Responding to and building upon a General Authority's suggestion, the Grand Junction Colorado West Stake on Jan. 10 sponsored a Sunday School Jubilee that took stake and community members back in time for a journey through early Church history.
More than 800 people attended the event, including about 100 who were not members of the Church, said Steven Chaffin, stake Sunday School president."It was a really spiritual experience for us, one of the times when all the organizations worked together in the stake to have a successful event," he said.
"Elder Hugh W. Pinnock gave us the idea, when he was assigned to reorganize the stake a year or two ago, to have a jubilee celebration. This is actually the second one we have had."
Elder Pinnock of the Seventy is president of the North America Central Area.
Historically, stake Sunday School jubilees were held early in the year to introduce the gospel doctrine course of study for the year.
The jubilee theme fit in with this year's Pioneer Sesquicentennial celebration, as the course of study is the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and Church history, said stake Pres. Jerald F. Chadwick.
"Our primary purpose was to have something to excite not only our members but also the local people about the various aspects of Church history. Another objective was to motivate our people to want to attend every Sunday School class in 1997 to learn further about these things. It worked out so much better than anyone envisioned, and it is obvious the hand of the Lord had a big part in it."
A prominent feature of the evening was Elder Pinnock himself, dressed as Brigham Young. Enthusiastically accepting the stake's invitation to attend, he hesitantly agreed to the portrayal of President Young, but as it turned out, enjoyed himself. (He arrived just in time for the jubilee; a snowstorm had grounded most flights from Denver to Grand Junction.)
Accompanying him through the evening was Gary Mansfield, portraying Orrin Porter Rockwell, body guard to President Young. "I would have let him guard me anywhere," Elder Pinnock said of Mr. Mansfield, a local resident who, with his full beard, very much looks the part.
Rooms in the stake center were each decorated by one of the wards in the stake to evoke images of different periods and locations of Church history: Palmyra, N.Y.; Kirtland, Ohio; Jackson County, Mo.; Zion's Camp; Nauvoo, Ill.; Winter Quarters, Neb.; Independence Rock on the Mormon Pioneer Trail; and Salt Lake Valley.
At each of those stations, visitors could obtain a sample of pioneer-style food, such as corn dodgers, salt pork, cobbler, beans and greens.
After visitors had proceeded through the stations, they assembled in the chapel for a pioneer devotional featuring a brief talk from Elder Pinnock. Music was from a 35-piece orchestra in the stake inspired by William Pitt's Brass Band, a group of musicians among the pioneers who trekked from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley in 1846-47.
"After the devotional was over, we had a pioneer dance, with a dance master," Pres. Chaffin said. "It was great fun to see everyone from little kids to senior citizens taking part in the Virginia Reel. We invited individual musicians to play spontaneously anything they knew on the fiddle or banjo or whatever."
Invitations to the event were distributed through priesthood quorums and auxiliaries and through home teachers. Pres. Chadwick reported he saw many individuals in the stake center for the first time. "As a follow-up event we're having a family history fair Feb. 21-22," he said.
Elder Pinnock commented later that the event is a good example of what stake and ward auxiliaries can do to celebrate the sesquicentennial.