There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of politics. Indeed, the whole country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different political parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Trump party, and some for the Democratic party.
Notwithstanding the great love of country which the converts to these different parties expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the party faithful on social media, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of political feeling, when the converts began to file off, some to the Trump party and some to another, a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—pundit contending against pundit, and convert against convert, so that any concerns for one another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.
During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from both of these parties, though I read and listened to their posts as often as occasion would permit. So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person such as I to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.
My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Trumpites were most decided against the Democrats, who they called Socialists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Democrats and Never-Trumpites in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to fact check and disprove all others.
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties, I was one day reading the Handbook of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, thirty-eighth chapter, eighth section, and forty-fifth subsection, which reads:
… However, many sources of information are unreliable and do not edify. Some sources seek to promote anger, contention, fear, or baseless conspiracy theories (see 3 Nephi 11:30; Mosiah 2:32). Therefore, it is important that Church members be wise as they seek truth. Members of the Church should seek out and share only credible, reliable, and factual sources of information. They should avoid sources that are speculative or founded on rumor….
Never did any passage of the handbook come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed reliable information, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than was then being displayed on Twitter, Facebook, and Parler, I would never know; for the posters of the different parties understood the same set of events so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to broadcast, print, and social media.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as the handbook directs, that is, seek out and share only credible, reliable, and factual sources of information. I at length came to the determination to “seek out and share only credible, reliable, and factual sources of information,” concluding that if God gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom and followed the handbook, I might venture.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to seek out and share only credible, reliable, and factual sources of information, I made the attempt.
My object in going to seek out and share only credible information was to know which of the parties was right, that I might know which to believe. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to search, that I asked how to determine whether a source was credible, reliable, and factual or not.
- I was given a checklist of questions and some cautions.
- Does the source actually do fact checking and verification or do they simply repeat what they’ve gotten from social media?
- Does the source have a long-established reputation for veracity?
- What are the motivations of those operating the source? Is it purely for money? Is it for the public interest? Are they espousing hatred or violence? Do they acknowledge their biases? Do they explain their source of funding?
- Are they clickbait? Do they use sensationalist headlines and odd photos to entice you to their site, but then not follow up with reliable or useful information?
- Are they from your filter bubble? In other words, were they recommended to you by the algorithms at Facebook or Google? Both of these use algorithms that reinforce your biases and keep you from seeing contrasting viewpoints.
- Have you double checked them against fact-checking lists and websites such as Snopes and major news organizations’ fact-check lists?
- Are there simple tests or experiments you can do to verify or falsify their claims?
- Do they have a history of publishing or circulating false information, such as photos with the wrong captions, or wrong dates. There are many examples of these circulating on the internet.
- Do reliable institutions such as courts of law trust the information?
With my list in hand and a decent dose of skepticism I began searching. I discovered that Donald Trump has made more than 20,000 false or misleading statements. There is no pizzeria in the DC area where major political and business leaders are trading children for sex slavery. The Speaker of the House is not a shape-shifting reptile. The Earth is not flat, but round. Roughly two-thirds of the gun deaths in the US are suicides, and roughly two-thirds of those are middle-aged white males. Russian hackers have indeed interfered in the last two presidential elections. The evidence for voter fraud in the last election has been examined and rejected as incorrect in more than 60 court cases, many of them before judges appointed by Donald Trump. Invading the Capitol and attempting to overturn a vetted and certified election is not patriotism, it is sedition.
I went downstairs, and as I leaned up to the fireplace, my wife inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my wife, “I have learned for myself that Trumpism is not true.” It seems as though the Trumpites was aware, at this period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me?
Some few days after I found this information from credible, reliable, and factual sources of information, I happened to be in company with one of the Trumpite converts, who was very active in the before mentioned political excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of politics, I took occasion to give him an account of the information which I had learned. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as lies from Trump or sedition from his followers in these days; that all such claims were made by evil socialists, and that I should never believe any more of them.
I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of Trumpism, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure man, and my circumstances in life such as to make a man of no consequence in the world, yet posters of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the Trumpites—all united to persecute me.
It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that I should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular alt-right sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had followed the instructions in the handbook. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
So it was with me. I had actually done the research, and in the midst of that research I saw clearly that Trump was a narcissist who had no interest in defending the Constitution, or in anything but himself; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying this, yet it was true; for I had done the research; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.