Save your state. Save the world.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

My favorite Mormon joke goes a little something like this:

Q: Why do you always take two Mormons fishing?

A: Because just one will drink all your beer.

I had the rare privilege of living in Utah for a few years at the beginning of this decade, both in Park City and Salt Lake City. Like many who come from mostly secular states, I had a lot of notions going in about what living among the predominant culture would be like. Armed with a few seasons of Big Love under my belt, the soundtrack to The Book of Mormon on CD and having read most of Under the Banner of Heaven, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.

I was wrong.

Mormons, as it turns out, are no more/less crazy than any other religion. Go ahead, really break down your belief system for a minute. Do you kiss books? Yell “Mazel tov” every time a dish breaks? Take some time between eating meat and milk? Do you give up something you really like for 40 days then gorge yourself on chocolate eggs with some strange white and yellow goo inside to celebrate? How about virgin births? Those are certainly possible, right? Some guy in a beard and a bunch of his sons built a cruise ship out of something called gopher wood and put every animal aboard it—except for the dinosaurs—because there was no room for science. Do you forbid the hanging of pictures in the home? How about when you die you get to live in live in paradise next to lions, but no birthday celebrations while you are here. Got that? And women, a 24-7 veil as an act of submission seems like a great idea. Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?

All religion, when taken out of (or even in) context, is a little bit batshit. But I’m a firm believer that whether it’s holding a handful of beads using each to count the component prayers or going hut to hut in a $80 suit somewhere on the Ivory Coast preaching the word of a carpetbagger who was exiled to the land of ice and rock with his followers—it’s all the same level of ridiculousness rooted in a human being’s basic desire to try to keep themselves, by any means possible, from doing the wrong thing.

Mormonism is a truly American religion. It was founded here, it was germinated here—it continues to evolve here.

The church has been able to alter its doctrine over the years as American society has changed, and, more often than not, has become more progressive in tiny increments. The most glaring example of catching up to the times is the church’s eventual inclusion of blacks. From 1849 to 1978, the LDS Church had a policy against ordaining black men to the priesthood, and forbid black men and women from taking part in ceremonies in LDS temples. In 1978, the church’s First Presidency came out with a statement known as the “Official Declaration 2” that the ban had been lifted as a result of, you guessed it, a revelation from God.

Of course, 1978 wasn’t that long ago, and the LDS church, it could be said, was well behind the Civil Rights curve in this nation. But we are also talking about a religion that less than a century prior had up to 30 percent of its families publicly practicing polygamy.

Baby steps.

Now Mormons are even starting to change their tune on what they call SSA (<- no joke, Same Sex Attraction…what can I say, like most big corporations, they’re into acronyms.) While the church does not allow same-sex marriage per se, it states in a very Mormon-clearly-unclearly way on their website that they do accept gays and lesbians into the flock.

Do yourself a favor and watch Ricardo’s story:

I mean, it should be the responsibility of an American religion to be able to retain its core values while evolving to keep pace with who we are, and, more importantly, who we want to become as a people. It’s actually an imperative.

Which brings us to this election.

To say Utah is a heavily Republican state is like saying cyclists may have an affinity for spandex or Steve Jobs sartorially leaned toward black mock turtlenecks. Republicanism (the party, not the state of the republic) and family value conservatism are so woven into the Beehive State that one can’t be unstitched from the other. Indeed, Utah has voted overwhelmingly for the Republican ticket in every presidential election since 1968, and in the 2012 election, LDS’s favorite son Mitt Romney carried literally every county in the state—the majority by large, large margins.

Four years later, the world has flip-flopped.

In early October, the Deseret News, a Mormon-run newspaper called for Donald Trump to step down as the Republican nominee: In 80 years, the Deseret News has not entered into the troubled waters of presidential endorsement. We are neutral on matters of partisan politics. We do, however, feel a duty to speak clearly on issues that affect the well-being and morals of the nation. Accordingly, today we call on Donald Trump to step down from his pursuit of the American presidency. In democratic elections, ideas have consequences, leadership matters and character counts. The idea that women secretly welcome the unbridled and aggressive sexual advances of powerful men has led to the mistreatment, sorrow and subjugation of countless women for far too much of human history.

Then The Salt Lake Tribune endorsed Hillary Clinton on Oct. 12: It is time to get serious. It has been amusing, to a degree, to watch the circus that was the Republican primary process struggle and fuss and finally produce such a disappointment to be its presidential nominee. And there is no question that there are many Americans who feel lost and confused about a world that, in their eyes, has left them behind. Significant numbers of people have expressed a desire to blow up the system and start over. Or, more accurately, to pull America back to a day that was special only in that it placed white males alone at the top of the power pyramid. But now the ballots have been printed and are arriving in Utah mailboxes. It is time to make a reasonable, considerate, realistic vote for president of the United States.

Mitt Romney himself has offered some of the strongest repudiations of Trump of any politician, left or right, calling the New York real estate mogul and reality TV star “a con man, a fake.” If you need a refresher course on Romney reading his Donald Trump burn book aloud, go ahead and watch the first few minutes of this:

Of course, Trump currently has an 80+ percent chance of winning Utah according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and while Hillary Clinton’s three percent chance to grab the state’s six electoral votes seems like a longshot, I’m here to appeal to Utah and the good Pie and Beer Day counter-culture’n, funeral potato bringin’, power pioneer garb-wearin’, burger munchin’, business startin’, pow day skiin’, root beer guzzlin’, great teeth gnashin’ friendliest folks in the West that the race may be much, much closer than that.

A Deseret News poll released Friday said Trump’s lead is mighty slippery: A new poll of Utah voters released Friday shows there’s still uncertainty about the presidential race that could affect Republican Donald Trump’s lead over independent candidate Evan McMullin and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump has the support of 33 percent of Utahns, followed by McMullin with 28 percent and Clinton with 24 percent in the Y2 Analytics poll that comes after three polls released Thursday suggested the state was solidly behind Trump.

Cue record needle scratch.

Evan McMullin? Who?

Get used to that name Merica, because you may hear it over the next few days—a lot. Evan McMullin is an anti-Trump conservative, an independent and a LDS church member who never takes off his little TED Talk headset thingy. McMullin’s strategy is to block both Trump and Clinton from hitting the 270 electoral vote threshold to win, which would send the tiebreaker election to the House of Representatives. An election hasn’t been decided by the House since 1824.

The former CIA agent (btw, the CIA LOVES Mormons and if you ever want to go down an internet rabbit hole just google “Mormon CIA Conspiracy”) is attempting to sway masses of Utah voters who essentially want to cast a protest vote.

The answer here is, DO NOT!

I’ll put it in plainer, more secular terms Utah: With just one vote, you have a chance to do real good for this country salvage this democracy.

At this point with some of Clinton’s firewall states (New Hampshire, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina) seemingly in jeopardy of being lost to the 55+ cretinous, gelatinous blob of cult-leader-loving, high-blood-pressure-med- and opiate-addled zombies subsisting on a steady diet of the Three Rs: rage, racism and red meat—plus alt-right memes for dessert—you with your youth and your innovation and your actual family values and your vibrance and your hipster weddings at the Temple simply KNOW F*CKING BETTER.

You really do.

A protest vote = a vote for Trump.

Period.

We know this because it has been true in elections that have taken place this century. We know this because math (which you believe in, heartily). We know this because, foremost, Utah knows how much individual votes count—as shown your good work every week on Dancing with the Stars.

Now back to the little missive up top for a second.

The reason why the joke is funny is that everyone, when left unmonitored, has the devil on the shoulder pop up and tell them maybe it’s OK to do the wrong thing, just this once—throw a little wrench in the works and walk away—see what happens.

Mormons, however, live by a stricter set of rules than most of us do. And because of this, from literally nothing, they have built and aggregated one of the strongest social safety nets in the world for its flock. No Mormon is ever turned away in times of financial struggle. No Mormon child has ever been denied top-notch healthcare. Should a Mormon family need a place to stay, it usually comes in the form of five-plus bedrooms with a double vanity in the master and a trampoline out back. The church is as effective a grassroots, community-based, love-thy-neighbor organization as exists in modern history.

And sure the LDS Church has done some shady things in the past (and admitted as much) and not every member sings in the Tabernacle Choir, but by in large they are good people, doing good things, in probably one of the more gorgeous tracts of land their god or your god or whomever’s god ever slapped on this great Earth.

But on Election Day, with the curtain pulled and nobody else watching, it’s time to put protest votes aside, tell that little shoulder Satan to shove it—and do the right thing for the rest of the country.

God Blesses all of America, after all, not just the great state of Utah.

Andrew J. Pridgen is the author of “Burgundy Upholstery Sky” and is not a Democrat but believes in democracy and is not a Republican but believes in this republic.

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