No longer the ‘Mor­mon’ Taber­na­cle Choir

Leader of Lat­ter-day Saints se­ri­ous about name of church

Waterloo Region Record - - Faith - BRADY MCCOMBS

SALT LAKE CITY — The well­known Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir has been re­named to strip out the word Mor­mon in a move show­ing the faith’s new pres­i­dent is se­ri­ous about end­ing short­hand names for the re­li­gion that have been used for gen­er­a­tions by church mem­bers and pre­vi­ously pro­moted by the church.

The gospel singing group will now be called the Taber­na­cle Choir at Tem­ple Square, The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter­day Saints said in a state­ment. It’s a nod to the home of the choir for the last 150 years, the Taber­na­cle, lo­cated on church grounds known as Tem­ple Square in down­town Salt Lake City.

Church pres­i­dent Rus­sell M. Nel­son an­nounced guide­lines in Au­gust re­quest­ing that peo­ple stop us­ing “Mor­mon” or “LDS” as sub­sti­tutes for the church’s full name. He said “Lat­ter-day Saints” was ac­cept­able short­hand.

The full church name was given by rev­e­la­tion from God to founder Joseph Smith in 1838, ac­cord­ing to the faith’s beliefs. The term Mor­mon comes from the faith’s sig­na­ture scrip­ture, the Book of Mor­mon, which is based on the record keep­ing of an an­cient prophet named Mor­mon, ac­cord­ing to the faith’s beliefs.

A church web­page about the term Mor­mon that was up be­fore Nel­son’s Au­gust an­nounce­ment de­scribes the term as an “un­of­fi­cial but in­of­fen­sive nick­name for mem­bers.”

But Nel­son said in his Au­gust state­ment to urge peo­ple not to use Mor­mon or LDS that the “Lord has im­pressed upon my mind the im­por­tance of the name he has re­vealed for his church.”

Speak­ing in Canada af­ter his Au­gust an­nounce­ment, Nel­son ac­knowl­edged that it would be a “chal­lenge to undo tra­di­tion of more than 100 years” but said the name of the faith is “not ne­go­tiable,” ac­cord­ing to a video posted on a church web­site. He said church mem­bers need to use the proper name if they want out­siders to use it.

“We’re not chang­ing names. We’re cor­rect­ing a name,” Nel­son said. “Some mar­keters change names hop­ing to be more suc­cess­ful — that’s not our point. We’re cor­rect­ing an er­ror that’s crept in over the ages.”

In a dif­fer­ent video from the trip, Nel­son said, “It’s not Mor­mon’s church, it’s not Moses’ church, it’s the church of Je­sus Christ.”

The name change will be a big ef­fort for the Utah-based faith that counts 16 mil­lion mem­bers world­wide. The re­nam­ing of the choir is the first step with many changes still to come. The church still uses Mor­mon in its Twit­ter han­dle.

The faith’s pres­i­dents are con­sid­ered prophets who lead through rev­e­la­tions from God. Nel­son, 94, as­cended to the post in Jan­uary when the previous pres­i­dent died.

The choir re­nam­ing came a day be­fore Nel­son and other Mor­mon lead­ers were set to pro­vide spir­i­tual guid­ance and de­liver church news at a twice-yearly week­end con­fer­ence in Salt Lake City at­tended by nearly 100,000 peo­ple and watched by hun­dreds of thou­sands of oth­ers on TV and on­line.

The choir of about 360 men and women sings at the con­fer­ences and has per­formed world­wide and at in­au­gu­ra­tions of U.S. pres­i­dents, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. It had been known as the Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir since 1929 when the group be­gan broad­cast­ing its weekly ra­dio pro­gram to a wide au­di­ence.

Choir pres­i­dent Ron Jar­rett called the name change an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity for the choir to start a new chap­ter that aligns the group with Nel­son’s re­quest. He said the choir’s web­site and so­cial me­dia pages will be up­dated to re­flect the new name.

“It is a huge brand for the church. It’s been there for a long time and peo­ple rec­og­nize it,” Jar­rett said. He added, “I don’t think we’ll lose peo­ple. In fact, we may even gain lis­ten­ers . ... It will look and feel and sound just like al­ways, but maybe even bet­ter.”

The faith pre­vi­ously em­braced and pro­moted the term Mor­mon, in­clud­ing with a 2014 doc­u­men­tary about its mem­bers called “Meet the Mor­mons.” The church ran a se­ries of “I’m a Mor­mon” ads on TV and bill­boards start­ing in 2010, aim­ing to dis­pel stereo­types by telling the sto­ries of in­di­vid­ual mem­bers.

The church tried once be­fore to in­sist on the use of its full name — in 2001 ahead of the 2002 Win­ter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The new ef­fort says Mor­mon, Mor­monism and LDS aren’t ac­cept­able.

Paula Froke, lead ed­i­tor for The Associated Press Style­book, which many news out­lets fol­low, said the news or­ga­ni­za­tion is aware of the church’s guide­lines. She said AP is mon­i­tor­ing how the names evolve in the church it­self — in­clud­ing among mem­bers — and with the pub­lic.

For now, the AP Style­book en­try about the faith re­mains un­changed.

“Clearly, the term ’Mor­mon’ is deeply in­grained both in the church and in the minds of the gen­eral pub­lic,” Froke said.

Chad Guertin, a 32-year-old Mor­mon from Magna, Utah, said he’s not up­set about Nel­son’s guid­ance but that it’s dif­fi­cult to weed out the use of Mor­mon and LDS.

“You want to, you know you should, but it’s so ha­bit­ual in how we’ve re­ferred to our­selves for so long,” Guertin said. “Putting it into prac­tice is harder be­cause we have an aw­fully long name.”


The Taber­na­cle Choir at Tem­ple Square per­forms dur­ing the con­fer­ence of The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints on Oct. 6 in Salt Lake City.

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