Support for Freedom, Civility and the Peaceful Transition of Power: A Noble Vision, Built on Sand

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A preview of the 2017 presidential inauguration (Source)

In the week since the Mormon Tabernacle Choir announced its decision to accept an invitation to perform for the casino magnate and strip club pioneer cum president-elect at his inauguration, an enticing but nevertheless misleading narrative has emerged in response to the kerfluffle:

[T]the choir has performed at five other inaugurations for presidents of both parties, beginning with Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration in 1965, according to a news release from the choir. If the choir had turned down Trump, that would be a partisan decision. It would also open the door to every appearance of the choir being viewed through a political lens, which would add an unnecessary complication to an organization that is committed to spreading goodwill across the globe, regardless of political affiliations. [Source]

The implication is that since the Choir sang for the inauguration of a Democrat over 50 years ago, singing for a nominal Republican in 2017 couldn’t possibly be a partisan decision. I believe the historical record shows that this conclusion is not well founded.

You see, LBJ carried Utah in 1964. This may seem incredible to those of us who grew up after the culture wars heated up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but before Mormons became reliably Republican they used to vote for Democrats all the time, starting with Roosevelt and his New Deal (!) in 1932 and continuing on through 1948 with Truman. A Johnson win in 1964 was not out of character with Utah politics at the time, so the fact that a notable Utah choir would sing for Utah’s candidate who made it to the White House is hardly a generous gesture of studied non-partisanship across the political divide–it’s just celebrating the victory of your man in the race.

Of course, a single data point doesn’t make a trend, so let’s continue our historical survey. Since 1968 the string of Utah victories for Republican presidential candidates has been unbroken. And when the candidate who carried Utah became president, the Choir performed for that man: Richard M. Nixon (1969), Ronald W. Reagan (1981), George H. W. Bush (1989), George W. Bush (2001) and now Donald J. Trump (2017).

I don’t have a fundamental problem with supporters celebrating their win and feting their candidate. If the Choir were off to Washington to represent all that is great about Utah and conservative politics it might still offend the thin-skinned liberals who feel that the Choir should represent more than that, but it is an argument that would at least hew closer to the historical record.

But that’s not what the church spokesman is claiming:

The choir’s participation continues its long tradition of performing for U.S. presidents of both parties at inaugurations and in other settings, and is not an implied support of party affiliations or politics. It is a demonstration of our support for freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power.

This is a noble vision, but one that I’m afraid is built upon a foundation of sand. In the same article linked above, the reporter noted that

The invitation to participate in a sixth inauguration grew out of a visit to the Mormon Tabernacle on historic Temple Square in September by Donald Trump Jr.

[…]

Peay said Trump Jr. took a one-hour tour of Temple Square in September with Gentry Beach, a Dallas investor who was a key Trump fundraiser, and Mark Geist, a Marine who was part of the annex security team in Benghazi, Libya, when the U.S. government facility was attacked in 2012. The group also included Ret. Gen. Robert C. Oaks, a former general authority Seventy of the LDS Church.

Yes, that Gentry Beach, one of the guys selling access to the newly-minted President Trump at the “Opening Day 2017” event the day after his inauguration. It turns out that Mark Geist endorsed Trump long before it was cool, and of course we all know what the former ecclesiastical leader Robert C. Oaks thinks about the president-elect: “Trump’s values are solid, he believes in family, country, military strength and individual rights, and he is willing to put forth the required efforts to protect these values.”

Given the partisan provenance of this invitation I have a hard time believing that the men involved in the Choir’s decision to accept were motivated solely by freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power. All of those things can be celebrated in ways that don’t endorse the man who spent his campaign railing against them.

This isn’t a time for the Choir to jettison principle in order to avoid appearing partisan–that horse has bolted anyway. Then again, that’s easy for me to say–I don’t have much skin in the game, just the reputation of a Church for which I’ve devoted most of my adult life to  support. Certainly not as much as Jan Chamberlain, who took the difficult choice to resign membership in a choir she loved before compromising her own values.

Look, if conservative members of the Church want to fete a man whose “values are solid,” that’s up to them. But let’s not turn tacit endorsement of the man who boasts about his sexual conquests of women using language that filtering services were built to protect us from into anything more than another example of the sway politics has over principle. You know, lest we put darkness for light, and light for darkness.

Comments

  1. My understanding is that the choir was not invited to perform for the President Clinton or President Obama inaugurations, and that if they would have been invited then they would have gladly accepted. I would imagine that if Hilary Clinton would have won and invited them to perform then they surely would. If this is correct, then is not your argument what is built on sand? (If it makes any difference I voted third party).

    And as I posted recently, is this not as much an endorsement of Mormonism as much if not more than an endorsement of a president? Who did the inviting?

  2. Would there be the same intellectual political gymnastics if the choir was invited to sing at a Hillary inauguration? Sadly, I don’t think so.

    Many people in Jesus’s day condemned him for mingling with the publicans and sinners. Now they condemn the church and the choir for singing to and with publicans and sinners.

    It just might be possible that the Mormon Tabernacle choir, while singing at the inauguration of President Trump, may start the healing process of unifying our country again. This is a great missionary opportunity and the church should definitely participate in this world wide event.

  3. I agree that this *could* be an effort to begin healing and missionary work, but I highly doubt it given how divided church members have been during this election. What I don’t understand is people’s lack of ability to understand why people feel MOTAB represents them as church members and why they may be upset the choir is seemingly endorsing a candidate they find morally reprehensible. I know several people who would blow an equal amount of gaskets if MOTAB were singing for Obama or HR Clinton. Can’t there be an acknowledgment we’re allowed to not be happy with this decision without being told we’re pouting or overreacting or misunderstanding? And I wish the Church would stop pretending it’s not partisan. If that were really true Bishops wouldn’t get nearly as many letters telling church members how to vote. This is a partisan move. The political minority of the church are allowed to disagree with this move. I’m just really *excited* to spend the next few months convincing my non LDS friends that Mormonism and being a Trump supporter are not one in the same, even though the choir that represents my faith endorsed him with their talents, because that’s what I feel they’re doing, regardless of any PR statement.

  4. I don’t think the choir should sing at any inauguration. Never should have started. And I believe the pattern of singing for inaugurations of presidents who carried Utah is damning regarding the “endorsement of what?” debate. I am torn by what to do now that we’re in this mess, and ultimately persuaded that to pull out is worse than going forward.
    But what I really want to say is that all too many of the commenters and the decicision makers are willing, even happy, to endorse Trump (wherever their individual vote went). That’s what the OP speaks to — that an endorsement is what’s really happening notwithstanding the cover stories being told.
    As for the what ifs (about a hypothetical Clinton inauguration) they ring hollow. The single most consistent political line regarding Utah in this election was that it was a “never Hilary” state. If she had been elected and the choir had been asked and accepted, the protest cries out of Utah would have been heard three states away.

  5. Grant Hardy says:

    It’s easy to argue hypotheticals–I imagine the choir would have gladly sung at the inaugurations of Obama or Clinton had they been invited, which might have happened if Utah had been part of the winning coalition (inaugurations are, by definition, celebrations for winners and their supporters). But all that is rather beside the point. Let’s talk about what will actually happen on Jan. 20th. Will the prominent participation of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir “start the healing process” with Mexico and the 1.4 million Latter-day Saints who live in that country, which was repeatedly denigrated and threatened by Donald Trump on his road to the White House, and which is very worried about the fallout from a Trump administration? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir belongs to, and represents Mexican Latter-day Saints just as much as it does those of us in the United States.

  6. One thing I find interesting about this site is how so many authors of articles take the quotes and opinions of one or two people and then try to apply them to the general wickedness of all mormons. Definitely a lot of unnecessary axe grinding here. I voted third party so i wasn’t a fan of either candidate. Trump is disgusting and a horrible man. No argument there.

    But just because the choir is singing doesn’t mean they are supporting or endorsing him as a wonderful person. And just because a couple LDS people like Trump doesn’t mean the rest do either. It’s called civility and diplomacy. When I worked at the State dept I had the opportunity to meet Hilary Clinton in a personal setting. I am not a fan of her policies or personality either. But I went and was cordial and nice. Just because I accepted her invitation, talked to her, sat in the same room, and was civil about the meeting we had didn’t mean I endorsed her, thought she was an amazing person, or was excusing any of her political failings. I didn’t care for Obama and his presidency but if marching band or lds representative went to a function of his it didn’t mean that they now supported gay marriage, abortion, or whatever other political or person disagreements or distastes I may have had with the man or his party. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much I am worried about with Trump, but a choir singing and accepting an invitation is the least of our problems. If this is the biggest concern people have in their lives or about the church, you either have to much free time on your hands or live a pretty charmed life with not much else better to do.

  7. intellectual political gymnastics

    Wait, I’m not the one trying to justify lending the good offices of the Church to a man who embodies an approach to life that takes the grinding of the faces of the poor as a sound business practice. The president-elect may be a publican in this sense, but if your take of Christ’s mission as outlined in the New Testament is that it calls for the endorsement of powerful men with checkered pasts, one wonders why the MTC has refrained to date from mining these golden missionary opportunities.

  8. Great post Peter. For what it’s worth, I totally agree. Being LDS outside of the US, especially the Happy Valley areas, gives us a much wider view of what impression the choir’s appearance promotes. And it leaves a very bad taste. 🍪👑

  9. While most of the discussion is revolving around whether the MoTab would accept a democratic invitation, let’s not forgot that the democratic presidents are the ones not extending the invitation in the first place, and that it’s plausible that in the year 2016, participation by the MoTab would probably be met with howls of protests from DNC’s base on the left. In other words, many of them wouldn’t want us. Let that sink in. Democrats are more likely to discriminate against an otherwise qualified president because they’re Mormon. (And don’t you dare follow up with yes, but…[insert some justification for shutting out the MoTab from civil society for ideological reasons]).

    One possible silver lining from the Trump debacle is that maybe some on the left won’t be as preoccupied with ideological purity because their faith-based reliance on the Direction of History has been shaken.

  10. Sarah thinks that fighting for righteousness and justice is evidence that a person lives a “pretty charmed life with not much else better to do”? The Church should probably put that in the For Strength of Youth booklet then. You only need to choose the right if your decision couldn’t be seen as evidence that you’re not sufficiently busy with other things.

    I don’t envy the church this public relations nightmare.

    I don’t envy the church having to work through why it looks to puzzled observers like they’re acting like the political wing of the Oaks family.

    I don’t envy the leaders of the church having to figure out how to move forward. Are there any lessons to be learned from the Book of Mormon descriptions of times of great dissension and division in the church?

  11. “Democrats are more likely to discriminate against an otherwise qualified president because they’re Mormon.”

    Romney’s run for office? Huckabee (prominent Republican politician) spouted anti-Mormon stuff. Other big shots in the Republican party called Mormonism a cult, etc. etc.

    In 2011, Joe Biden said the following about Romney’s faith: “I find it preposterous that in 2011 we’re debating whether or not a man is qualified or worthy of your vote based on whether or not his religion … is a disqualifying provision. It is not. It is embarrassing and we should be ashamed, anyone who thinks that way,”

    If you have evidence of prominent Democrat politicians discriminating against people because they’re Mormon, I’d love to hear about it. But that seems to be something that only occurs in the Republican primaries.

  12. Is there any credible evidence that the Choir was invited or not to the Democrat inaugurations? I keep hearing, “they would have if invited”, but I have my doubts. I also believe the outcry would have been much, much larger if HRC were elected and the Choir accepted an invitation to go.

    The invitation itself seems lackluster, sending out a few low rankers to patronizingly say how nice “you Mormons” do things after so many others declined the invitation. And, after we get our invitation, we gush as if it’s an honor to get included.

    This is what bothers me most; that we want so much to be accepted it doesn’t matter how little they think of us.

  13. Here’s Gallup data using the “otherwise qualified” question: http://www.gallup.com/poll/155273/bias-against-mormon-presidential-candidate-1967.aspx

    Also, feeling thermometer responses from the ANES (figure 1 and table 1).
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/38152874/Mormon_paper.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ56TQJRTWSMTNPEA&Expires=1483117121&Signature=NACqPm4%2FL6%2B8mQBxvUtXatkb0zA%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DAttitudes_Toward_Mormons_and_Voter_Behav.pdf

    Of course, I bet that if it were Reid versus Trump they wouldn’t walk the walk, and who knows how the fact that those surveys were taken during the Romney presidential run affects the results, but overall I think there’s evidence that the left has a bigger problem with Mormonism right now.

  14. @Tim, I’m a mormon democrat, but it is pretty clear the political left has problems with religious tolerance – or rather, it has no problem tolerating religion as long as that religion is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, etc. The Atlantic just did an article on the problem the democratic party has reaching out to faith groups and it is worth reading. Now I happen to *be* pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, but I do wish the democratic party could be less militant and widen its ideological tent.

  15. In addition to Frank’s question, I’ve seen a number of commenters in various venues suggesting that people that question this move by the choir are not following the prophet because President Monson approved this. Perhaps I’ve missed where the Newsroom has stated that President Monson approved the choir performance. Can anyone confirm or deny? Is President Monson on record anywhere asking people to support this performance?

  16. Question for the bloggernacle: does anyone know if the choir is compensated for performing? A friend of mine suggested that any proceeds could be donated to offset the apparent endorsement (to groups benefitting refugees or survivors of sexual abuse for example). I’ve never heard of the choir being paid, but I’m sure there are a lot of expenses related to performing that have to be paid for somehow. Gotta buy those magenta muumuus…

  17. A#4- Complaining on a blog isn’t exactly fighting for righteousness and justice. We voted, we campaigned, I protested very hard against Trump, that was my fight for righteousness, but he is now a reality we have to deal with and work with if we want to do anything else politically. And as you mentioned, this is a PR nightmare that church leaders have to deal with, not us. They made a decision and they are doing the best they can. Complaining and questioning the leadership of the brethren is not “fighting for justice.” And really no matter what they decided someone was going to be pissed and all things considered, the only people really complaining are a small group of disillusioned left leaning church members. The rest of us aren’t excited or happy, its just another gig and they are possibly building good relations with someone who we have to deal with now, whether we like it or not.

    If you want to talk about justice, who a choir sings for is really pretty nil compared to the MANY other problems around the world that you really could be advocating for if you are truly concerned about fighting for righteousness and justice. Plus, how many other horrible leaders or people do the church have to work with on a regular basis around the world to ensure the church has a voice, missionaries, and services in those places? How many dictators or corrupt politician do we have to negotiate with, teach, and attempt to influence in order to have them let the church even exist in their countries? If we refused to talk to or be seen with every bad man or woman out there the church wouldn’t get much done. Trump is just one in a long list of many we have work with.

    And if we want to play the holier then thou, what would a true christian do card like peterllc did above; even though we may dislike him is he not a child of God? Does he not deserve forgiveness? Can we stand in judgement of him or the decisions of the brethren to send the choir? He hasn’t even taken office and done anything but the hatred for him and any who voted for him on this blog and the left is just as bad as his hate. A little ironic if you ask me.

    Again, not my choice at all either, but this very simple act of a choir singing is being blown way out of proportion. Save you real kicking and screaming for the real travesties he does when they come and let the brethren make the decision for the church and have a little faith this will turn out ok.

  18. It’s called civility and diplomacy. When I worked at the State dept…

    Did you have any experience with diplomatic protocol in your time with State? I mean, sure, part of being diplomatic means leaving a little ambiguity to allow all participants to go home with the interpretation they need, but one thing we can be absolutely sure of is that this inauguration will be orchestrated to the last detail. Some elements will be routine and matter of course but the choice of entertainment is not, especially in light of the A-list rejection of the president-elect. If the president-elect’s team had any doubt whether the MoTab would show up and go all Femen on him by calling him to repentance you can bet they wouldn’t be invited.

  19. I believe we are focusing on the wrong narrative. Instead of being apolitical, the choir is singing praises to both political parties. The United States will accomplish ANOTHER bloodless transition of power, and that means the out-going Democrats deserve praise for taking the loss so well. I like to think that the Choir is going to sing as a measure of gratitude to the Obama Administration for stepping down.

    History has taught us the lesson that relinquishing power is difficult. We should be grateful that the situation is not MUCH worse than a morally deficient gas-bag taking office.

  20. And if we want to play the holier then thou, what would a true christian do card like peterllc did above; even though we may dislike him is he not a child of God? Does he not deserve forgiveness? Can we stand in judgement of him or the decisions of the brethren to send the choir?

    What a mess of red herrings. Of course the president-elect is a child of God who deserves forgiveness. And yes, we can and should stand in judgment of him. None of that speaks to whether the Choir should endorse him, however. And even if the Choir’s mission was individual, one-on-one ministry, it would be fair to question the judgment of anyone who thought a party hosted by the president-elect would be the appropriate time and place to circumvent the process of repentance and the ordinance of baptism to offer him forgiveness.

  21. We should be grateful that the situation is not MUCH worse than a morally deficient gas-bag taking office.

    True, though given the long history of bloodless transitions in the United States–which happened both with and without our celebrated Choir–this is damning by faint praise indeed of what there is to celebrate here.

  22. Haha, love it petterllc, just one red herring responding to another!

  23. PeterLLC,

    I think you have to put yourself in the mindset of a traditional, conservative American, the kind of people that live in Utah and run the choir… a President invites the choir to perform, you accept. To decline would be a major break with your worldview and highly offensive. Even if you think that President is a horrible human being, which many Mormons do, even in Utah. For someone like me, it is easier to perform for the ceremony itself, despite my extreme dislike of Trump than it is to politicize the choir and reject the office of the Presidency and the Constitution.

    But like others, I really think the church was in a “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” type of situation. There would be controversy no matter the choice… but in my mind, this is the less risky, “stick with precedent” choice to make.

  24. After the tempestuous tea pot settles down, about 3:00 p.m. on January 20th, nobody will remember what the choir sang or that it sang at all and Mormons can join the rest of the world in not giving a damn. Nobody except Mormons cared for 30 seconds that the MoTabs sang at the SLC Olympic Games and nobody will care that the MoTabs sang at the Trumpinauguration (I’ve registered that trademark, folks). Just like nobody but their mothers will care that the Palookaville (Pa.) High School Marching Band was in the parade.

    But I do have a suggestion about their music: if they do sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, they should sing “He has sounded forth the Trump-Pence that shall never call retreat.” If Elton John can tweak the lyrics of Candle in the Wind at Princess Diana’s funeral, the MoTabs should be able to do the same at the Trumpinauguration.

  25. Mark, you’ve been saving that one up for a long time, haven’t you? ;)

  26. John Mansfield says:

    Just wait until a member of the First Presidency hands Trump a book of his genealogy, giving LDS endorsement to the lie that Trump isn’t a bastard. There will be some hand waving by apologists that, due to his parents’ marriage, he technically isn’t.

  27. Amen Mark B. Finally a voice of reason

  28. “Is President Monson on record anywhere asking people to support this performance?”

    ROFL!!!!!! It’s like children playing politics or something. You all are so cute.

  29. That’s not playing at politics, Andrew, that’s a crowdsourcing request for people to check a claim that is being made with some frequency. Those that are making that claim seem so very sure of themselves but never provide a citation, so I’m sure we would all be happy to see a citation for the claim. Can anyone provide one?

  30. Actually, Kristine, I thought that up right after Pence was announced. (And I have witnesses.) But I had to keep it quiet lest anyone think I wanted it to come true.

  31. I’m one of Mark B.’s witnesses to his “sounding forth the Trump-Pence” thing.

    And I don’t care whether anybody else in the entire world remembers the Choir’s participation moments after it concludes. *I* will remember it. *I* will feel just as betrayed, just as sucker punched, as when I saw the first announcement.

  32. N. W. Clerk says:

    I wish the management would settle on one position on this whole “standing in judgment” thing. If it’s now OK, I have a thing or two I’d like to say about Miles Davis’s lifestyle.

  33. Great post, Peter. It’s a tangent, but I disagree that the President-Elect deserves forgiveness. None of us deserves forgiveness. It’s only offered by grace and it’s inherently undeserved. That’s neither here nor there with respect to the choir issue, though.

  34. “And I don’t care whether anybody else in the entire world remembers the Choir’s participation moments after it concludes. *I* will remember it. *I* will feel just as betrayed, just as sucker punched, as when I saw the first announcement.”

    Such drama over a musical performance? I don’t get it.

  35. It’s interesting seeing so many people here and elsewhere inventing justifications for the choir supporting the monster by singing praises at the swearing-in ceremony portion of his inauguration. Implicit in all their justifications is the acknowledgement that the church’s official line is poppycock – or at least that the official line omits the true reason. I’ve seen claims without evidence that the choir has never declined an invitation to perform for a U.S. President, but the church doesn’t allege that. I’ve seen claims without evidence that the choir would not decline an invitation to perform no matter who the President-Elect was, but the church doesn’t allege that.

    It seems to me the true facts are pretty simple:

    When Utah (and Mormons as a voting block) supports a presidential candidate and that candidate wins, that candidate customarily invites the choir to sing, and the choir, which is made up of Utahn Mormons who, for the most part, supported that candidate, accepts the invitation – because it supported the candidate, though not overtly.

    Utah supported Trump. Mormons supported Trump. The Choir is made up of Utah Mormons, most of whom supported Trump. And even though the LDS church did not endorse Trump, it did support him by failing to ever say anything negative about him, failing to renounce his conduct, and failing to take any steps whatsoever to encourage its members not to support the conduct and policies that Trump has stood for his entire life and promised to bring to U.S. government as President.

    I have faith that there is a line somewhere that, were a presidential candidate to cross it, the LDS church and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would decline an invitation to perform. It is tragic and saddening that I was wrong in assuming that Trump had already long since crossed that line in hundreds or thousands of different ways.

    I wonder where the line is. I could not previously have imagined a candidate with Trump’s actions and policy proposals winning, let alone winning the support of any significant number of Mormons. So my efforts to imagine where the church and the choir would draw the line are, I think, bound to fail. What if he promised to ban Mormons from entering the United States? What if, as he mused, he shot someone in the street? What if he was a woman? Or gay? I cynically bet those last two would be over the line for the church and the choir.

    An Ensign article from 1972 sets forth a set of qualifying criteria for President:

    “The election of a president is an event in which Latter-day Saints in America take great interest. They believe that theirs is a land “choice above all other lands,” that its Constitution is divinely inspired, and that the American nation has a special destiny. They are particularly concerned, therefore, that the electoral process bring to the highest office in the land wise men who support the principles of the Constitution, who are capable administrators, and who are known for their integrity and exemplary conduct.”

    I note that the only qualification on that list that Trump possesses is that he is a man.

    Is that where the line is? I wonder.

  36. “Such drama over a musical performance? I don’t get it.”

    I know, calling it a celebration of freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power strikes me as overwrought too.

  37. The Church by itself does not get to define the meaning of its participation in the inaugural. That’s not how politics works. Circumstances have changed, and this time around, we don’t get to claim neutrality while performing at the inaugural. Sticking to a story that is so obviously contrary to the political reality is foolish. Maybe we’re dupes, or maybe we’re disingenuous. Either way, it won’t help the Church’s mission.

  38. Left Field says:

    “When Utah (and Mormons as a voting block) supports a presidential candidate and that candidate wins, that candidate customarily invites the choir to sing…”

    To be more precise, the candidate customarily invites the choir to sing if the candidate will be up for reelection in four years. When the candidate is reelected for a second term, the choir never sings, no matter the party or the president.

  39. lastlemming says:

    For the record, if I were a member of the choir, I would sit this one out. But the whole “legitimizing a monster” argument is not a slam dunk. The Washington Post has an article this morning about how a lot of Christians are upset that Paula White will be one of the featured religious figures at the inauguration because her participation will serve to legitimize the prosperity gospel that she preaches. So we have to consider–in which direction does the net legitimization run? (And one can’t claim that any degree of legitimization is unacceptable unless one has packed ones bags for Canada.)

  40. But the whole “legitimizing a monster” argument is not a slam dunk.

    You’re right of course; I’m proceeding from an assumption that the Choir is pretty great and that the president-elect is a jerk in making my calculus, but hobnobbing with the president is something people are willing to pay money for.

  41. Surely personal revelation is more than capable of solving this conundrum and providing a consistent, unified answer to all members who would ask to know the truth of the matter with a sincere heart.

    Right?

  42. I am not in the US but have watched events related to the election with interest and concern. For me this is like no previous election I can recall with far more controversy over a president elects character and behaviour. I know the MTC singing at an inauguration is not theoretically an endorsement of the president but this time around somehow things are different. On a personal note I just hope none of my non member family notice the MTC performing and ask me questions as won’t know what to say in the church’s defence… saying the church is politically neutral etc sounds fake unfortunately.

  43. “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir belongs to, and represents Mexican Latter-day Saints just as much as it does those of us in the United States.”

    So true! This is why the tone deafness of this decision is so difficult to stomach. People making the decisions continue to treat the Church as a Wasatch Front organization when we should long since have begun incorporating the idea that it is truly global.

  44. I agree with Tim (8:53am) and must observe Democrats are much more likely to protect Mormons rights as a minority religion widely despised by GOP Evangelical Christians than are Republicans.

  45. Thanks Ardis (11:59 am), that was really well said.

  46. “I have faith that there is a line somewhere that, were a presidential candidate to cross it, the LDS church and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would decline an invitation to perform. It is tragic and saddening that I was wrong in assuming that Trump had already long since crossed that line in hundreds or thousands of different ways.”

    sgnm, that really resonates — thank you for putting that so directly and clearly.

  47. “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir belongs to, and represents Mexican Latter-day Saints just as much as it does those of us in the United States.”

    I don’t know. I want to agree with this. In theory it is true. But in reality….? Isn’t one of our favorite accolades having it called “America’s Choir” by Reagan. Certainly when he said this he didn’t mean any America outside of the US borders. And how many of the choir members live outside of Utah? Does the church recruit singers in Mexico? Or Canada for that matter? Or Brazil? It seems to me that when it comes right down to it the choir is a group of Utah Mormons singing under the banner of the global church.

  48. “When the candidate is reelected for a second term, the choir never sings, no matter the party or the president.”

    This is true. The invitation definitely *is* and always has been exclusively politically motivated. It would seem to follow that if the invitation is by its very nature politically calculated, so is the acceptance.

  49. The Church should stay out of politics absolutely. Except when I want them to. Then, they should stridently support *my* position.

    This goes for MOTAB, too.

  50. Professor Lockhart says:

    The choir didn’t get rid of the Hillary Banshee by smiling at her.

  51. Professor Lockhart says:

    It would have been better if the choir sang for Clinton. After all, Bill respects the agency of the women he assaults, as demonstrated when he assaulted Paula Jones by exposing his erect penis and asking her to “kiss it”. Trump just grabs them.

  52. We are part of a global church. By the logic of our dear leaders, MoTab should be expected to sing for the likes of any global leader; Valdimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad (think of the missionary work we could do in Syria!) or perhaps the lovely Kim Jung Un.

    OR…. maybe we should just rethink this whole singing on demand thing for people of power/events and traditions we don’t want to be associated with because the optical liability is horrifying.

  53. All this outrage from democrats not accepting the results of the election is HILARIOUS! Especially given that fact that the same democrats were just as outraged when Trump refused to state that he would accept the result if he lost. I see no self reflection or introspection from the democrat party. Who still talk down to the “racist, sexist, homophobe, and hateful” bigots that voted for Trump.

  54. Sorry (not sorry) to complicate your simplistic worldview, Mark L, but quite a few commenting here or elsewhere or not commenting anywhere but still concerned about this event are Republican or unaffiliated with a political party, or are international members of the Church.

  55. The Church has made its views on religious freedom and tolerance, and on providing relief and aid to refugees, abundantly clear and the Tabernacle Choir singing at the inauguration of the President of the United States of America will not diminish those views. As representatives of the Savior’s Church, inviting the Spirit through inspirational music to this ceremony has the power to influence for good, and to change hearts and minds. I have very unsettled feelings and concerns about our new President, and as a result I am especially grateful that the Choir will have the unique ability to bring the Spirit into this important and momentous day. I do not believe that it would have been the same opportunity to have a positive influence on the new administration by turning down this invitation.

  56. Mark B., Kristine, and John Mansfield thanks for making this thread laugh out loud funny with those three comments.

  57. rebeccadalmas says:

    My thoughts on this whole thing:

    1) Whether you approve, disapprove, or don’t care, this is a big deal. We live in perilious times and actions taken even by a few can shape the narrative and information used to make future decisions.

    2) This does seem partisan as does the choir’s general history of singing at inaugurations.

    3) Appearances do matter. Consider how many rules the Church make good impressions: modesty, missionaries wearing sunglasses, wearing only one earring in each ear, etc…!

    4) As a lifelong conservative and NeverTrumper opposing him because of his base unfitness to serve in public office, the day I heard this, it personally felt like a punch in the gut.

    5) I believe in the potential for good and I accept the possibility of good coming out of this, however slim I believe that to be, but as of now I think it looks like the LDS Church is endorsing Donald Trump and all he’s stood for.

    6) In effect, this besmirches the Church’s reputation, puts ugly words in its mouth, and corroborates terrible accusations of sexism and closemindedness against the Church, while also contributing to the disinformation spread by Trump himself, his doublespeak and inherent dishonesty.

    I will always hope that good will yield good fruit, but unfortunately this action so far looks spoiled and rotten.

  58. To all those who have negative things to say about our president elect or the MTC singing at his inagaration I have one thing to say, he that hath no sin cast the first stone.

  59. rebeccadalmas says:

    Rask, evaluating Trump’s unfitness for public office is not comparable to stoning a woman for adultery. How much are people going to blink away the reality of civic duty in order to support the man?

  60. 1. Missionary opportunity? We haven’t sung for a democrat in over *half a century*, and that was before the civil rights act was passed. President Benson was George Wallace’s running-mate in ’68 (yes, THAT Wallace), the PH ban wasn’t removed until ’78, and now we are singing for a known alt-right (racist) infused administration. It seems like we’ve been sending a clear racist message over a very long period of time. That’s not a good missionary work!!!

    I don’t understand why we zealously rush into missionary opportunities without stopping to think about consequences or use wisdom. It blows up in our faces. We are even willing to let go of the bird in hand for the two in the bush, by stomping on the testimonies of Mormon democrats, Mexican Mormons, Black Mormons, other Mormons of color etc. for the mere chance of grabbing new recruits from a tv broadcast. At some point we have to recognize that if we can’t respect each other and we are even willing to cut bait (alienate with politics) on our covenented brothers and sisters, we have no $&@) business recruiting others. If the testimonies or the fellowship of sexually abused women and discriminated minorities are worth so little that we blithely risk extinguishing, why do we pretend we can kindle other testimony flames? We are such poor stewards, why would God trust us with others?

    While we’re on the topic of a missionary opportunity, why can’t the MTC sing for a laudable person? For example, why not sing at the Special Olympics, or the Tomb of the unknown soldier on Memorial Day, at the Boston Proud anniversary, or for little Jimmy’s last chemo treatment? Oh yeah, this is about power, politics, and visibility.

    By all means, be a diplomat, attend meetings and be civil, but you don’t have to throw roses before Hitler – or in this case ship a nearly 400 person choir thousands of miles on our own dime. That’s not just diplomacy, that’s endorsement and a massive kiss-up. (And yes, I will remember. I remember Cheney speaking at BYU commencement, and I will remember this.)

    Oh yes, you remind me that this is a “neutral celebration of a peaceful transition of power.” Well, Hitler was elected and the world has seen its share of bloodless coups, so should we sing at all of those transitions as long as we wave the flag? No, the answer is no.

    One more thing. We aren’t judging Trump spiritually, we are holding him to the standards set by our founders for a high position of leadership. I wouldn’t hire he-who-must-not-be-named to work at a gas station based on his behavior, let alone allow him to work in any government post. No, this isn’t about “forgiving”, it’s about qualifications, temperament, actions, and track-record for a job. We have every right to scrutinize him in this capacity. Take your sanctimonious finger-pointing somewhere else and do your duty to support Lincoln-like men and women, statesmen and women with experience, character, and commitment to country. Don’t conflate this American evaluative responsibility with carte blanche forgiveness. Apples and oranges.

  61. Ezra Taft Benson was not George Wallace’s running mate. (It was Curtis LeMay.) By some accounts, though, Benson was willing to do it, and Wallace considered it.

    I agree with most of what Mortimer says about the Church’s politics. It’s time for us to move beyond our history of association with the radical conservative fringe. It’s also time for us to move beyond our desperate need to be liked. The Church’s mission is not well served when we enact this silly charade of citing protocol and claiming that we are politically neutral, etc., etc. All that stuff only bogs us down. We need to realize that we’ve grown up enough to act like adults. We can do just fine without trying to appease the tyrant.

  62. To be clear, when I say that we should move beyond our history of association with the radical conservative fringe, I don’t mean that we should pretend it never happened. I mean that we should stop associating with the radical conservative fringe. See as how we’ll have a president who was elected with support from the radical conservative fringe, this would be an especially good time to figure out where we stand. A good time to really grow up.

  63. I know that I am jumping in late. I don’t visit sites like this one daily.

    I first must say that I am deeply unhappy that our Mormon Tabernacle Choir is singing for President-elect Trump’s inauguration. But I must also say that I was and am a “never-Trumper” so perhaps my opinion can be disregarded.

    I would be much happier if we sang for both D’s and R’s. But we don’t. Of course we sang for LBJ. The pattern since then has been R’s only and no D’s.

    It is easy to say that the D’s don’t invite the MTC. This is surely the case. But I don’t understand the process for being invited. It may not be so simple.

    It seems possible to me that in invitation is a process. A state leader, such as Orrin Hatch, may contact the inauguration committee and suggest the MTC. This may occur only after that state leaders has checked with the church. Thus the church has already agreed to the invitation before it is actually extended. This kind of process seems likely to me.

    With no significant Democratic representation in the state, it may be possible that the process for getting the MTC invited never gets properly started. I can imagine that someone like Senator Hatch would not want to see the MTC sing at Obama’s inauguration for example. Senator Hatch would not like to see our state and our people celebrate Mr. Obama’s success. As primary political players our state government officials would not want to see our Mormon faith as supportive of the other side. Thus the invitation never gets extended.

    Does anyone not think that Mr. Trump will see this as a sign of Mormon support for him? Not for the office, not for the event, but for him? Mr. Trump appears to me to be only interested in himself. If he says anything about the choir, it will likely be a compliment to the choir (“Great choir… the best… wonderful people) but in a way that makes it clear that they are here for him.

    Of course, he will be right. Mormon’s voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump.

    We deserve him.