In 1997, the Church received more national and international media coverage than all the other years in Church history combined. That startling assessment was made by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve, chairman of the Church Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee.
The sesquicentennial of the coming of the Latter-day Saints to the Salt Lake Valley was the reason for the coverage and its impact was felt in virtually every corner of the Church. A commemorative wagon train from Winter Quarters, Neb., to Salt Lake City, largely organized and carried out by people outside the Church, caught the imagination of the world.Here is a chronological summary of major events pertaining to the Church in 1997.
Jan. 4: The Tabernacle Choir performed at the second inauguration of Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, the second time the choir has performed at a Utah state inaugural ceremony. The first was 101 years ago when the state's first governor, Heber M. Wells, took office.
Jan. 12: Returning to an area where he spent time as a boy, President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, was the speaker at the Salt Lake Jordan North Stake's jubilee devotional, marking 50 years since the stake's organization.
Jan. 18: Sometime in January the 100,000th member of the Church's Africa Area would be baptized, it was announced in the Church News. That almost doubled the membership in Africa of just six years previously.
Jan. 18: Public Broadcasting Service in January premiered a 10-part mini-series produced by KBYU-TV, "Ancestors," the first national documentary television series about genealogy and family history.
Jan. 18: The arrival of the Mormon Battalion 150 years previously was commemorated in San Diego, Calif., with a six-mile march by 2,400 people from Jack Murphy Stadium to Old Town.
Jan. 18-27: President Gordon B. Hinckley went on a 10-day tour that included a visit to Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 19 for the 50th anniversary of the first stake in the South, and continued with visits to Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
Jan. 25: At Old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, Calif., seven LDS stakes in North San Diego County honored the Mormon Battalion, which arrived there for garrison duty 150 years previously. The commemoration featured speeches, choir music and re-enactments.
Jan. 27-28: President Boyd K. Packer and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve discussed the doctrines and practices of the Church with prominent executives and media representatives in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Feb. 2: At a Church Educational System fireside, President Hinckley told college-age young adults they should follow the path marked by the pioneers - a legacy of faith, loyalty, industry and integrity.
Feb. 22: Church members pulling a pioneer-style handcart embarked from Krasnoyarsk in Siberia on a trek through key cities in Russia and Ukraine that eventually joined the Mormon Trail Wagon Train that left Winter Quarters, Neb., and arrived in Salt Lake City July 22.
Feb. 25: President Hinckley was cited by the 96th Regional Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve, at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City for his "sterling example for truth, honesty and love" to the men and women of the Army Reserve.
Feb. 28: A grand celebration in honor of the pioneer sesquicentennial brought some 8,500 people to the grounds of the Mexico City Mexico Temple.
March 1: The First Presidency announced plans to create eight new missions, it was announced in the Church News. The missions are California San Francisco, Illinois Chicago South, Nevada Las Vegas West, Texas Houston South, Chile Santiago East and Honduras Comayaguela.
March 6-7: President Hinckley spoke to some 2,300 people at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, a longstanding forum including diplomats, local and state dignitaries and some Church members. His remarks had a Pioneer Sesquicentennial theme.
March 7: Elder Lowell D. Wood of the Seventy, president of the Pacific Area of the Church, died unexpectedly while on assignment to create the Pago Pago Samoa Mapusaga Stake.
March 9: With the creation of the Puerto Varas Chile Stake, Chile became the fourth nation in the world to have 100 or more stakes.
March 11: President Monson spoke at a BYU devotional, admonishing students to learn from the past, prepare for the future and live in the present.
March 14-15: Intense civil unrest in Albania, with Americans being ordered out, resulted in the evacuation of the Church's Albania Mission president, his wife and the 33 missionaries in their charge. To date, LDS missionaries have not re-entered the troubled country.
March 18: In a ceremony at the State Capitol in Lincoln, Gov. E. Benjamin Nelson of Nebraska proclaimed April 17-June 3 as "Mormon Pioneer Heritage Days.
March 19: President Hinckley spoke at the World Forum of Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, Calif., on the topic "The Global Reach of the Latter-day Saints.
March 19-22: Official delegates appointed by the Church to represent it at the World Congress of Families in Prague, the Czech Republic, were Elders Charles Didier and Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy, Relief Society Gen. Pres. Elaine L. Jack, Lucie L. Didier and Marie K. Hafen.
March 29: At the general Young Women meeting, President Monson said there are still opportunities to be pioneers in courage, charity, faith and determination.
April 3: President Hinckley received the Humanitarian Award from Collegium Aesculapium, an association of LDS physicians.
April 4: New temples to be built in the Albuquerque, N.M., area, and the Campinas, Brazil, area, were announced by the First Presidency.
- The organization of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy was announced by President Hinckley, with current Area Authorities to be designated Area Authority Seventies and to make up the membership of the new quorums.
- Elders Gary J. Coleman, John M. Madsen, Wm. Rolfe Kerr and Carl B. Pratt were sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
- Elders Richard D. Allred, Eran A. Call, Richard E. Cook, Duane B. Gerrard, Wayne M. Hancock, J. Kent Jolley, Richard J. Maynes, Dale E. Miller, Lynn G. Robbins, Donald L. Staheli and Richard E. Turley Sr. were sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
- A new Relief Society general presidency was sustained: Mary Ellen W. Smoot, president; Virginia U. Jensen, first counselor; Sheri L. Dew, second counselor. Released were Elaine L. Jack, president; Chieko N. Okazaki, first counselor; and Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor.
- Carol B. Thomas was sustained as second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, succeeding Bonnie D. Parkin.
April 5-6: The Church helped with relief efforts and made available a meetinghouse in Grand Forks, N.D. for refuge after ice storms battered Southeast North Dakota and parts of Minnesota. April 18: President Hinckley visited two main Mormon Trail sites in connection with the Pioneer Sesquicentennial. In Nauvoo, Ill., he dedicated the Pioneer Memorial Park, with a monument containing names of many who died on the trial. In Omaha, Neb., he dedicated the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters.
April 18: The Tabernacle Choir began the first of a series of Pioneer Sesquicentennial Concerts throughout Utah with a performance in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
April 19-21: The commemorative Mormon Trail Wagon Train, which the worldwide public would view as the centerpiece of the sesquicentennial observance of the Mormon pioneer trek to the Salt Lake Valley, embarked from two locations, Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha (Florence), Neb. The two contingents were to merge later at Kearney, Neb., for the rest of the journey to Salt Lake City.
April 23: Tung Chee-hwa, an official of the People's Republic of China, assured President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, and other General Authorities and Church leaders visiting in Hong Kong that freedom of religion in the city would remain after it reverted from British to Chinese sovereignty on July 1.
April 24: President Monson addressed the largest BYU graduating class in history at commencement exercises.
April 24-27: President Faust paid his first visit to Taiwan and spoke to more than 3,500 people in six meetings in Taipei and Kaohsiung.
May 1: Deseret Gymnasium, a long-standing, Church-owned enterprise, was closed and its building demolished beginning June 16 to make way for the Church's new assembly building announced by President Hinckley at general conference in April 1996.
May 2: President Hinckley joined other dignitaries - including former U.S. President George Bush - to celebrate the centennial of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.
May 3: Before 5,000 visitors at the Sun Ranch in central Wyoming, President Hinckley dedicated a new visitors center at Martin's Cove, Wyo., to the memory of the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers of 1856, who suffered and many of whom perished due to starvation and exposure.
May 8-17: President Hinckley toured New Zealand and Australia, speaking 15 times in seven cities to a total of more than 55,000 members.
May 17: Members of the commemorative Mormon Trail Wagon Train encamped at North Platte, Neb., were visited by Elders M. Russell Ballard, and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy, and Elder Jon M. Huntsman, an Area Authority Seventy.
May 17: The Ricks College women's track and field team won its first-ever national Junior College Athletic Association championship.
May 18: President Hinckley spoke at the Aaronic Priesthood Pioneer Sesquicentennial Fireside, originating in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. He warned of problems faced by young men of today. May 27: The First Presidency announced the appoint
ment of David A. Bednar of Fayetteville, Ark., to succeed Steven D. Bennion as president of Ricks College.
May 28: With President Hinckley presiding, President Monson dedicated a new, nine-story headquarters building for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. The Church-owned newspaper began publication in 1850.
June 1: A letter from the First Presidency announced significant modifications to the curriculum and gospel study program for the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society, providing a similar meeting and instruction schedule for both organizations.
June 1-5: President Hinckley dedicated the St. Louis Missouri Temple in the first of 19 dedicatory sessions.
June 5: President Hinckley spoke at graduation ceremonies for the 100-year-old Juarez Academy in the Church colonies at Juarez, Mexico.
June 13: Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve broke ground for a temple to be built at Belmont, Mass., the first in New England.
June 14: President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, dedicated Cutler's Park, site of the first organized community in Nebraska and forerunner to Winter Quarters.
June 15: President Monson visited participants in the commemorative Mormon Trail Wagon Train encamped at Fort Caspar, Wyo.; toured Mormon Trail sites in Wyoming; and spoke at a fireside in Casper.
June 15: The Pacific Area of the Church reached a milestone when Elder Vaughn J Featherstone created the 100th stake in the area, the Suva North Fiji Stake.
June 21: President Faust dedicated a plaque at the Las Vegas Mormon Fort in Nevada, associating the Church with the establishment of Las Vegas.
June 19-Aug. 23: "Barefoot to Zion," the Pioneer Sesquicentennial play of Promised Valley Playhouse Productions, was presented at the Bountiful Regional Center.
June 24-27: One hundred five new mission presidents and their wives heard instruction from all three members of the First Presidency at the annual mission presidents seminar at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
June 25: Hundreds attended a reception hosted by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve for an exhibit at the New York Historical Society museum on the Church organization and 1846-47 pioneer trek.
July 5: President Hinckley spoke at Simpson's Hollow, Wyo., at a commemoration of an incident when Church members resisted the advance of U.S. Army soldiers sent in reaction to false reports of government officials in the Utah territory.
July 9: The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., opened an expanded exhibit on the Mormon Pioneer Trek with a celebration involving members of Congress and other dignitaries.
July 12: A restoration project including the Sacred Grove and Joseph Smith Farm near Palmyra, N.Y., was approved by the First Presidency and is under way, it was reported in the Church News.
July 12: Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated a pioneer park and a sculpture of a pioneer family in Mendon, Utah, a sesquicentennial project.
July 13: A parade down the streets of Rome, Italy, commemorated the Church Pioneer Sesquicentennial, an unusual event for the city.
July 19: Like an immense worldwide army of good Samaritans, Latter-day Saints in more than 20,000 Church units contributed some 3 million hours of service to their communities as part of Worldwide Pioneer Heritage Service Day.
July 22: After 93 days on the trail, the commemorative Mormon Trail Wagon Train entered Salt Lake City to a hero's welcome. About 50,000 people attended the gala festivities at This Is the Place State Park and heard an address by President Hinckley.
July 22: First Encampment Park, which memorializes the location where the first pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley camped, was dedicated at 1700 S. 500 East in Salt Lake City by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve.
July 24: President Hinckley broke ground for a new, 21,000-seat assembly building in Salt Lake City on the block north of Temple Square, which will be the site of general conferences as well as other meetings and activities.
July 24: The annual "Days of '47" parade in Salt Lake City featured variations of the Pioneer Sesquicentennial theme, "Faith in Every Footstep."
July 24-25: Some 130,000 people witnessed the Pioneer Sesquicentennial Spectacular at BYU Cougar Stadium in Provo, Utah, during its two performances. The spectacle featured the First Presidency and Tabernacle Choir among the hundreds of participants.
July 25: At the Sesquicentennial Native American Conference in Provo, Utah, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve encouraged Native Americans to "take hold of this glorious gospel" and "reach out to those who are lost."
July 26: President Hinckley dedicated a new Memorial Garden near the base of Ensign Peak in Salt Lake City where Brigham Young and others raised an "ensign to the nations" two days after entering Salt Lake Valley.
July 27: Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson joined Latter-day Saints and other residents for the annual Iceland Day in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Aug. 3: During a special sacrament meeting, President Monson exhorted more than 3,000 LDS Scouts at the National Jamboree to prepare for missionary service and marriage.
Aug. 7: President Faust received an honorary doctorate and gave the commencement address at BYU.
Aug. 9: In Bath, Ontario, President Monson dedicated a marker honoring Latter-day Saints who brought the gospel to eastern Canada, part of a five-day tour of that area in which he spoke to missionaries and members and met with government dignitaries.
Aug. 9-10: President Hinckley delivered 12 addresses to about 56,000 people in four nations of South America: Paraguay, Ecuador, Venezuela and Uruguay.
Aug. 10: A two-hour documentary, "Trail of Hope, the Story of the Mormon Trail," premiered nationwide over the Public Broadcast Service, featuring narration by veteran actor Hal Holbrook and voices of 65 actors and actresses.
Aug. 23: Church members in Charleroi, Belgium, sponsored a parade - the largest in the city's history - to observe the Pioneer Sesquicentennial.
Aug. 30: President Faust visited Nauvoo, Ill., to dedicate a monument at the Old Pioneer Cemetery memorializing Edward Partridge, first bishop of the Church.
Sept. 7: Latter-day Saints, including Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, and others re-enacted the 1851 trek Mormon Pioneers through El Cajon Pass in Southern California.
Sept. 13: President Hinckley spoke to nearly 22,000 people in McNichols Arena, Denver, Colo., commemorating 100 years since the establishment of the first permanent Church branch in Denver.
Sept. 14: President Hinckley spoke to several dozen religion reporters from newspapers across the United States at the Religion Newswriters Association convention in Albuquerque, N.M. Later, he spoke to more than 5,000 Native American members, most part of the Navajo Nation.
Sept. 26: The Church has every reason to believe its activities will not be curtailed or thwarted by the government in Russia, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve said, citing "reassurances at the highest level" that new legislation would not exclude Church activities.
Sept. 27: President Monson presided at the General Relief Society Meeting at which all three members of the new general presidency spoke.
Oct. 4-5: At the 167th Semiannual General Conference the following occurred:
- Plans were announced to construct small temples in remote areas of the Church that have small LDS populations not likely to grow much in the near future, the first of these to be built in Anchorage, Alaska; in the LDS colonies of northern Mexico; and in Monticello, Utah.
- Plans were announced to construct traditional temples in Houston, Texas, and Porto Alegre, Brazil.
- Elders J. Richard Clarke, Dean L. Larsen and Robert E. Wells were granted emeritus status in the First Quorum of the Seventy.
- Elders Lino Alvarez, C. Max Caldwell, John E. Fowler, Augusto A. Lim, V. Dallas Merrell, F. David Stanley and Kwok Yuen Tai were released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
- Two members of the Seventy were sustained to the Young Men general presidency, Elders Robert K. Dellenbach, first counselor, and F. Melvin Hammond, second counselor, succeeding Elders F. David Stanley and Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy.
- Two members of the Seventy were sustained to the Sunday School general presidency, Elders Glenn L. Pace, first counselor, and Neil L. Andersen, second counselor, succeeding Elders F. Burton Howard and Glenn L. Pace.
- Sustained to the Young Women general presidency were Margaret D. Nadauld, president; Carol B. Thomas, first counselor; and Sharon G. Larsen, second counselor, succeeding Janette Hales Becham, president; Virginia H. Pearce, first counselor; and Carol B. Thomas, second counselor.
Oct. 10-17: President Hinckley addressed a total of 52,500 members in eight islands of the Pacific, in Samoa, Hawaii, American Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Tahiti.
Oct. 24: The BYU Student Service Association presented the Exemplary Manhood Award to President Monson.
Oct. 27: After 14 months of intense public debate, the city council in Billings, Mont., voted 10-1 to approve plans by the Church to build a temple.
Nov. 1: Sometime during the first week of November, the Church reached 10 million members, according to Church estimates.
Nov. 1: A monument to the Mormon Battalion on the Utah State Capitol grounds, built in 1927 and recently refurbished, was rededicated by President Hinckley.
Nov. 2-4: The Vernal Utah Temple, the only one in the Church to be built from an existing structure, was dedicated by President Hinckley in the first of 11 dedicatory sessions.
Nov. 8-13: President Hinckley addressed 42,000 Church members in Mexico City and an additional 12,000 in Puebla, Mexico. On the trip, he met with Mexico's president, Ernesto Zedillo.
Nov. 17: Ground was broken in Monticello, Utah, for the first of three new smaller temples to be built in remote areas of the Church by Elder Ben B. Banks of the Seventy, area president.
Nov. 18: Students at BYU have the same challenge on a personal level that exists for BYU - to learn the secular in a spiritual context - President Faust said during a BYU devotional.
Nov. 20: President Monson gave a glimpse of the magnitude of the Church's worldwide humanitarian efforts during a Rotary International banquet in Salt Lake City.
Nov. 28: Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve pulled the switch illuminating 750,000 Christmas lights on Temple Square and the Church plaza to the east. The Mormon Youth Chorus and Symphony provided a short program.
Dec. 2: Diplomats from 70 nations attended the annual Christmas Festival of Lights at the Washington D.C. Temple grounds. Russian Federation ambassador Yuli M. Vorontsov spoke, as did Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy.
Dec. 23: President Hinckley unveiled a statue of Joseph Smith in Legacy Theater lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
Dec. 27: A solemn assembly held 150 years previously at Kanesville, Iowa, in which Brigham Young was sustained as president of the Church, was commemorated at historic Kanesville in a replica of the log tabernacle where it originally took place.