In a ceremony March 18, Gov. E. Benjamin Nelson of Nebraska proclaimed April 17-June 3 as "Mormon Pioneer Heritage Days."
The proclamation, recognizing 150 years since the first companies of Latter-day Saints crossed the state en route to the Salt Lake Valley, was signed at the State Capitol in the presence of civic and local Church representatives. A copy of The Mission, an oversized book of photos pertaining to LDS culture, was presented to the governor after the signing.Shauna Valentine, multi-stake public affairs director, said the proclamation was formally read on March 12 at the State Capitol rotunda. Earlier that day, Elder Eldon Fletcher, director of the Church's Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters, gave the opening prayer of the Nebraska State Legislature. He and others associated with the observance were then introduced to lawmakers. At noon, in the rotunda, Secretary of State Scott Moore read the proclamation and then presented it to Brian J. Hill, president of the Kearney Nebraska Stake and president of the Nebraska Mormon Trails Association.
A choir of 30 missionaries sang songs at the proclamation recitation, March 12, including "I Love Nebraska," written by Omaha Nebraska Mission Pres. Jack Bangerter and composed by a former missionary in Nebraska, Elder Mike Leavitt. Other songs performed at the ceremony included the Church's sesquicentennial theme song, "Faith in Every Footstep," and harmonica and violin renditions of "Come, Come, Ye Saints."
In the rotunda were photo exhibits of Church history, including Winter Quarters.
The proclamation noted that the state has a rich tradition of preserving pioneer heritage, that the Oregon and Mormon trails pass through the state, that the spring and summer months of 1997 mark 150 years since the Mormon trek traversed Nebraska and that "honoring the Mormon pioneers, who were people of courage and commitment, can inspire those same qualities in our community members today."
By putting his signature to the document, Gov. Nelson encouraged families "to develop the spirit of pioneering which is a significant part of our heritage," according to the proclamation. "In this manner, we can continue to strengthen and build our families, communities and state."