Utahns remember 1896 and celebrate statehood

Dancing in the streets, parades, special programs, a musical gala, fireworks and speeches were among events celebrating Utah's first 100 years as a state. On Jan. 4, the 100th anniversary of Utah having become the nation's 45th state, President Gordon B. Hinckley joined others participating in centennial events as he addressed several thousand people in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

The Tabernacle, site of the celebration held 100 years ago, was decorated with red, white and blue bunting and Utah State flags, as well as U.S. flags bearing 45 stars. Music was provided by the Utah Children's Choir, which included 700 school children.The program in the Tabernacle was divided into two parts. The first featured a re-enactment of the original celebration. Actors portrayed Church and state leaders of 1896, including Bryan Bowles as George Q. Cannon, who read a prayer written by President Wilford Woodruff, who was represented by Sam Shanks. Other 1896 personalities portrayed were Territorial Gov. C.C. Richards (Michael Bennett), delegate Joseph L. Rawlins (James Arrington), Chief Justice Charles S. Zane (Rock White), the Rev. Thomas Corwin Iliff (David Spangenthal), Brigham Young Jr. (Mark Daniels), and Utah Gov. Heber M. Wells (Robert Peterson).

Many people in the audience, dressed in period costumes, led in "spontaneous" outbursts of cheering, clapping and foot stamping at key points in the re-enactment portion of the program to help lend a feel for the original festivities.

The second portion of the program featured remarks by modern-day counterparts of those in the original program. Among the speakers were President Hinckley, Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt and the Rev. Robert R. Sewell of the First United Methodist Church.

President Hinckley said: "I think it fair to say that no other community of citizens worked longer and harder for statehood or were more grateful when it was finally granted.

"It was a glorious day for all when President Grover Cleveland signed the proclamation under which Utah became the 45th state in the nation, with all of the rights, privileges and sovereignty held by the original 13 states.

"Now for a hundred years this state has grown in population and prospered in its economy. This has become the great, vital, throbbing crossroads of the West. Utah has been `discovered' by the world."

He said today's citizens begin a new century building on the solid foundation laid by those who have gone before. "They planned wisely and built well," he said. "This remarkable edifice in which we meet is an example of their work.

"Now, with assurance, with confidence and with faith we look to the future. There will be challenges, but none so formidable as were faced and overcome in the past.

"As we move into another century we must resolve to live together in a society of men and women of diverse backgrounds, interests and cultures. We must live with respect and tolerance and understanding one for another. We can and should retain our individuality and respect that of others, while nurturing together a great society dedicated to the blessing of all who reside here.

"We must work cooperatively to maintain and enhance those elements of our common culture, those expressions of the arts which refine and elevate the human spirit.

"We must improve the education of future generations of children. Education was a primary concern of those who laid the foundations of this society. While grubbing sagebrush to wrest a living from a harsh environment, they established the University of Deseret in 1850. From that beginning has come a substantial number of great universities and colleges, both public and private.

"We must guard and wisely use the precious gift of water, a gift for which our forebears thanked the Almighty. They treasured the land and caused it to yield with abundance. It will become more precious in the future.

"They looked through clear skies to lofty mountains, and gained strength and inspiration. We must safeguard these magnificent natural wonders so that future generations may also draw strength and inspiration from the handiwork of the Master Creator.

"These and other challenges will prove daunting. But if we will work together we can handle them, building on the great accomplishments of those who have gone before.

"For them the communities of these mountain valleys were havens of peace and safety in which to rear children in lives of self-reliance, self-discipline and achievement.

"We must do no less for the generations yet to come."

President Hinckley noted that before it became the State of Utah, it was the Territory of Deseret, whose symbol was the beehive, denoting industry. That symbol is still found in the State Flag and the State Seal. President Hinckley expressed the hope that it will "continue to be of the very essence of the culture of the future."

He said, "As we move forward into this promising new century, may this favored western commonwealth become as a city set upon a hill whose light cannot be hid. May God bless this, our beloved state of Utah, and those of future generations who will become its fortunate citizenry."

In his remarks, Gov. Michael O. Leavitt told a story about his grandfather who, at age 10, was traveling on horseback with his two older brothers from a sheep camp to town. It had been a hard spring with severe losses as a number of ewes had died or abandoned their lambs. On the saddles of their horses the boys carried about a dozen lambs.

Caught in a spring snow storm, the boys stopped and built a crude shelter of brush and saddle blankets. They gathered what sticks they could find and, with the last of their damp matches, built a fire. As it burned low, the older boys left to look for more sticks. The youngest boy, knowing it would be impossible to revive the fire if the embers died, gently blew again and again on the coals to keep them alive. The fire not only was a source of warmth but was also a guide for his brothers. The older boys returned with more sticks and got the fire burning brightly again. The youngest boy preserved the source for their survival.

"The flame of prosperity burns brightly today in Utah," Gov. Leavitt said. "However, a hundred years ago the people of this state struggled to ignite it. Since then it has dimmed at times, but always rekindled because our basic values have been continually nurtured and preserved. For the most part, our people have been self-reliant, hard working, responsible, kind and honest. In the context of centuries, those attributes have proven to be the active ingredients that sustain free societies."

Gov. Leavitt further said, "Today we celebrate Utah's successes in the last hundred years. But it is also an occasion to examine Utah's role in the next hundred. Utah is not the biggest state in the union nor are we likely to be the most powerfully economically or politically. But in a world where many grope for a sustainable core, we can play a vital role.

"Utah must be a place of quiet quality, a mentor state, a place where people pass on to future generations the ageless values. Like the youngest brother who preserved the glowing embers until the flame could be rekindled, Utah can be among the places where the world turns to renew its sense of basic values.

"Let it be our role to blow upon the embers when the flame dims. Let this be the place where each person nurtures the flame within themselves and willingly passes a torch to another whose fire has gone out. Let Utah be a `keeper of the flame,' not for a century, but forever."

In his remarks, the Rev. Sewell quoted Isaiah's prophecy: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." (Isa. 35:1.)

"Indeed, over the last one hundred years this desert has blossomed," the Rev. Sewell said. "Those who came this way before us discovered and helped to create what you and I now celebrate. They learned and passed on to us one of the great truths of life itself: The beauty of the desert is found in its diversity.

"To know and to appreciate one's heritage is to participate in the hope that that heritage engenders. As we approach the next one hundred years we do so at a time in which we have an opportunity to develop a greater respect and appreciation for the cultural and religious traditions that comprise our state."

He further said: "We can help to show that there is beauty in a mosaic that cannot be found in a melting pot. Because our state is more than it is perceived to be by those outside our state, we have a story to tell. Because our state is more than we sometimes settle for, we have a heritage to honor. Because our state can dare to be bigger than we might dare to dream, we have a hope to keep kindled."

The program also included remarks by Stephen M. Studdert, chairman of the Utah Statehood Centennial Commission.

While efforts were made to bring an 1896 look to the Tabernacle with vintage decorations and costumes, the program ended on a 20th-Century note with a patriotic laser light show. Images representing Utah's history, people and places were beamed on the ceiling of the Tabernacle.

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