The Significant Moral Consequences of Trump

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the so-called Johnson Amendment, the provision in section 501(c)(3) that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates for office. We really don’t know much about the purpose or motivation of the provision: it was introduced by the-Senator Johnson and approved, without debate, by voice vote, so there’s no legislative history explaining its purpose.

The substance of the prohibition is pretty clear, though: to qualify for tax exemption, an organization must do a handful of things and refrain from doing a handful of others. Under the Johnson Amendment, a tax-exempt organization cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

And that’s it: a blanket prohibition on endorsing or opposing candidates. And what are the consequences for an organization that violates the prohibition?

In theory, there are up to two. The first is, it doesn’t qualify as tax-exempt (because it doesn’t meet the requirements).

The second is an excise tax. The tax is 10% of the political expenditure, plus a 2.5% tax on any manager who approved it. If the expenditure isn’t corrected, those amounts rise to 100% and 50%, respectively.

There are, of course, a couple other details that are relevant here. The first is, neither penalty is self-enforcing. The IRS is tasked with revoking exemptions and with imposing excise taxes. And the thing is, while the law is clear, the IRS has administrative discretion in deciding how to deploy its enforcement resources and enforce the law. If it decides not to revoke an organization’s exemption, there is literally nothing the general public can do to force it to act. (I explain the why and the how of it in this article, if you’re interested.)

And how is the IRS’s enforcement? Well, according to a self-study it did earlier this century, pretty much non-existent.

What does this have to do with Mormon blogging?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an explicit policy of staying politically neutral. It does, however, “[r]eserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church” (emphasis added).

One thing that I need to point out here: tax-exempt organizations, including churches, can lobby without risking their exemption. The Johnson Amendment only applies an absolute prohibition to supporting and opposing candidates. As long as an organization’s lobbying remains an insubstantial portion of its activities, it’s good with its obligations.

But here’s the thing: Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president. And a Trump presidency poses significant community and moral consequences to the country. While I’m not going to list them all here (both for lack of space and because that’s not the topic of this particular blog post), Wednesday night’s CNN town hall demonstrates that he is allergic to the truth. He’s an admitted sexual harasser (who has also been held liable for sexual harassment by a jury), he refuses to accept the results of the 2020 election, he believes in the goodness of the January 6 insurrectionists. He’s willing to reinstate family separations at the border. He brings out and encourages the worst impulses in his fans. A second Trump presidency would be an utter moral (and political and democratic) disaster.

So a thought experiment: what if the church spoke out against him? What if the church invoked its “significant … moral consequences” clause to counsel members to vote against him at the primary and/or (but definitely and) level?

It clearly wouldn’t mean that no member of the church would vote for Trump. The idea that we’re automatons who obey every word from church leaders is a stupid stereotype. I mean, just look at Covid anti-vaxxers in the church.

But members were already at least a little skeptical of Trump; an official statement could provide an excuse for those people who are torn between their dislike of the candidate and their allegiance to the GOP permission, and perhaps incentive, to do the right thing. And Trump is aberrant enough (I hope) that church leaders could say, with complete justification, that the church will continue to stay neutral in normal partisan politics that don’t implicate the moral foundations of the country.

And what about the consequences to the church’s tax exemption?

Well, in the nearly 70 years since the introduction of the Johnson Amendment, one church has had its exemption revoked for violating it. Four days before the 1992 presidential election, the Church at Pierce Creek took out full-page ads in the Washington Times and USA Today. (For our younger readers: those were newspapers. They had big pages. And a full-page ad was kind of a big deal back in the pre-internet world of 1992.) I can’t find an image of the ad (though I swear I’ve seen it), but it was egregious enough that the IRS revoked the church’s tax exemption. The church appealed, and ultimately the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the revocation.

Part of the court’s justification for revoking the exemption? That it was completely harmless to the church. The court said that, yes, its exemption was gone, meaning it had to pay taxes on its income and donors couldn’t take donations for their deductions. But the “unique treatment of churches” under the tax law means that “if the Church does not intervene in future political campaigns, it may hold itself out as a 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) organization and receive all the benefits of that status. All that will have been lost, in that event, is the advance assurance of deductibility in  the event a donor should be audited.” See, churches—unlike other tax-exempt organizations—don’t have to apply for tax exemption. So a church that violates the Johnson Amendment temporarily loses its exemption, but, once it’s done violating, automatically gets it back. (For the record, I think this is wrong as a matter of law, but also, it seems to represent both the IRS’s and the D.C. Circuit’s view.)

So what would happen if the church emailed a letter to be read by all of the bishops in the U.S., a letter that said, “We have seen the damage that a wicked leader can do. While we generally refrain from participating in electoral politics, where it becomes a moral issue, we feel an obligation to speak. And electing Donald Trump would be morally disastrous, both to our members and to the country they live in. We encourage each member to register to vote and to vote against Donald Trump”?

Honestly, probably nothing. Again, the IRS would have to actively enforce the Johnson Amendment, a thing it generally does not do.

But if it decided to? The church would lose its exemption for an instant. But then that instant would end and, as long as the church then ceased to endorse or oppose candidates for office, it would automatically be exempt again. Moreover, even if courts were to decide that the D.C. Circuit was wrong, that represents a significant enough change that I suspect they would apply it prospectively only.

And what about the excise tax? I mean, I don’t know what drafting and sending an email to be read over pulpits costs (though I’m happy to draft it pro bono, if that helps reduce the cost!), but I suspect it is negligible, whether at 10% or 100%.

Should the church make this statement? I don’t know. On the one hand, I prefer political neutrality by churches. On the other, though, the specter of a Trump presidency is terrifyingly bad, and will, frankly, put the soul of our nation at significant risk.

But again, deciding whether or not to do this is far above my paygrade. But saying what the consequences would be if the church did it? On that, I’m good.


  1. Raymond Winn says:

    Since we presently have anecdotal evidence that the Church does, to some extent, alter its policies after public pressure, I suggest that every reader of this article copy it and send it to their church leader – or perhaps directly to the headquarters of the church in SLC. Would it make a difference? Hard to tell. But we must do something, and perhaps this is one something to consider.

  2. I love how you liberals can totally look the other way when your position offends more than half the population but if a conservative (in your opinion) steps one inch over the line, bring out the nuclear wepons. Trump has short comings yes. Where is your criticism on Biden and he and his family’s criminal actions. Best keep your opinion to yourself.

  3. Bob Ligma says:

    I don’t know if you’re very familiar with the way other countries work, Gary, but even in some of the more unstable governments around the world, when a leader starts a literal insurrectionary attack on the government, they are either thrown in jail, kicked out of the country, or otherwise barred from office.

  4. Hi GARY. I’ve deleted your comments, because I’m not interested in this becoming a forum for unsubstantiated conspiratorial accusations of criminal activity.

    But if you want to see me criticize Biden, all you have to do is look at my Twitter feed over the last couple days. His new immigration/refugee policies are immoral and bad. He should be held to account for them.

    But also, they’re the kind of xenophobic and racist policies both parties have adopted over the years. They’re terrible and evil, but don’t represent an unprecedented risk to the stability of our democracy, and don’t warrant the church stepping away from its nonpartisanship (though I would say the policies themselves are sufficiently immoral that the church should comment on them; that’s irrelevant to this post, though, because the Johnson Amendment doesn’t prevent the church from doing that).

  5. Gary, any comparison between Trump and Biden, actually between Trump and anyone this side of George Santos, is ludicrous. Trump is unique in his depth of corruption, his lack of any moral compass, and his bottomless narcissism. Another four years of Trump would do irreparable damage to this country. The first four years has deformed the Republican Party beyond recognition. And if you can’t see that, God help you.

  6. For me, it’s a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, I think a second Trump presidency might forever alter the nature of our democracy, and not for the better (and I lean to the right). And so every legal effort to forestall that seems worth it. On the other, specifically coming out against him could cost us some hard-fought legitimacy in the public square, would probably alienate a not-insignificant number of our co-religionists, and in my opinion would not move the needle in the general election (or even in Utah) appreciably. So while I want a statement so, so bad, the question is: is the juice worth the squeeze?

  7. jimbob, I think that’s totally a fair question. I lean, in this particular case, toward yes, but I don’t think that’s the obvious answer. And if it were Biden vs. a normal Republican (even one I really and truly dislike, like DeSantis), I think the answer would be an overwhelming no. But I don’t want to pretend it’s an easy question; I just want to take the tax exemption question off the table in making a decision.

  8. I don’t think the Church will ever endorse or oppose by name any candidate for any office, no matter how bad things got. But IF —

    How close to the line do you think Church statements could get without violating the Johnson Amendment? Could it frame insurrection, and sexual assault, and other points that are inextricably tied to Trump and few others, as moral issues that the Church could condemn, without ever mentioning Trump?

    (I’m thinking of that absurd press release from February 2022 that condemned armed conflict and called for peace without ever getting close to naming Ukraine or Russia.)

  9. J. Mansfield says:

    The pondered question stirs the thought that in this big wide world there are far more harmful political players than Trump. Should the church also issue statements against Maduro, Putin, et al.? Does Trump hit some sweet spot that he is a grave enough harm, but one that a church statement could do some good against?

  10. John, I’m not an expert in Venezuelan or Russian law, so I don’t feel qualified to speak to it.

    I will say that there’s nothing in U.S. tax law that would prevent the church from speaking against Biden (or, between 2017 and 2020, against Trump). An officeholder is not a candidate, so the Johnson Amendment doesn’t apply.

    That said, as you’ve pointed out, the chances that a statement from the church condemning Putin would make absolutely no difference in the country’s governance, so the weighing of potential benefit vs. potential harm is an odd one—there’s very little potential benefit, though there’s probably also very little potential harm.

  11. J. Mansfield says:

    Sam, your response made me laugh at myself, because you brought me and readers squarely back to the legal matter you started with, the consequence of endorsing or opposing a candidate. I started reading your post thinking, “The subject expert will explain something I know nothing about.” That didn’t stop me from wandering over to my own musings.

  12. Thanks John!

    Also, my friend and colleague Ben Leff has posted some thoughts on my post over at the Nonprofit Law Prof Blog. He has some policy disagreements with what I say here (though honestly, I basically agree with what he says there!), and also has a link to the Branch Ministries ad. Feel free to check it out!

  13. “Should the church make this statement?” Absolutely not. I do not like Trump, but I dislike this suggestion even more. It is beyond a terrible idea. As for the legal/tax info, thanks as always.

  14. Careful what you wish for. I believe there are churches with more throw weight than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that would like to endorse Mr. Trump. Regarding the relevance of the Church saying anything, I remember a poly sci expert telling me that nobody in Washington cares about Utah, pro or con, because it is so reliably a GOP vote.

  15. Chris, there may be, but many of them have already, expressly or implicitly, done so.

    There’s actually an open sociological question whether congregants follow the political lead of their religious leaders. And it looks like there is some correlation between policy preferences and membership, but less for actual partisan endorsement.

    Of course, that may be because most churches didn’t do partisan endorsements.

    FWIW, I have a policy proposal to engage with this set of problems, but I’m about four articles away from being able to get to it.

  16. I suspect that the chances of the Church making a statement like this are somewhere around absolute zero. There are two reasons for this. First, while there may be four or five members of the Q15 who believe that Trump is an existential threat to democracy, I don’t think that it is a majority opinion in the quorum. And it certainly isn’t a majority opinion in the Seventy, where I suspect that Trump would get a solid majority against any Democratic candidate. And, frankly, a Trump administration would probably be better than another Biden administration on the Church’s most important legislative priorities, such as a narrow definition of “religious freedom” and the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

    The more important reason that there will never be a statement like this, though, is that the Church realizes that it would likely not even move the needle of Latter-day Saints supporting Trump. And if they came out and made a rare political statement like that and their own members voted overwhelmingly for Trump, they would lose a lot of influence. And Trump himself, should he win, would probably try to revoke Utah’s Statehood or trade it for Greenland or something.

  17. Michael, like I said, making this decision is above my paygrade. And it’s not an immediately obvious one. (I would dispute, though, that a second Trump administration would be better for the church, both because the active undermining of the rule of law in the US would inherently be bad for everybody, including the church, and because Trump doesn’t actually care about religion, and now that he’s got a solidified and vociferous base, frankly, he doesn’t have to worry about exploiting it as a tool.)

    My basic point is, the church’s tax exemption is not an excuse for not speaking out, and speaking out in this case would be within its stated general rule of political neutrality.

  18. Irwin Fletcher says:

    I am a fan of most of Trump’s policies. I believe the majority of LDS members are, believe it or not. So if any candidate’s policies should be endorsed, it’s more likely Trump’s. But there is also a significant number of LDS who (like yourself) who may not like his policies. That might be why it’s best for the church to stay neutral. You and others may feel strongly one way, but there are just as many who feel the other way.

    In any case, look up Hegelian Dialectic and politics. In the end Trump and Biden are most likely on the same side, and we’re on the other.

  19. Geoff - Aus says:

    Australia is a great supporter of America in defending the free world; we have joined America in every war since Vietnam. Last time trump was in we had a conservative government, and they had decided we would not follow an America led by Trump. We have now replaced them with a more left leaning government, so less likely to follow trump.
    Would trump lead the free world or join the dictator club? Would he continue to fund Ukraine against putin if ongoing? Would he defend Tiwan against china? Consequences after that?
    Can America be a democracy if only one party believes in democracy (free and fair elections) already questionable.

    If trump is elected again it will not only threaten America as a democracy, it will threaten the world order/balance. Hopefully there are enough voters who are enlightened enough to reject trump, preferably before he becomes the republican candidate, then he can run as an independent and split the conservative vote.

    If Michaels assement of church leadership is correct there is a moral vacume there, certainly no prophesy or leadership. I thought DHO warned against trump before he was elected but was too subtle. After 70% of members voted for him; it would require some moral backbone to clearly oppose him. Like prophets do when warning against evil or danger.

    Jack, the definition of discrimination is “Discrimination happens when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain characteristic.” the church discriminates against women and gays. Whether the government allows it or not is another matter. The church’s religious freedom campaign is requesting positve discrimination, but will not change public opinion that they are bigots. ” a bigot is a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic towards a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group”

  20. lastlemming says:

    I think something closer to Ardis’s suggestion would be preferable to an explicit denunciation of Trump. Use the prophetic voice to declare that the 2020 election was not stolen, that trying to intimidate elected officials into changing results is a crime that can legitimately be prosecuted, and that storming the capitol is not a legitimate form of protest.

    I disagree with Michael Austin about how the Q12 see this (he is more likely right about the 70). I think a solid majority of the Q12 agree with the substance of my statement. But that doesn’t mean that they are ready to say it out loud. Following my suggestion is more likely to drive certain people out of the Church than to change their minds. I can live with that, but perhaps they cannot.

  21. Ardis, the church could certainly condemn the January 6 attempted coup, sexual assault, etc. as moral failings without getting close to the Johnson Amendment. (Saying something like, “You should vote for the candidate who didn’t commit sexual assault wouldn’t work—that would be too cute by half. But a reminder that sexual assault violates God’s commandments would be fine.)

    And along those lines, lastlemming, saying the 2020 election wasn’t stolen is absolutely fine, but it doesn’t allow me to write a long blog post, because it’s not remotely controversial that a tax-exempt organization can do something like that.

  22. The current handbook has this line in the section about what sort of people we should be voting for: “Latter-day Saints have a special obligation to seek out and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:10).”

    For many years there was a FP letter around election time in the US saying something similar. This has been dropped (and I think the first obvious omission was 2016). It would be good to be reminded of this as well as a few other things stated there such as “Political choices and affiliations should not be the subject of any teachings or advocating in Church settings.”

  23. A Disciple says:

    “a Trump presidency poses significant community and moral consequences to the country”


    But the sentence equally applies to the Biden presidency.

    Perhaps the issue is too much political power is claimed and given to the office of the American president with insufficient accountability for what is done with that authority.

  24. A Disciple says:

    “seek out and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise”

    (1) The American people strongly disagree on the application of this standard

    (2) The respective major American politics parties are corrupt, preferring money and power over truth and integrity. They largely control what candidates appear on the ballot.

    Also, tax exempt status is a manipulation. First, the law is almost never enforced but it can be wielded by the party in power to attack political enemies – this was demonstrably done by the Obama administration. Second, the notion that the first amendment justifies tax exemption for churches is idiotic. Freedom of consciousness applies to everyone, not just to organized religion. Tax law should apply equally to all institutions, there should be no special carve outs and no free speech prohibitions because one claims to be a church or a charitable organization.

  25. While I agree that The Church could do more in speaking up regarding political leaders (and I would hope the Book of Mormon examples condition members generally to be so aware), The Church will never do so. I think it remains politically neutral for three reasons: 1. tax-exempt status (threatening this would cause a major furor amongst tithe-payers), 2. the general global policy of keeping distance between The Church and politics to prevent The Church from getting unnecessarily embroiled in heated conflicts, and 3. (and this is more my theory than anything) The Church, being the Kingdom of God on the Earth, is its own polity and refrains from meddling with other polities.

    I must admit that as time marches on, I have a holy envy for Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine on secular politics vs theocracy. Getting involved in secular politics is divisive, tiring, contentious, and counterproductive.

  26. A Disciple, the Obama administration did not, in fact, use tax-exempt status as a club against its enemies, your bald assertion notwithstanding.

    Omayr, I have no strong opinions about your reasons 2 and 3 for why the church stays out of partisan politics. My point here is to take 1 off the table. Even if it were enforced, the harm to the church and church members would be transitory and marginal at very worst.

  27. Grumpy Codger says:

    A different view.

    Our church is said to be an interesting mix of authoritarianism and rugged individualism, Question: What was our response to the forboding events of 2020 when the pandemic washed over us? Did we have strong clear, effective, authorative directives? Did we trot out the creative energy of our individualists ? In my ward we did neither. Almost nothing. The bishop moved away and was not replaced for the better part of a year and nobody seemed to notice. It appears that those in authority thought the pandemic would melt away as the snow does in the springtime. Don’t wake anyone of us up from our thoughtless state of slumber.

    Our weak response to about 2 years of lock-down and millions of deaths and staggering government debt has consequences. Especially to those of us who ask, why church? If not now (2020) then when? Obviously church was not important during the (hopefully) worst crisis of this century. Why go to church tomorrow or do anything for that matter? Especially when one can find better music and preaching on line.

    Many other leaders of other churches made heroic efforts on the congregational level to shepard their members through this mighty storm and are reaping the rewards of increased growth and dedication. Others did little and are being winnowed away.

    My explanation for this goal line fumble is that the church leadership did nothing about the election in 2016. We basically painted themselves into a corner where any actions in 2020 would be opposed by a large portion of the church. Contradict the idiotic leadership from Trump and risk offending his supporters. Go along with his foolish distractions and face justified withering criticism. We limped along doing too little too late, only when it was safe.

    The thing to do was denounce both of the candidates of the major parties in 2016. Policies is one thing, but character matters more. Determining who was worse, Trump or Clinton, was like trying to give a good citizenship award in a junior high school lunchroom food fight. For starters, Trump is easily the worst person to ever run for POTUS in my book and clueless Clinton managed to find a way to lose to the biggest loser of our history and be surptized doing it.

    One of the problems about the divisiveness today is that neither side is willing to look in the mirror and see the ugliness in their own face. The Big Lie versus a thousand little lies. This spills even into the hallow blogs of BCC. It is past time we did a deep cleaning of both sides of the house and stop throwing excretum on the other side.

  28. It would be interesting to see the church do this. I have experienced a certain degree of ostracism in my ward and stake simply because I have taken an active position in being opposed to the Trump presidency and the politics that enabled him. I believe I have a moral imperative, taught to me by the church and examples in the Book of Mormon, to speak out, so I believe by being silent and attempt at neutral, the church is violating its own scriptures and morals.
    That said, I know that a lot of people and groups that the church is tentatively friends with would come down hard against it. There would be a price to be paid. I think we should pay it, but it will be a real price. Similarly, if any large group would be at risk of losing its tax exempt status, it would be us, again, recent surveys indicate we are one of the least liked religious groups in America. Couple that with recent “revelations” about the church’s financial holdings, and its attempts to hide those holdings, and there’s a lot of incentive to move harshly against it. But again, not sure I care about that exactly. Do the right thing first, let the Lord step in if He chooses.

  29. Perhaps if we did a better job at following the counsel that the prophets have already given us we’d hear more from them.

  30. Sam – you misunderstand Mormon morality. Every educated defense of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s pecadilloes is implicitly based on a hard nosed utilitarian sense of morality — they restored the church and laid the foundations for Zion in Utah so everything else is a rounding error.

    And a utilitarian analysis of Trump would only suggest one outcome of the church speaking out — supporting him.

    The total number of abortions that won’t happen because he nominated enough judges to overturn Roe overwhelms every other example you want to cite. Sexual harassment, overturning democracy, bending the truth? Are you familiar with our founders relationships with women, the Kirtland bank scandal, or how about fleeing a democracy to create a thriving theocracy in the desert?

    This whole post illustrates the fundamental inconsistency with progressive Mormonism. John Stuart Mill morality looking backwards and Mother Theresa morality today.

  31. Steve Rafferty says:

    Thanks Sam your sentiments on a second Trump Presidency is spot on for me! I shudder every time I think about it so I hope and pray my fellow Americans are taking a hard look at the grave danger he will be to our nation if wins! Lord have mercy.on us

  32. Terrible idea. We teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.
    Principles. Like the fact we are supposed to seek for honorable moral men and women to serve in government office. Is sexual assault an honorable action? Should we elect someone as the president of the United States who has been convicted of this in an American court of law? Is being a pathological liar to protect your sense of self worth a good choice for such a powerful position?
    We could teach them the truth.
    We could teach them about the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and that a number of prominent mental health professionals wrote an open letter to the American people back in 2016 stating Donald Trump suffered from this mental illness and that there was no treatment. We could point them to some of the great videos on youtube that discuss the symptoms. We could educate ourselves about the symptoms of all the serious mental illnesses, those that cause the sufferer to actually lose touch with reality. We could realize that the rate of divorce in communities with high percentages of active, practicing LDS members is the same as the rate of these serious mental illnesses in the general population. We could investigate the level of correlation and causation between these statistics. What percentage of those who divorce are running from a bat-shit crazy spouse because they do not recognize what the behavior actually is saying? What percentage of those who divorce under these circumstances do so because there is no effective treatment for their spouse and no ability to have the spouse institutionalized.
    Because we as a world are suffering because of these illnesses. Kim Jong Un obviously suffers from a genetic mental illness. As several of his family members also have. If we really cared about the people of North Korea, we would educate ourselves about these illnesses and the current limits of treatment. We would push for more funding into research as to causes and better treatments.
    We would learn to recognize when people with Borderline Personality Disorder are mirroring our beliefs, our opinions, and our behavior in order to cause us to give them approval because they require that approval in order to generate enough serotonin to keep from going completely insane. We would stop being manipulated by them as they triangulate us to verbally punish others they want us to criticize. We would learn to recognize their lies.
    We would educate ourselves about the symptom of changing gender identity for some of the seriously mentally ill. Not that the LGBTQ population is mentally ill, but that the mentally ill too often identify as LGBTQ, thus endangering the LGBTQ population disproportionately as they enter relationships with them. LGBTQ individuals are the ones suffering from the deceit, sexual misbehavior, violence and manipulations that are part and parcel of BPD and NPD and bipolar. We would stop accepting ridiculous woke explanations and prescriptions for action and demand actual scientific studies into the brain before we amputate people’s body parts and inject them with foreign hormones.
    Are you capable of truly loving Donald Trump as you are commanded as a Christian to do? Can you offer the compassion that Christ would have offered him. Christ healed the sick, because he was pure and because he loved. Is your priesthood power sufficient to do this with the seriously mentally ill? If not, we are lost.

  33. Thank you Bart. I agree wholeheartedly. But I was married to someone with BPD. Personal experience with serious mental illness seems to be the only way to get people to understand or to care. Donald Trump’s mental illness has been on display to the world for over six years now. Still no recognition of that reality. And no one realizing the consequences of trusting the nuclear button to someone who is insane. Not evil. Insane.
    Church leaders seem to lack fundamental knowledge of the symptoms. Perhaps they should watch “Gone Girl”, a film that struck too close for comfort for me. Hard to imagine return missionaries can actually behave like that; but they can. I can so testify. And it truly is mental illness, not sin, behind this. We really do have almost no treatments.
    A woman murdering her children because the new boyfriend does not want children. Unthinkable? For someone with BPD, the only option. When you actually understand the logic behind that action, pat yourself on the back. You are ready to weigh in on our most intractable problem, mental illness.

  34. Barbara says:

    For anyone who cares, Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe and the actress Lindsay Lohan suffered or suffer from BPD. Johnny Depp’s ex-wife Amber Herd also has it, according to testimony at the trial. Very convincing liars, all of them. Medline has some wonderful youtube videos on the personality disorders. Some researchers believe Chairman Mao suffered from it. Some think Adolf Hitler also did.
    Isn’t it time we came to some public understanding of it? You cannot heal a ruptured appendix if you keep insisting it is intestinal flu.

  35. Last Lemming says:

    Temporarily embracing the threadjack here.

    It really is not helpful to the cause of mental heath education to label people with personality disorders as “insane.” (Actually, the mental health community would prefer that the word “insane” be retired altogether, but that may be asking too much of the blogging world.)

  36. Sam you make good points. I only wish I had faith that upper church leaders would warn against a second Trump presidency. It is hard for me to overlook that a daughter of a prominent quorum member played her violin at Latter Day Saints for Trump event. It is hard for me to overlook that a former church auxiliary leader prayed at a Utah Trump/Pence political event (see the “Mothers Who Know: Julie B. Beck and Political Prayer” post here on this blog). It is hard for me to forget the glowing looks on the faces of upper church leaders when they hosted President Trump as he toured a Bishop’s Storehouse. I cannot forget that the Tabernacle Choir was prominently featured at the inauguration of President Trump. And I cannot forget that a member of the Quorum of the Twelve prayed at the National Prayer Service when President Trump was inaugurated. These signal to me a level of support for Trump’s presidency that I cannot endorse.

    Certainly there can be nuanced discussions of the appropriateness of praying and singing in some of these settings, but the sum total of these events led me to consider the possibility that church leaders supported Trump’s presidency, perhaps in hopes that he would help their causes for increased religious power. But it’s been hard for me to reconcile the values that I learned (often at church) with the support for political leaders I see from those at or close to those at the top. My heart feels deep ache. I wish I could hope that your suggestion were even a remote possibility. This is a crucial issue and I appreciate your bringing it up. I agree with your thoughts and wish I could see it to be a real likelihood. Am I being too pessimistic?

  37. Anon, that’s a perfectly fair set of considerations, though it does make me sad.

    Last Lemming, I appreciate your participation in the threadjack. I’ll follow it up with the request myself: threadjacking or not, please don’t label people “insane.” It’s not helpful and not productive.

  38. I believe that many of the people posting on this thread find it impossible to label Donald Trump’s behavior as the symptoms of a serious mental illness. That would demand they treat him with compassion. And that is a bridge too far for them.

  39. You invoke “significant community or moral consequences,” but all you have to say about Trump is that he sometimes lies, is sexually impure, and disagrees with you on the validity of the 2020 election, the 1/6 riot, and immigration policy. Those aren’t consequences; they’re just things you don’t like about Trump.

    Let’s talk about consequences. We’ve experienced 4 years of Trump and 2.5 of Biden, so both are known quantities. How has the “community or moral” situation of the country improved since Trump left office? The only two positive developments that come to mind are the eventual rollback of Covid restrictions (which was probably inevitable no matter who was in power) and the overturning of Roe v. Wade (which, though it happened on Biden’s watch, was a result of Trump’s court appointments).

    How is the country’s moral and community situation better now than it was under Trump? That’s not supposed to be a gotcha; I honestly have no idea what your answer would be and am genuinely curious.

  40. @Ardis

    “Could it frame insurrection, and sexual assault, and other points that are inextricably tied to Trump and few others, as moral issues that the Church could condemn, without ever mentioning Trump?”

    That would have no effect, because no Trump supporter believes that he really raped that woman or that the 1/6 riot was an insurrection.


  1. […] By Common Consent blogger Sam Brunson poses an interesting question: What if the church cited its “moral consequences” […]

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