Church Responds to Trump—In Between the Lines. Why?
I trust you’ve seen the December 8, 2015 statement by the Mormon Church entitled “Church Points to Joseph Smith’s Statements on Religious Freedom, Pluralism.” It clearly, albeit not explicitly, counters recent statements by Donald Trump (see link below). He has recommended, among other things, that mosques in America be closed and most recently that Muslims be banned from immigration to the United States (see yesterday’s Civil Nations post).
Let me be clear. I don’t know all the reasons behind the decision to publish the statement. It claims to be politically neutral relative to party politics but openly not neutral relative to religious freedom. This is not surprising and the document reflects internal consistency with previous official statements by the Church including declarations about political neutrality, religious freedom, more open and compassionate laws governing immigration, access to healthcare benefits, and an encouraged increase and active benevolence toward the plight of refugees. It goes without saying that the reasons stated in the document are compelling and stand alone. Furthermore, the quotations of Joseph Smith in yesterday’s publication capture the universalism promoted by the founder of Mormonism. I hope the Church never strays from these founding principles. I trust they won’t.
That being said, is it possible that there are additional motivations behind the statement of the Church? Of course it is possible. May I suggest one such possibility?
On April 6, 2015, Pew Research published a report entitled “A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation: Sharp Differences by Race, Gender, Generation, Education” (see link below). The findings indicate that forty-nine percent of Mormons in the United States self-identify as Republicans. Also, a full seventy-percent of Mormons in America self-identify as Republican leaning. That is a lot of Republicanism in American Mormonism. Also, the Republican Party is predominately white in the United States and eighty-six percent of Mormons in America are white (see link below).
What might these descriptors mean? Consider the following: a general assessment of Donald Trump shared by many is that he is a white, Republican, xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist. Many, many Americans maintain these descriptors of Trump. Is this the Church’s assessment? I couldn’t say—the Church is silent on the issue. However, Trump is leading Republican candidates in the bid for the party’s nomination. It is very possible that many outside Mormonism may look at this predominately Republican and predominately white Mormon Church and associate them with support for Donald Trump. I suggest the institution, that is Mormonism, cannot afford guilt by association with Trump. Among all the excellent first-order reasons to issue the statement, perhaps this is a compelling second-order reason to release the statement. Again, I can in no way confirm this. But it makes sense to me. Either way, like you, I’m glad the Church issued the statement.
Mormon Church Statement on religious freedom and pluralism, December 8, 2015
Mormons and political affiliation. Pew Research Report, April 6, 2015
Eighty-six percent of American Mormons are white.