Guest Post: Trump’s Mormon Problem -or- If you want Mormons to like you, maybe you shouldn’t act so much like King Noah

The following guest post is from  Beth C. Buck.

Beth Buck is a budding writer who mostly spends her writing energy waxing erudite about yeast and freeze-dried chicken at an emergency preparedness website. Someday she hopes to publish a novel, but probably not today. She has four kids, a spinning wheel, a black belt, and a degree in Middle Eastern Studies.

How crazy is this election cycle? I suppose it wouldn’t be a real election year if our news feeds weren’t inundated with muckraking, scandals, and political plot twists. Most days, I don’t know whether to move to Canada, or sit back and watch with a bucket of popcorn on my lap as if it were only another crude reality TV show.

But there is one thing I like about this election, and that is how we Mormons have successfully distinguished ourselves by refusing to ally with Donald Trump. It was with no small amount of pride that I first heard the phrase, “Trump’s Mormon Problem.” In the short time since the famous “Trump Tapes” have been made public, Trump’s Mormon Problem has only intensified as top LDS Republican leaders have rescinded their endorsements.

And the media is just eating it up. The phenomenon of Trump’s Mormon Problem is too interesting to leave alone. It has people worried enough to suggest that Utah may become an actual swing state [] in this election. Breitbart went so far as to suggest that any hypothetical failure of the Trump campaign to win the White House would be all the Mormons’ fault []. Not bad for a minority group that comprises less than 2% of the population.

Most op-ed pieces on this issue center around Mormon ideology – Trump’s personal history is at odds with the Mormon ideals of family and sexual fidelity, so that’s why we don’t like him. He’s a jerk and Mormons value kindness. Many also point to how Trump’s stance on religious liberty and immigration is at direct odds the Church’s pro-refugee “I was a Stranger” campaign. And it’s all true, but there’s another, deeper reason. It’s because Donald J. Trump is essentially a living incarnation of Wicked King Noah.

For active LDS members who grew up in the Church, distrust of anyone who acts remotely the way King Noah acts runs deep. We grew up with these stories – “Wicked King Noah, the most evil man who ever walked the earth.” Even though there are figures in the Book of Mormon who are much, much, more evil, Wicked King Noah has gotten a lot more press in children’s cartoon adaptations, kids’ scripture readers, and Book of Mormon-themed storybooks. No one wants to make a cartoon of Amalikiah poisoning Lehonti by degrees (See Alma 47). Among my friends and family, when I’ve briefly mentioned the similarities between Donald Trump and Wicked King Noah, all have laughed and agreed because the real estate mogul is so very recognizable recast as a Book of Mormon villain.

I will grant you it’s not a perfect analogy. For one thing, Wicked King Noah was famous for his exorbitant taxes (Mosiah 11:3 – one fifth, which is more than the average American pays in income tax anyway, but that is neither here nor there), and Trump wants to lower taxes. The alcoholic King Noah spent his days in “riotous living” (v. 14-15) whereas Donald Trump does not drink.

How is Trump like King Noah? First of all, it’s important to remember that at the time of his reign, Noah was beloved by his people, the high taxes and personal foibles notwithstanding. When Abinadi first began to preach against the King, it was the people, not the establishment, who initially sought to kill him (v. 26). And to give King Noah his due, his extensive building projects (v. 8-13) most likely did Make the Land of Nephi Great Again. He also led his people in a successful military victory over the Lamanites (v.18-19). Similarly, Trump’s most devoted supporters acknowledge his bad behavior, but continue to back him because of his promises to improve the American economy and strengthen our military, that we might, too, become Great Again. Despite all the revelations concerning the negative aspects of Mr. Trump’s personality, there are still plenty of people who have expressed their undying devotion and intentions to vote for him.

Of course King Noah’s reign wasn’t all palaces and sweet victories. King Noah, like Trump, had plenty of personality flaws, too. My favorite is detailed in Mosiah 12:29, when Abinadi accuses Noah and his priests of “spend[ing their] strength with harlots,” a descriptive phrase that could also apply to Donald J. Trump, if his boasts about his prowess and the number of his sexual partners are to be believed (See Mosiah 11 for additional references to Noah’s many wives, concubines, and whoredoms).

Trump likes people to think of him as a “tough guy.” He has created a narrative centered around his unwillingness to pander to special interest groups or political correctness, believing that doing and saying as he pleases makes him strong. (Whether it actually does is immaterial) He has become very well known for insulting people who disagree with him: calling women “fat and ugly,” calling Marco Rubio’s virility into question, and accusing other Republican officals as “weak” and “ineffective leaders.” And he doesn’t let it go, either; think of his continued personal attacks on his Republican opponents even after he won the nomination. And despite assurances from the Department of Justice that there are no criminal charges they could in seriousness bring against Hillary Clinton, Trump continues to insist that he will put her in jail.

King Noah does this sort of thing as well. In Mosiah 17:12, when King Noah is about to release Abinadi, he reconsiders once the priests remind him that Abinadi’s first and gravest offense was the verbal attack on his person. You could interpret this a few different ways. Either a) Noah killed Abinadi out of anger or revenge, or b) Noah decided that rescinding the execution would have been weakness. Even when Abinadi was dead, it wasn’t enough to drive Alma out of his kingdom and into hiding. Noah tried to have Alma and his followers exterminated.

I am sure you think all this is very interesting, but why does it matter? Well, it matters because things did not end well for King Noah, or for the people he ruled. When things got tough, Noah abandoned his family and the most vulnerable portion of his population to save his own skin (see Mosiah 19). The public persona Trump has cultivated shows him to be a narcissist and a cad, more concerned about his own success and his ability to do what he wants with women than he is with nearly anything else. Simply put, I can very much envision a Donald Trump who throws women and children under the bus to save himself. And that’s the thing about Trump’s 2005 comments; they don’t necessarily reveal how he feels aboutwomen, as if female humans were another species. They reveal his attitudes about other people.

You could successfully argue (and I have seen it done) that Trump must not be the villain so many of us think he is, because of his clean living and the fact that his ex-wives don’t seem to hate his guts. Some Trump apologists have suggested that Trump isn’t really as horrible as he seems to be, that people who dislike him suffer from confirmation bias and are looking for things that confirm what they already know to be true (that is, that Trump is a narcissist and a cad).Yet there’s something about him that causes good people – and a lot of Mormons, in particular – extreme disquiet. There is something we can’t put our finger on that just really ticks us off. It comes down to more than offending mere cultural values. While there are some Mormons who choose to support Trump, the majority of us have a visceral distrust and even loathing for him. Even if all this “Trump is awful” stuff isn’t an accurate reflection of who Trump is at his core, it does a good job of making a lot of of Mormons really hate him.

Comparing Trump to King Noah is relevant for Mormons discussing the election because Wicked King Noah is pretty much the poster child for what it means to be a bad king: you could read the Book of Mosiah almost like a political treatise, comparing and contrasting the life and works of Righteous King Benjamin and Wicked King Noah, then ultimately concluding that the risk of having a bad king makes monarchical governments unfeasible and dangerous. Mosiah, Benjamin’s successor, does away with the monarchy completely and sets up a democratic judiciary government, but gives us a warning: And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land (Mosiah 29:27). Perhaps we shouldn’t so easily laugh off internet memes that proclaim Trump as “The Last President of the United States.”

All of this isn’t meant as an endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I joked to a friend of mine several months ago that if Trump was King Noah, that made Hillary Amalikiah. But when you look at all the unethical things in which the Clintons have been involved, and how few of those things for which they have served prison time, it does make you wonder to what extent secret combinations have played a role. And if the Book of Mormon has taught us anything, it’s that secret combinations are REALLY bad news. I won’t go down the rabbit hole that is the laundry list of Clinton conspiracies, but I can promise that the Amalikiah/ Hillary thing won’t be funny any more once you look at it. King Noah wrecked his kingdom by following his pride and his id, but secret combinations destroyed more than one Book of Mormon civilization.

10 thoughts on “Guest Post: Trump’s Mormon Problem -or- If you want Mormons to like you, maybe you shouldn’t act so much like King Noah

  1. But there is one thing I like about this election, and that is how we Mormons have successfully distinguished ourselves by refusing to ally with Donald Trump.

    Can we change this to, “But there is one thing I like about this election, and that is how some Mormons have successfully distinguished ourselves by refusing to ally with Donald Trump”?

    I know a number of good and honorable Mormons who will vote for Mr. Trump — not because they love him, but because they cannot vote for Mrs. Clinton.

  2. I would still argue that because of the nature of “Trump’s Mormon Problem,” that is, the phenomenon of the media freaking out about a large number of Mormons disliking Mr. Trump, it is accurate to also say that this defines Mormons as a population.

  3. I think that the focus on King Noah in Mosiah is a counter-point to the OT & Jaredite rulers that are personally evil, but the kingdom is ruled reasonably well and the people are happy and prosper. King Noah had the exact same conditions until the Lamanites came calling after Abinadi died. We can survive 4-8 years of a King Noah, if the rest of public society is strong.
    If Clinton is wrapped up in secret combinations, which seems very likely, there is no surviving them if society upholds them and involves itself in them. An Amalikiah comparison is really scary. Bring on Teancum???

  4. Bring on Teancum? Seriously? The irony of decrying secret combinations while suggesting the secret killing of a perceived adversary (Alma 51:34)! I hope that that was just a very bad joke, Oso.

    Turning to violence like the Lamanites doesn’t turn out well for the Nephites. Let that be a warning to us.

  5. If King Noah is the the BOM analog of Trump, Amalickiah is a fair analog for Hillary. Granted, it’s a flawed analogy, but apropos in several important ways, primarily (1) that Hillary has proven that she will do just about anything to gain power and (2) her plans include subverting the some of our most important freedoms. Just read the statement that the US Civil Rights Commission recently issued on religious liberty, and the Church’s response – posted on this website. The Commission views many traditional religious beliefs as racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc. I hate to say it, but this is a mainstream belief in the Democratic Party (which I flirt with switching my party affiliation to on occasion). This is the same view held by Hillary and the people running her campaign, and the people she would likely appoint to her cabinet. As if we didn’t already know it, the Podesta emails show that senior members of Hillary’s staff have deep antipathy towards Catholicism and, I would argue, many traditional religious beliefs in general. They would like to tilt our government’s official position against many traditional religious beliefs – just as the Commission under Obama has. This is only one area of grave concern with a Hillary presidency. So, as much as I agree that Trump is Noah, if I have to choose between Noah and Amalickiah, I might choose Noah.

  6. Beth,
    I posted this to Geoff’s other article about Never McMullin. I believe your overstatement about “most Mormons” and Trump are incorrect. I and the majority of the Mormons here in AZ voted for Trump in overwhelming numbers. Open Utah to a Primary system and not the fraud-infested Caucus system and Utah would also have turned out differently from Cruz (who is ineligible btw). King Noah? really? Yeah, Trump providing 10’s of thousands of families with jobs, assisting numerous children financially with medical procedures, providing money to SGT Tahmoressi after his capture in Mexico, providing hotel and financial assistance to American Idol Jennifer Hudson after her mother and brother were murdered, campaigning FOR Reagan AND H.W. Bush, and on and on, etc…Where was Romney, Lee, Flake, ANY other self-righteous Mormon with the opportunity to help out?? yeah, those of you with Trump Derangement need to read more deeply who the man is instead of what some blog who can’t stand him says about him. See below about my writing on sources (i.e. Flake, Lee, Romney):

    Geoff, I appreciate the article and Stacy Stine’s on her site regarding McMullin and voting in general by Mormons. I state this up front: I am proudly for Trump.

    First off, let me explain my background, because according to those voting for McMullin, I have as much experience as McMullin, if not more so, in the areas of the intelligence community and foreign policy, and yet, I am not naive to believe I can or should be POTUS. I have lived and served over in the Middle East for well over a decade and have traveled abroad throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Dubai, West Africa, etc chasing down bad guys all over. I am an active LDS member and have been a part of America’s finest SEAL Teams. I have seen and participated first hand in what we would read about with wars between the Lamanites and Nephites. It isn’t a pretty scene. I have also briefed America’s highest four star Generals that you read about in the papers. I have ran sources in Human Intelligence and targeted many of the worst insurgents/jihadists that are known to my fellow citizens and Latter-Day Saints.

    I say all of this to say that I believe that McMullin is fluffing on some of his background to make him more appear more qualified than he actually is to run for the highest position in the land. I have been in and around many political/foreign policy decisions and know the inner workings of how these decisions are made for political reasons. As a side bar, it always grinds all of us in the intelligence community (IC) when we hear that “the intelligence was bad…” This is 99% of the time blatantly false. Here is your clue: it is typically said by someone in politics or with a tie to political motives. The intelligence is what it is and too often the intelligence is twisted to fit a political picture (see recent news reports on this in the last year).

    Back to McMullin…we need to realize what our vote means. A MAJOR political party WILL and DOES run the country. As of right now, we have TWO parties that have legitimate shots at running our country. With this said, a vote for another candidate is literally wasting your vote. You can and should cast it if that is how you feel but until we can spread the votes out to five or six or ten parties our votes will continue to be wasted. The logical decision is to vote for one of these two parties who are going to mostly (not always) resemble your beliefs. Since the days of Lincoln, this has been the R party for members of the Church. Some have said above that “I am going to look at people individually”. I am sorry but that is just being ignorant of how are process (Congress) works. Once elected and seated in Wash DC, one has to CHOOSE a party to align with to receive any type of funding, assistance with getting bills passed back home in your district or state, etc. McMullin likely is a R and will vote with the party, however, he has NO chance of winning (no name recognition, funding, didn’t qualify on the majority of the state’s ballots, and where in the HECK was he from the beginning of the primaries-isn’t that kind of cheating the system?). This is so blatantly obvious that he has no shot is why I shake my head and do not understand why so many of my fellow members would be voting for a person without a chance to effect any change back in DC. McMullin should run for Senate or as a Representative first and build his name recognition and bona-fides.

    Briefly on Trump, many people have quoted sites and polls that are so laughable as they are biased in their motivations to push a narrative to influence your opinion, which seems to have worked. When looking at polls or any articles, one needs to know the source of the information to judge its validity. This is basic source 101 schooling. When those on here are pushing polls to show either Trump’s failures, or McMullins rise they need to look at the crosstabs and verify that they are neutral (non-biased) and one will find that in the majority of these the polls are funded by the very people who are Never Trump or pro-Hillary or in this instance of Utahn’s vote, Pro-McMullin. Old axiom in the IC is “follow the money”. I also find it hypocritical of members who point to Trump’s comments made 11 years ago and one’s that he has repented of and yet many in the Church want to still hold him to these comments…11 years ago!! what happened to forgiveness?? See one thing that makes the Lord upset is how many members feel so high and mighty to hold their nose above so many that they feel they are undeserving of our respect. This is also why “Utah Mormons” have that label on them because they look down at non-members. This has been counseled to us numerous times in General Conf that that attitude needs to change.

    Trump will actually win this in a landslide to the chagrin to many Utahn’s disappointment and then realize that Trump will end up being a great POTUS as was Reagan…who also had a second marriage, WAS pro choice, raised (and lowered) taxes, provided Amnesty, and was also somewhat of an isolationist. Besides all that about Reagan, who I voted for, he ranks in my top three greatest Presidents of our country.

    Thank you! Go Navy!

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