Two Mormon apostles will attend Trump’s presidential inauguration next week. Elders Todd Christofferson and Gary Stevenson continue a tradition that goes back more than a century.
General authorities have had a presence at presidential inaugurations since 1873. This includes a visit in 2013 from Dieter Uchtdorf of the First Presidency as President Obama was sworn in for a second term.
But following a highly divisive election anything touching the presidency seems to stand out.
“This one’s a little bit more high profile because of the unusual election of Donald Trump. And also because it is a change of power," says Matthew Burbank, professor of political science at the University of Utah.
Burbank says the switch from one political party in the White House to the other is always significant, especially with an administration like Trump’s moving in. But that doesn’t change the fact that the presence of church leaders is simply business as usual.
“This is not really about public policy or about who’s going to get what under the new administration," says Burbank. "This is just the celebration of a new president and the changing of powers.”
In a statement released Friday morning, Elder Todd Christofferson wrote, “A presidential inauguration is a civic ceremony that transcends the person being inaugurated. It is an act of state, not of politics.” End quote.
Next week’s inauguration will also include a performance from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The decision was a controversial one and LDS church leaders have stressed it does not imply support for Trump or the Republican Party.