Latest from Mormon Land: Your choices for greatest LDS Church presidents

Also: BYU and race; Tab Choir in the Philippines; “The Book of Mormon” musical’s return to SLC; BYU-Idaho’s shunning of a music professor; and a plea for members to put “integrity” before politics.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Clockwise from top left, church Presidents Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, David O. McKay, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Spencer W. Kimball.

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Praise to the man

In the wake of a national survey of historians ranking U.S. presidents, we asked our Mormon Land readers last week to pick the church’s greatest prophet-presidents.

More than 265 responses showed up and the results (no matter how they could be weighted) proved definitive, at least for those at the top of this intriguing and admittedly unscientific sampling.

As predicted, church founder Joseph Smith finished first, being slotted at the pinnacle by more than 70% of respondents. That makes sense. After all, without Smith there would be no Brigham Young, no John Taylor, no Wilford Woodruff, no Lorenzo Snow, no, well, you get the picture.

Young, the American Moses who led the Latter-day Saints to the West and logged the longest tenure as president, wound up at No. 2.

Gordon B. Hinckley, David O. McKay and Spencer W. Kimball (the latter lifted the priesthood/temple ban against Black members) finished in a virtual dead heat for the third, fourth and fifth spots.

Wilford Woodruff, who issued the Manifesto ushering in the end of polygamy, and current President Russell Nelson rated among the next batch.

(File photo) Former church President Ezra Taft Benson.

At the bottom of the tally of 17 church presidents: Ezra Taft Benson, a position perhaps influenced by his sometimes-divisive ultraconservative politics. Just ahead of him was Howard W. Hunter, who served for only nine months at the faith’s helm.

Brother Brigham, meanwhile, proved as polarizing in this online poll as he did in life and still does in history books, racking up the second-most last-place votes.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: BYU and race

A researcher explores Brigham Young University’s racist past — including blackface in yearbooks and plays — and its current climate on campus, where a main administration building bears the name of a slaveholder.

Listen to the podcast.

Tabernacle Choir in the Philippines

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square holds a “Hope” world tour concert for business leaders in Manila, Philippines, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

During its tour of the Philippines, The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square staged weekend concerts in the capital for business and interfaith leaders, including visiting apostle Neil Andersen and Catholic Cardinal José Fuerte Advíncula, archbishop of Manila.

A special troupe, meanwhile, also sang before the Philippine Senate, and Broadway singer Lea Salonga was slated to perform with the choir as well in concerts this week.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, a youth group and Andersen got a sneak peek inside the unfinished Alabang Temple last week during the church leader’s nine-day tour of the nation.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Neil L. Andersen with his wife, Kathy, teach in the Celestial Room of the unfinished Alabang Temple with a group of youths on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.

From The Tribune

• It’s transfer day, and Elders Price and Cunningham are headed back to “Sal Tlay Ka Siti,” oops, make that Salt Lake City, as the bawdy but beloved “Book of Mormon” musical takes the Eccles Theater stage in January 2025.

BYU-Idaho bars a music professor, who used to teach at the Rexburg school, from speaking and performing at a jazz festival there after he went public with his disbelief in the church.

(Courtesy of Ryan Nielsen) Ryan Nielsen, who teaches music at Utah Valley University, wears the shirt that was made to support him after BYU-Idaho disinvited him to speak on the campus where he used to work.

• Latter-day Saint leaders are urging members to put “integrity, ability and service” before party politics as Utahns prepare to cast presidential ballots in caucuses next week.

• Historian D. Michael Quinn predicted in his recently released posthumous memoir that the church someday would become more open about its past, but that time came too late for him.

• The Book of Mormon, the faith’s foundational scripture, is touted as “another testament” of Christ, but its story arc also stands as a testament against the “prosperity gospel” and a reminder, writes Tribune guest columnist Natalie Brown, that righteousness does not guarantee health, wealth and bliss.