Prophet, Genealogical Society honored

A century of efforts to identify and redeem the dead was celebrated with a Nov. 13 program in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Genealogical Society of Utah, now the Church Family History Department.

Also observed during the program was the 87th birthday of President Howard W. Hunter, who served as president of the society from Jan. 21, 1964, to May 25, 1972. His birthday was the following day on Nov. 14. (Please see separate article on this page.)The program was broadcast later that evening by tape delay over KBYU-TV in Provo, Utah.

President Hunter addressed the congregation as did his counselors in the First Presidency, President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve also spoke. (Please see separate articles on this page and pages 3-4.)

The Tabernacle Choir, directed by Jerold D. Ottley and Donald Ripplinger, presented musical selections, including a medley of Primary songs appropriate to the occasion, "When He Comes Again," "Families Can Be Together Forever," and "I Love to See the Temple."

A videotaped presentation, "Honoring President Howard W. Hunter and the Genealogical Society of Utah," was shown at the program. It featured conference sermons from President Hunter in October 1971 and October 1994 expressing the importance of family history and temple work. It also featured a message from Elder Nelson and named four "transcendent events in the 19th Century that positioned the stepping stones upon which the great latter-day work was founded. The four were the appearance of Moroni to Joseph Smith foretelling the coming of Elijah, the appearance of Elijah in the Kirtland Temple, the commandment in January 1841 in Nauvoo to build the temple and the statement by President Wilford Woodruff in April conference of 1891 that Latter-day Saints were to trace their genealogies as far as they could and be sealed to their ancestors.

The invocation at the program was offered by Elder Monte J. Brough of the Presidency of the Seventy. Sister Donna Packer, wife of Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve, gave the benediction.

In their addresses, speakers gave birthday congratulations to President Hunter.

The prophet received a birthday surprise just after the meeting. It happened as he was leaving the Tabernacle rostrum and the postlude song "We Ever Pray for Thee, Our Prophet Dear" was being played. Director Ottley signaled the choir with a downbeat, and it began to sing "Happy Birthday" to President Hunter. The congregation spontaneously joined in.

With his characteristic smile, President Hunter expressed his appreciation by waving to the choir.

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