In recent years I have been grappling with political issues and my place in political parties. I grew up leaning Republican, I’ve trifled with the Libertarian Party, I find myself now most assuredly an Independent (however there were a couple months there where I was registered as a Democrat so I could vote in the Primary.)
I’ve been very vocal about being in the Never-Trump camp since the very beginning of his candidacy. In 2016 I voted 3rd Party because picking between the lesser of the two evils is still picking evil.
As this election has approached I have struggled with what to do as none of the options are ideal. One day while wrestling with questions and concerns, trying to figure out the right choice, a voice came to my mind that said, “Your decision of who to vote for in this election will not determine your eternal destiny or reward, however, the rhetoric and attitudes you develop and align with could lead you and others off the path.”
Ultimately between the first debate and General Conference my decision to vote for Vice President Biden has been secured. I do not presume to speak for the church, these are my personal insights based on our doctrine and the words of our leaders. I respect that others have reached different conclusions despite accessing the same information. I love you and I respect our differences and I request the same respect.
I have seen several members of the church question how members could vote for a Democrat. Through posts, memes, and comments they call us stupid, spread misinformation or over simplifications of our concerns about President Trump, accuse us of being overly influenced by the media, and some have even gone so far as to say that members who vote for Democrats should not hold temple recommends. I first want to remind you of an official church statement regarding politics and then I would like to address how General Conference solidified my vote for Joe Biden and my severance with the Republican Party.
From the First Presidency 6 Oct 2020: “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles.”
President Dallin H. Oaks- Love Your Enemies: “Among other ways to develop the power to love others is the simple method described in a long-ago musical. When we are trying to understand and relate to people of a different culture, we should try getting to know them. In countless circumstances, strangers’ suspicion or even hostility give way to friendship or even love when personal contacts produce understanding and mutual respect.
An even greater help in learning to love our adversaries and our enemies is to seek to understand the power of love”
For several years now I have been on a journey of getting to know people of different backgrounds, listening to their stories, and striving to see them as Christ sees them. As I have journeyed deeper into the power of Christ’s love for me and ALL our brothers and sisters, that journey has taken me straight out of the Republican party. Truly out of parties in general, but furthest from the Republican Party’s rhetoric.
President Henry B Eyring- Sisters In Zion “It is not by accident that the Relief Society, the first Church organization specifically for Heavenly Father’s daughters, has as its motto ‘Charity Never Faileth.’ Charity is the pure love of Christ.”
I have seen my concerns about President Trump misrepresented and simplified down to him “just not being nice.” That is most definitely a concern, but it’s much deeper than that. His attitudes, the way he interacts with people, his rhetoric, and the rhetoric adopted by the Republican Party at large is devoid of charity. It is instead filled with anger, dehumanization, mockery, and trivialization of individual’s and groups’ deep heartaches and concerns.
Sister Sharon Eubank By Union of Feeling We Obtain Power with God “Jacob 2:17 reads, “Think of your [brothers and sisters] like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.” Let’s replace the word substance with mercy—be free with your mercy that they may be rich like unto you.
We often think of substance in terms of food or money, but perhaps what we all need more of in our ministering is mercy.”
I will come back to being free with substance and the poor later, but will focus on thinking of others like unto yourselves and free with your mercy. Too frequently I am seeing Pres. Trump and his supporters defining individuals by their “otherness,” the dems, the libtards, the blacks, the gays, the Muslims, the welfare queens, etc. The rhetoric is dehumanizing rather than seeing them “like unto yourselves” and too rarely is mercy applied. This dehumanizing rhetoric also incites violence.
“President Donald Trump has repeatedly distanced himself from acts of violence in communities across America, dismissing critics who point to his rhetoric as a potential source of inspiration or comfort for anyone acting on even long-held beliefs of bigotry and hate.
But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 54 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.” ABC New 2018
Elder Quentin L. Cook- Hearts Knit in Righteousness and Unity “With our all-inclusive doctrine, we can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity. Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity”
One of my greatest concerns about President Obama was that I felt that he was very divisive. But to be frank, President Trump has taken that to a whole new level of division. It would take hours to point out every divisive comment so I will limit to the one that was most concerning to me personally. On Oct. 23, 2019 President Trump tweeted “The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!”
I am not on a respirator, though I’m not sure why it would matter if I was. My friends and family in the Democratic party do a whole lot more than nothing. And I am not human scum. This type of tweet and rhetoric is by no means an isolated event. It promotes division rather than seeking unity and it is completely lacking in charity.
Elder Dale G. Renlund- Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God: “To be Christlike, a person loves mercy. People who love mercy are not judgmental; they manifest compassion for others, especially for those who are less fortunate; they are gracious, kind, and honorable. These individuals treat everyone with love and understanding, regardless of characteristics such as race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and tribal, clan, or national differences. These are superseded by Christlike love.”
This leads me to my next major concern with Pres. Trump…
President Russell M. Nelson- Let God Prevail: “Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female.'”
In case there was any confusion- this is how one denounces racism/ white supremacy. Directly, without deflecting to other issues, and without having to be asked repeatedly.
President Dallin H. Oaks- Love Your Enemies: “One reason the recent protests in the United States were shocking to so many was that the hostilities and illegalities felt among different ethnicities in other nations should not be felt in the United States. This country should be better in eliminating racism not only against Black Americans, who were most visible in the recent protests, but also against Latinos, Asians, and other groups. This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one, and we must do better.”
President Trump refuses to recognize the issues of systemic racism within our country and condemns those who bring up issues of racism in our country going so far as to ban racial sensitivity trainings.
On the other hand, President Nelson extended this challenge to us as Latter-day Saints: “I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.”
While President Trump has come back and said that he denounces racism and white supremacy after his repeated miscommunications (such as after calling the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville very fine people and failing to condemn white supremacy then instructing them to stand-by during the debate) he is perpetuating and emboldening attitudes and actions of racism.
“Federal law enforcement authorities have privately told ABC News they worry that – although Trump has offered public denunciations of violence – his statements have been inconsistent and Trump’s style could inspire violence-prone individuals to take action against minorities or others they perceive to be against the president’s agenda.”
This style caused this horrific situation recently in Provo, Utah. Tamu Smith, an amazing sister who I have had the privilege to hear and follow as one of the Sistas in Zion shared this experience Sept. 8, 2020 (trigger warning- Racial Epithet):
“I had to go get a few items from the beauty supply today. As I was crossing the parking lot I saw a gray or white truck (to be honest I actually don’t know what color the truck was. I do know it was light.) It had a huge American flag and a blue lives matter flag on it. As the truck passed someone yelled “We’re taking our country back Nigger!” I didn’t give them the satisfaction of a response. I didn’t change my pace. I didn’t look toward the truck. I can’t tell you if the person was light white or dark white. I just knew they were racist white.”
Is this how we make America great again?????
This is also not an isolated incident. In June President Trump retweeted a video of some of his supporters yelling “White Power” at protestors. Meanwhile I have seen Latter-day Saint Trump supporters posting memes with racist tones such as joking that the rioters stole everything but the work boots, or suggesting that we take down statues of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Is that how we lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice?
As President Oaks stated this is not limited to racism and prejudice against blacks. In March of 2015 President Trump tweeted “I want nothing to do with Mexico other than to build an impenetrable WALL and stop them from ripping off U.S.” In June 2015 he said, “I love the Mexican people, but Mexico is not our friend. They’re killing us at the border and they’re killing us on jobs and trade. FIGHT!” In May 2019 at a rally in “Panama City Beach, Florida, Trump spoke about the border patrol agents working to stop migrants from crossing the border illegally. When he asked the crowd, “How do you stop these people?” one rally attendee shouted, “Shoot them.” At first laughing, Trump responded, ‘That’s only in the [Florida] panhandle, can you get away with that statement.'” He didn’t denounce it, he laughed. And it didn’t stay in the panhandle. In Aug 2019 a man opened fire targeting Hispanics in a Walmart. This man posted a manifesto justifying his attack due to Hispanic Invasion and their resulting Democratic votes.
He employs racist rhetoric, calls on people to fight, then laughs about shooting, are we then surprised when someone follows through with it.
One of the frequent defenses I see given for why people support President Trump is their support of the Constitution. I am by no means a Constitutional expert. My husband is the history buff in the family and studies our founding fathers and our founding documents for fun (yes I married a nerd and yes that’s part of the reason I married him!) He recently wrote up his own response to these issues if you want to read more.
I will however bring up the issues that were addressed in General Conference.
President Dallin H. Oaks- Love Your Enemies: “At one extreme, some seem to have forgotten that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” That is the authorized way to raise public awareness and to focus on injustices in the content or administration of the laws. And there have been injustices. In public actions and in our personal attitudes, we have had racism and related grievances. In a persuasive personal essay, the Reverend Theresa A. Dear of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has reminded us that “racism thrives on hatred, oppression, collusion, passivity, indifference and silence.”11 As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism.”
The treatment that the protestors have received from President Trump and his supporters seems to forget this right. This spectrum goes from just wishing they would stop protesting, mocking their protest, trivializing their concerns, up to firing tear gas at those who were peacefully assembled, and killing protestors.
President Oaks continues: “At the other extreme, a minority of participants and supporters of these protests and the illegal acts that followed them seem to have forgotten that the protests protected by the Constitution are peaceful protests. Protesters have no right to destroy, deface, or steal property or to undermine the government’s legitimate police powers. The Constitution and laws contain no invitation to revolution or anarchy. All of us—police, protesters, supporters, and spectators—should understand the limits of our rights and the importance of our duties to stay within the boundaries of existing law. Abraham Lincoln was right when he said, “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” Redress of grievances by mobs is redress by illegal means. That is anarchy, a condition that has no effective governance and no formal police, which undermines rather than protects individual rights.”
Vice President Biden has repeatedly denounced the violence that is occurring. So while this minority is failing to listen to him, the flames of violence are being fanned by President Trump himself as he calls for more violence via his tweets about shooting looters and taking over with strength.
Vice President Biden said these words that follow suit with President Oaks remarks:
“The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by any one, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy. Today there is another family grieving in America, and Jill and I offer our deepest condolences.
We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another. But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.
As a country, we must condemn the incitement of hate and resentment that led to this deadly clash. It is not a peaceful protest when you go out spoiling for a fight.”
President Oaks went on to say, “It also means that we peacefully accept the results of elections.”
This is perhaps the issue I find most frightening right now. President Trump has repeatedly refused to promise a peaceful transition of power. I am aware that there have been leftist groups that have threatened violence, I denounce them, and as pointed out above, Vice President Biden denounces this behavior. The main difference between the two sides is that one has fringe groups threatening and the other has THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. In the debate he was asked “Will you urge your supporters to stay calm during this extended period, not to engage in any civil unrest? And will you pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified?”
This was his response:
“I’m urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it. As you know, today there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers, a very safe, very nice thing. They were thrown out. They weren’t allowed to watch. You know why? Because bad things happen in Philadelphia. Bad things. And I am urging my people.”
He wouldn’t say it. He wouldn’t urge his supporters to stay calm, he urged them to do the opposite.
Additionally he tweeted on Sept. 3rd asking people to volunteer to be poll watchers with an image that reads “Fight for Trump” and the website to sign up is called “armyfortrump.com”
And here are two specific instances that show the effects of President Trump’s rhetoric:
- A self proclaimed Militia group in Michigan made a plot to kidnap the Governor and then place her on “trial” for treason.
- A close friend of mine, a single mom, recently went to drop her ballot off. She had nothing on her car or her person designating her political affiliation (truth be told, we’ve been friends for 25 years and I couldn’t tell you her political affiliation.) As she crossed the street towards the ballot box, a man in a large truck honked then yelled at her, “If you’re voting for Biden you better just go get back in your car. Don’t waste your time!” Then he revved his truck and let it lurch forward a few inches as if intending to hit her, while he laughed loudly.
You may argue that they don’t speak for President Trump, but it would appear that President Trump speaks for them.
I would like to point out that Vice President Biden, when asked the same question about telling his supporters to remain calm immediately responded, “Yes.” Then continued with “And if it’s me, in fact, fine. If it’s not me, I’ll support the outcome. And I’ll be a president, not just for the Democrats. I’ll be a president for Democrats and Republicans.”
As President Trump’s rhetoric is consistently divisive, Vice President Biden seeks to unite the country and work across the aisle. Which brings me to my next point…
Loyalty and Priorities
Elder D. Todd Christofferson- Sustainable Societies, referring to the fate of the Nephites, “By the end of another century, millions had died in internecine warfare, and their once harmonious nation had been reduced to warring tribes.”
Both sides are very guilty of tribalism. I fear that if we can’t get work through the tribalism it won’t matter who is elected, we will just tear ourselves apart, which is why I find it extra disturbing when I see Latter-day Saints prioritizing party and politics over the Prophet.
|Prophetic Counsel||Rhetoric from President Trump and his supporters|
|We value our Muslim neighbors across the world and hope that those who live by the tenets of their faith will not suffer. I ask particularly that our own people do not become a party in any way to the persecution of the innocent. Rather, let us be friendly and helpful, protective and supportive.||Frequent Islamophobic messages and memes including calling for mosques in America to be shut down.|
|“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long expressed its position that immigration reform should strengthen families and keep them together,” the Church said. “The forced separation of children from their parents now occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border is harmful to families, especially to young children. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families.”||Continuing to separate families. Memes shared trivializing the concerns of those presenting themselves at the border or that they deserve to be separated. Or just turning a blind eye.|
|It is therefore with great concern and compassion that we observe the plight of more than 70 million people around the world who have fled their homes seeking relief from violence, war, or religious persecution.|
We encourage Church members and friends to respond appropriately and legally, to help create welcoming communities by volunteering their time, talents and friendship to individuals and families who are integrating into our societies.
|President Trump’s (pre-Covid) significantly limited the number of refugees allowed in. His supporters regularly post anti-refugee material.|
|Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. With the exception of current law enforcement officers, the carrying of lethal weapons on church property, concealed or otherwise, is prohibited.||When this wording in the handbook was updated many people were up in arms about it (pun intended). I saw individuals call the church stupid for this and said that they would continue to carry despite the prohibition.|
|We ask all Latter-day Saints in the Utah Area to be good citizens by wearing face coverings when in public.||Individuals have suggested that this is living in fear instead of faith and evidence. There have been protests about wearing masks. Members have stated that the church should stay out of politics and that this statement damaged their testimony.|
Elder D. Todd Chrisofferson- Sustainable Societies: “I think it safe to say that when people turn from a sense of accountability to God and begin to trust instead in the “arm of flesh,” disaster lurks. Trusting in the arm of flesh is to ignore the divine Author of human rights and human dignity and to give highest priority to riches, power, and the praise of the world (while often mocking and persecuting those who follow a different standard).”
President Trump is well documented in expecting loyalty to HIMSELF. Mitt Romney has been a great example of putting his morals and loyalty to God above his loyalty to the party and to President Trump. Others who have attempted this have been fired and even now there are groups attempting to recall Brother Romney. Some claim he flip flops, but rather he just is not “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.” He has a higher loyalty and he’s sticking to it.
President Trump has shown time and again to give priority to riches, power, and the praise of the world. The recent finding regarding his income tax evasion is an example of this. His defense is that he has paid millions of dollars in taxes, but Vice President Pence admitted in the Vice Presidential debate that those were payroll and other taxes. Those are different than personal income tax. He lied and manipulated the system to pay as little as taxes as possible. As I have been reminded several times by leaders and teachers at church, “Anything with the intent to deceive is a lie.” His other defense was “I don’t want to pay tax. Before I came here, I was a private developer, I was a private business people. Like every other private person, unless they’re stupid.” Thus mocking those who follow a different standard.
President Trump’s pattern of mockery leads me to my next concern:
President Dallin H. Oaks- Love Your Enemies: “In a democratic government we will always have differences over proposed candidates and policies. However, as followers of Christ we must forgo the anger and hatred with which political choices are debated or denounced in many settings.”
President Trump’s conduct in the debate was completely unacceptable. While Biden did interrupt a few dozen times (primarily to correct false information or to get a word in) President Trump interrupted 128 times despite frequent reminders of the rules he agreed to follow.
One of the interruptions that sent chills down my spine was President Trump saying, “Did you use the word smart? … Don’t ever use the word smart with me. Don’t ever use that word….Because you know what? There’s nothing smart about you, Joe.”
This is the behavior of a bully. It’s immoral, there is nothing Christlike about it, and it is part of a pattern of mockery and name calling that President Trump has engaged in from the beginning.
Recently an article came out with sources claiming that President Trump mocks religious supporters behind closed doors. Most of the sources were anonymous which brings credibility to question. However Michael Cohen reported that President Trump, “frequently made fun of Romney’s faith in private—and was especially vicious when he learned about the religious undergarments worn by many Latter-day Saints.”
I saw many question Cohen’s credibility in response to this article as Cohen has fallen out of favor with the President, however my question is then- if there was hard evidence that President Trump was mocking our sacred garments of the Holy Priesthood would that bother you? Even if it wasn’t enough to completely remove your support, would you hold him accountable for it and expect him to stop? If the answer yes it would bother you but you don’t believe it actually happened- what about all of the times that he has mocked individuals and groups that ARE verifiable? Does it only matter if he’s mocking you?
Elder D. Todd Christofferson- Sustainable Societies: “A society, for example, in which individual consent is the only constraint on sexual activity is a society in decay. Adultery, promiscuity, out-of-wedlock births, and elective abortions are but some of the bitter fruits that grow out of the ongoing sexual revolution.”
Abortion is a large issue, I know that this is a major issue that holds people back from feeling like they can vote for a Democratic candidate. This issue requires its own post but suffice it to say that it is complex and deep. But here’s the thing, I can advocate for the rights of the unborn and for legislation and programs that are proven to reduce abortions. What I don’t know how to fight is the culture of promiscuity perpetuated by electing a leader who is unabashedly promiscuous.
President Trump has had numerous affairs. He paid off a porn star. He makes inappropriate comments about his own daughter, “‘Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father . . .’” He made reference to the size of his genitals during a primary debate. He’s bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. He boasted about his behavior while owning the Miss USA pageant:
“Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show, and everyone’s getting dressed, and ready and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good.
“You know, the dresses. ‘Is everyone okay?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody okay?’ And you see these incredible looking women, and so, I sort of get away with things like that.””
Contrast President Trump’s words and actions with these words from President Henry B. Eyring- Sisters in Zion “You sisters, your daughters, your granddaughters, and the women you have nurtured will be at the heart of creating that society of people who will join in glorious association with the Savior. You will be an essential force in the gathering of Israel and in the creation of a Zion people who will dwell in peace in the New Jerusalem.”
President Trump’s words and actions are promoting a culture of misogyny. In addition to the number of times he has spoken cruelly and derisively towards women, I have witnessed more men being more open in their sexism. I am not naïve that this has always existed, but since President Trump has been in office, they are more forward and direct about it. Here is an example of a comment directed towards a female journalist:
“You are a stupid (expletive) closing dining rooms hurts people that have to eat out do you know how many people died from natural causes or accidents last year 2,736,000 so people die so shut the hell up we need to go back to the old days when women kept their mouths shut and stayed in the kitchen women with big mouths are ruining this country.”
Is that what is meant by making America great again? Going back to the ‘good old day’ when women’s voices didn’t count? That’s not an America I am interested in.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson- Sustainable Societies: “The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”
The societies in these two examples [City of Enoch and 4th Nephi] were sustained by the blessings of heaven growing out of their exemplary devotion to the two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”6 They were obedient to God in their personal lives, and they looked after one another’s physical and spiritual welfare. In the words of the Doctrine and Covenants, these were societies with “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.”
Bishop W. Chrisopher Waddell- There Was Bread: “It would be inconsistent with a compassionate Savior to ignore the reality that many are struggling and ask them to begin building a reserve of food and money for the future. However, that does not mean that we should permanently ignore principles of preparation—only that these principles should be applied “in wisdom and order” so that in the future we might say, as did Joseph in Egypt, “There was bread.”
President Trump instructed his representatives to stop negotiating a second stimulus bill until after the election despite the current struggles that individuals and families are facing. He and his supporters frequently speak very derisively of the poor. I frequently see memes calling the poor lazy or otherwise undeserving of our help.
I understand and support the church’s focus on self reliance. I have concerns with aspects of how government welfare is run. I respect concerns about Socialism and individuals losing the incentive to work. But I have never seen a statement from modern leaders or in scripture that says only help those that you think really deserve the help. Instead there are repeated commands to help the poor. And if a few receive it that don’t deserve it, or if a few become lazy- is that somehow worse or more sinful than violence, mockery, racism, sexual assault and harassment, and misogyny that is running rampant in President Trump’s actions and rhetoric.
Ultimately I keep coming back to the official statement from the church:
“Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles.”
I know a lot of people are voting for President Trump despite their concerns with his behavior because they feel that the Republican platforms align more closely with the church than some of the Democratic platforms. I’ve heard people say that they aren’t voting for the PERSON but for the PLATFORM. But that’s not what the letter says. It doesn’t say to seek the party or the platform that aligns with church standards. It says the CANDIDATE who best embodies the principles of the Gospel. While neither of them are perfect, in all the ways I have analyzed here and in so many others, Vice President Biden embodies the principles of the gospel in his charitable treatment of others, his desire to lead out in abandoning past attitudes of racism, his moral conduct, and his desire to unite our country in peace.
Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay