like she actually has a chance to win. And a third party candidate, a Mormon, looks as if he might actually win Utah.
It’s a proud moment for me. All throughout my professional career I’ve expounded the idea of Mormon exceptionalism. Many times I’ve been deeply disappointed in the Mormon vote. A few times I have been gratefully surprised. Mostly I’ve been concerned at the ongoing indifference expressed civically by members of my faith. I’ve applauded the Mormon stand for family and marriage, not to mention expressions of human dignity and reasonableness that surfaced in the state immigration debate. I shake my head in disbelief over our lack of insight and foresight pertaining to issues such as gay rights and the legalization of pot.
But the 2016 presidential election has restored my faith in my faith. Most Latter-day Saints are uncomfortable with Donald Trump, to put it mildly. Mormons view Trump with distrust at his core personality. He is uncivil and, in many respects, especially his views on women, he is uncivilized. The Mormon spirit embraces moderation, temperance, and conservative change. We want our leaders to inspire us and bring out the best in us and Trump does neither. Worst of all for Mormons, Trump is a pathological narcissist – the opposite of Christ-like and a poor character trait if we are to humbly love our neighbors as ourselves.
In my opinion, a faithful Latter-day Saint is violating their sense of why they are here on earth were they to vote for Donald Trump. You have to know Christ to be anti-Christ, so Trump is not that. But, by all we know of him, his spirit certainly is. As I have mentioned before, for a faithful Latter-day Saint to vote for Trump today is like a faithful Latter-day Saint in 1838 voting for Lilburn Boggs.
Mormons are also on to Hillary Clinton. Her corruption is unbearable and untenable. The idea that a group called “Mormons for Hillary” is beyond imagination if you are a faithful Latter-day Saint. On the one hand, she and her husband have been intensely scrutinized and legally investigated for decades and nothing has stuck. On the other hand, there is an elitist arrogance about them that should repulse every humble American. We have every right and justification to question her allegiance to freedom. Her aggressive and progressive stands on family, marriage, abortion, and feminism make voting for Hillary an impossibility for a faithful Latter-day Saint.
That said, many Mormons still will vote for either Trump or Hillary. Most who will vote for Trump do so out of hatred for Hillary. Most who will vote for Hillary do so out of fear for Trump. Let me be as explicit as I can: Neither reason, hatred or fear, is justification alone for a faithful Latter-day Saint to cast their vote for either of them. We are better than that. We should be better than that.
So what are Mormons to do? The answer is simple: Vote for someone else for president or don’t vote at all for this office. I get why other people of other faiths and worldviews might feel compelled to choose one or the other. But Mormons should be different. Our example should be exceptional in this case. Both Trump and Hillary should lose Utah. Let me explain why because much is at stake.
First, Mormons have an exceptional view of the United States Constitution. With this exceptional view, it is our duty to lead this nation politically and set the example when needed as it is today. Neither Trump nor Hillary shares our view of sacred documents. Our founding documents and the wisdom buried within them are meaningless to both Trump and Hillary. In either case, Mormons siding with either candidate would be voting to undermine their entire purpose of life in this blessed nation.
Second, Mormons are to be people of principle and virtue. When we approach law, culture, and society, we are expected to represent our better selves. Trump and Clinton are unlike other imperfect candidates for office. They are not simply flawed human beings; they are the antithesis of our better selves.
Third, Mormons are to be a people of peace, civility, and justice. In a nation divided our “peaceable walk with Christ” must stand tall. Even amidst political disagreements, our role is to bring together people of good will and call out people of ill will. Faithful Mormons know that the desires of the human heart are vastly more important to enduring freedom than words or deeds. We can survive ignorance and bad behavior when it arises. What we cannot survive is the failing of the human heart for the stranger and our neighbors in need. We’ll take a competent good person over a rich person or a clever person any day of the week.
This election is like none other for Mormons. It is a Mormon moment like no other. It is our opportunity to witness to the free world that character matters and that ideas are meaningless absent goodness, kindness, mercy, justice and an urgent sense of moral transcendence.