In Utah this centennial year, Church members are working to help beautify their state - and preserve the rich heritage that Mormon pioneers brought here nearly 150 years ago.
They are cleaning garbage off highways, beautifying public lands and planting trees in their neighborhoods, and making replica costumes to be used at a historic state park.Many are responding to requests from the First Presidency to perform centennial service projects, a few are carrying on long-term traditions or supporting state clean-up days, and others are using the 100th anniversary year of Utah statehood to start new traditions.
In a letter written by the First Presidency May 1, Church members in Utah were encouraged to take measures that will beautify and strengthen the state and its communities.
"We have previously encouraged members of the Church in Utah to participate as citizens in Centennial activities and programs," the First Presidency letter said. "We again reiterate the need to remember our heritage and ponder its anchoring significance in our lives today."
The letter also asks wards and stakes to get involved May 18 in "Take Pride in Utah Clean-Up Day" - a day earmarked by the governor for service projects.
In the letter, the First Presidency said: "President Brigham Young, the first governor of the Territory of Deseret, said, `There is a great work for the Saints to do. Progress, and improve upon, and make beautiful everything around you. . . . Render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure. . . .' We reaffirm this counsel."
Sharry Pickett, coordinator for "Take Pride in Utah Clean-Up Day" and a member of the Salt Lake Butler West Stake, said hundreds of ward and stake groups in Utah have planned service projects in conjunction with that day and other Utah centennial activities.
She said the program could not be a success without the support of the Church. For example, on May 18, more than 20 church groups plan to volunteer at "This Is the Place State Park," a pioneer village replica on Salt Lake City's east bench.
Annette Tanner, volunteer coordinator for the historic site, said she can't keep up with the calls she has received this year from Church groups - many who have already completed significant service projects.
Some have landscaped, painted and made adobe bricks for the park, which houses many original pioneer structures. Several groups - such as the Salt Lake Mt. Olympus North Stake Relief Society - have made replica dresses and bonnets to be worn by volunteers working in the park, sewn replica curtains, and made rugs and quilts for the historic homes.
Representative of Church groups doing service projects, the women in the Salt Lake Mt. Olympus North Stake gathered May 4 to watch a fashion show displaying the dresses they made, share stories of their pioneer ancestors and weave rag rugs.
A week earlier, the youth in the Murray 3rd Ward, Murray Utah Stake, cleaned up a portion of This Is the Place State Park for their centennial project.
Willie Neves, Young Men president, said the time was well spent. "Those who do service benefit by achieving something and helping others achieve something," he said.
Brother Neves said ward leaders plan to talk with the youth about early Utah settlers during lessons and youth activities this summer.
In the Alpine Utah Stake, youth will spend their entire youth conference on June 24-29, fixing up their community and studying about their ancestors. As part of the conference, youth have been asked to share a story of their ancestors during a family home evening, look for ways to clean up their own neighborhood and participate in a service project at a historic park in their city.
The conference will help youth "understand our heritage, help us know where we came from and who we are," said Judy Bateman, a Laurel on the stake youth conference committee.
Stake leaders said during the last few years community service projects have become a tradition they plan to continue.
The Brigham City 24th Ward also has started a community service tradition. Seven years ago they adopted a two-mile stretch of highway. "We as citizens need to help out where we can," Bishop Vaughn Morgan said, adding that the ward plans to maintain the stretch indefinitely.
Community service, he continued, is important because "we need to preserve what
the pioneersT left for us."
Stephen M. Studdert, Utah Statehood centennial commission chairman and president of the Highland Utah East Stake, said now is the time - as Utah begins its second century of statehood - to take renewed pride in homes, farms and public lands - and to perform community service projects.
"Every citizen has a responsibility to make our state the best it can be," he explained. "Utah is a place of inspiring natural beauty. We need to work together to make the inhabited surroundings equally beautiful."