Political tensions rose in the Latter-day Saint community Wednesday after Utah Sen. Mike Lee compared President Donald Trump to Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints honors Moroni as a religious leader who fought for freedom in about 100 B.C. During a campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Arizona, Lee spoke of similarities between Trump and the scriptural figure.
“To my Latter-day Saint friends, think of him as Captain Moroni,” Lee said of Trump on Wednesday. “He seeks not power but to pull it down. He seeks not the praise of the world or the fake news, but he seeks the wellbeing and the peace of the American people.”
Lee also made comments addressing Catholic, Protestant and evangelical groups.
“To my Protestant and evangelical friends, we have to remember that it’s by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we’ve had four years of prosperity and peace,” Lee said. Lee also reminded Catholics that Trump appointed devout Catholic Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Social media sites have since been flooded with opinions from both sides.
“Comparing a political candidate (from either party) to a Book of Mormon prophet/hero is not cool,” Instagram user @papa_ostler said in a post on Thursday. “It’s spiritual manipulation to motivate others to vote for your candidate.”
“Not that it needs to be said, but we’d never do this,” Twitter account @LDS4BidenHarris tweeted in response to Lee’s statement. “#VoteDifferent.”
Lee’s Instagram has been flooded with disparaging comments, including “Hey Mike, wanted to know where I could send a Book of Mormon to because apparently, the copy you read isn’t the real one.”
On the other hand, Twitter user @TroySchoonover said in a tweet the speech reminded him of “your average political speech here in the South, except with just a slight Latter-day Saint flavor.”
“I love it!” Schoonover, a Church member from Florida, said. “Our politicians down here are just as comfortable in the pulpit as they are on the stump, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that!”
Facebook user Todd Wilson called the comparison “spot-on.”
“Captain Moroni would have been concerned with religious freedom, have fought for economic freedom and abhorred suppressive taxation and government control,” Wilson said in a post Wednesday. “Trump is like a military leader: brash, confident and willing to fight. He’s a warrior who cares about the freedom of his people.”
Despite political differences, the Church urges civility between groups.
“Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles,” Church leaders said in a letter released on October 6. “Please strive to live the gospel in your own life by demonstrating Christlike love and civility in political discourse.”