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Kem Gardner: Why Mormons should support Hillary

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Johnson C. Smith University, in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at Johnson C. Smith University, in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016.
Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Editor’s Note: Click here for additional opinion pieces advocating for the various presidential candidates, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

As with most of you, I tend to vote for whom I think is the best qualified candidate regardless of political party. Last election, I supported Mitt Romney. This time around, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. Trump is not an option for moral reasons: my religion, conscience and convictions.

Some of my friends support Trump strictly for party reasons. I don’t know how to reason with that. Some of my friends have swallowed hard to support him. In justifying it, they mention the Supreme Court and abortion and marriage. A Republican lawyer friend of mine says those issues “don’t make sense to him.” He does not believe the Supreme Court will reverse Roe. “To think otherwise is to be totally ignorant of the confirmation process for justices and of the respect given to precedent. Likewise, gay marriage overwhelmingly is supported by young people. As they increasingly make up our population, I don’t see the court pulling back on gay marriage.”

That friend and others, including myself, believe supporting Trump could weaken our nation’s moral values and make fornication, adultery, breakdown of the family, vulgarity, racism, misogyny and so forth more “prevalent and acceptable in our society.” But unlike me, many of these same friends want to support a third party candidate. I could argue they should go ahead and vote for such a person thinking as long as it is not a vote for Trump, it benefits Hillary.

Let me briefly explain, however, why I believe Hillary is the better choice. A few weeks ago I was asked to assemble a small, nonpartisan group of Mormons to meet with President Bill Clinton in my office on Main Street in Salt Lake City. As he looked over the valley from my 20th floor window, he commented as to how much he admired our Mormon pioneer heritage that accomplished such a miracle in the desert. He mentioned his admiration for an LDS boyhood friend and how he helped different missionaries who ran into problems with foreign governments.

President Clinton expressed his disappointment when he finished third to Ross Perot in 1992. He chalked it up to “your people really don’t know the Clintons.” For two and a half hours he told us the feelings of his heart. He said his grandfather believed “people are more important than politics.” He said he always reached across party lines to seek compromise and told of his relationship with world and congressional leaders. He then delivered his main message: Hillary personally wrote the Deseret News op-ed and that he had read and endorsed it.

Some of her words were the following: “I’m running for president to make sure our country continues to live up to our founding principles. … The last one is important. As Americans, we hold fast to the belief that everyone has the right to worship however he or she sees fit. I have been fighting to defend religious freedom for years.” President Clinton then looked me in the eye and said the following: “I know how important religious freedom is for your people. I want you to know if you are under attack, Hillary and I will be in the fox hole with you.”

There are the two big take-a-ways from that meeting for me: First, I believe Hillary will be our next president. It makes no sense to support a third-party candidate that has no chance of winning and have Clinton finish third in Utah. She and Bill reached out to us. Let’s reach out to her with our support; and, second, we need a president who will protect and defend our religious liberties. In a recent letter to me, President Clinton said: “Hillary and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to discuss issues of importance to the LDS community. I learned a lot from our conversation and hope it can be the start of many more.” That is my hope as well.

Kem C. Gardner is the chairman of Gardner Company.