FairMormon Questions: How can the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing at the US Presidential Inauguration and put the stamp of religious approval on that event?

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FairMormon has a service where questions can be submitted and they are answered by volunteers. If you have a question, you can submit it at http://www.fairmormon.org/contact. We will occasionally publish answers here for questions that are commonly asked, or are on topics that are receiving a lot of attention. The question below has been rewritten to maintain confidentiality.

Question: How can the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing at the US Presidential Inauguration and put the stamp of religious approval on that event?

Answer from FairMormon volunteer Craig Foster:

I am only a volunteer at FairMormon and, therefore, my comments are my own and do not represent either the LDS Church or FairMormon. Nor do I or any other member of FairMormon have access to convey messages to the First Presidency regarding the decision to allow the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing at the inauguration.

Still, I saw your message and decided to respond, hoping that I might at least give some thoughts that might prove helpful.

By now, I am sure that most of the country is aware that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has accepted an invitation to sing at Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. There have been mixed reaction both within and without the LDS Church. These reactions have varied in the spectrum from whole-hearted approval to dismay and disapproval.

Some of the strongest disapproval has come from Latter-day Saints, active and inactive, believing and non-believing. While most of the criticism appears to have been from those politically liberal and/or Democrat-leaning, it has also crossed political boundaries with some I know to be conservative or Libertarian expressing disapproval. I myself was a Never Trumper and did not vote for Donald Trump. Nevertheless, I approve of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s decision to sing at the inauguration. Let me explain why.

I realize there are those who feel the Tabernacle Choir has given up morality and principle and is stooping low to sing for Trump, etc. Believe me, I have read a number of accusations and insults against the choir, the LDS Church, and practically everything associated with Mormonism all (at least this time) because the choir, when invited to sing at the inaugural, accepted. But please keep in mind that the choir has never turned down an invitation to participate in inaugural celebrations. I do not know their thinking on this matter and, as I have stated, I do not speak for the church. Nevertheless, I can imagine they, as I, view this to be bigger than the man (and hopefully someday, the woman) who holds this office. They probably view it as a patriotic service done for a greater cause.

I have been heavily involved in state and local politics at the grassroots level and more than once I have had misgivings about certain people but have looked at the greater picture of the fabric of our nation. Now, as I stated, I did not vote for Trump. Indeed, I actively campaigned against him because I was offended by his statements regarding women and his view of them, his suggestions on how to treat Muslims – I could go on, believe me. But he was elected and I accept that fact and, like Barack Obama before him, I will give Trump a chance. If he proves me wrong then I will voice strong opposition.

Why can’t the Tabernacle Choir and the LDS Church do the same thing? Why can they not give a showing of good faith, hoping that Trump will realize the important office he holds and will hopefully do the right thing? If the church did less than they could be accused of not showing Christian love and forgiveness and could also be accused of showing partisanship.

The LDS Church has and continues to go out of its way to try to be fair and impartial when dealing with campaigns and elected officials.

In other words, neither the Tabernacle Choir nor the LDS Church are trying to send any other message than one of patriotism, a celebration of America and coming together as Americans.

I know this first hand. As a research specialist at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (thus an employee of the LDS Church) I can vouch that the church does indeed go out of its way to be non-partisan but patriotic and supportive. I have in the past had the honor of working on a number of genealogies the church has given to various dignitaries, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. and Laura Bush, Barack and Michelle Obama. The church has not given these genealogies to these dignitaries as anything other than a sign of courtesy and respect. The church has not tried to play politics, it has tried to be good, to set a good example and hopefully soften and even change hearts by the power of receiving a gift so personal and uplifting as genealogy/family history. Those involved in researching and compiling these genealogies, like Tabernacle Choir members singing, do all they can to hopefully in some way help the recipient/audience feel the power of the Holy Spirit and have their hearts softened for good. So, in spite of the obvious personal failings of some of these people such as Bill Clinton, for example, the church has striven to focus on honoring the office and what it represents rather than the person and to give a message of good.

We as regular members usually do not see the big picture and what might eventually be the greater good of certain actions. For example, we do not know how the power and spirit of the Tabernacle Choir’s singing might soften Donald Trump’s heart and affect him and his later decisions. Perhaps we can give the choir and the church a chance and who knows what good might come from this invitation to sing.

Finally, we are at a very special time of year where we celebrate our Savior’s birth and His redeeming mission. Perhaps we can try to be offended less and pray the worthy hopes and goals of the LDS Church and Tabernacle Choir will succeed and hearts on all sides will be softened and we will have more patience and love for one another.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and my best,

Craig L. Foster

28 thoughts on “FairMormon Questions: How can the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing at the US Presidential Inauguration and put the stamp of religious approval on that event?

  1. Tanya garn

    Well said Craig, well said. I am honored to know you and I share your sentiments exactly. I too didn’t vote for Trump but I am determined to honor the office and the United States of America.

  2. Kanga

    Hi Craig. Thank you for your personal take on this. I too have been deeply troubled by Trump’s rhetoric, policies and personal morality. The choir singing at his inauguration has created a lot of commentary in the media.

    One issue you – and every other North American commentator have all missed – is the way this affects the international church. Trump may be your president elect, but his direct influence end at your borders. The choir, however, represents and international church – its influence is beyond your borders.

    Being from Australia, and knowing many people from other countries, I hold a different perspective than you. Trump is widely viewed negatively, particularly negatively in some parts, and the decision to marry the church to him in this way is in my opinion harmful to the churches missionary efforts and international image.

    Trying to speak to people who are not of our faith has all but been shattered by the church’s response to LGBT issues, however being (seemingly) in Trumps back pocket -given people’s apprehension regarding his personal morality will make such communication all but impossible.

    I believe that within the Usa this will have no real impact either way. But internationally it is a far more complex issue – and one that I am sure was not taken into account in the decision making process

  3. Laralee Nelson

    I also agree and like a comment by another faithful blogger. The Church and choir are making no political statement by accepting the invitation to sing at the inauguration. To decline the invitation would be making a political statement. If Hillary Clinton had won, and invited the choir they would have accepted as well.

    This seems a variation on the attitude the church has had toward the United States and its government since at least the days of Brigham Young. Right after being kicked out of the country, Brigham instructed men of the pioneer companies to volunteer for service in the US Army – the Mormon Battalion. While this brought in needed financial assistance, it also sent a message to the United States. You may have rejected us, but we have not rejected you.

  4. Sheila

    Kanga, I disagree with you. I believe the brethren and the First Presidency know more about how this will affect missionary work than you do. Have faith. This is the Lord’s church and “…he sees the beginning from the end. We, however, live in the muffler’s mortal middle.” -Neal A. Maxwell

  5. Bill Jones

    These comments about changing this mans personality by being nice to him is ludicrous. The spirit can only do that not the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I am from Canada, lived here for 50 years and not seen until now how untrustworthy the American members of the church are to make decisions for the better of the country, not for the party. I will not trust members again and I am one in good standing ( for 72 years). This politicizing of the gospel is personally repugnant.

  6. Richard Lawson

    Well said Bill Jones. While I have not been a member as long as you, I share your feelings 100%. The members of the Church by their actions in this election cycle have undone years of progress in changing the public perception of them.

  7. Mark C

    I’m completely against Trump, but after getting past my initial knee-jerk reaction, and taking time to consider it, I feel this decision by the church is a wise and right decision. I don’t feel this was a politically motivated decision. And pragmatically speaking, certainly it’s smart to be on good terms with someone as potentially dangerous as this new, *choke*, ahem, president. “Wise as serpents, harmless as doves.”

  8. Gerry Flynn

    Interesting perspectives. I had no idea before reading this that the choir’s decision to participate was so controversial. From my point of view, I feel it is a huge compliment to the Church for the choir to be invited to an event of this magnitude. Not only is it an opportunity to showcase the choir but also to recognize the Church as a part of American culture. I see it as a positive reflection of the attitude of the Trump administration toward our Church and religion in general. I am much more hopeful about the incoming administration with the Choir invited than I would be if it were not. I can’t imagine the Church declining an inauguration invitation if it intends to maintain political neutrality. Declining would be an act of politicizing, not accepting.

  9. Kenneth Nielsen

    I am from Canada and an active member of the church. I have no doubts that it was the right decision to accept the invitation. To me it is a win-win situation. The choir and the church have been honoured to participated in the results of and election of a democratically president electwithout taking any side politicallyKenneth nienseaa . We as members of the church in nations other than the United Stateof America, are grateful and are indebted to the people and government of USA for the very existence of the church. Happy and merry Christmas to all.
    Ken Nielsen

  10. George Haws

    Whether or not you voted for Trump, is irrelevant. He is the president elect, and this is an opportunity to spread goodwill and a spirit of patriotism.

  11. Steve

    My daughters marching band marched at the inaugural parade in Jan 2013. Most of the band was strongly for Romney and my own daughter has been shocked by the drastic changes under Obama. They marched and hoped for the best from that leader. They saw even more change after and they were more drastic. They would still march because it is an honor to be present when there is a peaceful change of power and a celebration of our great country,

  12. Keith Ivy

    I agree the choir should preform. I live in Zursh and will be in DC for the inauguration. I reject the premise that Trump needs his “heart softened” at all. We have endured the corrupt likes of zhsrry Reid and an utter fraud in Obama ( having SESKED past records And moreover acting the part for 8 years ) so give me a break.

  13. Sandra Castrini

    Being surrounded by LDS may touch Trump and his peoples’ hearts. Many non members have been influenced and have had the spirit touch their hearts. I believe only good can come of this.

  14. Stavola

    Why shouldn’t they sing??? Not understanding …
    Conservative Christians are the ones who won it for Donald J. Trump… although he was not their first choice he was the only choice. The other candidate would have continued promoting non-Biblical anti- Christian values… abortion…gay marriage….many were one issue voters …the Supreme Court nominees… Mr. Trump will nominate ones who will uphold the Constitution…and religious freedom..both of which have been under attack for the last eight ….yes the Mormon Tabernacle should sing loudly their praises for Donald J. Trump’s election…remember we are all sinners…

  15. Dr_Angel_Face

    Thanks for the article. However I am continually confused by the FAIR “volunteers” as you repeatedly state that you do not speak for the LDS Church yet you are funded by the Church. Wouldn’t that make you agents of the Church? If you are not funded by the LDS church, please publish your financials like all responsible and trustworthy 501C3s do to prove otherwise. This would clear up a lot of confusion.

  16. at

    Angel Face, Why don’t you apologize for your mis-statments and THEN inquire about the 2014 and 2015s. Or you could just try to sweep your mis-statements under the rug, I guess.

  17. Jonathan

    I think it’s wonderful that the MTC has accepted the invitation to sing at the inauguration. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with patriotism. Regardless of how one feels about “The Donald”, he did get elected by the process that has elected virtually every other president since 1788, and whether we like it or not, we are obligated to uphold the law of the land until it is changed by the will of the People.

    The only way to ensure that government remains “of the people, by the people and for the people” is to be actively involved in that government and to examine everything it does to ensure it remains true to the service of “We the People” rather than the rich or powerful or foreign agents.

  18. Dr_Angel_Face

    @AT… The financial statements do not prove nor disprove that the LDS Church (the organization I pay tithing to) is or is not funding them. I asked a candid question but was at least respectful is doing so. I ask that the same maturity, respect, and also candor if necessary that I extended be returned. Much appreciated. Also, I apologize if my sincere question/concern offended anyone. Not my intention. Just wish the Church and FAIR had more transparency and accountability.

  19. Jack

    “How can the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing at the US Presidential Inauguration and put the stamp of religious approval on that event?”

    Is there a logistical problem? Is there not enough space? Are there no risers? No organ? No microphones?

    They could listen to a CD…

  20. Oopsvorsicht

    Would the MTC have performed if the president elect was an openly gay man or woman? I don’t think so.

  21. Bruce Young

    Thanks for your insightful and well stated comment on the issue. Another insightful comment can be found here: https://thebrotherssabey.com/2016/12/23/mormons-and-trump (“Trump’s Mormon (Tabernacle Choir) Problem”).

    As for my own views on the issue, rather than detailing them here, I’ll provide another link: http://secret-memo.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-mormon-tabernacle-choir-and.html

    My main contribution is to suggest that the Church’s non-partisan stance would be more effective if more Church members were as respectful of our elected officials–regardless of party and despite some differences of view–as the Church’s general leaders are.

    I also wonder if the Choir could do anything to help make it clear that performing at the inauguration is not a stamp of approval on Trump or his policies–for instance, singing “This Land Is Your Land,” or singing something in Arabic? Maybe singing “Amazing Grace” or “We Shall Overcome”? Wait: I just thought of the perfect piece–“Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho” (“and the walls came a-tumblin’ down”).

  22. Navysquid

    I am happy that the MTC will be singing at the Trump Inauguration and what a great way for the Church to continue its missionary efforts by just showing up. You know that thousands will Google to look up the MTC and listen to them thus spreading the Gospel.

    As a proud active member of the Church living in AZ, I have been so disappointed in many Utah members in their attitude towards Trump and the Cabinet he has assembled. You have been drinking too much Kool-Aid from the MSM about Trump and he will be one of America’s greatest Presidents when it is finished.

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