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.
As a youth and adult in the Church, I was taught that it was important to take a stance for truth and righteousness. It was important to make sure others knew where you stood ethically and morally. It was important to protect the less powerful.
When I read various public bulletins released by the Church, I am struck by the extreme efforts to be diplomatic, and nuanced. Such extremes of diplomacy often lead organizations to lose the moral and ethical high ground.
To support whatever government will allow an organization to proselyte or sell puts them on the side of skullduggery, and sometimes, on the side of evil.
The same church that manipulates tourist visas rules in order to get missionaries into a country is now the same church that refuses to report sexual predators due to their meticulous following of local state laws.
This is beginning to feel like the political version of a elementary school playground. The church is aligning itself with the powerful bully and is passively watching as the bully swings and topples half the class. When the bully is suddenly moved to another school, the church suddenly wants to be friends with all the victims. Life does not work that way. The secret rules of friendship include standing up for others when they are wrongly injured or mocked.
The church can do better. The church needs to do better. In order to keep membership and survive as an entity, the church has to do better .
The church finally makes its statement and, in the process, proves itself irrelevant.
Dave, this is stupid. If Trump had conceded, the Church would have issued its congratulatory statement. He didn’t and so they waited, understanding that this election was extremely divisive in a way that the last several elections have not been. There was and is no harm in the Church waiting until either the losing candidate concedes or the Electoral College casts its ballots. If the Church fails to abide by this informal rule in the future, I’ll certainly complain about it.
Damascene, exactly what actions did the Church take to “align itself with the powerful bully?” during Trump’s presidency? What policy or practice was changed to cuddle up to Trump? Nelson has made a lot of changes in his relatively short time in office, but has anything he directed made the Church any cozier with Trump’s wing than it was prior?
70% of Latter-day Saints may have voted for Trump, but I don’t think 70% have the same outlook or believe that the election was stolen. I didn’t vote for Trump, but I know plenty who did, and most of them accept the results of the election, and only voted reluctantly for Trump in the first place.
Of all the statements coming from the Church’s top brass, electoral congratulatory statements are among the least important or interesting. That Dave is so distraught over this year’s statement says a lot about his priorities.
The meeting of the electoral colleges to cast a vote used to be just a mere formality affirming what was already well-established by the vote-count reported to and by major news media organizations. But because of Trumpism and a massive increase in distrust of the “media” (no such thing as the “media” especially since the scaremongers about the “media” are media themselves) Republican leaders and churches, afraid of the reactions of delusional Trump supporters and having no backbone to stand up to them, had to wait until this mere formality occurred to acknowledge the obvious. I fail to see neither McConnell nor the church leaders as paragons of courage in this regard.
If you want a fun read, go to the Newsroom’s comments section on Facebook. A not-unsurprising number of comments call the Church to repentance for issuing the statement. Many call the statement premature, since Congress still has to formally read the votes. Many accuse the Newsroom of going rogue.
From the Deseret News:
“Four years ago, the church congratulated President Trump on his election, similarly calling for prayers for him and his administration.
In 2012, church leaders congratulated President Barack Obama on his re-election.
In those two cases, the church issued its statements of congratulations after the runners-up called the winners to concede the race. Hillary Clinton called Trump the morning after election day to concede in 2016. Mitt Romney conceded the race to Obama on election night 2012.
Trump has not conceded the 2020 election.
After the 2008 election, church leaders congratulated President-elect Obama in a statement released on Jan. 16, 2009.
All 50 states certified their election results last week.”
The penultimate ¶ is complexly intriguing:
*January 16, 2009*
John McCain conceded to Barack Obama late on election night, November 4, 2008. While I am glad the Deseret News included that, it does make me wonder just what we were waiting for.
Well they beat out Vladimir Putin with hours to spare. So there’s that. (McConnell was even slower than Putin.)
“The church finally makes its statement and, in the process, proves itself irrelevant.”
Well, yes, by declaring neutrality, the church claims to WANT to be irrelevant with respect to who is elected.
A large portion of the US believes, due to Trumplican lies, that somehow Biden stole the election. A large portion of US LDS believe it as well. They’re convinced beyond doubt and beyond reason, and they’re just waiting for the Trumplicans to present evidence to prove it. Except, the Trumplicans don’t have any evidence. That’s why all their court cases failed.
It is not a moral issue for the Church to jump in and weigh in on. No concession was made, and the Trumplicans either had evidence or they didn’t. Turns out they didn’t. Why would the church try to make a factual statement that there was no election fraud? The Church doesn’t establish such things. Why would the Church congratulate Biden when there was no concession and the election wasn’t technically complete? Wouldn’t that look like bias for Biden? Why not give LDS people time to sort through these realities on their own?
It seems to me that the only point in having the Church congratulate the election winner is to promote unity and good faith after the question is settled — not to pick a side when for a huge group of people, the question isn’t settled. Now, it’s officially settled, even if it still isn’t in the minds of many.
I’m the first to criticize the Church when they blow it from a PR point-of-view. But in this case, they played it just right. Save your criticism for the real mistakes.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
Not a Cougar: “Dave, this is stupid. If Trump had conceded, the Church would have issued its congratulatory statement.” You’re making my points for me, Cougar. They should have issued the statement five weeks ago (the right thing to do) but they waited because Trump.
Camacho: “I know plenty who … only voted reluctantly for Trump in the first place.” There sure are a lot of noisy Mormons who were and are 110% Trumpers. There just aren’t many left in No Man’s Land.
CS Eric: “If you want a fun read, go to the Newsroom’s comments section on Facebook.” Nothing fun about it. But it certainly supports my claim that “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.” And let me just add to no one in particular how pathetically unworkable the Facebook comment system is if one is trying to read a long comment thread. Blogs and websites are a thousand times better for displaying content and hosting comment discussions, plus no manipulative algorithms.
Not a Cougar, I fail to see your point. Trump hasn’t conceded yet.
Dave, no I’m not. An informal rule to wait until the loser concedes or the Electoral College cast its ballots is a perfectly defensible position, especially if you’re not trying to take a partisan stance in a partisan election. The idea that issuing the congratulatory statement five weeks ago was the “right thing to do” only makes sense if you’re partisan about the outcome of the election. Again, if the Church leadership were to go back on this informal rule and start congratulating the presumptive winner before the challenger has conceded and before the Electoral College casts its ballots, I would criticize that action.
John, see the part about the Electoral College casting its ballots in the absence of a concession. Issue a congratulatory statement when one of the two occurs.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
Not a Cougar, let’s count the ways your informal rule is off the mark. First, you are making up your rule after the facts. It’s not a rule that anyone thinks is actually guiding the decisions of LDS leaders, it’s just a handy justification you are throwing at the brute fact that LDS leaders delayed recognizing Biden as the winner for five weeks. Early on, Republicans were quoted as saying hey, let’s finish counting all the ballots, then maybe he’ll concede. Then it’s let’s do some recounts. Then it’s let’s let the legal process play out, then he’ll concede. Then it’s the electoral college vote. He’ll just keep moving the goalposts. Wait until Congress counts the votes. Wait until the inauguration. Wait until a special prosecutor is appointed and investigates the make-believe fraud stories. Personally, I’m surprised the LDS leaders actually released the statement when they did. I thought they would wait until inauguration day. There is no “informal rule” of which you speak. There is just this brute fact: LDS leaders delayed and delayed recognizing publicly Biden’s victory because they don’t like Democrats and they didn’t want to offend the Trumpist majority of the membership. An ex post rule made to fit the facts doesn’t really explain anything.
Second, pandering to a bully doesn’t create better outcomes. The Republican leaders who played along with Trump, hoping he would at some point come around to reality and concede, are now stuck on the Trump crazy train and they can’t get off. By delaying the statement for five weeks, the LDS leaders sort of played the same game, although they probably were pandering to the Trumpist membership of the Church more than to Trump personally. But they have the same problem. Having encouraged (by delaying) the membership to accept the Trump narrative rather than pushing back on it early, now they’re stuck with it. That’s the sense of my claim (in the post two weeks ago) that we’ve become the Church of Donald Trump. The LDS leadership, in return for mollifying the membership who idolize Trump, have (1) led the Trumpist membership to double down on Trumpist fantasies, and (2) have signaled to the 30% of the membership that rejected Trump that both the membership and the leadership have entirely lost their way. The leadership unwittingly (I hope unwittingly) endorsed the heretofore disfavored claim that Democrats are not welcome in the Church.
The problem with the way this played out (and I’m sure it was a hard call for leadership to make) is that it allowed the conspiracy theorists in the Church to imagine and believe that the lies Trump & his acolytes were spewing were based in reality. It allowed the problem (that a chunk of the membership lives in a total fantasy world) to grow and flourish and calcify into something that is really a lot harder to reckon with now. I’m willing to believe that Church leaders just didn’t want to appear non-neutral by bursting the bubble of these folks, but it was a miscalculation, and it is backfiring big time. The other possible read of the situation is that Church leaders would have been willing to support Trump if his ill-fated coup had been successful, and that’s a frightening prospect indeed. Even Fox News called it eons ago. There would have been far less backlash if they had dealt with it when it was obvious rather than letting the crazies get their hopes up.
Not a Cougar, your point was that since this was a divisive election, church leaders waited. Well, it continues to be a divisive post-election season with Trump still not conceding, his supporters not recognizing his loss, and over half of the Republican members of the House and many key members of the Republican Senate (Ted Cruz included) signing on to a lawsuit to overturn the results of the election just last week. How would have congratulating Biden for his clear victory on Nov. 7 have been any different then it is now? You could say, “well, McConnell has recognized the Electoral College’s certification.” OK, a significant member of the Republican Party confirming Biden’s victory. We had the 2012 Republican nominee for president congratulating Biden on Nov. 7th. The wounds of division only grew since then. The church has a civic duty to help heal the wounds of political division, to unite people, and to call them to order. They just sat and let the wound fester, scared of the ardent Trump supporters (supporters of a pathological liar, accused rapist, serial sexual harasser) among their membership. They have shirked that duty.
Angela: “ There would have been far less backlash if they had dealt with it when it was obvious rather than letting the crazies get their hopes up.”
Yup, and here’s the elephant in the room: these guys keep insisting they’re ALL seers prophets & revelators so it must needs be that at least one of them knew KNEW Biden won long before the newsroom finally issued the statement. If this is true, then it appears the tail is actually wagging the dog re: our top-down church.
Dave methinks thou dost protest too much. I get it, you despise Trump (I’m not a fan either) and you’re willing to assume the worst motives on the part of Church leaders, but ultimately you’re posting your assumptions here (though I admit I have no insider information either). You say that they don’t like Democrats, but can you point to any similar delay in a congratulatory statement the four times in the past 30 years Democrats have won? No, because, again in those elections, the loser conceded. I certainly may be wrong with my proposed informal rule, but have a little humility and admit you have no better idea why Church leaders did what they did.
John, my point indeed was that it is a divisive election, but please don’t try to put words in my mouth (so to speak). My post clearly stated that the leadership should issue a statement upon conclusion of the Electoral College vote if the loser hasn’t conceded by then. I understand Trump will never concede the election, not matter how badly he loses in court or how many independent reviews of contested ballots occurs to demonstrate the election was properly peformed which is exactly why I included the Electoral College as a brightline trigger for issuing the statement.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
Cougar, I’m not “assum[ing] the worst motives on the part of Church leaders” as much as reflecting on the consequences of a bad decision, as well as reflecting on why a group of experienced leaders who are inclined to take actions that benefit the Church as an institution have here taken an action that is likely to harm the institution. Angela C, in her comment above, sketches the whole problem much more succinctly than I have managed to do, so I’ll quote her:
“The problem with the way this played out (and I’m sure it was a hard call for leadership to make) is that it allowed the conspiracy theorists in the Church to imagine and believe that the lies Trump & his acolytes were spewing were based in reality. … I’m willing to believe that Church leaders just didn’t want to appear non-neutral by bursting the bubble of these folks, but it was a miscalculation, and it is backfiring big time.”
It’s not like this was rocket science or a puzzle that no one could figure out. Mitt Romney has been a beacon of blatant honesty and rectitude during this whole mess, and I’m sure LDS leaders were aware of his statements. Good advice they just couldn’t take? The LDS membership would be a lot better off taking their political cues from Romney than from the ecclesiastical heirs of Ezra Taft Benson.
“Giving LDS leaders the benefit of a charitable reading…”
Yes, that is a wonderful idea! And gracious, too. I recommend this approach.
The church have been grooming right wing extremists for years. You might think prophets would see that this will lead to 70% of members voting for an immoral republican, and 70% of those believing he won against all the evidence. Could these prophets not have seen when they undermined science, and told members to only hear the approved message, that there would be consequences? Could they have said something over the last 4 years?
Now when there is an extroardinary situation, where trump is not accepting the result of the election, and much of the republican party dare not correct him. So a republic where one side of politics is not sure it supports democracy the church issues the standard statement; not addressing any of the problem it has contributed to, and weeks late.
Who might help the half of members who believe trump won the election? Trump continues to claim he was robbed. The church leadership are the only people who might be able to help these members back to reality, but they refuse. RMN could have when he gave his special message, but refused.
Running very short on moral credibility, and claiming to be prophets, but presenting no evidence, looks as credible as Trump too.
The disagreements in this thread (and on the Newsroom FB page…yikes) show just how little we actually know about the church’s position on things. President Newsroom is far more forthcoming than the 1st Presidency or the Q15, and even President Newsroom leaves enough to the imagination for members on all sides to think the prophet agrees with them. Joseph Smith never really held back on any subject (for better or for worse). The vague, diplomatic tightrope-walking our current leaders do is pretty far removed from that kind of propheting.
This whole thing makes me nervous for the simple reason that it doesn’t say much about what the Church is “selling.” I would assume the Church’s product is what it believes to be an accurate, moral, truthful view of the world, of the purpose of life, and of what happens in the afterlife. I’m not so cynical as to assume the Church is selling tithing subscriptions, although there are plenty of people who think so. If your customer base is also buying conspiracy theories and fake news and failed coup attempts, it makes your own product look bad, particularly since the membership is also the sale force and the operations team. I don’t really think it’s that difficult to figure this one out. As mentioned upthread, Romney got it right early on. A much much smaller percentage of members would have even gone down the rabbit hole if the Church had simply congratulated Biden on Nov. 7. It makes me think that while I thought I belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ, I actually belonged to the Church of the Morally Bankrupt Republican Party.
Not a Cougar,
“He didn’t and so they waited, understanding that this election was extremely divisive in a way that the last several elections have not been”
Your words not mine. In other words, your saying the leaders waited because it was a divisive election. Did it suddenly get less divisive between Nov. 7 and now? No. Quite the opposite. There was no reason for the church leaders to wait. In fact, by waiting, they only allowed division to grow and did nothing to quell it. Leaders shouldn’t have waited because it was a divisive election. It is the other way around. Because it was a divisive election, they should have congratulated president-elect Biden on his victory when it became clear on Nov. 7.
All I really care to say on this matter is “If there is a God in Heaven, may He/She take great pity on our species and on our country (along with other countries of the World) to help us survive the cancerous corruption which thrives within our (and many other) governments. Freedom and Liberty are such frail things which can so easily be snuffed out.” Personally, I think we stand upon a precipice of some truly, remarkably, awful things. I pray (in my own way) that my fears and “gut sense” are wrong…..
“We know they’re lying, they know they’re lying, they know that we know they’re lying, we also know that they know that we know they’re lying, but they STILL LIE.”
Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Left Hand, what is it w/ the right wing & future apocalypse? Seems like a failure of imagination to me.
This is exactly what happened with the mask issue. The church waits too long to really address the issue, many members use that time to buy into silly conspiracy theories, and by the time the church finally makes a statement too many members are too far gone.
John, yes it was hotly contested hence the reason to pick a point in time to release the statement when is relatively indisputable as to the result (i.e., the Electoral College vote). You said that. “The church has a civic duty to help heal the wounds of political division, to unite people, and to call them to order.” Exactly how does issuing a congratulatory statement issued before the formal vote by the Electoral College and while when the incumbent party is contesting the election do that? It becomes nothing more than political theater to be construed in favor of those who voted for Biden. I get it. You don’t like Trump (and I don’t like him either), but that doesn’t mean that the Church abdicated its role here or that an earlier release of the statement would have changed anything. The Church deserves a lot of criticism on a lot of issues. This is not one of them.
From the progressives: apostles should be advocating environmental stewardship more, but they shouldn’t pretend to know what God wants with respect to genders.
From the conservatives: apostles should preach against illegal immigration, as it’s breaking the law, but they shouldn’t be supporting socialism by saying “black lives matter”.
Just because the Church doesn’t say or do what you think is right doesn’t mean it’s in league with or supports your adversary, and suggestions that because the Church didn’t congratulate Biden earlier and prevent so many LDS from going “straight down the rabbit hole” hardly means the Church is the “Church of the Bankrupt Republican Party”. That’s as ridiculous and incendiary as saying Biden stole the election.
Should the church come out and tell people to be vaccinated? Or not to be scammed by essential oils? Or that Facebook is destabilizing to society? Or that the US should give more (or less) support to Israel? Or that Epstein didn’t kill himself? After all, they’re prophets, seers, and revelators, they should know right?
Contested election? Allow both sides to make their cases. One side gradually demonstrates it has no case. Electoral college officially determines the election. Congratulate the winner and pray he does well for the country. I think they did it just right. Strong-feeling progressives are furious they were late, and strong-feeling Trumplicans are furious they did it at all. I hardly think either has a case that it’s a lack of moral leadership on the Church’s part.
Well let’s see, NaC: Joseph Smith could predict the Civil War but our current leadership has to wait for Electoral College? That’s a bit incongruous huh?
RMN, right after the 2016 election , voiced his concern over members being deceived and knowing how to find the Truth. He said he knows how. I heard that as he was concerned that members voted for a fraud Elder Ballard expressed exasperation over members getting conned.
Tim is right. Our leaders speak out after the fact –after the damage has already been done.
When a demagogue raises his ugly head, that’s when to speak —clearly. LDS people want to be told by a prophet. They want to heed what he says. So why not say it???
RMN recently commented on the hate. But he did not say stop trashing liberals. Stop trashing conservatives. Just say it. Of course, he shouldn’t have to tell us. But we need telling.
Apostle Renlund is a Democrat. Uchtdorf comments that conservative politics doesn’t =the gospel. Obviously Democrats belong.
The time to stop the hate talk was back in the 1980’s but the church was silent . Hate destroys as much as porn .So say it.
When people are wrong the prophet tells them.
How much inspiration did it take to recognize Pres P***y Grabber as a lying fraud right from the get-go? Zero. Just a modicum of common sense. How much inspiration does it take to recognize Sean Reyes is a political hack? Same. So what’s the problem w/ Utah?
Not a Cougar, it was well known that Trump wasn’t going to concede and continue to push every conspiracy theory imaginable to dupe his followers into thinking he won. Republican leaders and institutions with large numbers of Republican supporters, like the Mormon church, had a responsibility to declare that Trump lost the moment it was established that he lost in order to help heal the country and keep dangerous conspiracy theories from spreading. Only a small handful of Republicans rose to the occasion. Instead they either cowered in fear of Trump supporters or joined in the conspiracism, this making conspiracism even more mainstream among conservatives (truly dangerous). Because they failed at this, they validated Trump and Trumpism as a legitimate ideological force and made the country is worse off moving forward. Trump’s stain tarnishes the US all the more because Republican leaders are Republican-dominated institutions didn’t come out and proclaim Biden the winner on Nov. 7. Respect for the republic on which the US stands has been severely weakened.
The church did post the statement on their web site. That is where I first read it. It’s found linked under the Church Newsroom category.
As plenty of reasonable people have said here in the comments, it’s ridiculous to attribute partisan motives to Church leaders without any evidence other than the Newsroom’s timing. As plenty of reasonable people (including me) have also said, there’s another, more plausible explanation for the delay. Until this week, the Church had NEVER congratulated a victor before his opponent conceded. Before crossing that Rubicon, they waited for a LEGAL point of no return in the contest: the EC vote.
Thanks to Not a Cougar, Martin, Camacho, and others for making this reasonable point explicitly. You are not wrong. It’s just that Dave B and others are, apparently, unable to imagine the Q15 as possessing any degree of political, legal, or moral nuance. The “Church of Trump” explanation espoused by the OP and others is criminally unsophisticated and unreasonable, but worse, it’s also mean-spirited and divisive. It’s exactly what we don’t need more of after Trump. Go high, not low, please!
Whether waiting was dangerous or not (and to Angela C’s point, I agree it was rhetorically dangerous), there’s a reasonable explanation (if not a justification) of why the Church waited. The Q15 sitting around in MAGA ties is, to put a point on it, crazy!
I say all of this as a young, liberal Democrat who despises The Donald. So don’t question my partisan bona fides, and don’t tar me with the same brush you did the Q15, thanks very much.
Also, because this is the rare occasion that deserves it: I told you so.
Of course, Dave B. didn’t acknowledge that my explanation (given in a comment to his first post on this subject) perfectly predicted the Church’s behavior (unlike his explanation). That would entailed too clear a rejection of his hypothesis. Nothing personal, but when a lowly commenter hits it on the nose, it behooves a good writer to adapt to, and not ignore, that fact.
Would the trump voting member know the church newsroom/leadership have congratulated Biden?
Geoff-Aus: based on the horror show that was the comments section (before they shut it down), a whole bunch of them did. However, I also suspect that a lot of Trump voters in the Church who are less politically engaged and either voted for him out of ignorance (the normal kind of ignorance, not the willful ignorance of the fully engaged modern day Republican), habit of voting straight R, or “hold your nose and vote” types probably didn’t pay attention to this.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
Billy Possum, no you didn’t “perfectly predict” the Church’s behavior. In that earlier comment, you said the Q15 would wait until the election was “officially over.” That’s not until the inauguration, when Joe Biden will be “officially” sworn in. Or perhaps when Congress “officially” accepts the electoral votes on January 6, 2021. Or perhaps on December 13 when the electoral votes were “officially” cast. Or perhaps when it is publicly clear beyond reasonable doubt what those electoral votes are going to be based on vote totals and the statutes that bind electoral voters, on the night of the election or shortly thereafter. Call that the “clearly apparent” standard, which is what the networks use to declare a winner and what the GSA was supposed to use to award funding for the transition to the winning candidate. And what many foreign leaders used to congratulate Joe Biden by phone call or official statement. In fact, the “clearly apparent” standard is what just about everyone except Trump, the GSA and the rest of the US government under Trump’s control, and the Republican Party used.
So what needs explaining is why LDS leaders didn’t use the “clearly apparent” rule that everyone else used and instead followed the lead of Donald Trump and the Republican Party in waiting six weeks. What needs explaining is why the Church acted like it was just another Republican or Trumpian organization. Your explanation is an ad hoc rule that works only in retrospect (if they had waited until Congress counted the votes, you would have said, “It’s clear the Q15 wait until there is a concession or until Congress counts the votes”). My explanation is that the Church actually is a Republican or Trumpian organization. Just acknowledge the facts instead of proposing an ambiguous ad hoc rule that doesn’t even fit the facts.
Dave B , I think maybe you’ve identified “the Church” with the Newsroom or the Q15 and not as set out in D&C 10:67 “Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” Is that right?
“However, I also suspect that a lot of Trump voters in the Church who are less politically engaged and either voted for him out of ignorance (the normal kind of ignorance, not the willful ignorance of the fully engaged modern day Republican), habit of voting straight R, or “hold your nose and vote” types probably didn’t pay attention to this.” I agree with this statement from Angela C
While I can’t speak to the Church’s delay in acknowledging President-elect Biden, I have a hard time believing that is due to fear of angering the majority of its members. Throughout the past four years, I’ve heard it stated over and over that voting for Trump AUTOMATICALLY means you are racist, sexist, autocratic, anti-democratic and all sorts of terrible things. Naturally, the opposite side does the same assuming that if you did NOT vote for Trump that you are automatically anti-liberty, socialism-loving, religion-hating and, again all sorts of terrible things. I think we all know the truth doesn’t look like that. Not to say that there aren’t those types in both camps but the majority, I imagine, would resist such characterizations. But it’s ultimately an empirical question, in some ways, isn’t it? It would be interesting to survey members and ask, not just who they voted for, but the level of enthusiasm they had for the candidate. I won’t say who I voted for (sanctity of the ballot box) but I will say it was for one of the two major party candidates and I did it without enthusiasm. I think it puts me in the gray area where perhaps many are. But without more data, it’s just speculation on my part.
My prediction speaks for itself – you can keep your straw man. This is what I actually said in my comment earlier:
“It’s almost certain that the Q15, out of legalism and prudence, thinks the election isn’t *officially* over. They are correct because, of the two ways for an election to be decided, neither has occurred:
1) Formal, public concession(s) leaving only one potential victor, or
2) A vote in the Electoral College and transmission of their votes to the seat of government (the U.S. Senate).
#1 hasn’t happened (and likely won’t), which is a dramatic and terrifying departure from all elections in living memory. And #2 can’t happen until December 14.”
. . . .
“My hypothesis is that, once the Electoral College vote is made public, we’ll see a statement immediately. Let’s see if I’m wrong.”
I could not have been clearer, and I wasn’t wrong. If, as is obvious, you’ll never accept that reality, that’s fine. But most of us are interested in facts and theories that explain them, not dogma. Your writing on this topic is looking more and more like the latter.
Your “clearly apparent” formulation explains the media, social, and political response to Biden’s victory very well. But it can’t explain the Church’s response. For that, you need legalism, which is what I offered. As to *why* they took a legalistic view (a good question, as you point out), how about another post?
But Billy, all you’re doing in pointing to the fact that the Church (the Big 15) waited and waited and waited, and then the electoral votes were cast on December 13 and then they finally acknowledged that Biden is the President-Elect. If they had waited until January 6, 2021, you would have said, “well, that’s a little more official.” There is no rule that LDS leaders are following that says, “If a candidate chooses to be obstinate and not concede, or wants to throw a wrench in an orderly succession by not conceding, or makes a serious attempts at reversing the outcome of a free and fair election and needs a few extra weeks to pull it off … well, we’ll just go along with that for a month and a half, and we certainly won’t give a public acknowledgement of the clear winner of the election and dissuade our membership from supporting the losing candidate in undermining democratic institutions or in pulling off an attempted coup.” That’s your proposed rule. But LDS leaders have never stated that’s a rule they are following and they have never before waited for the casting of the electoral votes to make the acknowledgment. So it is certainly not a rule in the normal use of the term. There is simply no factual basis to claim that’s a rule. Yes that’s what they did, but not because there’s a rule.
And to repeat, what needs explaining is why they waited six weeks when the results of the election, including how the votes will be counted on January 6, 2021, was very very clearly evident to the whole world on December 7, 2021. There was dancing in the streets, remember? Everyone in town know Biden won the election at that point. It’s not like December 13 is when it became clear, and it was not clear before that date. It’s not like Dec. 13 is any particularly “official” date, any more than Jan. 6 or Jan. 20. And there is absolutely not a rule that the LDS leadership waits until the electoral votes are cast to give an acknowledgement. They did that this time, but it’s NOT because they were following any rule! They were just deferring to Trump and to the large chunk of the LDS membership that are Trumpists. They were behaving like leaders of a good and loyal Trumpist organization. Which is too bad for the Church, which by doing so continues to lose moral credibility. But there you go.
I’ve enjoyed the discussion, Billy, Nothing personal. I understand that it’s easier for a good Mormon (you and I both) to say about LDS leadership, “they’re just following a rule, no big deal,” than to say, “they are deferring to Trump and his LDS supporters as they do their best to damage our democratic institutions, that is very disturbing.” Just like it is easier for a Mormon to say, “it’s really too bad God doesn’t want those of African descent to have the priesthood or go to the temple” rather than “when exactly did we start this practice and why did we start it and maybe since it is so clearly wrong we should seriously rethink it.” Self-criticism is tough sledding compared to just going along with convenient fictions.
I don’t know why you are so insistent that the Church should be early in any kind of political question. It’s not a news agency. It’s not a political party. People aren’t looking to the Church for permission to acknowledge the victor. It’s a note of congratulations.
You keep discussing a rule, but I don’t see any place where Billy Possum has proposed this position as a “rule”. So you’re arguing a straw man, plain and simple. Almost your entire response is dedicated to answering a claim he never made.
(Not a Cougar called it a possible “informal rule”, and which, as adopted, is perfectly defensible. That in fact appears to be the case.)
Calling refusal to concede a “coup” is a long shot. I’m sure you weren’t calling it a coup when Stacey Abrams refused to concede the Georgia gubernatorial race. Trump’s refusal to concede is a lot of things (stupid, childish, possibly politically dangerous), but it is far from a coup.
Camacho: “People aren’t looking to the Church for permission to acknowledge the victor.” This argument is backwards. It’s not that anything the Church says about the election outcome is binding in terms of the populace; rather it’s that in this specific election, they would have seen this as a cue that the attempts to overthrow the election were not legitimate.
In not doing this, the Church acted on par with the rest of the GOP. The unwillingness of Republican legislators to acknowledge Biden’s win (on par with Trump’s win in 2016 that he declared a “landslide”) is what gave air to conspiracy theories on the right that the election was stolen (essentially believing baseless claims made by Trump) that effectively delegitimize our democracy. Biden won. It was a free and fair election. Trump claiming otherwise has gotten a ton of traction among his voters because Republicans backed him, attempted extreme types of voter suppression, even tried to have legitimate votes thrown out, when he refused to concede. If the Church had not behaved like the GOP, which was the only group that entertained this post-hoc fraud attempt by Trump, then the majority of Church members who voted for Trump would have seen through his lies because the Church they love and trust would have said to them “Trust democracy.” Instead, they stood back while craziness flourished. They will reap what they sow, unfortunately. We all will.
It wasn’t refusal to concede that was the coup attempt. It was the repeated assault on democracy, supported by the majority of Republican legislators, attempting to throw out votes that were legally and legitimately cast for Trump’s opponent. I’m not sure it’s over. Honestly, if you think Trump had a chance of succeeding (e.g. if SCOTUS had indicated a willingness to do what he thought they would and hand him the election he lost), is there any chance he would stop? He would gladly retain office illegally obtained through corruption, cronyism and fraud all while claiming he was the victim.
“ If the Church had not behaved like the GOP, which was the only group that entertained this post-hoc fraud attempt by Trump, then the majority of Church members who voted for Trump would have seen through his lies because the Church they love and trust would have said to them “Trust democracy.”
This is totally false. It assumes two things that pretty clearly aren’t true. The first is that most Church members believe Trump’s conspiracy theories. I’ve seen no evidence that that is the case. Second, it assumes those that do believe the conspiracy theories would have their minds changed by a quiet message of congratulations from the Church. Again, I see only evidence to the contrary. Members who buy the conspiracy theories still buy into them.
Liberal members of the Church want the Church to engage in politics when it suits them but stay out when it doesn’t. That’s not in the Church’s best interest, or the country’s. There is little to be gained by inserting the Church into a political matter. And it sets a precedent that would be difficult to apply in future circumstances. What if there were another Bush v Gore situation, but some news agencies called a winner. When does the Church acknowledge the winner? When X number of major news agencies call it? It makes much more sense to wait for something official, even if the result is obvious to everyone but the loser.
As far as the coup, your argument again assumes a lot. The legal arguments were that some votes weren’t “legally and legitimately cast.” Again, that argument is a stupid one because there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, but stupid, petulant hissy fits do not a coup make. See e.g. Stacey Abrams and all of the talk about recruiting faithless electors in 2016. So far, every maneuver Trump and his team have tried to make are legal. And they haven’t worked because our legal system works.
Camacho: I really do hope that your assessment of conservative members is correct and that mine is wrong. My reason for doubting that is that while I agree that those who are totally invested in conspiracy theories, yes, nothing will change their mind. Some of them were posting their torn up temple recommends in response to the Church’s acknowledgement that Biden won. They are on Twitter talking about resigning over it. So, sure, those folks would …probably…not have been persuaded. But among my employees (not LDS, but about 50% Trump voting), they are what I would call low information voters. They heard there was fraud. They heard the election was close and that there were irregularities, and that it might be overturned–none of which were true. If they had been told by a source they considered authoritative that the election was not close, it was fair and legal and accurate–weeks ago when this was known–then, they probably would not have given any credence to those false stories. It is the low information GOP voter that I believe could have been saved from believing lies & conspiracies.
Most members outside of the US abhorred Trump. A few of us are viewing the US as a failed state we”ll have to wait and see. I would like it if the church didn’t congratulate any of the politicians of any country.
Angela C, I understand you’re point, and I think you might be right that if the church leaders came out and congratulated Biden earlier, fewer members of the church would have gone “down the rabbit hole”. I’m not convinced that’s a very big number, but I’m sure there must be some. But the people who were absolutely convinced a Biden victory was the end of the world matter too (remember, “you can only vote for socialism once”). I remember how I felt when Trump won in 2016. I remember how I felt on the night of the election and thought he might win again. I was genuinely distraught. I honestly couldn’t sleep that night. People in that sort of emotional state don’t always respond well when directly challenged, even by loved ones. Just being told to calm down is infuriating, and being told you’re the one in the wrong feels like total betrayal. Better to have a little time to calm down and process on your own.
I feel like you’re painting the prophet to be the patriarch at Thanksgiving Dinner who, by virtue of his position (and presumed wisdom) gets to settle the political disputes of his posterity. It’s his house, his table, and he’s the oldest, so when one of his sons-in-law says something nutty, he has the right to shut it down before anybody else in the family picks up on his dangerous ideas. I’m sure it would work with those of his posterity who worship him, but his adult children and their spouses might not all appreciate that sort of treatment. They might not want to come back next year. I think a loving patriarch (or matriarch) might want to avoid taking a hard line as long as possible and use a softer approach. I feel like that’s exactly what the church did.
Remember, the fact that there was no evidence of fraud in the election doesn’t mean there wasn’t any. It demonstrates good faith to allow them to look for it and present what they have before passing judgment.
Let me correct that last line: “Remember, the fact that you’re unaware of any evidence of fraud in the election doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It demonstrates good faith to allow them to look for evidence and present what they can find before passing judgment”
Angela – this is a fair point, but remember – 50% of people are of below average intelligence, and 50% of people are less informed than average. Assuming otherwise is statistically unrealistic.
Angela and Martin:
Posting a video of one’s self tearing up one’s temple recommend because the Church belatedly congratulated Biden is appalling. It reminds me of an incident that happened on my mission in Taiwan (1977-1979). My senior companion and I tracted out an intensely devout Evangelical Christian woman (there are actually many in Taiwan). She invited us into her house, supposedly to talk, and the Bible Bash quickly ensued. The woman kept on referring to “your Bible,” I.e. the Book of Mormon. My companion, attempting to land a doctrinal blow for the Church, pointed out a Bible verse that supported Church teachings, and said, in a Nyah-Nyah sort of way, “How about this. It’s in YOUR Bible!” All this was in Chinese. The woman read the Bible verse in amazement, got enraged, said, “Not any more, it isn’t!” and proceeded to rip the offending page out of her Bible. At that point, we left, thank goodness.
As appalling and horribly funny/not funny as my mission experience was, it merely reinforces a point Angela has previously made about most people having a belief first, and then inventing arguments to support that belief (post hoc justification).
In my family scrapbooks, I have a letter written to my father in 1933 by a friend of my father’s, a cultured, educated man who was a professor at the University of Tübingen, Germany‘s equivalent of Oxford or Harvard. The letter extolled at length the wonderful things that Adolf Hitler was doing in Germany.
Lunacy never goes out of style. I understand Martin‘s point of why ramming something down another‘s person‘s throat is not good, but sometimes the Big Lie is so monstrous and poisonous (Trump actually won, I will present the evidence 27 years from now, but in the meantime, you Must believe me!) that it must be confronted.
It is my belief that our culture is close to the tipping point, and the crazies on both left and right want to tip it over. Right now, the Trump Cult poses the greater threat:
When Joe Biden is sworn in in 20 January, I hope to have the courage to play the national anthem at top, offending volume from my balcony. I might get evicted, but I would leave with a smile on my face.
majority of Latter-day Saints who practically worship “Donald Trump ”
You lost all credibility here.
Here’s my sarcastic slow clap for the church’s slow response.
And here’s my slow clap for the church now reaping what it sowed.
And here’s my sarcastic slow clap for the church falling on the wrong side of history.
*The church sent our ambassadors- the sacred MoTab to *celebrate* this despicable administration, POTUS and VPOTUS at the inauguration, in part because every respectable major group had declined.
*The church continued to play “news reels” of 45’s trip to Welfare Square year after year both before and after general conference. Why? After one conference it was no longer news, but video of the FP being chummy-chummy with Trump continued to be blasted. Hmmmm. Wink and a nod? You betcha.
*The church played up “religious liberty” to the members and then worked with republican campaigners to promote this point during inter mountain west rallies. Another wink and nod.
*Weeks after being released as General RS President, Julie B Beck prayed at a Trump/Pence rally in UT. If current GAs are forbidden from campaigning, one recently released can give us a wink and a nod to the GA choice.
*The church drug its feet for about a week In 2020 before sending a copyright infringement warning to the group “LDS for Trump” when they used both our name and pictures of the SLTemple to promote a candidate. For the church that holds a tremendous amount of TMs and copyrights and has a skyscraper of Kirton-McConkie lawyers itching to work, the sloooooooow response was essentially a loan/lease. Or sure- perhaps it was just one of the slowest and most clumsy legal copyright responses involving essentially a form letter in defense work. If you believe we’re that disorganized, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
Yeah- we made this monster and aren’t helping our democracy our country a single bit.
I forgot to add- President Oaks’ daughter’l and her family played LDS hymns at the 2020 Arizona “LDS for Trump”’rally this year. Not familiar with Jenny Baker Oakes and family? You can buy their CDs at Deseret Book, watch her perform with the MoTab, see her highlighted with her music and testimony on LDS.org, or you can read about her and her musical family in LDS Living or Deseret News. Why does a GA family member who has an obvious public relations face for the church get away with also endorsing public candidates? All other GAs and many other LDS staff are forbidden from public politics, but oopsie-doodle- a few can slip through, just as long as they cheer for the R’s. Did they pay royalties for public performance of copyrighted music? I don’t know. Was half-a-dozen of President Oaks’ family out there performing LDS music to invoke spiritual feelings for Trump, a wink and a nod to the faithful? You bet.
It seems to me that there are several words for co-opting the church’s sacred music and reputation for political *power*. Blasphemy, taking the Lord’s name in vain, and priest craft come to mind.
Thanks for the comments, everyone. A few last responses before I close the comment thread.
Camacho, Billy Possum’s proposed rule was posted in the earlier “The Missing Biden Statement” post. Also, you claimed, “Calling refusal to concede a “coup” is a long shot.” Many sober journalists and commentators in the mainstream media have labelled Trump’s various and continuing efforts to undermine our free and fair election an attempted “coup.” Trump’s unwillingness to concede by itself would simply be his usual sore-loser act, except that weeks *before* the election he signaled his unwillingness to abide by election results if he didn’t win. That makes it part of his attempted coup strategy.
Angela C., thanks for carrying the torch while I was on the road all day. You said, ” If the Church had not behaved like the GOP, which was the only group that entertained this post-hoc fraud attempt by Trump, then the majority of Church members who voted for Trump would have seen through his lies because the Church they love and trust would have said to them “Trust democracy.” Instead, they stood back while craziness flourished.” Well said. Seeing the craziness flourish within the LDS population is very disconcerting. Seeing Mormon Trumpers throw shade on Mitt Romney, seemingly the only Republican with a moral backbone, is even more troubling. As I’ve said elsewhere, if the Antichrist was on the ticket, Mormons would eagerly vote for him and he’d get a parade in Orem.
Martin, you don’t think sixty-plus court cases is opportunity enough to present actual evidence of substantial fraudulent voting?
Mortimer, I don’t know if the MoTab will sing at Biden’s inauguration. But I’m hoping that Senator Lee makes a guest appearance dressed as Captain Moroni.
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