For a minute it looked like the Mormons might take the moral high road and stand against Donald Trump. The business tycoon took third in Utah’s caucus in March, racking up only 14 percent of the vote. Early polls showed Hillary Clinton closing the gap in the notoriously Republican state. Noted Mormon politician Mitt Romney publicly called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud.” Evan McMullin, a Mormon conservative alternative to Trump, surfaced as the only third-party candidate with a chance of winning any electors. Think pieces were written about the virtuousness of Mormon voters and their resistance to the grossness of Trump.
But after some last-minute high-profile Republican endorsements, Trump ended up beating Clinton in Utah by 18 points. Romney ended up kowtowing to Trump in an embarrassing, failed bid to become secretary of State. And now the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is joining bottom-of-the-barrel musicians Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, and the Rockettes, as the only major musical acts willing to play at Trump’s inauguration in January.
Which in itself is fine. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has always been a part of the PR branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The choir has appeared at inaugurations from Kennedy to Reagan and views every opportunity to perform for an audience as an opportunity to bring more souls to Christ. But playing at an event at which thousands of other musicians, including local high school marching bands, wouldn’t deign to play for moral reasons can hardly cast the church in a positive light. Maybe they’ve given up on converting kind, educated people and are casting their nets on the alt-right. That’s their prerogative, and tithe payers are tithe payers.
What makes this move a particular slap in the face for LGBT people is the church’s insistence that the choir’s presence at Trump’s inauguration not be seen as implicit support of the man or his actions. Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said, in response to criticism of the church’s decision, "The choir's participation continues its long tradition of performing for U.S. presidents of both parties at inaugurations and in other settings, and is not an implied support of party affiliations or politics.”
That’s an optimistic statement, but it’s also false; probably framed to protect the church's tax-exempt status. The truth of the matter is that performing for a president’s inauguration does imply support. Why else would no other musicians play the event? They don’t want their fans or Donald Trump’s fans thinking that they support him. Why doesn’t the church seem to care about this? Mormon leaders do know they can say no, right?
Still not seeing the LGBT connection? Well, consider this excerpt from an interview on MormonNewsroom.org, a website owned by the church. In the interview, titled “Same-Gender Attraction,” the church’s public affairs office interviews Mormon apostle Dallin H. Oaks on a variety of gay-themed topics:
“PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At what point does showing that love cross the line into inadvertently endorsing behavior? If the son says, ‘Well, if you love me, can I bring my partner to our home to visit? Can we come for holidays?’ How do you balance that against, for example, concern for other children in the home?’
“ELDER OAKS: That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer.
“I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your 'partnership.'”
So LGBT Mormon kids can’t be dealt with in public for fear that it would signal approval of their quote-unquote partnership, but the official singing, PR face of the entire church can go and perform for a vagina-grabbing, xenophobic, violent, un-Christian monster and we’re not supposed to see any implied support. Try again, Mormons. We're too tired and confused to make sense of your hateful logic. Support Trump if you want, but don’t pretend your choices stem from virtue.
ROBBIE X PIERCE is a writer based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @robbiepierce.