Fighting to prevent such anarchy, the country unleashed a torrent of cultural and legal violence against the Mormons. “We cannot [end polygamy] by kid-glove legislation,” Nevada Rep. George William Cassidy railed on the floor of the House in 1882. “It requires harder blows. Somebody must be hurt.” Breaking the Saints to monogamy and the “one right way to be an American” that that arrangement represented, the country forced the Mormons to ransom one of their faith’s most integral elements for both national acceptance and, beyond that, their religion’s very survival.
I don’t write this as a defense of LDS polygamy, much less to challenge Clinton’s understanding of the First Amendment or take her view of Mormon history to task. Instead, I mean to marvel at a situation wherein the Latter-day Saints — a people who for so long appeared to have deliberately forgotten their separatist 19th-century origins as part of a campaign to restyle themselves as model Americans — might now embrace those origins as a way of rejecting Trump.
“There are a few things that people of Utah know,” independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, a native Utahn and Latter-day Saint, proclaimed during his campaign kickoff speech in Salt Lake City this week. “We know … that America is a place where people of all faiths, ethnicities and nationalities are welcome.” Having themselves suffered the religious, ethnic and even racial stereotyping that drives so much of Donald Trump’s campaign, today’s Mormons appear to have little desire to inflict such hard blows on others.