Tremendous credit to the state of Utah
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Calling it the "official house of the people of the state of Utah," President Gordon B. Hinckley on Jan. 4 rededicated the 91-year-old Utah Capitol after extensive remodeling and renovation that had closed the building to the public since 2004.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir participated in a gala program along with the Orchestra at Temple Square, Bells on Temple Square, bell choirs from area high schools, the International Children's Choir, the 23rd Army Band of the Utah National Guard and the Cathedral of the Madeleine Choir School of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
"Isn't this a magnificent building?" the 97-year-old Church leader remarked to the audience assembled inside the Capitol's massive rotunda. "These marvelous decorations, this great dome, it's absolutely beautiful, and what a tremendous credit to the state of Utah."
He noted that it was Jan. 4, marking the 112th anniversary of Utah's entrance as a state into the Union. "And so, in reverence, we bow before our eternal Father in heaven to offer thanks," he said.
In his prayer, he observed that the Capitol had recently undergone extensive cleaning and refurbishing "until it is brighter and more sparkling than ever before. Isolators have been built under the foundation to save it from seismic activity. Here are housed the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor, the chambers where the Legislature gathers, together with other offices and facilities. This is the official house of the people of the state of Utah. May it be preserved from the elements of nature. May wisdom dictate all that is said and done here. May the people whose building it is feel free to wander its halls and marble staircases, admiring their resplendent beauty."
At the beginning of the ceremony, first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman, wife of Utah Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr., led the audience in the ringing of bells to herald the Capitol's renewal. Small bells had been distributed to audience members for the moment, and bell choirs from five high schools in the state, with television transmissions of elementary school children in rural areas participated.
The bell ringing segued into a performance of "America the Beautiful" by the Tabernacle Choir and other musical groups.
Another highlight came late in the program as the groups performed the choir's signature song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," in the familiar Peter J. Wilhouskey arrangement.
Just prior to President Hinckley's appearance on the program, the groups performed the original state song "Utah, We Love Thee," with lyrics and music by LDS composer Evan Stephens written for Utah's admission into the United States in 1896. And they performed a new work commissioned expressly for the rededication program, "Anthem for a New Year 'Into Light,"' with words by Katharine Coles, poet laureate of Utah, and music by Kurt Bestor.
Speakers on the program included the governor, state Senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives, chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and David H. Hart, architect of the renovation project.
Allyson Gamble of the Capitol Preservation Board said the rededication program was planned to mirror the formal opening ceremony of the Capitol back in 1916. On that occasion, Church President Joseph F. Smith spoke to a standing-room only audience in the Capitol and declared that the building would stand "until God shall shake the earth and the mountains fall to the ground," a rather remarkable statement in retrospect, considering the seismic upgrading the building would receive early in the following century.
A printed program for the original dedication ceremony listed the Tabernacle Choir as part of the program, and it was to have sung "Utah, We Love Thee." However, newspaper accounts of the event indicate the choir was unable to be present. Instead, A.C. Lund, choir director, read some verse, "The Spirit of the Pioneer," written for the occasion.
In keeping with the mirroring of the 1916 program, the invocation at the rededication was offered by the Rev. Charles Petty of the Second Baptist Church in Ogden and the benediction by the Rev. Donald Hope of Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Parish in Price.
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