By Tom Milligan
My entire family is Mormon.
My siblings, my parents, my aunts & uncles (on both sides), my grandparents, great grandparents and beyond.
Church history is replete with stories of my ancestors. We’re all in.
But it’s not just my family. It’s me.
I served a two-year mission. I wore the name tag. I rode the bike. I preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I loved every minute of it because I have a testimony of the mission of Jesus Christ, that he’s my Savior, and that his sacrifice opens the door to eternal life for all of us.
I’m not a perfect man. I’m a sinner. Like many, my faith has been tested and my participation in the Church and the Gospel has had its ups and downs. But I’ve always maintained basic principles of decency and honesty.
Like everyone who’s ever lived, I need the Atonement of Christ.
Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and left us a perfect Gospel, but the Church – administered by imperfect men – is not perfect. This fact is on display throughout the New Testament as the Apostles struggled to keep the imperfect Church intact after Christ’s crucifixion.
And I believe that fact is on display again today.
Since its early days, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (AKA Mormons or LDS church) has eschewed politics and has gone to great lengths to remain apolitical. In fact, about a month before every US election, a letter from church leaders is posted to the Church’s website and read in every congregation reiterating the Church’s political neutrality, encouraging every member to participate in the vote, and reminding its members that, “Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties, and members should seek candidates who best embody those principles.”
Earlier this week, in direct opposition to that letter, it was announced that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will perform at the inauguration of Donald J Trump.
This won’t be the first time the Choir will perform at a presidential inauguration. In fact, the Choir has performed at the inaugurations of five US Presidents including Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. In 2001, Ronald Reagan called The Mormon Tabernacle Choir “America’s Choir”.
These performances, the history, and the fame of the choir make it perhaps the most famous and visible representation of the LDS church.
Make no mistake; the actions of the Choir represent the Church as a whole.
While I applaud the talent, dedication, and patriotism of every one of the 360 volunteer members of the Choir, I ask the Church: which of Trump’s principles are compatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Is it his fidelity to marriage?
His track record of bearing false witness?
His incessant lying?
His creative stealing?
His coveting of other men’s wives and possessions?
His status as a proud sexual predator?
My critics on both sides of the argument will say that the Choir’s participation in Trump’s inaugural is not about Trump or about politics. It’s about honoring the United States and the peaceful transition of power.
Donald J Trump has made EVERYTHING about Donald J Trump and about politics.
It is impossible to participate in a celebration of Donald J Trump without it being about Donald J Trump and his politics. This reality is what has made it nearly impossible for Trump’s team to book top talent for the inaugural.
Trump’s team is so panicked, they’ve brought in high-powered producer Mark Burnett to pull off a miracle and are reported to be “willing to pay almost anything.” According to The Wrap, “The bookers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were approached by members of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee in recent weeks with offers of cash or even plush diplomatic posts in exchange for locking in singers.”
Offers of cash, ambassadorships, and who knows what else didn’t convince Elton John, Celine Dion, KISS, and many others; making the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Radio City Rockettes the co-headliners for the Trump administration.
The Rockettes’ decision to participate prompted one Rockette to publicly rant, “Finding out that it has been decided for us that Rockettes will be performing at the Presidential inauguration makes me feel embarrassed and disappointed.”
The Choir’s decision sparked the hashtag #MoTabSetlist where the titles of LDS Hymns and patriotic songs have been modified to match how most principled Americans feel about Trump.
By agreeing to participate in the celebration of Donald Trump, the Choir AND the Church have shown that standing up for Christlike values and principles is a thing of the past and have now forfeited their right to deliver a message of principles.
I pray the Church will rescind its decision to perform and will stand for the principles I’ve known my entire life.