Latest from Mormon Land: Picking the greatest U.S., LDS presidents; LGBTQ ally Kristin Chenoweth at family history conference

Also: Latter-day Saints send valentines to Utah officials working to save the Great Salt Lake; first photo appears of the new Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and church wealth grows.

The Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get the full newsletter, podcast transcripts and exclusive access to all Tribune religion content.

Abe and Joseph

Abraham Lincoln again tops the tally as the greatest U.S. president, according to a new poll of historians, followed by Franklin Roosevelt and George Washington.

The rankings, released over Presidents Day, also placed Barack Obama at No. 7 and Joe Biden at No. 14. Donald Trump? Well, he finished dead last.

Here are the top 10: Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman, Obama, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy.

The bottom 10: Herbert Hoover, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Warren Harding, William Harrison, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Trump.

Seeing these rankings got us wondering: How might historians rank the greatest church presidents? How might you?

It seems certain that any serious list would peg founder Joseph Smith at No. 1, bucking the scriptural passage “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” But slotting the next 16 — from Brigham Young to Russell Nelson — would be up for debate.

Fill out our Google Form to let us know what you think.

Repeat performance

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kristin Chenoweth performs with The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in 2018. She will sing at speak at RootsTech 2024.

This is wicked news, in a good way. Kristin Chenoweth, singing sensation of stage and screen, will be a featured speaker and performer at RootsTech 2024 next month.

The Tony- and Emmy-winning star, perhaps best known as Glinda in the original Broadway production of “Wicked,” also is a vocal LGBTQ advocate.

Chenoweth, who headlined The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s Christmas concerts in 2018, will be the final keynote speaker at RootsTech on Saturday, March 2, in Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace Convention Center.

“Join Chenoweth as she ‘Remembers’ and shares her own unique family story,” the RootsTech blog urges. “The harmonies and melodies of her personal narrative will be accompanied by musical performances and a curated selection of special songs.”

The ‘unspoken divide’

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) The steeple of a meetinghouse for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is surrounded by homes in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. The Tribune is seeking reader input on relationships between Latter-day Saints and those not of their faith in Utah neighborhoods.

We want to hear from you about the often “unspoken divide” between Latter-day Saints and those not of their faith in Utah. Share your thoughts here.

Love for the lake

(Latter-day Saint Earth Stewardship) Members of Latter-day Saint Earth Stewardship show their love for the Great Salt Lake by dressing up as brine shrimp and sea gulls outside the Utah Capitol.

Dressed as brine shrimp and sea gulls, members of the Salt Lake chapter of the grassroots group Latter-day Saint Earth Stewardship hand-delivered a stack of Valentines to elected Utah officials — including Gov. Spencer Cox — last week.

The love letters totaled more than 100 in all and thanked lawmakers for their efforts to save the endangered Great Salt Lake.

“Latter-day Saint scripture includes profound and unique calls for earth stewardship,” Mike Maxwell, chair of the group’s Salt Lake Area Chapter, said in a news release. “While we still have many years of hard work in front of us to save the Great Salt Lake, Valentine’s Day gives us an opportunity to share a token of our appreciation to Gov. Cox and the state Legislature for their important work on this crisis.”

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Historian tells all

D. Michael Quinn’s recently published posthumous memoir reveals a scholar as dedicated to telling the truth about his own complicated history as he wanted the church to be about its problematic past.

Listen to the podcast.

The Twelve

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Feb. 6, 2024. Front row, left to right: acting President Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson. Back row, left to right: Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, Elder Ulisses Soares, and Elder Patrick Kearon.

The first-ever photo was released of the church’s newly constituted Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with acting President Jeffrey Holland and its newest member, Patrick Kearon.

From The Tribune

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Lita Little Giddins, with BYU's Office of Belonging, attends the Brigham Young University conference on “Truth and Reconciliation,” which presented research on the history of race and slavery at BYU on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.

• BYU is exploring “unsettling truths” about slavery in early Utah and focusing on racial reconciliation among Latter-day Saints.

• Before Black History Month ticks away, you can revisit these Salt Lake Tribune stories and “Mormon Land” podcasts about Black members — their past, present and future in the faith.

• A pilot program is winning praise for turning those often-vacant Latter-day Saint meetinghouses into vibrant community centers during the week.

• Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess says new cellphone data offers clues as to how many Latter-day Saints attend church every week. And, yes, the number is startlingly lower than members themselves report.

• The church’s chief publicly reported investment fund jumps to $50.5 billion in value, boosting the faith’s total wealth to an estimated $265 billion.

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson says making more money is fine as long as the church gives more (much more) to help the poor, the sick, the hungry, the cold, the forgotten.

• The Book of Mormon, the faith’s signature scripture, contains much war, but a new podcast shows it can also help point to peace.

• Despite grassroots efforts to save its Space Age design, the Provo Temple will close for a makeover as scheduled this Saturday. When it reopens, the church announced, it will have not only a new look but also a new name: Provo Rock Canyon Temple.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The current Provo temple, left, and a rendering of the reconstruction.