Why I Go to Church with Trump Supporters

Full disclosure: I find Donald Trump's administration and policies to be a morally, ethically, and sometimes even Constitutionally indefensible. When it comes to diplomacy, and many of the valid objectives Mr. Trump wants to achieve, he has all of the administrative finesse of a butcher. I didn't vote for him, and I think those who did misplaced their trust. I feel confident they will come to regret that decision in their own way, and in their own time. 

I'm also aware that I go to church with a lot of people who disagree with me. This post is not for them. It's for me, and those like me, and our struggles to find peace in sharing pews with them on Sunday.

Mormons in Utah have the luxury of saying that more people didn't vote for Trump there than did overall. Mormons in Idaho can't say that. It wasn't even a close race. Donald Trump won in Idaho because a lot of Mormons voted for him. There is no way to objectively distance ourselves from that fact. 

How that translates into my feelings about attending my own congregation is something I've been dealing with for months, ever since I found out my then-bishop supports Donald Trump. And I mean, really supports him. As someone I greatly respect, it wasn't easy for me to see him lift up someone I find so degenerate, and tear down others on social media with language I never heard him use in church. Even when he conceded to me that Mr. Trump had troubling flaws, it didn't help me to reconcile the conflicting thoughts and emotions I was having. We ended the conversation on good terms, agreeing fully in wishing we'd had better choices presented to us. But I eventually had to give up on understanding his line of reasoning. It didn't make sense to me then, and makes even less sense to me now that we're almost two weeks into this administration.

Until this week, I didn't realize how separated I've felt from my church family because of the election and all of its consequences. I felt betrayed by the community I love. They had consistently taught me to aspire to the highest values of morals and ethics. I never thought I would watch them elect a leader that does not represent or uphold any of those values.

How could I ever take them seriously again, as teachers of moral behavior? How would I find peace with our differences? As much as I tried to ignore those questions, they continued to fester into a resentment that I didn't talk about with anyone. I barely even acknowledged it myself.

This past Sunday as I was taking the sacrament, everything I was feeling came to the surface in a mixture of anger and grief over this week's Muslim refugee ban. I couldn't hold onto it anymore. I needed guidance from the Lord in how to continue loving my brothers and sisters, when some of what they say and do just isn't lovable.

If anyone would know the answer to that question, it would certainly be God.

Why do I Share a Pew with Trump Supporters, even when I Disagree with them?

The answer came to me, as I partook of the Sacrament this past Sunday. As I looked around and felt the familiar pangs of resentment, God answered my question when I wasn't expecting it.

Because there is nowhere better for them to be.

Examples of how true this is flooded my mind, beginning with the ordinance in which I was participating.

Where better for a Trump supporter than in a sacrament meeting, partaking of the sacrament? Where else on earth would they commit themselves so completely to follow Jesus Christ and keep his commandments? Where else would they swear, before each other and God himself, that they will "bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light... to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort"? (See Mosiah 18: 8-9) Where else would they recommit themselves to that promise, week after week, month after month, year after year, until they extend it to the entire human race?

I didn't have an answer. Where, indeed? The questions didn't stop.

What book could be better for a Trump supporter to read than The Book of Mormon? What book of scripture preaches more movingly against pride, greed, corruption, and the dangers of wealth, racism, sexism, and privilege? For Latter-day Saints who are also Trump supporters, what book would they willingly read that gives a more moving sermon than that of King Benjamin in Mosiah 4?

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. 
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— 
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. 
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? 
20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy. 
21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another. 
22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done. 
23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

I sat in sacrament meeting, thinking about this sermon. As I pondered on the plight of refugees the world over, I couldn't think of anything I wanted more than for Trump supporters to carefully study these words, and apply them. Mormon Trump supporters who read The Book of Mormon, and already believe it to be scripture, couldn't be in a better position to do this.

Where else could an LDS Trump supporter go where he or she would attend general conference, and find access to living prophets, seers, and revelators? Where else would they sustain these leaders, then later be called upon by them to serve the groups they marginalize? Where else would a Trump supporter willingly go to hear this talk, or this one, or that one, or the one from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf who was a refugee? How else would they ever see this website, dedicated entirely to serving and supporting refugees? To say nothing of this lesson from this year's manual on former President Gordon B. Hinckley, where he condemns all forms of prejudice:

May the Lord bless us to work unitedly to remove from our hearts and drive from our society all elements of hatred, bigotry, racism, and other divisive words and actions. The snide remark, the racial slur, hateful epithets, malicious gossip, and mean and vicious rumor-mongering should have no place among us.

Or perhaps stumble into this conference where Elder Jeffrey R. Holland warned:

"Governments today are not responding to the refugee problem urgently enough, nor on a large enough scale. Unless matters change, the refugees will be left to their own devices just as the Mormon migrants were. Right now there are simply not enough safe places—not enough Quincys, if you will—for the large amount of refugees around the world."

Where else would a Trump supporter go to experience the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, the saving and rescuing influence of the Savior Jesus Christ? Where else could they come to him so personally, to feel and know for themselves "how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you." (See 3 Nephi 10:4-6) In no other place in my life had I ever felt the love of God more profoundly than sacrament meeting, because of the Spirit that is there. That was where I came to see for myself that I had been "gathered," and "spared" too many times to count. Only in feeling that love within their own hearts will Trump supporters ever feel secure in extending deliverance to the entire human family.

There could be no greater witness for the love of God, the love that saves and rescues, than the Holy Ghost. Under the influence of the Holy Ghost, members who support any policies inconsistent with the Lord's agenda will find themselves frustrated, and challenged to repent.

I found myself marveling at the Church in ways I had never before considered. What defense is there for any sort of falsehood in a church like ours, regardless of who tries to perpetuate it? Everything about our organization seems divinely designed to challenge deception, and the hold it has upon our members. The Lord will chasten his people, whether they like it or not. Members of the Church who support Donald Trump are not immune to that correction.

As I pondered on the reformation of my neighbors in the pew, I should have foreseen that God wasn't finished with me yet. As it turns out, God didn't feel they were the only ones in need of an attitude adjustment.

Because I Need Them 

One of the great lessons I came to learn on earth is how to extend mercy and forgiveness to people I don't feel like deserve it. It takes a lot for me to reach my breaking point. But my good opinion, once lost, is nearly impossible to recover. It's something I'm endeavoring to change. But like extracting microscopic gold particles from pay dirt, the Lord has had to blast out these qualities from my heart. It has been a long and painful process, involving some people that I still don't like very much. It was a problem for me long before Donald Trump began his presidential campaign, and will continue to be a challenge long after he is no longer in office. All I can say is, if you think that's not very Christ-like, you should have seen me before I joined the Church.

Forgiveness is hard. If Jesus wasn't making me do it, I just wouldn't bother. And by going to church with people that I'm bound to disagree with at some point, I get plenty of practice.

Who better for me to practice forgiveness on than Trump supporters? The more failures I see in them, the greater need I have to forgive them. This doesn't mean pretending not to see someone else's moral failures. But it puts me into a position to practice what Jesus taught about forgiveness in Doctrine & Covenants 64, which will only bring me closer to him.

8 My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. 
9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. 
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. 
11 And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.

While it's my right to disagree with others, using all of the clarity, wisdom, intelligence, and fervor of my soul, it's not for me to resort to pettiness and smallness of mind. I should never allow what I feel about an issue to interfere with my feelings for a person. I'm not excused from my Christian duties to love, serve, and bear burdens—even if those burdens include racism, misogyny, or privilege. If that's what I see in others, that's what God wants me to help him address. And I can't do that if I pass judgment flippantly and quickly, without going to the uncomfortable places to achieve understanding and tolerance with others. As Jesus asked in the Sermon on the Mount, "how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye." (See Matthew 7:4-5)

If I'm not willing to deal with my own judgmental thoughts and hypocrisy, how am I supposed to help others do that?

I left that sacrament meeting better and wiser than I was when I went in. I left a burden at my Savior's feet I didn't realize I was carrying. I saw myself and my feelings with greater honesty, and it changed the way I see the people around me. If what I truly value is acceptance, and this is what I want to see in the world, I need to be a big enough person to do it first.

A message of unconditional love, peace, and tolerance cannot be preached—it must be lived. And today, instead of starting with the Trump supporters in my life, I'm starting with me.

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