Donald Trump poses a unique threat to the interests, freedom, and safety of the Mormon people.
Yesterday, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Donald Trump spoke to a group of evangelical pastors at a conference in Orlando. While there, the Cheeto-dusted Bloviator sought to capitalize on some evangelicals’ antipathy towards members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by noting that Utah “is a different place” and pointedly referencing the fact that no one from Utah was present in the audience. Although Trump’s apparent animosity towards Mormons, who were primarily responsible for his crushing defeat in the Utah Republican caucuses, is unsurprising, especially given his history of petty vindictiveness, it does serve to emphasize a worrying fact: the Donald could pose a very real threat to the fortunes and future of the Mormon people.
Trump’s threat to Mormons is plainly evidenced by his and his surrogates’ branding of LDS adherents as “the other.” During a 2014 interview with LDS journalist McKay Coppins, Trump referred to the religion as an “alien” faith and characterized LDS religious practice as “the Mormon thing.” This typecasting of Mormons was taken further by Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson in a November 2015 discussion with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, in which Pierson equated the LDS Church with Mormon polygamist sects which broke off from the mainline faith over 100 years ago. Although both Trump and Pierson later took a seam ripper to the scarlet letter they had stitched onto the mantle of Mormonism, the subtext of their comments was still evident: Mormons aren’t “one of us.” Last time I checked, characterizing people as outsiders is often the first step on a journey of repression and persecution.
The very public opposition of many prominent Latter-day Saints to Trump’s candidacy also portends danger for Mormons. America’s most famous Mormon, Mitt Romney, denounced Trump as a “con man” and a “phony,” while the country’s highest ranking Mormon politician, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), called Trump “a bigot who’s clearly unfit for office.” Utah Senator Mike Lee went so far as to attempt an anti-Trump coup at the Republican convention in Cleveland, and former Ford and H.W. Bush national security adviser Brent Scowcroft expressed his Trump aversion by endorsing Hillary Clinton. Although some Mormon politicos have grudgingly pledged their support for Trump, among them Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Sen. Orrin Hatch, such evidence of the lack of an anti-Trump Mormon monolith is likely lost on Trump, a man with notoriously simplistic views and a tendency to dichotomize the world into “good” and “bad” people. Due to this, it’s highly likely that Trump will impute the intense opposition he has faced from some Mormons to all of the faith’s adherents (see Trump’s anti-Semitic caricatures of Jewish Republicans). Such an imputation could lead to Trump exercising his infamous proclivity for retaliation and revenge against the LDS community writ-large.
Trump’s rise to power may threaten not only U.S. Mormons, but also Mormons abroad. Unfortunately, the LDS Church is often seen as an “American church,” with this meaning that foreigners’ views of the Church are frequently wedded to their perceptions of the U.S. government. If Trump becomes America’s commander-in-chief, it is likely that his jingoism, nativism, xenophobia, and woeful lack of diplomatic tact would result in foreign nationals viewing the American government, and thus the Mormon Church, in a negative light. Such an unflattering association could lead to discrimination against foreign Mormons, decreased missionary success, and even violence (see the bombings of Mormon congregations in South America by groups opposed to U.S.-backed dictators).
While Mormons’ opposition to Trump has garnered a great deal of media attention, little has been said about the danger the Donald poses to Mormons as a people. The truth is, Crazy Donny has sought to place Latter-day Saints on the “them” side of the “’us’ vs. ‘them’” paradigm, he might retaliate against Mormons due to their overwhelming opposition to his candidacy, and his bombastic, Mussolini-esque ramblings could harm Mormons abroad. Yes, Mormons pose a daunting obstacle to Trump’s pursuit of the presidency, but Trump poses a greater, more sinister threat to the interests and safety of the Mormon people.