The soprano courageously challenged the Church.
Saying “I could never look myself in the mirror again with self respect”, a soprano singer with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir resigned rather than sing at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Her letter, later posted on Facebook, is a powerful condemnation of both the upcoming presidency and anyone — including the Choir — that supports it.
Jan Chamberlin has been with the Choir for five years. Her love for both it and her religion are obvious. She wrote:
I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in Choir for all the other good reasons.
I have highly valued the mission of the Choir to be good- will ambassadors for Christ, to share beautiful music and to give hope, inspiration, and comfort to others.
But in the end, the soprano could convince neither herself nor anyone else. She came to the conclusion that the Choir’s acceptance of the invitation to perform was not only a betrayal that she personally felt, but a betrayal of anyone who believes in the Mormon religion. In her words:
I also know, looking from the outside in, it will appear that Choir is endorsing tyranny and facism by singing for this man.
And Choir’s wonderful image and networking will be severely damaged and that many good people throughout this land and throughout the world already do and will continue to feel betrayed. 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.
Chamberlin had harsh words for the man she sees as a tyrant, expounding on the beliefs and fears that brought the soprano to her decision:
Tyranny is now on our doorstep; it has been sneaking its way into our lives through stealth. Now it will burst into our homes through storm.I hope that we and many others will work together with greater dilligence and awareness to calmly and bravely work together to defend our freedoms and our rights for our families, our friends, and our fellow citizens.
To make her point, Chamberlin compared Trump to the Wizard in the Broadway hit ‘Wicked’. The Wizard said that he creates conflict “to stay in power”. The soprano wrote:
This scenario can keep us perpetually distracted and at odds with each other and keep us from working together to solve important issues. This also allows those in office to do whatever they want to unchecked. I believe this has been done to us, both cunningly and intentionally.
For her, this is a deeply moral issue. It would have to be. An immense amount of courage is necessary to publicly challenge a decision of the Mormon Church. Church officials refused to comment on how many others have chosen to drop out of the performance, only saying, through spokesman Eric Hawkins:
Participation in the choir, including the performance at the Inauguration, is voluntary. Only a limited number of choir members are participating.
The Choir reportedly has 360 singers. A lottery will choose about 215 to participate, from a pool of volunteers who submit their names.
The Church has experienced a backlash. About 19,000 Mormons from around the globe have signed a petition that says the performance “does not reflect the values of Mormonism and does not represent its diverse 15-plus million members worldwide.” Those are some of the “betrayed” to whom the soprano singer referred, but not all of them. The decision to participate has split Mormons, many of whom ignored their consciences to cast their votes for the Republican candidate.
Jan Chamberlin ultimately felt like she had no choice, though she agonized over the decision. She compared Trump to Hitler with these words:
History is repeating itself; the same tactics are being used by Hitler (identify a problem, finding a scapegoat target to blame, and stirring up people with a combination of fanaticism, false promises, and fear, and gathering the funding).
And she summed up her motivation to resign as a soprano singer with the Choir with this:
I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him.
The rest of us might never know how many others are persuaded by Jan Chamberlin’s powerful words, but we certainly can appreciate the courage it took for her to speak out so clearly about the danger she sees ahead.