Religious freedom and unity extolled at worship service

The pioneers founded the Utah territory as a result of their search for religious freedom, and today's Utah residents can help make that dream more real, Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy said at a Statehood Centennial worship service.

Held in the Salt Lake Stake Center, the meeting was one of 13 multidenominational thanksgiving services conducted simultaneously in the Salt Lake Valley Jan. 3 - the last day of Utah's first century.The Salt Lake Seventeenth Ward in the Salt Lake Stake represented the Church as one of 13 centennial congregations designated by the Centennial Commission to hold the services. Each is at least 100 years old. Others were Catholic, Central Christian, Christian Science, Episcopalian, First Congregational, First United Methodist, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, Jewish Synagogue, Zion Lutheran, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the First Unitarian Church.

Utahns were encouraged to attend congregations other than their own in a spirit of unity.

"As we look at the pioneer heritage that's in this valley, as we contemplate the more than 6,000 graves that dot the land from here back to Nauvoo, . . . let us remember that they came here for the purpose of religious freedom," said Elder Dellenbach, second counselor in the Utah North Area Presidency.

"And many followed thereafter from many different denominations into these valleys to make this a place of love and hope and peace and a great place of promise. Each one of us here tonight has an opportunity to make that become even more real by opening up our hearts, by being understanding, by caring about our neighbors and by being good neighbors, by living the principles and doctrines of Jesus Christ, which are taught to us abundantly in our various churches."

Also speaking were Bishop Dennis J. Millard of the Seventeenth Ward; Tim M. Lineback, a counselor in the ward Young Men presidency; Martha Cooper, a counselor in the ward Relief Society presidency, and David B. Webb former bishop of the ward. David Darke played a piano solo, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," and briefly told of its significance in Church history as having been sung at the time of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, the prophet.

Bishop Millard read a proclamation from Gov. Michael O. Leavitt designating Jan. 3 as a day of thanksgiving in the state.

"What a great cause for gratitude and thankfulness that is, as we look back at members of this stake who have sacrificed so much through this hundred years," the bishop said, "And what great contributions have been given by members of all denominations to an increase of spirit, unity, worthiness, to refine ourselves that we may be the leaders and 100 years from now, those who follow us may say the same thing."

Brother Lineback told of kindness extended to his family when he was a boy and his family moved to the state. His father was ill and died soon after the family's arrival, and the family was destitute.

An appeal in a Deseret News column brought gifts from many people a couple of days before Christmas. He said he considered the family's experience an outgrowth of the pioneer spirit by which the state was founded.

Sister Cooper told of the history of the Relief Society, recalling that women in Nauvoo formed a ladies society that was soon organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith under the priesthood as the Relief Society. She spoke of the sacrifices of Relief Society sisters over the past 100 years.

Brother Webb said the gospel of Jesus Christ is a practical gospel that provides the solutions for today's social and community problems.

"Christ said that He came that we could have life and have it abundantly," he said. "In Utah we have great opportunities to have an abundant life, and much of that is because of the traditions, the hard work, the faith, the vision and the wisdom of the people who have gone before us, the people who have laid the foundations, who have organized our governments, that have established security and peace in our cities, in our state," he said.

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