The Brigham Young University football team not only came away from Mississippi with a winning football game, it also left with a key to the city of Tupelo. City Councilman Jonny Davis presented BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson a key to the city at a devotional Friday night, Sept. 2, before the big game Sept. 3.
Mr. Davis stated, "There will always be a bond between the City of Tupelo and Brigham Young University."
"This was such an important event for the Church. The South is a very religious place, but it is also very loyal. It is difficult to get friends of other faiths into our Church building because they feel such a strong allegiance to their own religion," said Gina Thorderson, the stake's director of public affairs. "The BYU football team helped us build a new bridge in our community and open our doors successfully to all faiths."
Local stake leaders estimated between 600-700 would attend but were happily surprised to have a final count of 1,150.
"We were busting at the seams," said Nels Thorderson, second counselor in the Tupelo stake presidency. "The chapel and cultural hall were completely filled with people sitting on the floor in the front of the chapel along with every other room in the building filled to capacity with closed circuit TVs."
Following the meeting, Councilman Davis reported to Sister Thorderson, "We had a great time. Sherry and I enjoyed the fellowship and inspirational testimony from all. It was an honor and privilege to be part of this experience. Please pass my personal and official thanks to all; we will never forget being included in the LDS family."
As the BYU football players, prayed, spoke, sang and even played the piano, there was a feeling that was comparable to the Missionary Training Center.
"It's not every day you get to hear a football squad sing, 'We'll Bring the World His Truth.' ... There was a power there that was more than just the physical strength those players displayed," said Sister Thorderson.
"Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his wife, [Holly] brought such an amazing spirit to the meeting also. They were so easy to relate to but also so precise and in tune. I think attendees enjoyed learning of their trials and testimonies on such a personal level that they otherwise would never experience."