Famed Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir is chang­ing its name

Cecil Whig - - RELIGION - By DAVID MON­TERO

LAS VE­GAS — For gen­er­a­tions it was known as the Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir.

But the tune changed Fri­day. The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints an­nounced it was for­mally switch­ing the name of the world-fa­mous choir to the Taber­na­cle Choir at Tem­ple Square, as part of a re­brand­ing ef­fort by the Utah­based church to elim­i­nate the name “Mor­mon” as a gen­eral ref­er­ence and to in­stead only call the faith by its for­mal name.

“A new name for the Taber­na­cle Choir will rep­re­sent a change after so many years,” said Ron Jar­rett, pres­i­dent of the choir. “The name may change, but ever ything that peo­ple know and love about the choir will not only be the same but will get bet­ter and bet­ter.”

It’s one of the most high-pro­file name changes since the church’s pres­i­dent, Rus­sell M. Nel­son, an­nounced in Au­gust that only the full name — the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints — be used.

Nel­son said in a talk in Mon­treal days after the Au­gust an­nounce­ment that the “name of the church is not ne­go­tiable” and that it be­ing called the Mor­mon Church was “an er­ror that crept in over the ages.”

“We know it’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge to undo tra­di­tion of more than 100 years,” Nel­son said. “The Lord has told us what his church shall be called.”

The new name for the choir ref­er­ences the his­toric Salt Lake Taber­na­cle at its lo­ca­tion on Tem­ple Square in Salt Lake City.

Ac­cord­ing to the church, Mor­mon was one of the prophets who com­piled the his­tor­i­cal and re­li­gious records of the faith that were even­tu­ally trans­lated by founder Joseph Smith and be­came the foun­da­tional text for the Book of Mor­mon.

Irene Caso, spokes­woman for the church, said the Mor­mon term was a “nick­name” that has been used as short­hand for decades. She said the new direc­tive was a way to “re­in­force” the name Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints.

The roll­out has been on­go­ing and Caso said “it is a big un­der­tak­ing.” She said she wouldn’t be sur­prised if the topic were to be dis­cussed among mem­bers at the cho­rus Gen­eral Con­fer­ence last week­end.

The choir con­sists of about 360 mem­bers and has per­formed at many high-pro­file events in­clud­ing the 2002 Win­ter Olympics in Salt Lake City and at pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tions rang­ing from Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s to the 2016 in­au­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump.

It also has a large record­ing cat­a­log, in­clud­ing dozens of best-sell­ing Christ­mas-themed al­bums, and ones based on show tunes and mu­sic per­formed in re­mem­brance of Sept. 11, 2001. It con­tin­ues to have its mu­sic car­ried on over 2,000 ra­dio and tele­vi­sion sta­tions — more than 4,500 episodes in all — since it be­gan broad­cast­ing “Mu­sic and the Spo­ken Word” in 1929.

An­drea Thomas, a mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Utah, said the choir’s name change might seem dra­matic to some, but noted that only one word was dropped in the new name and that the choir would still be found on the same broad­casts and would pro­vide the same lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

She said the church’s name, how­ever, was about brand dis­ci­pline.

“The mem­bers of the church are part of your com­mu­ni­ca­tions chan­nel,” Thomas said. “They are start­ing with the mem­ber­ship and they are hop­ing it catches on and oth­ers start talk­ing about it us­ing the full name.”

Thomas, who worked for more than 20 years in cor­po­rate brand­ing for Pep­sico and Wal­mart, said brand­ing could take any­where from six months to seven years to put into place.

She said re­brand­ing — whether it is Ken­tucky Fried Chicken chang­ing to KFC or Wal­mart elim­i­nat­ing the star in its name — is of­ten “a large un­der­tak­ing.”

She said there would be af­fil­i­ated groups that might have to ad­just their brand­ing based on the new direc­tive com­ing from the 16-mil­lion-mem­ber church, which is head­quar­tered in Salt Lake City.

The Los An­ge­les Times is mon­i­tor­ing the re­brand­ing, but its stylebook still al­lows for the use of the word “Mor­mon.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press also re­ported its stylebook would re­main un­changed and the term “Mor­mon” was still ac­cept­able as a ref­er­ence — though the news-gath­er­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion is also mon­i­tor­ing the re­brand­ing ef­fort.

Some mem­bers of the faith seemed rel­a­tively non­plussed by the changes.

Natalie Gor­don, a 46-year-old from Salt Lake City, said although she might feel a lit­tle nos­tal­gic about the name, it didn’t ap­pear to change what it meant to her.

“I’m not both­ered by the name change. I think, in gen­eral, the move away from ‘Mor­mon’ helps mem­bers fo­cus more on Christ, so it makes sense to change the name of the choir,” Gor­don said. “We didn’t need the word Mor­mon to dis­tin­guish the Tab Choir from all the other taber­na­cle choirs. And I love mak­ing Tem­ple Square more invit­ing.”

The name change also gen­er­ated a lot of con­ver­sa­tion on Twit­ter, with some hav­ing fun with it.

“MoTab is no longer MoTab. It is the Taber­na­cle Choir at Tem­ple Square. But I will call them the Artists For­merly Known as The Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir,” tweeted a user iden­ti­fied as Ryan Han­nah.

Caso said the brand­ing change was an on­go­ing ef­fort but couldn’t say what other an­nounce­ments might be forth­com­ing.

AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER

The Taber­na­cle Choir at Tem­ple Square per­forms dur­ing the twice-an­nual con­fer­ence of The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints, Satur­day, Oct. 6, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Mor­mon lead­ers de­liv­ered spir­i­tual guid­ance and church news as the faith’s con­fer­ence kicks off in Salt Lake City one day after the faith an­nounced it was re­nam­ing the famed Mor­mon Taber­na­cle Choir to drop the word Mor­mon.

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