Mormon Tabernacle Choir & The Trump Inauguration
By Ken K. Gourdin
Former Mormon Tabernacle Choir member Jan Chamberlin staged a very public protest by posting a letter on Facebook resigning from the choir following the Choir’s agreement to perform at the inauguration of U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump. The Choir has a history of performing for presidents of both major U.S. political parties.
To be sure, I share many of Sister Chamberlin’s reservations about the president-elect. Character counts, and neither Mr. Trump’s public conduct nor his private conduct conforms to the standards I expect from the leader of the free world. However, this election presented the American electorate with a Hobson’s choice, the likes of which has rarely if ever been seen in the annals of U.S. electoral politics, as the same thing can be said (albeit for different reasons, and perhaps to a lesser degree) of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (For the record, I did not vote for either one of them.)
However, I am disappointed with Sister Chamberlin’s choice because it needlessly exposes the Choir as a whole, along with its sponsoring faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to negative publicity, as well as throwing her fellow Choir members under the bus. (The Church of Jesus Christ was in a no-win situation: Whether it accepted or rejected Mr. Trump’s invitation, those who disagree with the decision would see it as political: in my mind, better to take the high road and accept such an invitation.)
Members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are called as missionaries of the Church for the duration of their terms. (I’m unsure if the length of the call varies, but the longest a member of the Choir can serve is 20 years). In situations such as this, only a portion of Choir members would travel to perform, and Sister Chamberlain had the option of simply declining to be part of that contingent.
Dan Peterson reached much the same conclusion on his blog, Sic et non, at Patheos, available here and last accessed January 2, 2017:
To another poster who said that Sister Chamberlin’s only choice was to resign publically, I responded:
So … the [Mormon Tabernacle Choir] and the Church of Jesus Christ have, historically, had a politically neutral approach and have been given to bipartisanship, yet now, all of a sudden, those things are “evil”? Sorry, but that simply doesn’t wash. If Sister Chamberlin doesn’t wish to sing at Mr. Trump’s inaugural, that’s certainly her prerogative; even if her reason for not doing so is that, somehow, it “supports evil,” it’s still her prerogative. I certainly can understand her antipathy toward Mr. Trump, as can a sizable portion of the electorate, including this Blog’s originator. But I don’t buy your logic that withdrawing silently, or declining to be among the contingent of the Choir selected to sing at the inaugural is the equivalent of “doing nothing.” (By the way, Sis. Chamberlin had been called on a mission by a Prophet of God: I wasn’t aware that was a commission from which one could simply resign (perhaps much to the consternation of not a few of my erstwhile mission companions)?) While it’s certainly not a blow from which these institutions won’t recover, In gaining her fifteen minutes of individual fame, Sister Chamberlin has needlessly damaged the Church of Jesus Christ and the Choir. Singing at the inaugural is intended to support the Country and the peaceful transition of power. Even if the Country and the candidate/president-elect have their flaws, as all do, that peaceful transition and many (I daresay most) of the things for which the Country stands still are worth celebrating and supporting.