With the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus inspiring patriotic fervor for the occasion, two renowned Latter-day Saints paid homage to freedom March 20.
U.S. Sen. Jake Garn of Utah and Steve Young, National Football League quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, spoke at "A Celebration of Freedom" in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve gave the invocation.The event was sponsored by the Utah Chapter of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, a national non-profit corporation whose stated purpose is to build a better understanding of the spirit and philosophy of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Much of Sen. Garn's speech focused on his 1984 flight as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle.
He recalled gazing at the earth from space and said, "I wish I had the vocabulary and the ability to describe to you this beautiful, blue planet we live on."
The sight, he said made him sad about the strife and conflict in the world.
"God gave us the earth, our lives," he said. "He must be very displeased, as we are when our children misbehave."
Sen. Garn said he is convinced that if the despots of the world could view the earth as he had seen it from space, the experience would change their feelings.
"There are no difficult feelings between astronauts," he said. "Even before the Soviet Union collapsed, the Soviet cosmonauts were my friends."
In addition to the sadness, however, the experience "evoked more feelings of patriotism than I have ever had, to look down at the shining example of the United States, the only democracy on the earth to have lasted more than 200 years," he said. "We are so fortunate, so lucky, to have been born in this country and to reap the benefits of freedom."
He said he reflected while observing the earth that in every country where people enjoyed freedom of worship there was also material abundance and happiness, and that the opposite condition prevailed in every country with a dictator.
He recalled that while visiting Berlin, Germany, about two weeks after the wall was opened up, he was at a dinner where he sat next to a microbiologist who told of having to make the difficult choice years earlier of smuggling his daughter into West Berlin where she could live in freedom. He quoted the man as saying: "God gives us freedom. They [the communist governmentT have imprisoned my body for 40 years, but they have not imprisoned my soul."
Young, who distinguished himself as a BYU quarterback and will soon graduate from the university's law school, said he was standing before the audience "as an ordinary man born to an American family, raised in a home that believed in God in a land that offered me and everybody else I knew an opportunity to develop in mind, body and spirit."
He expressed gratitude for representative government as "a system preferable to others because it permits people to act according to the moral agency given to them so every man may be accountable."
He added that "to require public virtue in elected officials without private virtue among citizens is to require something that cannot be."
The symphony performed "Washington Post March" and "Stars and Stripes Forever," and accompanied the chorus on "This Land Is Your Land," "Dixie," "God Bless America," "God Bless the USA," and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." A huge American flag was raised on the rostrum during "Stars and Stripes Forever." The audience spontaneously rose and clapped along with the music.