Mormon Tabernacle Choir inauguration performance meets opposition


FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015 file photo, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during the opening session of the two-day Mormon church conference in Salt Lake City. The church announced on its website Thursday that the 360-member volunteer choir will sing at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony on January 20. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during the opening session of General Conference in Salt Lake City. One choir member and more than 25,000 online petitioners have expressed opposition to the LDS Church’s announcement Thursday, Dec. 22 that the 360-member choir would sing at Trump’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20. (AP Photo)

Plans for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s participation in the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration quickly saw mixed reaction on social media.

An online petition urging the LDS Church to pull the choir from the inaugural ceremony has more than 25,000 signatures. One choir member announced her resignation Dec. 29, in a Facebook post containing a letter she wrote to the choir director and choir members.

Jan Chamberlin announced her resignation Thursday as a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir following the choir’s decision to perform at president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. (Jan Chamberlin via Facebook)

Jan Chamberlin said opting out of the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump was not enough to allow her to “continue in good conscience before God and man.”

“I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in (the choir) for all the other good reasons,” Chamberlin said in the letter. “But it’s no use. I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events. I could never look myself in the mirror again with self-respect.”

She said she acknowledges the choir’s desire to show its political neutrality and share good will, but knows it will appear from the outside the choir is “endorsing tyranny and facism by singing for this man.”

“(The choir’s) wonderful image and networking will be severely damaged and … many good people throughout this land and throughout the world already do and will continue to feel betrayed,” Chamberlin said. “I believe hereafter, our message will not be believed by many that have loved us and adored what we have stood for. I know that I too feel betrayed.”

Later on Thursday afternoon, Chamberlin published another public Facebook post in response to the reactions to her resignation, expressing her desire to “calmly discuss how to implement good.”

“Shall we get back to the topic at hand, which I believe was standing up for freedom, fighting against tyranny, and standing true to the values and morals we’ve been taught by God,” Chamberlin said. “I am interested in having dialogue on that topic and working together to see how we can work together to do that.”

Another Mormon Tabernacle Choir member, Cristi Ford Brazao, expressed her support of the choir’s announcement to sing at Trump’s inauguration in a Facebook video posted on Dec. 24. Brazao said her goal in performing with the choir is to fellowship others and be like Jesus Christ.

“Jesus Christ associated with prostitutes and liars and thieves and while he did not endorse what they were doing, he still didn’t hold his mission from them,” Brazao said. “And my mission is one of love, peace and hope and I want to share that with others, even in the face of ridicule because that’s what Jesus Christ did.”

An online petition protesting the choir’s performance at Trump’s inauguration created Thursday, Dec. 22 following the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s announcement now has more than 25,000 signatures.

“We, as signers of this petition, believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ decision to allow the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to perform at the upcoming presidential inauguration of Donald Trump does not reflect the values of Mormonism and does not represent its diverse 15+ million members worldwide,” the petition said.

Randall Thacker, who drafted the petition, said in a press release that most of the signatures were from members of the church as the petition approached 15,000 signatures on Dec. 26. He said he and other supporters of the petition were planning to “personally deliver” the petition to the choir and LDS Church in the coming week.

“My heart sank when I heard the news last Thursday,” Thacker said in the release. “The thought of this choir and Mormonism being forever associated with a man who disparages minorities, brags about his sexual control of women, encourages intolerance and traffics in hate speech and bullying, was unacceptable.”

Thacker said in an update to the petition the supporters see this as “an important matter of political neutrality,” as the church has established itself as nonpartisan.

“An inauguration is inherently partisan even when we want to say it is not,” Thacker said in the update. “We would prefer that a worldwide Church with so much political diversity refrain from inaugurations anywhere in the world, and instead perform at national events (e.g., Independence Days, Memorial Days, etc.) for any government in the world.”

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement last week the choir’s performance at U.S. presidential inaugurations is “not an implied support of party affiliations.”

“The choir’s participation continues its long tradition of performing for U.S. presidents of both parties at inaugurations and in other settings,” Hawkins said in the statement. “It is a demonstration of our support for freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power.”

Chamberlin said the choir’s participation at Trump’s inauguration is a “hugely moral issue” for her, and that her resignation came after careful reflection on both sides of the matter.

“My heart is shattered and broken, but my conscience is clear,” Chamberlin said. “And that really is all that matters.”

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