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