ST. GEORGE — In keeping with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints move to focus on its official name by dropping the generic terms “LDS” and “Mormon,” one of the church’s best known institutions, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, is no more.
It is now the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
The church announced the name change Friday morning via its online newsroom.
“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 everything that people know and love about the choir will not only be the same but will get better and better.”
The name of the choir’s website and social media accounts will also be revised to reflect the name change.
The name is the only thing about the choir that is changing, Jarrett said, and it will continue to focus on “world-class musicianship, the inspiring arrangements and programming, and our weekly ‘Music and the Spoken Word’ broadcast, continuing a tradition begun 90 years ago.”
The group formerly known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir consists of about 360 men and women who sing at the church’s twice-yearly weekend conferences and has performed worldwide and at inaugurations of U.S. presidents, including President Donald Trump.
When the choir sang its signature song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the first inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, he dubbed the choir “America’s Choir.” President George H. W. Bush called the choir “a national treasure” during his swearing-in ceremony in front of the Capitol.
The Tabernacle Choir’s name retains its roots in the Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The choir has sung there since 1867.
The program “Music and the Spoken Word” is also broadcast from the Tabernacle each Sunday, and features the choir singing religious musical selections by the choir and Orchestra at Temple Square along with a short inspirational message.
The nondenominational program has run for 90 years and has been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame.
The choir’s name change comes in the wake of church president Russell M. Nelson’s August declaration asking church members and society at large to cease using the terms “LDS” and “Mormon” in reference to the church and associated persons, items and entities.
According the church teachings, the church’s official name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith, the church’s first president and prophet. Nelson said in his brief August announcement that God has impressed upon him that more emphasis should be placed on the church’s official name.
For decades both “Mormon” and “LDS” have been used by church members or others when referring to the church. This has sometimes led to a misunderstanding as to what the church’s official name actually is.
The term Mormon comes from the church’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, which followers believe is based on the record keeping of an ancient prophet named Mormon.
In the past, focus has been placed on the church’s official name over the term “Mormon” in order to emphasize the name of Jesus Christ. However, the term has persisted in the case of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and various informational and social media campaigns launched by the church.
While Nelson has asked the public at large, and by extension the media, to use the proper name of the church, “Mormon” has become such a familiar term that it isn’t expected to fall out of use any time soon.
Rebranding a business or large institution is a difficult task that usually costs millions of dollars and often takes generations to take hold, David Margulies, president of a Dallas public relations firm, told the Associated Press.
The term “Mormon” is ingrained in American culture and has a lot of good equity that the faith would be losing by shifting away from using it, he said. He predicts confusion among people who won’t realize the full name is the same religion as Mormons, and said there’s a “very slim” chance the name change will catch on.
Paula Froke, lead editor for The Associated Press Stylebook, which many news outlets follow, including St. George News, 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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