Latest from Mormon Land: Is the ‘Mormon’ name fading away?

Also: Why the church should hire janitors to clean its chapels.

These are excerpts from The Salt Lake Tribune’s free Mormon Land newsletter, a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Want this newsletter with additional items in your inbox? Subscribe here. You also can support Mormon Land with a donation at Patreon.com/mormonland, where you can access transcripts of our “Mormon Land” podcasts.

Is ‘Mormon’ on its last legs?

The shift among the press toward heeding the church’s desire to jettison the “Mormon” term to describe the faith and its members is growing more evident and will continue to expand.

So states Michael Peterson in a recent Public Square Magazine article.

“Though some recent national church-related stories contained the previous names in their headlines, nevertheless the clear, overall trend is one of adjustment and respect,” he writes. “...One very recent scholarly essay on a church history topic, written by a respected historian who initially resisted the change, repeated the term ‘Latter-day Saints’ throughout most of his references — instead of the oft-used previous nicknames.”

Peterson details the reasons why all should follow President Russell M. Nelson’s call to discard the commonly used Mormon and Mormonism monikers, and challenges a string of counterarguments, including some The Salt Lake Tribune and others have put forth.

(Keith Johnson | Special to The Tribune) President Russell M. Nelson speaks about the name of the church during the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 7, 2018, in Salt Lake City.

The writer speculates that the day will come (or has come) that any media outlets, bloggers, scholars or script writers who continue to wield those names may automatically be seen as antagonistic toward the church.

“In the spirit of kindness and goodwill and friendship which we all seek earnestly in the world,” Peterson concludes, “I humbly suggest that it behooves each of us, as fellow travelers here, either of press or public, from scholars to ordinary observers, to forever drop the terms ‘Mormonism’ and ‘Mormon’ and willingly call The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its members, culture, and teachings — past and present — by their authorized names.”

(For the record, in a recent unscientific survey of our 8,200-plus newsletter subscribers and Patreon supporters, 85% of the 840 respondents favored that we retain the names of our podcast and newsletter. We’re keeping them as is for now.)

It’s time to scrub church cleaning

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two Latter-day Saint meetinghouses, shown in 2014, in Kaysville. A blogger wants the church to hire janitors to clean its buildings instead of relying on member volunteers.

Exponent II blogger Mindy Farmer is coming clean about cleaning church meetinghouses.

She is not a fan.

Farmer wants member volunteers to drop their vacuum handles, dust rags and scrub brushes — and turn those tools back over to paid and trained custodial crews.

“Janitors should be hired to clean and preserve church buildings weekly,” Farmer writes, “with members contributing in maintaining this cleanliness.”

She points to a 1999 statement by then-Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, who insisted the main motivation for having members shoulder these chores was never to save money but rather to help them “develop personal character and receive eternal blessings.”

Farmer argues Latter-day Saints already have more than enough on their physical and spiritual to-do lists, and that they no longer need to make this “sacrifice.”

The meetinghouses need “more deliberate, experienced, focused care,” states the blogger, adding that the church “can afford to offer well-paying, desirable, respected janitorial positions.”

The recently reported $52 billion in the church’s most prominent investment account offers evidence that it does.

Of course, members need not be slobs.

They “should show respect for the building by emptying trash, cleaning white boards, cleaning up after messes,” Farmer writes. But “wouldn’t it be better to create jobs that help individuals and communities and to have immaculate, well-maintained buildings?”

Tab Choir cancels tour, charts new course

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square sings at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s on-again, off-again, on-again Heritage Tour to Nordic countries and Great Britain is off — again.

In fact, it’s canceled.

“The recent omicron surge has not permitted the extensive monthslong preparation needed for the choir to be able to accomplish the diplomatic and missionary purposes of the tour,” choir President Mike Leavitt announced last week. “Even though by summer, conditions may have changed to make travel feasible, circumstances simply don’t allow us to prepare adequately.”

Leavitt also unveiled the following four objectives for the church’s premier performing troupe:

• Boost the choir’s digital audience by shifting from CDs and DVDs to streaming on social media.

• Magnify the choir’s missionary role.

• Support the church’s global mission by diversifying the choir. “This has been a conversation for many years, and earnest efforts have been made to incorporate members whose heritage reflects the worldwide church,” Leavitt said in a news release. “The First Presidency has authorized the choir presidency to explore new alternatives that will help us accomplish this.”

• Increase the choir’s global visibility. So while the planned Heritage Tour may be history, expect more bookings to come.

“It is our objective to become even more visible worldwide,” said Leavitt, an ex-Utah governor and former U.S. Cabinet secretary. “We plan to be seen in more countries where the choir’s physical presence will make a difference by lifting missionary work, inspiring member devotion, and building important friendships for the church.”

From The Tribune

• A federal investigation has cleared Brigham Young University, but is BYU in the clear? The faith’s flagship campus still faces a host of challenges to its academic reputation and standing.

Listen to the podcast.

• There will be “more Brad Wilcoxes,” scholars and observers warn, unless the church addresses the racist, sexist and exceptionalist rhetoric that still exists in Latter-day Saint culture.

Read the story.

• As the omicron surge slows down and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions amps up, the governing First Presidency is letting local lay leaders — in consultation with health officials — decide about masking and other precautions at church meetings.

Read the story.

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