Trump expected to meet with LDS Church leaders Monday
Hunter Schwarz, CNN's COVER/LINE
Published at | Updated at
(CNN) — Trump is expected to visit with leaders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Monday when he visits Utah on Monday to announce the shrinking of two national monuments in the state.
It’s common for Mormon church leaders to meet sitting presidents when they visit Salt Lake City, including Barack Obama in 2015 and George W. Bush in 2002 and 2008. Trump’s meeting was organized by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and will include a visit to Welfare Square, a church facility that includes food storage and an employment center, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Mormons are the most Republican of any religious group in the US, with 70% identifying as Republican or leaning Republican, according to a 2014 Pew survey. But Mormon Republicans have been among Trump’s most vocal critics, including Mitt Romney, who slammed Trump in a 2016 speech; Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona who criticized Trump on the Senate floor when he announced in October that he would not seek reelection; and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who came out against Trump’s proposed Muslim ban during the campaign.
Trump’s comments about Muslims have been received especially poorly by Mormons, who have their own history of government-sanctioned discrimination. In a speech at the Mormon church’s semi-annual General Conference in October, M. Russell Ballard, a senior leader in one of the church’s governing bodies, called for members to fight prejudice.
“We need to embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism and nationalism,” Ballard said.
Church leaders congratulated Trump after his win last year, calling on Americans to “join us in praying for the President-elect, for his new administration, and for elected leaders across the nation and the world” regardless of their politics. “Praying for those in public office is a long tradition among Latter-day Saints. The men and women who lead our nations and communities need our prayers as they govern in these difficult and turbulent times,” the statement read.
During the campaign, Donald Trump Jr. and then-vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence both toured Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
Trump plans to scale back two Utah national monuments, Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, on the recommendation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.