My logic was terribly mistaken. I just didn’t get it. The Trump victory floored me. After the release of the Billy Bush “grab them by the p***y” video, I was certain that Mormons, evangelicals, and other conservative religious people would desert Trump in droves. I believed it was impossible for him to win without conservative religious voters. But as the results rolled in on election night, I felt confused. My thinking was obviously very flawed, but how?
In October, my original analysis had been confirmed when the LDS Church-owned newspaper the Deseret News called for Trump to resign. (Obviously, the Deseret News would not make such a bold statement about the election without direction from Church leaders.) Despite this command from the top, instead of deserting Trump in droves, Mormons voted for Trump in droves. Sixty-one percent of voting, American Mormons defied church leaders and voted for Trump. Likewise, sixty percent of voting, white, American Catholics voted for Trump, and an unbelievably high 81 percent of voting, white, American evangelicals pledged their allegiance at the polls to the man who bragged about sexually assaulting women.
The answer to my confusion came the evening after the election when I attended a presentation by a former FLDS woman, who talked about growing up in a fundamentalist Mormon family. She talked about her own experience of sexual abuse and rape at the hands of an older man when she was only twelve. She was told that God had commanded that one day she was to be that man’s plural wife. The man took this “divine command” as a license to repeatedly rape a young girl. I finally understood the connection between conservative religion and Trump, when the speaker said that she was taught to be extremely modest because men were unable to control their own desires. It was up to women to control men’s sexual urges. My own mainstream Mormonism teaches this same message by insisting that women and girls keep themselves covered to stop impure thoughts from crossing the male mind.
At the heart of conservative religion is the assumption that men are bastards. Starting with Adam, the story goes, men could not help themselves. When a woman failed to stop a man’s sinful ways, she was the one who deserved all the blame. Likewise, women are taught that they are to facilitate men’s sexual desires. When Joseph Smith’s first wife Emma pushed back against Joseph’s polygamy, he invoked God and threatened her with eternal destruction.
And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law. D&C 132: 54
Despite endless talks about the evils of porn from the LDS pulpit, the Deseret News reported in 2009 that Utah is the #1 state in the country for porn subscriptions. At the same time, Mormon men pack porn addiction support groups, while their wives and girlfriends attend their own groups to learn how to keep their men’s urges in check. More seriously, rape and sexual violence in Utah is consistently much higher than the national average:
One in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that occurs at a higher rate than the rest of the nation. Studies show that one in eight Utah women will be raped and one in 50 Utah men will be raped in their lifetimes (1). According to Uniform Crime Reports, the rape rate in Utah has been consistently higher than the U.S. rate. In 2014, Utah’s reported rape rate was significantly higher than the U.S. rate (67.7 and 51.9 per 100,000 females) (2). However, the majority of rapes (88.2%) are never reported to law enforcement, indicating that sexual violence in Utah is grossly underestimated . . . . (http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp/topics/rape-sexual-assault/ )
I was wrong. Trump’s crude and sexually abusive ways are not foreign to conservative religious groups. Trump is exactly what fundamentalist expect a man to be. He is simply exemplifying the true “natural man,” when viewed through a conservative religious prism, the prism we as Mormons use to see the world. No wonder Trump didn’t lose the votes of Mormons or other religious conservatives, despite bragging about his nonconsensual sexual exploits. No wonder conservative icon Rush Limbaugh mocks the concept of consent . Too often, as Mormons we expect men to be like Trump: naturally base and crude. We see controlling men’s urges as women’s work. This perspective is very unhealthy for both men and women. Men are shamed and women are blamed.
The antidote to Trump’s misogyny is not more female modesty, but equality. In our own church, our twisted view of sex roles, male superiority, and female responsibility drives sexual deviance among our members. Equality is the cure. Until women are ordained and treated as fully equal in the Church, Mormons will be plagued by the ugliness personified in Donald Drumpf.