Six weeks ago today, roughly 155 million Americans cast their votes. Joe Biden won the presidency by a landslide. He won the popular vote by over seven million votes. He won the electoral college vote — the real vote that determines who becomes the next president — by 306 to 232. This result was evident the day after the election. Cautious networks delayed calling the election for Biden until Saturday, November 7. There was dancing in the streets. Most world leaders issued congratulatory statements or made congratulatory phone calls to President-Elect Joe Biden within that first week. Yesterday, one day shy of six weeks after the election, the LDS Church finally recognized Joe Biden as President-Elect of the United States with a statement posted at the LDS Newsroom: “Church Leaders Congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden.” The story here, of course, isn’t that Joe Biden won. We’ve known that for over a month. The story is why the Church leadership waited six weeks to issue their statement.
The Positive Spin. Giving LDS leaders the benefit of a charitable reading, we can acknowledge that they faced the tricky problem of how and when to release the congratulatory statement without offending the 70% of Latter-day Saints who voted for President Trump and who continue to strongly support him and his outlandish claims about the election. Waiting until the electoral votes were cast (although not formally accepted by Congress until January 6, 2021) seems like a reasonable compromise between reality and a majority of Latter-day Saints who practically worship Donald Trump and continue to think, in the face of overwhelming facts and fifty court cases to the contrary, that Joe Biden somehow “stole” the election and that Donald Trump actually won a second term. We should all have a little sympathy for the difficult challenge that LDS leaders face trying to lead a church full of people who live in a mental fantasyland.
The Negative Spin. They should have issued the statement five weeks ago. I suppose you can say better late than never, but an extremely belated congratulatory statement is more like a statement of regret. The Deseret News, in its carefully worded story about the LDS statement, “Later-day Saint leaders congratulate Presdient-elect Biden after electoral college victory,” speculate that the delay was justified because President Trump refused to acknowledge his landslide defeat. In 2016 and 2012, the Church issued a congratulatory statement within 24 hours of the polls closing. Sure, Hilary Clinton and Mitt Romney made concession speeches in the same time frame. But this is also an acknowledgment that LDS leadership is sort of waiting for Trump’s permission to acknowledge that Biden won the election. The problem isn’t just that the majority of Latter-day Saints accept Donald Trump’s view of the world, it’s that LDS leaders feel compelled to defer to it. I wonder if LDS leaders think Jesus defers to Donald Trump’s view of the world?
The Statement Itself. Now that I’ve sketched a charitable and a critical view of the five-weeks-too-late contratulatory statement, here is the statement itself. It doesn’t show up at the LDS.org home page, and it isn’t even one of the highlighted stories at the Newsroom. It’s tucked away down the page under “Additional News.” Here it is:
We congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his election as President of the United States. We also congratulate Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
We invite people everywhere, whatever their political views, to join us in praying for this new administration and for leaders of nations around the world. Praying for those in public office has been a practice of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its founding. The men and women who lead our nations and communities need our prayers.
We thank President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence for their public service and wish them and their families well in their future endeavors. We commend all those who engaged in the election process at a national or local level. Their participation in our democratic process, by its nature, demands much of those who offer themselves for public service.
May our local, national, and world leaders be blessed with wisdom and judgment as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the people of the world.
Conclusions. A lot has happened since my post two weeks ago, “The Missing Biden Statement.” I should note that a paragraph from that post was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune article on the LDS statement, “LDS Church congratulates Joe Biden in message that comes weeks later than in previous presidential races.” At least the Biden statement is no longer missing.
So what do you think of the statement itself? We should take to heart the admonition, “We invite people everywhere, whatever their political views, to join us in praying for this new administration ….” When he takes office on January 20, 2021, President Biden will face not only a Covid pandemic that continues to rage but also an ex-President Trump who will continue to rage. At best, Trump will simply continue to broadcast a variety of self-serving noise and falsehoods through Twitter and the Trump media. At worst, he will use his dwindling political power, his hundreds of millions of dollars collected recently from gullible followers (the money was to fund Trump’s political slush fund, not to contest the “stolen” election, which Trump knows wasn’t stolen), and his personal knowledge of a variety of classified and secret national security facts to harrass President Biden as he begins to tackle the mess left behind by Trump. God bless our new President, Joe Biden. If LDS leadership, in their weekly meeting, offers prayers on his behalf, so much the better. And don’t wait five weeks, you apostles. He’ll need those LDS prayers on Day One.