President Thomas S. Monson returned Sunday, May 19, to a place where his "roots run deep" to dedicate a new three-ward building in the Salt Lake Pioneer Stake.
More than 700 Church members attended the dedication of the meetinghouse of the Twenty Fifth, Twenty Sixth and Thirty Second wards at 1145 W. 500 South in Salt Lake City. The new building replaces two old ward buildings in the stake at 710 S. 1000 West and at 351 Navajo St. President Monson was accompanied by his wife, Frances.President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, told the congregation that his roots are deep in Pioneer Stake soil. "I was born and reared in the Sixth-Seventh Ward, then of the Pioneer Stake," and both sides of his mother's family, dating back to his great-grandparents, settled in the area, which later became Pioneer Stake. His grandfather, on his father's side, who came from Sweden, stayed with an aunt and uncle who lived in the stake when he worked in Salt Lake City as a boy. His grandmother, before her marriage to his paternal grandfather, and her family settled in the stake boundaries after emigrating from Leeds, England.
At age 22, President Monson was called as bishop of the Sixth-Seventh Ward, which by then had been placed in the Temple View Stake. He also served in the Temple View Stake presidency.
In his address, President Monson said Pioneer Stake in 1904 was the fifth stake created in the Salt Lake Valley, and had 17,000 members at one time.
He then spoke of the stake's roots.
"On Feb. 14, 1849, Great Salt Lake City was divided into 19 ecclesiastical wards, numbered consecutively one through 19. In those days, when you were called to be a bishop, you had no idea how long that was going to be." He then told of a bishop of the Seventh Ward who served for 40 years.
"Each of the wards was known by a number of families living within them," President Monson explained. "And their posterity stayed in the ward. My great-grandfather, for example, came from Scotland, settled in the Sixth Ward about 1849, and stayed there, as did all of his family."
President Monson shared with the congregation a few of his memories about growing up in Pioneer Stake.
"I'll never forget the roadshows that we used to put on in this stake. We knew what a production was," he related. "Feelings were high and emotions were tender and everybody wanted to win. The winner of the stake roadshow would go up to Kingsbury Hall
at the University of UtahT and compete for the best roadshow in the valley.
"In 1941, our roadshow, `Through the Rays of the Sun,' in which I and all the other boys my age were Eskimos, went to Kingsbury Hall and won the top prize. I think it portrayed the spirit of Pioneer Stake, for it showed how individuals all over the world come together through the gospel." He said his sister Marge portrayed the Statue of Liberty in the roadshow and was to read the poem by Emma Lazarus, which appears on the Statue of Liberty.
"You remember," President Monson said, " `Give me your tired, your poor, your yearning masses longing to breathe free.' It's a beautiful poem. However, on the great night of her career as the Statue of Liberty, Marge got laryngitis."
President Monson reported that many ward members made all sorts of concoctions to bring back his sister's voice. "Well, they didn't cure my sister, but we Eskimo boys got down on our knees and offered a prayer and that night her voice came back, and we were judged as having the finest roadshow in the Church. Through prayer and a lot of faith, we represented this great stake of Zion."
President Monson also reminisced about basketball tournaments, softball games, stake conferences and the dance in the Pioneer Stake gymnasium where he and his future wife, Frances Johnson, went on their first date.
He then spoke of people of many nationalities who "seemed to have gathered here in the Pioneer Stake. I'm happy for that, and I trust that we will all remember we are Latter-day Saints, first, last and forever."
President Monson told the members of the stake that their beautiful new building was paid for by general tithing funds of the Church.
He then shared an experience of a faithful member he knew while serving as a mission president in Toronto, Ontario. The man, a barber who did not make a lot of money, paid more than 10 percent tithing. When President Monson told the man he only needed to pay 10 percent, his friend said, "The Lord needs the money." President Monson answered that some of the extra money could go into the branch building fund. But the faithful member said, "The Lord may need all my contribution in other places in the world."
"I like to feel that part of his tithing is in this building," President Monson told the congregation, "that part of the tithing from the Saints in Mexico is in this building, and part of the tithing from Denmark is in this building, and from Sweden and Norway, and the other Scandinavian countries, and every country in the world. We are one as members of the Church. It matters little to us whether our tithing is in our own chapel or someone else's chapel. These buildings are given freely to the Lord."
As President Monson concluded his address, he spoke of the legacy of the past, opportunities of the present and the brightness of the future.
"We have a rich heritage," he said. "When you look back at the welfare program, its roots go right down into the soil of Pioneer Stake. Pioneer Stake became one of the models . . . for the welfare projects and the welfare program throughout the Church."
After speaking of past leaders of Pioneer Stake, President Monson said, "Wherever I go, a whole lot of the traditions and legacy of Pioneer Stake goes with me.
"This is a night of dedication," he said. "It's a time when we rededicate our lives. . . . That means we put aside anything that is unseemly, anything we would like to shed. And we say, `As of this night, I'm dedicated to the Lord.' You will have the strength to overcome any challenge you have and you will have the Spirit to live closer to the Lord."
Following President Monson's address he offered the dedicatory prayer.
Other speakers at the dedicatory services were Stake Pres. Rey M. Miles and Bishop Henning S. Jensen Sr. of the Thirty Second Ward. Music was performed by a combined choir. The invocation was offered by Bishop Alfred Schulze of the Twenty Fifth Ward, and the benediction was given by Bishop Jerry Randall of the Twenty Sixth Ward.