Water under the bridge at Christmas

Of course we understand that singing at the inauguration of a president is a boon for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; the choir’s president Ron Jarrett said that the choir would be “honored to be able to serve our country by providing music for the inauguration of our next president.” It is not the first president they ‘sing into office’, and probably not the last one either.

Viewing the change of US president from across the ocean, we from the International Church are puzzled by many aspects. First, of course, the choice of Trump as president, but that is now definitely water under the bridge. Also, to our mild surprise, he was elected by our fellow Mormons in Utah and other areas of the Mormon Corridor, a vote he would never have gotten with the saints in the International Church, not with his track record of racist, sexist, and misogynous remarks, and surely not with his isolationist stand. Once again we realized that there really are two kinds of Mormon churches, the Domestic Church and the International Church, and that we live in different worlds, yet have to live together.

Usually the latter is no problem at all, but now a third issue surfaces: the MTC will sing at Trump’s inauguration. Not only did Utahans snuggle up to Trump, the MTC and by association, the whole church now is doing the same; after all, the choir is an ‘ambassador of the LDS church’. And that church is what we all are! So ‘we’ are all assisting to inaugurate Trump, that is a large lump to swallow! Trump is not ‘our’ president, just the present of the US – in our countries we have our own bunch of populists to hold off.

From his Domestic Mormon standpoint I can imagine why Jarrett accepted the invitation: the choir is honoring an office and a country, his wording is clear. Here a cultural divide shows over the Atlantic ocean. Americans honor the office, with the office holder sharing the positional charisma of his post. For instance in Europe we attribute little positional charisma, one has to earn the respect as office holder. Also, patriotism is a cherished American value, while many parts of the world still suffer the memories of wars fired by patriotism. Once at an MHA conference I cited Samuel Johnson: “Patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel”, a quote that got an absolutely glacial reception of non-understanding. I can understand that, but the Church should rethink the relation between the Gospel and patriotism.

So the reasons for accepting the Trump invitation are part of Domestic culture, not the ones across the Atlantic. The drive towards the petition not to accept the invitation just was gathering steam, when the invitation already was accepted. In our ward many members signed up, while others fully agreed with the petition but did not want to rock the boat.

Well, I presume that drive now is water under the bridge, again. But what a wonderful gesture would it have been towards the International Church – which happens to be the majority, – to politely and gently refuse the invitation on the grounds of Christian values. What a wonderful signal that patriotism does not trump compassion, that the halls of power are less important than gospel principles. For us in the International Church it would have been a moment of pride, a wonderful Christmas present that would have opened many doors for missionaries, and a clear recognition that we are truly a global church, not an American one. Even some hesitation, a week respite for deliberation and discussion before accepting the invitation, would have been wonderful, but we were denied also that small present. Well, that is all water under the bridge now.

87 comments for “Water under the bridge at Christmas

  1. It’s somewhat concerning and disappointing to me when critics of the Church couch everything in thick layers of nonchalance, pre-empting any counter-criticism as angry and uncharitable because after all it’s just their opinion, but I guess that’s just my opinion. I mean, Doctrine and Covenants 134 states specifically that we believe every man should be honored in his station, which is why I honored President Obama even though I disagreed so often with him, but Walter probably believes a number of puzzling things, as can be expected. It’s not his fault he’s surrounded with worldly influences and has sided with those who have already in their hearts tried and convicted the President-elect; his example shows me that as an American saint I need to work harder to show the world why the Lord planted the Church’s roots here.

  2. I’m not sure I know how to unpack the first clause of D&C 134:6 as to President-elect Trump, given its context. “We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference…” At least as to Trump’s proudly admitted groping of unwilling women, he doesn’t seem to have shown any respect for laws about sexual assault. I’m unaware of any professed intention to change that attitude or behavior. Of course, the second clause of 134:6 is historically false as to a good number of “rulers”. Perhaps that clause is an aspirational rather than a factual statement. As an explanation as to why men should be honored in their stations, it may function best as a limitation on the first clause.

    There seem to have been thoughtful concerns expressed in the bloggernacle both supportive of and outraged at the MoTab’s singing at the inauguration. All seem to be outsiders’ after-the-fact comments. I wonder what the thought process was with respect to accepting the invitation and whose thought process it was. Maybe there was none beyond the knee-jerk impulse to accept every invitation to sing at the inauguration of a US President. I doubt we’ll ever actually hear anyone fess up to having made the decision or whether that decision making included consideration of possible negative effects. If it was a relatively thoughtless decision or if it turns out to have been a mistake by some standard, I suspect it will be handled as other Church leadership mistakes have often been, i.e., keep quiet and hope people eventually forget about it.

  3. JR (3) wonders “what the thought process was with respect to accepting the invitation and whose thought process it was. Maybe there was none beyond the knee-jerk impulse to accept every invitation to sing at the inauguration of a US President.”

    Today I got a hint in a response from an area authority, whom I had briefed on the already critical reaction in the Belgian press about the MoTab’s participation. He dismissed my concerns since, according to his explanation, the choir “only performs with the permission of the First Presidency and hence it was a well-thought out decision”. And then this sentence: “What is perhaps difficult to digest for [West]-Europe, is perhaps totally acceptable for Eastern countries among which Russia”.

    What I understand from this hint as to the Church’s reasoning: Putin and Trump like each other. The Church is still having major problems to get the church going in Russia. So let’s have the MoTab perform for Trump. Putin will get the signal that the Mormons are pro-Trump. And a grateful Trump will help ease the way for the church in Russia. The hand of the Lord…

    It reminds me of Mormon comments at the time Bush invaded Iraq: the hand of the Lord is guiding Bush to free this and other countries so that the Restored Gospel will be preached in all of the Middle East to the Muslims.

  4. Thanks, Wilfried (4). I hadn’t reallized that the choir only performs with the permission of the First Presidency. Of course, permission doesn’t necessarily imply a decision to do anything but grant permission, e.g., the Lord’s granting JS permission to let Martin Harris take the first 116 pages of translation to show his wife, and the Lord’s subsequent castigation of JS for doing so. I also hadn’t realized that “permission of the First Presidency” necessarily implies a “well-thought out decision.” There have been a number of First Presidency decisions including,e.g., among others, the formation Kirtland Anti-Banking Society (in significant disrespect and violation of law), the purchase of fraudulent documents from Mark Hoffman, perhaps the calling of George P. Lee, and the initial, pre-“clarification” November 2015 policy as to children with a gay parent which were clearly not well-thought out. Sometimes the clarity is only with hindsight; sometimes the lack of careful thinking (or drafting) is obvious from the outset. It seems that the Area Authority who dismissed your concerns was merely being dismissive on the assumption that when the Brethren speak the thinking has been done.

  5. Since it appears International Mormons – which happens to be the majority – are so much more culturally enlightened than the Domestic genre, perhaps International Mormons would be better served by developing a representative International Mormon Choir. The function of this Choir could then be regulated according to International Mormon standards that would satisfy the majority.

  6. Thanks for the comments so far. Yes (1) the Church is global, though in this MTC case it is mainly the International Church which seems global. Nr, 2’s reference to D&C 134 is nicely corrected by JR (3), and yes working in Africa I do know quite a few rulers, to whom deference can only be shown when these rulers do uphold the law. And never before.
    The interesting question is indeed how this decision has been taken. The Choir President did not, as far as I know, mention the First Presidency, but I cannot imagine he would have simply consulted the choir’s agenda and put the date in the MTC planner: ’19 January 2017 Washington DC’. The Putin connection cannot really be taken seriously, Wilfried is right. The real question is, again, whether when the Brethren speak – or give permission – the thinking indeed has been done.

  7. I think it must have really put them in a bind. Heck, probably Trump enjoyed the bind–he’s no fan of Mormons. Because either you do all the invitiations for inaugurations, or you do none. For the MoTab, which has sung for every president who invited them, and a long list of international leaders (including plenty of dictators), to refuse the invitation would imply that it’s the LDS Church’s job to approve or disapprove the results of elections. I think they pretty much had to say yes. I’d also bet that Trump knew that, and that it solved the problem of finding performers while also giving him some lovely schadenfreude.

    I’m appalled that we managed to elect Trump, and I’m unhappy that Utah broke for him (I was hoping McMullin would take Utah as a protest vote, but to be fair, he was about as unpopular in Utah as it was possible for a GOP candidate to be. But we’ve all got to deal with it now, including the part where we’re supposed to be polite about inaugurations.

  8. It is very neat to divide the church into domestic/foreign us versus them groups, though it is mildly ironic to follow that with talk of the evils of patriotism. It is also very neat to criticize the church as if to do so is not to criticize God’s choice in leadership. Perhaps if you prayed just a little louder, the apostles would be able to hear what they’re *actually* supposed to be doing?

    I think you misunderstand how we are to treat sinners. We’re supposed to love and support them and if possible bring them to repentance. This is the church’s mission, everything else is subordinate to that. Generally, I have not seen “I’m too holy to touch you” as a very effective approach to that area, but then, I suspect that this post is not about faith nor repentance, but about agendas and pride-salving.

    For what its worth though, “Utah Mormons elected Trump” seems to be rather poorly researched. Trump did win Utah, but by record low numbers. Evan Mcmullin managed a full fifth of the state’s vote. Utah had a greater percentage vote third party than any other state.

    We are so often oblivious to our lenses and so certain of how black and white the world is…

  9. Thanks for writing on this, Walter. I am vehemently against the MoTab’s decision to sing at Trump’s inauguration and aired my views to my social network and also signed the petition. The common argument thread I have heard in support of this move on the part of the choir is 1) they’ve sung at past inaugurations of both Republicans and a Democrat (Johnson in 1965), 2) it would have been more of a political gesture not to accept the invitation than to accept it, and 3) this is a simply a celebration of American democracy and not Trump’s victory.

    My response has been to 1 and 2, Trump is an unprecedented choice is a deeply immoral man on many levels, in ways in that is hugely inconsistent with the teachings of the LDS church. And even though Johnson was a serial adulterer and Nixon was a liar and scoundrel (MoTab sang at Nixon’s inauguration in 1969), none of this was known before they were elected. Plus, at least public opinion of Nixon and Congressional support of him plummeted in the wake of the Watergate scandal to the point that he was forced to resign. So much of the American public seems inured to Trump’s long history of conartistry, likely sexual harassment and assault, and pathological dishonesty. In fact many celebrate the way he bullied and lied his way into office. In response to 3 (and 2), although the inauguration isn’t necessarily a celebration of any candidates victory and is a celebration of the office of the presidency, Trump’s inauguration is exceptional in that so many artists and performers have refused invitations to perform at it. Performance at his inauguration can easily be interpreted as a gesture of being OK with the way he finagled his way to power. Even if a polite decline of the invitation to sing at the inauguration could be construed as a political gesture, it would be more apropos than accepting in the case of Trump.

    I hope this issue isn’t water under the bridge and that people continue to oppose this.

  10. Wilfred … and how is missionary work going in Iraq. I fear that most of the members of the church feel exactly as you do. That killing our innocent brothers and sisters in other countries is acceptable pre-missionary collateral damage.

  11. Ra, not sure how to read your comment. Seems like you missed the irony in my comment n° 4. To be clear: a reasoning that justifies war to spread the Gospel is disgusting.

  12. According to your philosophy we should petition God not to help Trump or answer any of his prayers. Because- that is what you are saying.

  13. They’ve sung at every inaugural they’ve been invited to. What bothers me with this whole faux debate is that in the anti-Choir protesters automatically assumed the worse of motives – that it was a Trump endorsement – and that every pro-Choir member was automatically on Trump’s side. You can’t be a legitimate Mormon intellectual anymore unless you hate the Choir.

  14. “anti-Choir”?
    “hate the Choir”?


    Who is it that’s assuming the worst of motives, again?

  15. I rather hope that the decision for Motab to serenade Trump’s inauguration was in fact a knee-jerk patriotic response, because if it was ‘Corporation’ decision then the reasoning may have been chillingly political. The LDS hierarchy may have felt they could not afford to offend a US president who has shown himself to be spitefully vindictive to perceived opponents. As for Trump’s motives in the invitation, I would guess they are the same as those revealed in his treatment of Mitt Romney – a demonstration of his power to call his critics to heel, and to humiliate them.

  16. Bobdaduck, yes of yourse we love the sinner not the sin and all that, but such a huge percentage of the preaching of GAs and the culture they have promoted over the years and specifically itemised in For the Strength of Youth and suchlike has told us over and over again to avoid all appearance of evil or the slightest hint of tolerating or endorsing things they don’t like. Even to the extent of saying 2 pairs of earrings are too many and little girls must wear sleives to be considered decent representations of Mormonism to the world. You mock the idea of not touching Trump because ‘I’m too holy to touch you’ yet we are asked to avoid touching unholy things literally and metaphorically in the minutiae of our daily lives or be considered apostate or unworthy in some way of the Church. And the reasons offered by Christofferson and others to justify the November policy included several blatant examples of this, refusing to touch the contaminated children of gay people with our prisesthood hands to bless or baptise or ordain them, and wanting to avoid having to send home teachers to touch their homes or their parents. This is why treating the Motabs singing for Trump as NOT symbolic or meaningful or contaminating of our reputation is such an extreme act of hypocrisy to the many Mormons who are horrified and will have to suffer the fallout of this incomprehensible decision.

  17. If one thinks that the injunction to “abstain from all appearance of evil” is to shun all those one deems evil, or asserts that the Brethren have condoned and taught that behavior, one demonstrates a lack of observational skills and an ability to cherry-pick the parts of doctrine which are most convenient to the agenda.

    As a person who has had to not only converse with but to actively support the role of a person who has done everything he can to utterly destroy her, I am content to allow those with the responsibility to direct the affairs of the MoTab to do their best to discern by the Spirit what action is best here.

    It’s easy to judge difficult situations from the sidelines.

  18. To those who say that Trump is a president with unprecedentedly low morals, this is a very unusual accusation. President Clinton was widely acknowledged as “an unusually good liar”, serial adulterer and sexual harasser, as well as politically corrupt as governor. Trump’s main opponent was married to that previous president, supported him publicly through all of the revelations of adultery, harassment, etc. and benefited from his lies, and corruption. She was equally corrupt and probably should be on trial for various crimes from her previous stint in public office. The choices were not good this time.
    The artists that have turned down invitations are definitely not all moral and upstanding citizens. The MTC and church leaders are unlikely to follow their lead.

  19. Walter, I don’t believe I was corrected at all. Not only did JR elevate a puerile boast from the world of champagne and starlets to the exalted status of sexual assault, he claims unawareness of any intention on the part of the President-elect to change that behavior; such intention was in fact expressed at the very next debate. The argument that because, in the past, our leader claims an action you interpret as breaking a law, we are not obligated to respect him as our leader, not only falls apart on this account, but because as its bearers you consistently failed to condemn President Obama’s admitted drug usage. That line of reasoning is itself only meaningful if the first clause in DC 134:4 is truly dependent on the second, which even a cursory inspection proves false.

    We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty;
    and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror;
    human laws being instituted for the express purpose of regulating our interests as individuals and nations, between man and man;
    and divine laws given of heaven, prescribing rules on spiritual concerns, for faith and worship, both to be answered by man to his Maker.

    Respect of the law is obviously separate from the honor due to magistrates, who are themselves, not us, placed to punish the guilty. Mosiah’s system included checks and balances to ensure there would always be someone to judge those in power, as does ours; in neither system is there precedent for denying the magistrate the respect of his office due to his trial in the court of public opinion, nor to any other trial.

    Please, Walter, refrain from begging any more questions.

  20. This exact same post could be offered had Hillary Clinton won the election and had invited the Mo Tab to sing at her inauguration. Truly, the Church cannot win sometimes.

  21. For those International saints with questions, I can only speak for myself, but I believe this was a deal with conservatives, Mormons and evangelicals. With all due respect, this election was troubling from many standpoints. I don’t mean to rehash all of the arguments. I can only say what was the salient decision point for me and my vote for Trump. Trump is immoral and has made no bones about it. Unfortunately, that’s our society. The most popular politician in America in our time is an admitted philanderer, so the people are prepared to set those things aside. Obama admitted smoking marijuana (and I think cocaine) and was elected. The country is far more tolerant of such things now.

    But Trump talked like he was responsive to my biggest concerns. The alternative was potentially disastrous for conservatives and LDS who view the Constitutional government of the United States in a certain way (which I do). The biggest problems with the current path of President Obama (and highly likely a President Clinton) was his usurpation of the two major balances of the U.S. Constitution–the separation of powers between the three branches of government and the separation of powers between the states and the federal government. Trump talked enough of a good game to get me to vote for him (while holding my nose so to speak). I fully believed that another four or eight years of abuse would not allow the Constitution to survive (if its not too late already). I have to hope that Trump undoes the over-reach of the executive that has gone on for 8 years (and admittedly has built up in previous administrations of both parties) by undoing executive actions with executive actions and then replaces it with appropriate legislative action (which should be easier with the jointly held branches of government–at least until the next election.) He cannot and should not try to undo legitimate legislative actions without new ones. He should follow the Constitution.

    Another large factor was that in my opinion, Clinton was more personally corrupt (which is another type of immorality). Her dishonesty, greed and apparent corruption was overwhelming. What a Hobson’s choice!!! Third party candidates were better people than either of the two, but realistically, I couldn’t waste my vote (even in Utah). I was prepared for the worst and merely am accepting the second worst. A sad commentary on our choices.

    This is my attempt to explain the question of the OP.

  22. While I was writing, John Lundwall wrote above and I feel the same about the Choir appearing, notwithstanding my feelings about HRC.

  23. The comments address several isues that are important, even if branching out in different directions. One is the respect for institutions, and Mars (20) does have a point there, even if those institutions always have to be measured and monitored against general values. That very problem is also at the back of much of the evaluations of past Presidents (and the incumbent).
    On the election: it seems the USA have faced a choice between two people they did not like – actually I remember thinking during the campaigns: Where is Mitt Romney when you need him? Did he run four years too early?
    Anyway, the third issue is that the choice for the MTC to accept or not is a tough one, indeed a bind, a kind of loose-loose option. As I said in my blog, I can understand the decision to accept, at a cognitive level. What I cannot really understand is why the invitation was accepted so quickly, it seems wihout much deliberation, like indeed a knee-jerk reaction. The arguments you all came up with are more than enough to warrant some reflection time. If the leadership (GA or/and MTC) had acknowledged the invitation and told that they would make a decision in a week, that would have been much better already. And then they could have accepted the invitation, with a short statement why they in the end decided to do so. As I said, even a moment of deliberation would have been a gift.

  24. Mars (20), I’m not convinced that I offered any correction. I thought I was exploring ways to think about D&C 134:6. What is proven to you by cursory examination of the verse is not so obvious to many others. I haven’t yet found any elaboration by its author that would explain to those others what he meant by the language and structure of that verse. In this discussion it seems to me there is a significant lack of clarity as to our assumptions on what constitutes honoring a man in his station. In your comment 20, you may have diluted what some assumed that meant to granting whomever “the respect of his office.” If that’s all it means, I don’t disagree.

    BTW, it is not the puerile boast that was elevated to the status of sexual assault, it is the action boasted of, and confirmed by a reasonable number of groped women, that constituted sexual assault. I’m glad to hear that Trump expressed an intention to change in a debate subsequent to his boast. After the first debate, I could not stomach listening to any more of either Trump or Clinton. Hence, my admitted unawareness. That unawareness was a fact, not merely a “claim.” I remain hopeful, however tenuous my hope may sometimes be, that Trump’s actions as President will not commonly be of the same ilk as much of his prior talk.

    I remain unable to judge negatively the choice of any US voter among voting for either of the two potentially disastrous major party candidates (potentially disastrous in very different ways) or for a third party candidate bound to lose.

    There does seem to me a significant difference between granting the respect due to the President’s office and celebrating a particular person’s taking that office. The invitation to sing, however, put the choir in a very difficult position. Given the history of singing at US presidential inaugurations whenever invited, a refusal would be seen by many as a much stronger political statement than the acceptance of the invitation, especially as others had loudly used such refusal as a political statement. The invitation put the choir in a no-win position. While I wish the invitation had never been made and I have wondered about the thought process of the still unidentified decision makers, I recognize that the invitation put them in a position not wholly unlike the position of those US voters who have disagreed with or even despised both the morals and the politics of both Trump and Clinton. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the decision for the choir. The best part of that decision is the expectation of a significantly reduced size of the participating choir, allowing each singer to opt out, apparently for any reason.

    Tone can be difficult to control in writing, especially when one feels strongly about the subject and doesn’t have time for careful editing. Sometimes I wish I could recognize more of the blog comments as “charitable comments.” Walter’s responses to comments seem to provide a good model of such charity.

  25. JR, I wasn’t condemning anything you said; I acknowledged that you merely claimed ignorance, which is no problem, unless you’re using it to buttress an argument, which was the real target. I know you didn’t mean to offer a correction, but Walter accepted it as such.

    As regards tone, I find Walter’s to be not charitable but patronizing. He speaks for the entire International Church, don’t you know, and they would have – ah! – thought it was such a wonderful thing if MoTab were to also flip the bird to President Trump – but oh, my, me and every single other international, cosmopolitan, stylish, fashionable member will just have to sigh and shake our heads at the silliness of you Americans. Remember, international members are the majority, and they’re all universalist Europeans who understand the evils of patriotism, it’s not like they’re ignorant patriotic Latin Americans and Africans, oh no. There are but two Mormon churches, the American and International.

    There are many, many ways to be uncharitable without being pugnacious, as I hope to have demonstrated. I am no master of tact (it’s not like my lungs open to gentle Dutch air!) but I try to make my case clearly and completely, as my opinions are quite obviously in the minority here. I don’t ever mean to attack anyone personally – as far as I can observe with my senses, all of you are but names on a screen, soundless voices. Your arguments, of course I want to tear them down, and if mine are wrong I want them torn down, not with politic nothings but with sound reasoning and doctrine – and I know I have quite a few ripe for condemnation. My problem with Walter’s kind of conversation is that he acts as if so many things, important things, have been decided and are confirmed, when they are not.

  26. Just a couple of comments about the OP. To say that Utahn (or Utahans) “snuggled up” to Trump showed either ignorance or condescension. I hope it’s the former. In the Utah Republican primary Trump was handily defeated by the other candidates. See http://www.foxnews.com/politics/elections/2016/primary-caucus/utah

    Trump has indeed said many outrageous statements and I did not vote for him partly for those reasons. However, something tells me that had Hillary Clinton won and the MTC performed at her inauguration, a similar post would not have happened decrying an MTC performance there. Hillary Clinton also has her fair share of outrageous quotes.

    PS – While I’m not from Utah, I had never seen a resident of Utah referred to as a “Utahan” before, always “Utahn”. But apparently the question has been asked before per this link:https://www.ksl.com/?sid=24207511

  27. The choir invitation was not made publicly, and could have been declined without publicity, and therefore without any implied political statement. At least that would have been the case in a “normal” inauguration. It has been pointed out that a refusal would likely result in Mr. Trump tweeting his disapproval. Perhaps so; but that’s why this is not a normal president-elect and not a normal inauguration. That the choir would be held hostage to some implied threat of being publicly called out may in itself have been a good enough reason to decline. And there’s a difference between the choir announcing that they are declining and Trump claiming in some midnight tweet that he invited them. I’m sure that Church PR could handle a Trump tweet at least as well as they are handling the current debacle, and in the end would probably give less of a black eye.

    In the second debate, Trump didn’t express an intention to change his behavior. He was asked pointedly four or five times about his behavior, and he kept changing the subject to ISIS and Bill Clinton and such. Ultimately when pressed, he claimed in passing that hadn’t done what he claimed to have done in the video. At no point did he say anything about changing. So we have Mr. Trump claiming in 2005 that he sexually assaulted women, and Mr. Trump in 2016 claiming that he lied about sexually assaulting women (after being questioned multiple times and trying to change the subject). You can decide whether he was lying in 2005 or in 2016.

  28. Mars (26), Sometimes I stumble over your statements. But I think you meant to have demonstrated by your caricature of Walter’s post that his post was uncharitable though not pugnacious. I had purposely referred to Walter’s responses to comments and not to his original post. The post can be read a number of different ways. One of those is as a personal expression using shorthand terms like Domestic Church and International Church which are not intended to be exhaustive or impermeable distinctions and not intended to classify all Americans in one and all non-Americans in another. Another possible reading is as a professorial instigation to discussion. Another is subject to your caricature which I initially read, as I have sometimes read other comments from you, as pugnacious — perhaps an apt characterization for comments by the god of war.

    I do not know Walter. Perhaps your final sentence in comment 26 is accurate. Perhaps it is merely pugnaciously inaccurate. Perhaps it could also describe some of your participation in the conversation. I am also no master of tact.

    Sound reasoning will not persuade unless it proceeds from shared perceptions or assumptions. Sound doctrine can also be elusive. I have been fascinated by the contrast between what some insist is sound LDS doctrine and what Christ is reported in 3 Nephi 11 to have said was his doctrine, particularly in view of the limiting language of verse 40.

    I remain more interested in trying to understand than in trying to persuade. I will try to read your comments more charitably.

  29. In April 2007 Vice President Dick Cheney made a visit to BYU. This was at a very low point in the popularity of his and President Bush’s popularity. I couldn’t help but feel that our Church was being used. “Where can we go…,” you could almost hear them ask, “and be certain of a positive and adoring reception.”

    I see strong parallels to this invitation to sing at the inauguration of President-elect Trump and the welcomed appearance of Mr. Cheney at BYU. We understand that Mr. Trump may be having a hard time lining up entertainment for his national celebration.

    Moreover It also is apparent that Mr. Trump likes to associate himself with his former political foes. He enjoys demonstrating his prowess by parading his former challengers (Ben Carson, Rick Parry, and of course our friend Mitt) as current supporters, thus showing apparent magnanimity and also his complete political triumph. Mr. Trump will be able to claim now that he won over those Mormons. They sang for him! Great choir! The best! Like Mr. Cheney in 2007 he is looking for public acceptance.

    I can’t help but feel used, again, by Republican political operatives. Like an insecure lap-dog, we are always there to bolster lagging Republicans.

    I would feel better about the whole thing, and would be able to see it as a show of respect for the office rather than the man himself, if our Church found a way to show public adoration for Democratic operatives as well as Republican ones. As it is, this accepted invitation only cements even stronger the relationship between the Republican party and our Church. We are being used.

  30. JR, I hope you believe me when I say I picked the pseudonym “Mars” for its association with the big red planet, without any thought of the god. That said, the scriptures are plain that conflict is often necessary – with the caveat, of course, ten verses before your reference in 3 Nephi, that it must not take place with anger. I do not believe charitability is equivalent to niceness. I have known gruff individuals that performed stunning acts of unexpected love, and nice, polite people who would, so to speak, give you the time of day but nothing else. I don’t claim perfection in avoiding the spirit of contention.

    My characterization of Walter’s comments was meant to give you an example of how they might very easily be construed. From your perspective it may seem perfectly obvious that such and such paragraph was meant literally while the next was merely hyperbole for effect. That may spring from your own preconceptions, which seem similar to Walter’s. I don’t walk in your circles, I’m afraid. Those familiar with me would not see my own comments as hostile – by internet standards they are extremely polite. Hopefully we can help each other clear our ocular obstructions of any size or timber grade.

    To avoid the appearance of hypocrisy from my claim of Trump’s disavowal of his own statements, I will admit that he did not directly do so in the debate, merely affirm that he did not commit sexual assault. However, in one of his extremely rare apologies, perhaps the only one on the campaign trail, he addressed those comments and expressed his regret for them – for them, not the reaction to them. I am predisposed to accept that apology and offer him my own forgiveness, admitting that it is difficult to do the same for other politicians, though I do try. I would ask the other readers to also accept it.
    Printed here by WaPo, who attempt to downplay his apology, but I’m sure you gentle folk won’t be as eager.

  31. Mars, The concept of a “charitable reading,” as commonly used and as I meant it, is not the same as what I think you refer to as “charitability.” I meant the former, not the latter. I agree that neither is equivalent to niceness.

  32. Perhaps those who accepted the invitation understood the realpolitik of the invitation, and those who issued the invitation, better than we: Nice young people you send proselytizing hither and yon. Pity anything should happen to them.

  33. A few comments:

    1. Trump lost the most votes from Republican normal in the Mormon corridor compared to pretty well anywhere else. I think that’s significant. I also think those outside of Utah don’t realize how many non-Mormon voters there are in the area and those went significantly more for Trump. Up until the last week before the election Trump losing Utah seemed a real possibility (amply covered by the press). That was basically unthinkable a few months earlier. Even in the election Trump won Utah without getting a majority of the vote. (He got 45.1%) I suspect had Democrats nominated a more liked person than Clinton who was at least more open to key Mormon issues like religious freedom and abortion that Trump would have lost.

    2. While Trump was a controversial candidate for a slew of reasons, one should also keep in mind that on key issues related to religion Clinton was even more problematic. On policies like abortion or religious freedoms people saw Clinton as the much bigger threat. Again how one places those issues relative to other ones where Trump is more problematic varies. However while not addressing Mormons pollsters have noted that Evangelicals, a somewhat similar voting group, went for Trump on those issues. By and large the calculus is that if you don’t have anyone you like, the bully who is at least fighting for you is the better choice. Again I’m not endorsing that view (far from it) but I think it is rational and understandable. I do think it ultimately short sighted for a variety of reasons though.

    3. I personally think it a mistake to have the MTC sing at the inaugural although I do understand the thinking. Had Clinton asked them I’m sure they’d have said yes as well. I think Trump is making an already difficult situation for Mormons worse. A lot of the Nones are leaving religion because of political clashes with religion. I think that’s besetting Mormons as well due to our overwhelming connection to conservatism.

    4. On the other hand Trump is creating a new coalition for the Republican party quite different from the conservative coalition Reagan set up. (Which admittedly had been struggling even before Trump rose to prominence) It may be that depending upon what Trump does this creates more of a divide between Mormons and Republicans which in turn might change how the international community views Mormons.

    5. Stephen (30) mentioned Trump and his political foes. It’s worth noting that he likes political foes who apologize and grovel for him. I’m sure Trump hasn’t forgotten the amount of opposition he got from Mormons including several Utah politicians who were among the most outspoken. There were many stories suggesting the main reason Romney didn’t get the Secretary of State position was because he refused to publicly apologize for his opposition to Trump during the primaries and election. Trump holds a grudge and this may be a “realpolitik” way for the Church to deal with this reality.

  34. It kills me to see how strongly Utah (and therefore how strongly Mormons) voted for Trump. Go ahead and remind me about how many non-members live in Utah. Try to blame it on them. It seems relatively clear to me that Mormons voted in droves for Trump. In Salt Lake County, one county where there might be a large number of non-Mormons, Clinton/Trump/McMullin received 42/32/18% of the vote. I believe that the non-members there likely voted mostly for Clinton.

    Look at Utah County: In the land of Provo, Orem, Highland, an area of a nearly “pure” (89%) Mormon Culture: Trump got 51% of the vote. More than half!! I know that this is much less than the 78% who voted Romney last time, but still… more than half!

    How about Rich County. 98.5% of Rich County is LDS. There may not be more than 35 non-members in the county (a sparce population of only about 2,300 in the entire county, so only about 35 non-Mormons) showed a whopping 71% for Trump.

    Mormons voted for Trump in droves. Face it.

  35. Is “in droves” more of a Utah expression? I only see it in these kinds of circles, it seems to have mostly died out elsewhere. Maybe it’s a boomer thing.

    Stephen, I’ve faced it and it’s made me very happy. Your prejudice will come back to embarrass you in the years to come.

  36. Bingo stephenchardy. Well said. And Hillary Clinton stood for robust protection of religious freedom; Trump, by contrast, poses the most *direct* threat to religious freedom of quite possibly any U.S. politician in history because he has openly stated he will create a registry for Muslims. So much for the inchoate, indirect theoretical threat to religious freedom that Elder Oaks is constantly musing about and attributing to “secular” people. Trump’s threat is real, the threat of a thug.

  37. Prejudice. The same attitude that was decried every time some right-wing nutcase blew up another Obama molehill into a mountain. See, you’re predisposed to read the worst possible meaning into the things Donald Trump says and does. “But it really is terrible,” you say, “but he really said that.” Sure, and the five-second Obama clips going around working-class Facebook were really things Obama said, but there wasn’t an outcry then.

    See, the beauty of Donald Trump is he ignores scandals. He ignores hit pieces. They don’t faze him. A lesser man would have dropped out Herman Cain-style long, long ago, like the experts predicted. That’s the kind of courage, by the way, that drew me to him and froze me on Romney. A side effect is that old propaganda sticks around, deepens its intensity, and draws you dogmatically into confrontations such as this. Thousands of people are so convinced by a few sound bites that they are literally signing a petition asking the Choir to boycott the inauguration. That’s crazy. Good crazy. All out in the open crazy, that’s going to flow by like the riots in election week, like water under a bridge, until in twenty years you’ll be saying about some new candidate “that’s not the party of Lincoln and Trump!”

    We don’t see Trump in negative spaces like you do. We see upsides, positives, a few downsides, but an overall plus. Don’t think we aren’t affected by the scandals, because we are, but we’re not solely affected by them; that’s why you were surprised on election night and we were elated.

  38. He doesn’t ignore them. He stoops to responding to the most banal of criticisms of anything relating to him. It’s embarassing, truly. And the world is watching.

  39. Why do you criticize Walter for speaking in generalizations and descriptions of International Mormons and then go on a huge rant about “we this” and “we that”, thereby validating Walter’s choice to group Domestic Mormons/Utah Mormons together as a monolith?

    Plus, the things you’re saying about Trump simply aren’t supported by the facts that are easily available. You are living in a fantasy — one you’ve made clear you’ve constructed by choice based on your ingrained and inflexible ideology.

  40. The “we” isn’t intended to refer to all domestic or Utah Mormons. I’m not even a Utah Mormon. All I can say to your “fantasy” comment is, you will see. Remember, the idea that Trump would win was a fantasy until election night. All the experts, all the polls said so. Apparently they missed something, and apparently if you still believe what they believed you are also missing something.

  41. What I am referring to are these facts: Donald Trump is a serial-adultery-committing, pornography-promoting casino magnate who openly boasted that he had sexually assaulted women by grabbing their genitals and kissing them without their consent without consequence because of his wealth and fame and who has been documented to have frequently cheated and robbed wage-earning working Americans (primarily construction workers and hospitality workers) and contractors out of their contractually agreed payments. His six bankruptcies evidence his ineptitude at business and his fraudulent nature — using a legal mechanism meant to protect vulnerable Americans from unscrupulous creditors in our Randian paradise — to benefit himself on the public’s dime. His fake charitable foundation makes the pay-for-play accusations against the Clinton Foundation laughable.

    The fact that voters didn’t believe these *facts* about Trump or believed that “experts” didn’t know what they were talking about says nothing about the accuracy of the hated experts’ information. All it says that in this new post-fact, post-truth era, ignorance reigns and Trump’s voters think that if these things are true, they are a feature and not a bug of Trump because he has promised to destroy “political correctness,” which he claims and his voters appear to agree is the main problem with America today. They can’t say reprehensible things about groups of people they don’t like using crass and false, often racial, stereotypes without being shut out of civil society. Now, with Trump, they believe they can say whatever they want about anyone without social consequence because Trump has faced none (because they didn’t hold him accountable for these things — very circular, they’ve discovered the best way to validate their reprehensibility is to promote and install someone who mirrors those values and the very fact they were able to get him into office puts the stamp of approval on their own behaviors and beliefs).

    To the extent that you’re “we” language is in fact representative of Mormons who voted for Trump, all it really means is that we have, indeed, truly lost our way and somehow the teachings of our current crop of Church leaders have failed to provide a moral compass for the majority of Mormons who failed to very pointedly repudiate a man who represents everything the Church supposedly is against.

    He represents everything bad about America: the unbridled greed, the crassness, the ignorance, the selfishness, the catering to special interests, the utter indifference to the plight of the poor and needy, the oligarchy, the 1%, the fraud, the immorality, the pornography, the gambling, the rudeness, the thoughtlessness, the hypocrisy, the dishonesty, the digging-a-pit-for-your-neighbor, and the prosperity-gospel tinged faux-Christianity that infects majorities in this country.

  42. Heard it. Heard worse about Joseph Smith, actually, but he was a much better man. That’s how it goes.

  43. A reasonable extrapolation of our conversation from this point leads to brick walls on both sides and the comments being closed. Probably best to avoid making this a direct discussion on Trump if we don’t want that to happen.

  44. The things in my first paragraph, in particular, are facts. They aren’t opinions. Each one is backed up by video and/or documentary evidence confirming each fact. This isn’t stuff made up by media spin or pundits or ideologues. This is why it is incomprehensible that Mormons voted for Trump.

    So you like Trump. You’ve said so in your comments. You’re entitled to your opinion as is everyone else. But you can’t say that these things are not true. When you say that, you are not telling the truth. And that matters. The most you can say is that those facts about Trump, which cannot be disputed by people who accept facts, is that they didn’t matter to you or that they weren’t enough to be a deal breaker. And so you *own* Trump. He’s yours and so are the consequences of his abysmal worldview and policies.

  45. I attended the BYU graduation speech of Vice President Cheney. Any celebrity of his presence at the BYU ceremony was totally eclipsed by the surprise appearance of President Gordon B. Hinckley, accompanied by Elder David Bednar.

  46. Stephen (35) I don’t deny many Mormons voted for Trump. However I don’t think you quite grasp how remarkable and rare that level of turnaround in politics is. That’s really shocking. Especially for low information voters to have a significant change like that is rare and reflects heavily the displeasure many Mormons had with Trump’s personae. Political blocks tend to have a lot of momentum. Change takes time. That’s a huge change in numbers.

    John F (37) I think part of the issue is that people mean different things by religious liberty. Personally I sincerely and strongly worry about Trump on religious liberties. But for people who were dismayed by recent decisions on say the cake baking issues and the Nuns forced to buy contraceptions for insurance that’s a big issue.

    To me the biggest worry of Trump is that he has convinced Republicans to heavily embrace the identity fight as a way (they see) of protecting themselves from what they see as impositions. I’m not saying that’s right, but it certainly seems like the Trump movement took the identity plays from the far left, embraced it and made it their own. I think that horrible along many lines, but it seems undeniable that the worst excesses of the so-called postmodern left are key to the Trump movement identity.

    Instead of pushing a kind of pluralism where there’s a kind of blind treating everyone equally which had been at least the conservative ideal they’ve instead embraced competing groups with politicians promising favors for their group. If Trump is successful then the GOP will cease to be conservative.

    John (43) all that’s true and personally I think it ought count for a lot. Just as I thought it ought have counted in the 90’s. But again, Trump has somehow managed to convince the right that when it comes to protecting their interests versus a global set of morality the former wins. Again I think that horrible but let’s be honest that the left had embraced such relativism already. Feminists who you’d think would be the most aghast at Clinton instead identified with the Clintons and excused their behavior.

    We’ve gone through this, but whether fair or not, the public was given a choice between two candidate they thought both morally challenged. Had it been a choice between someone moral and Trump we may have seen a different result. Even though I think Trump overall much worse than HRC to the public both seemed challenged which enabled people to simply dismiss their moral failings and just ask what they were most likely to do politically. One can wish that we’d had better choices but blame that on the primaries.

  47. Clark, the issue of how much Trump had to do with the rise of right-wing identitarianism is an interesting one. It seems more likely to me that Trump’s message came along at exactly the right time to catch the already rising tide, not that he stoked it in any way; watch his rallies and they’re almost entirely “America First.” Hardly the “open white supremacist” line pushed by those fact orgs that we are most thankfully post- of. This isn’t meant as a defense, actually, I think he could have done even better by courting interest groups more, and if we’re going to have interest groups they might as well be fair. It’s certainly been a long time since anyone’s had as much of a claim to the title of working man’s candidate, which is I admit quite ironic, and if his policies don’t go as promised it will of course have been unearned.

    John, I am going to show you why I am not engaging. Here, from your first paragraph:
    What I am referring to are these facts…
    His six bankruptcies evidence his ineptitude at business
    Value judgment

    and his fraudulent nature
    value judgment

    — using a legal mechanism meant to protect vulnerable Americans from unscrupulous creditors in our Randian paradise —
    How on Earth would you expect anyone to take this as fact?

    His fake charitable foundation makes the pay-for-play accusations against the Clinton Foundation laughable.
    I wasn’t aware there was a scientific standard for laughability, John, or for comparing two completely different organizations!

    And you claim to have given me facts! You gave me an editorial. Trust me, I’ve read enough of those.

  48. I don’t know the role causation played. At times I think Trump just bungles into things and at other time I think he’s more cunning. At a certain point regardless of how he does it you just have to acknowledge he’s able to make use of the trends in society whether honestly or not. So how much was Trump and how much was populism projecting onto Trump I can’t say. However the consequences are much the same unfortunately.

  49. Fact No. 1 — Trump won in a fair and honest election.

    Fact No. 2 — The Mormon Tabernacle choir has sung at every inauguration to which it has been invited.

    Given these two facts, I’m glad the choir is singing. It is the only responsible decision under the circumstances.

  50. JI.
    Fair election? Are you actually referring to the election which Trump is on record for encouraging Russian hacking of the opponent (which happened)? The election that as we speak is under a bi-partisan federal investigation to determine the extent of collusion (treason) between Trump and Putin to influence/alter???

    I suggest the MoTab wear red on the 21st.

  51. Speaking of the Russians, I think it is important to return to Willfried’s comment (5) which alluded to the fact that a GA hinted that the Mtc is singing to open missionary door doors with Trump’s friend Putin. Whether or not the brethren actually think that, I’m calling it completely false.

    Putin is pro-Soviet, and was personally a driving force in blocking LDS proselyting in Russia. He is a Slavic purist and against American religious enculturation. The MTC singing as America’s choir will only solidify Putin’s distaste for all things LDS.

    I also strongly disagree that eastern saints want to see the US move forward with a Trump/Putin bromance. The Ukranian saints (where our only Slavic temple is located) are cringing.

    I lament the fact that we are facing a rising tide of populist purism across the world (Russia, Brexit, now the US) with terrifying consequences. The church’s policy of appeasement (which also appeased Hitler in WWII) is not only caving into this bullying, but doing absolutely nothing to stand up for its values.

    There comes a time when self-preservation is cowardice when the situation actually called for valiance.

  52. Yes, a fair and honest election. The Russians or others might have hacked into DNC e-mails, but that doesn’t affect the legitimacy of even one vote.

    Trump won in a fair and honest election. Each state and the federal district has certified its own elections.

  53. It is much too easy to get side tracked in this particular discussion with all the various controversial issues (Trump, international vs US church/us vs them mentality) that are taken as a given and should not be.

    But on the actual topic at hand, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was invited to perform at the inauguration of a US president. They have done so before. They will likely do so again. I can see no other valid action that could have been taken other than to accept. To decline would have been perceived (correctly, in my view) as a blatant political statement by a church that professes political neutrality. That would almost certainly have been used against the church, by those inclined to do so. And while we will fight the fights that need fighting, I don’t see this as one of those necessary fights.

    Also, if it needs saying, I do not take the “off the cuff” comments of an area authority (I have known several) as anything approaching creditable, when it comes to the motivations of the First Presidency. One thing I have heard, and it saddens me, is the absolute LOVE of some folks who should know better (such as area authorities) to gossip on possible political motives of the brethren. For some reason I have tended to see this more in Europe than anywhere outside of Utah (back when I lived there and now). I’m not sure why that would be, but I really dislike the tendency. Let’s give these folks the benefit of the doubt, please. Leadership is not easy and it’s harder when people make stuff up.

  54. JI,
    If you think strategically poisoning the information well with digital espionage and lies (a strategy Trump and the media happily played upon) was “fair”, that colluding with a foreign power to do so was ok, was “fair and square” because no one held a gun to someone’s head or mid-reported the numbers, you need to catch up to the 21st century. Countries, democracies, freedoms, power are about the power of information, not brute force. We can expect foreign powers to try to poison the well, but the fact that we didn’t have patriots at home who insisted on protecting the well, even at the highest office (Trump), is horrifying.

  55. Mortimer (56) right now Trump isn’t in the highest office. Obama is and he knew in early summer about all these things and chose to do nothing about it. I agree that Trump’s attempt to downplay this is horrible even if perhaps a bit understandable (he doesn’t want to marginalize his win and thereby minimize his ability to act as President).

    That said I’m pretty skeptical wikileaks did much beyond perhaps solidifying people’s perceptions of HRC a little more. The most major problem was HRC was a disliked problematic candidate who was under FBI investigation. I am convinced that a better Democratic candidate would have easily beat Trump. Heck, as bad as Clinton was, she still nearly beat Trump.

    Which isn’t to say we shouldn’t act towards Russia. We should. On the other hand I can also see the perspective that the best way to play Putin is to have Trump act like his friend initially.

  56. Clarke,
    Wikileaks were a malicious Russian hack into governmental systems- an attack on our country. Trump publicly encouraged Russia to do so. Then, when wikileaks came out, he used it to fling mud at his opponent. The information provided was unverifiable, likely a mix of half truths, lies, and truths. Even a little false information can completely taint the whole thing, much like adding a little bit of dog poop in a batch of brownies ruins the whole thing. Maybe 99% of the brownies were good, but the little bit of poo (even if it is a half-truth or a little lie) taints the entire batch. That’s what’s happening with this disinformation campaign! You say that the information ‘solidified people’s perceptions’ of HRC. Well, sure, throw mud at a candidate and then mix in poo to their brownies, scandalize it on the media 24X7 and say, ‘See! I told you so!’.

    There’s a point when the American people have got to hold candidates accountable for spewing lies and mud-slinging, hold news outlets accountable, hold congress accountable, and even hold our FBI and other secret service branches accountable. We also have to hold each other accountable. Facts matter. Truth matters. Accuracy and evaluation matter. That’s why the normalization of this incoming presidency by the MTC is so disturbing. Someone somewhere (and I had hoped it would be a truth-seeking and truth-revering people like us) would stand up against disinformation.

    Most Americans can’t tell real news from fake news (brownies from poo) let alone determine whether poo is mixed in the brownies. They don’t know how to separate the wonderful goodness of gourmet brownies from the poo-brownies they just experienced. Even if they can tell the difference, it takes a cool-minded person to still like brownies (even 100% perfect ones) once they’ve tasted one tainted batch with a little bit of poo. The world still needs brownies. Brownies were one of God’s great gifts to the world. But, even the memory of poo in brownies from a long time ago can completely turn someone off from these beautiful (and I argue essential) treats forever. It’s the equivalent of an information nuclear bomb.

    FYI, this morning CNN reported on US sanctions to Russia for their hacking and governmental interference. Bipartisan investigations are ongoing.

    But, I stand corrected, when Trump colluded treasonously with the Russians to skew the election in his favor with digital espionage followed by a disinformation campaign, he was not yet the highest leader in the land, he was one of two candidates for that position. It worked and On Jan 21st, the choir will sing him into office.

  57. Thanks for the debate, I am learning a lot from it. One thing is that the question of singing or not, easily morphs into a heated political debate, and that one can imagine leaders not wanting to open that can of worms. It has been remarked that we should not second guess too much the motives of the Brethren, and that sounds sensible.

    One question which was not raised, is the simple issue whether the members of the choir themselves were involved in the decision whether or not to sing ‘Trump into power’, or ‘the president-elect into his office’, however one looks at it. Now, I know a choir is not a democracy – and neither is the Church – but some discussion within the choir was to be expected. It has been remarked that as the choir will not perform in full force, individual singers might opt out. Does anyone have any comcrete information on these issues?

  58. Mortimer,
    What is your solution? Should we coronate Mrs. Clinton on Jan. 20? Or should we inaugurate Mr. Trump? Clearly, there is only one right answer — we should inaugurate Mr. Trump — after all, Mr. Trump won in a free and honest election. Each state and the federal district has certified its own election results and the electors from each state have done their duty. There might have been a hack into a non-Governmental system (the DNC e-mail is a non-Governmental organization, by the way), but there has been no hack into any official Governmental election system. Every American was free to vote according to his or her own choice, and the counting was fair.

    It seems you are still grieving the loss of your favored candidate, but there will be another election in four years. That’s the American way, and what a great way it is!

  59. Mortimer, most of the wikileaks leaks were pretty mundane and at worst slightly embarrassing for those involved. Ask someone which wikileak story made a difference and typically they can’t think of any revelation that mattered.

    I certainly am not defending Trump’s response to any of this. It’s typical Trump which means it’s self-serving, not accurate, and more than a little confusing and incoherent. My point is that there were numerous hacks – arguably several like the OPM hack that were far more significant – yet Democrats didn’t really care much until HRC lost the election. Even Obama refused to do anything about those attacks. He’s just now doing something and most likely due to the pressure in the press the last month.

    The way the wikileaks hack was effective was by Assange saying more was coming. So everyone assumed something bad was coming even though it never did. Trump faced something similar with all the stories that a video that would kill him far worse than the Bush video. No video ever surfaced. That’s dirty politics but I think it clear both sides were doing that.

    Polling data suggests the biggest effects on Clinton were the FBI investigation into her email server and her calling Trump supporters deplorables. I’m no Trump fan – far from it – but I think the data is clear that the main reason HRC lost was herself.

  60. To add I’m anything but a defender to wikileaks. But I think Assange has always had unsavory Russian ties. It’s just that the left was much more pro-wikileaks until HRC lost the election.

    Personally I think Obama should have done something years ago. So from my perspective Democrats are finally coming around to the right view. It’s just that it comes off are particularly self-serving and hypocritical that they are only doing this now. Yes I know there were some voices condemning wikileaks before the election – but when the party with power does nothing about it that matters. Likewise they had the opportunity to make a case for this in the election. While HRC mentioned it in one of the debates she didn’t exactly push it in a convincing fashion for most voters. That’s on her and her campaign not Putin.

  61. “the data is clear that the main reason HRC lost was herself”

    Off topic, but couldn’t resist. The polling data (as much as it could be trusted) indicated that HRC had a strong lead a couple of weeks before the election. FBI director James Comey, Russia and wikileaks, and persistent false equivalence bias in the news media put a heavy thumb on the election scale. HRC lost huge ground in the polls just 9 or 10 days before the election as a result of Comey’s decision to investigate more emails (and the email “scandal” was always overblown, but too much of the American public was too gullible about it). Image is everything in the elections (particularly in the month before), and the abovementioned issues painted HRC as somehow shifty and untrustworthy (which I don’t think she is and even if you consider her to be such, Trump far outdoes her). HRC won the popular vote to 2.8 million votes. That can’t be overstated. Without those issues, it is likely that HRC would have picked up another 150,000 more votes or so in the right states to put her over the top. That said, HRC should have put up a stronger effort in PA, WI, and MI. She got overconfident.

    Trump’s victory reminds me of a Simpsons episode in which Mr. Burns goes to the doctor to get tested and it is revealed that he has all kinds of maladies. When the doctor attempts to tell why Mr. Burns isn’t dead, his explanation is that too many diseases are trying to fit through the door at once and that no one disease could fully break through, thus keeping Mr. Burns alive. Such is the case with Trump. There were so many controversies surrounding him that the public became inured to the scoundrel that he was and allowed him an exception while gasping at news of lipstick on HRC’s teeth.

  62. Mark S and yet Democrats have shifted from blaming Comey to blaming Putin. Why? Because if they blame Comey it only works if one acknowledges that it’s stupid to nominate a candidate under investigation by the FBI with a head assistant whose husband is a known sex addict charged with under age sex photos who probably illegally had a copy of all Clinton’s email on his laptop.

    i.e. the whole Comey argument actually strengthens not weakens the argument that Clinton’s loss is due to her horrible choices about email security.

    Likewise the distinction between the popular vote and electoral vote highlights the mistakes her campaign made by not focusing enough on certain states with rural voters in the midwest and north. After the election many stories came out about Bill Clinton apparently begging the campaign to work there and getting shot down. Again, that’s a strategic choice by Clinton. Putin didn’t make Clinton decide not to campaign in Wi. Likewise there were numerous stories that Clinton’s ground game which everyone expected to be as good as Obama’s actually was neglected including things like people not being able to get lawn signs. (See this Huffington Post story or Politico story among many)

    Again I’ve no love for Trump but blaming Putin is just a way the center left can avoid doing any introspection about this election. At least after 2012 the Republicans did a bunch of introspection about what they did wrong. They had a poor candidate and didn’t focus on minority voters enough. (Of course the GOP base learned nothing from this and nominated a candidate who nearly lost to the weakest D candidate in years and who will most likely make future elections far worse for them – but at least the party intellectuals knew this was insanity)

  63. JI,
    For the last time, this wasn’t a free or honest election. Trump colluded with the Russians, encouraged them to hack into his opponent’s servers. Fine, the RNC and DNC aren’t technically governmental they’re political organizations who play a major role in electoral processes and the placement of governmental officials (appointed and elected) in all branches of government. Ok. You got me. But back on point, after digital espionage Trump joined the foreign power’s disinformation campaign to their mutual benefit. What is remotely “honest” about that? What was “honest” about Comey’s break with legal and administrative policy to publicly announce a sham of an investigation right before the election (which by the way turned up absolutely nothing), but was successful in creating a cloud of doubt and removing HRC’s lead? What is remotely “free” about the fact that our democratic system has run amok without campaign finance reform? What is remotely “free” about an electoral college that under-represents minorities and urbanites, misrepresented 2.8 million Americans, and failed to break the safety glass to prevent the most incompetent, self-serving, and dangerous buffoon in U.S. history from taking the post?

    For the record, Trump supporters like you need to to stop saying that anyone who points out the ways in which our democracy is failing, is just “grieving the loss of your candidate”. No. I’m grieving over the way that everyone shrugs their shoulders and says “oh well” or, “water under the bridge” when these pieces of our democracy are broken or ignored. From time to time our democracy has required our blood, but every minute, every day it requires our vigilance. An appeasement strategy (MTC, I’m starring directly at you) does nothing to guard or uphold our democracy. Why are they singing choruses of praise to our country if they won’t uphold it?

    I’m a “have not”. I have no money, no international business interests, no friends in high places, no particular vestment in any party winning or loosing. I’m pretty long in the tooth and have seen democratic and republican presidents come and go. Each time, I’ve been hopeful and relieved when power shifts from one ideology to another. This time, it’s different.

    You also need to stop whipping out the false equivalency of Trump and HRC as equally bad choices. That topic was covered and shot down by gazillions of articles and essays in nearly every major paper and magazine October. I can’t believe people are still saying that. They are not the same, not by a landslide.

    Do you really think coronation is the only other alternative? Oh dear. Your high school social studies teacher did you a disservice. Our democracy has many other functioning facets and fail-safes. I am advocating for people to stop saying “it’s water under the bridge” and “oh well, I guess he’s President, let’s support him”. (MTC, again, I’m looking straight at you).

    I’m saying that if he refuses to divest his personal businesses and conflicts of interest (#divestdonald) we hold him accountable to the Constitutional Emoluments clause and impeach him on day one, minute one. We support the ongoing bipartisan investigation into treasonous Russian collusion. We insist on accountability in our secret service ranks to the people and to the democracy, not to the president or a party.

    Ralph Nader predicted this would be the shortest presidency in American history as he will be impeached. I think we need to stop normalizing this administration and start holding it accountable according to the laws of our land and our Constitution.

    We also need to educate the people, stop false news, somehow push back the rising global tide of white supremacy and xenophobia (Brexit, Steve Bannon, etc.), stand up for religious freedoms (not just for ourselves, but for Muslims, atheists, Protestants, Hindus, etc.) and while we have time, institute sweeping campaign finance reform. (Just to name a few chores). There is no time to shrug shoulders and say “oh well”.

    The first step is recognizing there is a problem and speaking up about it. Here is where I lament that the MTC is failing us. Through their appeasement, they normalize this behavior.

  64. Mortimer, you have to explain how information coming out that press chose to disperse entails that it wasn’t free. If the same information came out from a leaker within the DNC, posted publicly but was unassociated with wikileaks, would it have been free?

    One can simultaneously think that one should react to Russian involvement strongly and think it had little effect on election. It seems very hard for me to see that this was not a free election. Especially when the press stories about wikileaks noted the Russian connection. Voters were very free to make their own choices and judgments in things.

    To normalization, I can never quite tell what that means. But I certainly agree Trump should be held to account for any laws he breaks. Thus far I’m not aware of any.

  65. Clark, I don’t think you have a clear read on the ongoing discussions among liberals about the election. Not a huge problem, and it’s impossible to follow everything, but a lot of places have been doing serious, non-stop introspection ever since the election. That doesn’t make Democrats any less angry about Comey violating DoJ policies about avoiding interference with upcoming elections.

  66. The Americans on this blog are arguing their political points of view, what Walter was pointing out is that the view from outside is very different.

    In Australia and I think Europe, Obama was viewed as a good president, and Hilary as a good potential president. Trump was viewed as a unelectable disaster.

    Our views of what are moral issues are different. Abortion and gay rights are accepted, there are no major political parties wanting to turn these back, they are human rights. We could not understand why republicans hated Hilary, most of that hatred seems to be because democrats have a different view, which view is closer to that accepted by the rest of us in the free world. So even conservative people here are closer to Democrats views.

    Trumps behaviour would be unacceptable here. Only the nutters on the extreme right express any support for Trump.

    So when the MTC is beamed round the world supporting Trump, it is a big problem. We, the Church is being associated with the nutter extremists.

    It doesn’t matter what Americans can justify out here only the extreme nutters want to be associated with Trump, are these the people who might be potential converts, would that be good?

  67. What Geoff-Aus (69) said.

    Belgian media already mentioned that Trump could only find a Mormon choir and the Rockettes to participate… Mormonism was already viewed as part of extreme right and as homophobic, now the church will add an even weirder association.

    As to Walter’s question in 59, see this article in the Trib today.

  68. The political issues of the election are highly interesting in themselves, but not entirely germane to my blog, as Geoff (69 and Wilfried 70) point out. The problem at hand is that the choice whether or not to sing is a wicked dilemma in the USA – the discussions brought that out clearly – putting the Domestic Church in a quandary, but an absolute no-go area in the International Church (just to use this – admittedly overdrawn – distinction). The fact that a choir member resigns over this performance is another sign of the trouble the choir is in. Whatever the arguments have been to accept the invitation, my feeling that this decision has been taken took quickly and without balancing all arguments, gets stronger as this debate goes on.

  69. Thanks for the post Walter, and to others offering perspective from outside the US. Maybe this will all sort itself out, i.e., if there end up being only enough volunteers from the choir to form a double quartet, or something.

  70. Jonathan (68) some groups within the Democratic party have obviously seen these as more of an issue. I’m speaking more broadly although admittedly primarily by the liberal media I regularly read. How representative that is can admittedly be critiqued. However Obama’s actions on things like the OPM hack which arguably is much worse than the DNC hack seems a pretty objective problem.

    Wilfred (70) I actually agree completely with you. It’d be quite different if MoTab wasn’t one of the few acts willing to work with Trump.

    Geoff (69) I don’t think that can be said enough. There are huge social gaps between Europe and the US (with Canada falling somewhere in between although probably of late closer to Europe)

  71. Update: 5-year Mormon Tabernacle Choir member Jan Chamberlin posted on Facebook a letter of resignation that she wrote to the Choir director over its acceptance of Trump’s invitation to sing at his inauguration. Here is part of it:

    “When I first auditioned and entered Choir, it was to follow deep personal impressions, and to honor my late father, who was among the best of men. Now I must leave Choir for the same reasons. My father ( who was an expert airforce bomber) hated tyranny and was extremely distraught over the holocaust. He and Mom both loved people greatly.
    I have deep patriotic feelings for this country and for the freedoms of people everywhere throughout the world. I am troubled by the problems we face which seek to destroy our love for liberty and respect for humanity internationally.”

  72. Clark and others, you talk about introspection on the left, it is happening among just about everyone, including conservatives. The fair number of conservatives who reluctantly supported Trump (maybe because they thought it would be a victory for conservatism or maybe because they thought that HRC would have been worse) are anxiously wondering how much Trump is going to try to carry out his campaign promises, and are trying to come to terms with what conservatism even is. Many are pained about Trump being able to rise on the racist, xenophobic, and misogynist elements, something that they had desperately tried to shed from the movement, of conservatism and are wondering if he is going to upend the movement altogether.

  73. An interesting conversation.

    Before reading this, I assumed the issue was more one-sided than I now see it. Initially, it was a shock to see the choir associated with Donald Trump through the inauguration, but then I valued how it set an example of impartiality, tolerance, and patriotism. I still largely feel that is the case.

    However, it almost seems as if the decision to sing and participate will be a boon for the Church and its message to those not familiar with it, whereas it confuses and turns off many of those who are members or familiar with the Church. In particular, for those outside of the US, I can easily see how this has an effect opposite of what is likely intended,

    Sometimes certain events must take on greater importance than the people involved. There are no perfect politicians, no perfect choir members, no perfect Church leaders, no perfect observers. The principles of American government are designed to see the country survive beyond the influence of dangerous elected officials, whoever they may or may not be.

    As a Utah Mormon who does not support Trump, I support the decision for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing at the inauguration – although I am saddened at some of the vitriol I have seen displayed on both sides of the issue. I also believe it adds significantly to the discussion to address how it discusses those outside of the US.

    Thanks, Walter.

  74. To the suffering saints “… if in order to be humble we must be humiliated, give us the courage to say, let it come”. (Hugh B Brown).

  75. Mortimer at #58 (and perhaps others): At the risk of drifting off-topic, I did not vote for Trump and am no fan, but I am getting a little tired of the oft-repeated claim that he actually “encouraged” the Russians to hack Clinton and/or the DNC. I remember laughing myself when I heard him make what was clearly a joke that rather cleverly linked tied the earliest rumors of Russian hacking to the controversy about Clinton’s private e-mail server. He said something to the effect of “Hey, Russia, maybe you can find us the 30,000 missing e-mails.”

    I thought it was quite funny, actually, and clearly meant that way – but almost immediately Trump’s political opponents in the media began spinning it as if he were seriously encouraging Russian interference in the election. Your comment would seem to demonstrate that they were successful in their objective, proving the adage that a lie, repeated often enough, will eventually become truth. I’ve not been able to find any record of Trump having said anything outside of this one statement – clearly made in jest – that could be even remotely construed as encouraging Russian hacking. I think there’s plenty enough about Trump to criticize without twisting his words to mean things he never really said.

    I think it’s also worth noting that no one knows exactly when the invitation was issued to the MTC by Trump’s Inauguration Committee, or how long the Brethren took to decide to accept it. Many of the criticisms I’ve read here are based on inferences or assumptions about timing and motives, but with few (or no) actual facts.

  76. I understand that the Brethren will shortly be issuing a statement explaining why they have decided to accept the invitation. That is a good idea, and as far as I know a first. So let us close the discussion for the moment till we have their statement. Thanks for the debate, it has been highly enlightening.

  77. Meanwhile, there’s an interesting parallel between this issue and whether or not Silicon Valley CEOs should have answered the summons to visit Trump Tower. Apple CEO Tim Cook: “Personally, I’ve never found being on the sideline a successful place to be. We engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling.” http://fxn.ws/2hywhvC

    Look at the thoughts of why Cook would go to Trump Tower to have, perhaps, a preview of why the MTC (and the church) would still remain positively engaged with the Trump administration.

  78. Tim (not Cook). Seems like an apples to oranges comparison. I think advisers should most certainly advise Trump at his invitation, and also not at his invitation. If we can’t remove him from power (which should be the first option) then the second option should be reasonable people trying to convince him to craft reasonable policies. The MoTab is not a group of advisers, they are a choir. Their singing at his inauguration comes off as somewhat celebratory and accepting of Trump, even if they don’t intend it that way.

  79. Mark S: I agree it’s not an apt comparison. Where I saw a similarity was that Tim Cook, had he declined the invitation, would likely have angered Trump, which would not have been wise from a corporate standpoint. Similarly, I assume the MTC was invited to perform, and so similarly did not decline but was “honored to be able to serve our country by providing music for the inauguration,” and at least have the institutional church not held in worse esteem than it already is by Trump.

    Perhaps another comparison to be made is the actions of the church while seeking statehood for the Utah Territory.

  80. Worry over angering a volatile and unpredictable president-elect because of not accepting an invitation is ample reason not to accept an invitation. Your second comparison is even more bizarre than the first. That was over 120 years ago. Are you worried that Trump is going to revoke Utah’s statehood and declare Mormonism illegal or something?

  81. I bring up Tim Cook visiting Trump Tower and the church making policy modifications to achieve Utah statehood as examples of people doing things they’d rather not do to achieve a desired end. I would suppose the brethren prefer the church be seen in a positive light rather than as angry foot-stamping contrarians who don’t like the morals of last November’s winner. Favorable consideration from the new administration would be the hoped for result from the MTC performing. Trump is so emotionally flighty it might not make a positive difference, but to not perform certainly would, in a negative way.

    I’ve done a little work at my state legislature to advance the interests of my occupation. I work equally well with Ds and Rs, environmentalists and industrialists, men and women, people who share my values and those don’t. There is nothing to gain by antagonizing your ideological opponents, especially when they are in a position to push policies that affect you negatively. This is the reality of politics and interpersonal relations.

  82. “There is nothing to gain by antagonizing your ideological opponents, especially when they are in a position to push policies that affect you negatively”

    OK, declining an invitation wouldn’t be antagonizing a political opponent, the MoTab is not a political group (plus, the tactics that Trump used to win prove every part of that idea completely wrong). Second what exactly could Trump to negatively affect the LDS church? Trump’s behavior and past do not reflect LDS morals in any, way, shape, or form. The MoTab has no business singing at his inauguration. In so doing, it shows that they have no moral backbone, and neither do you.

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