Two major events that bear on Church history are being celebrated back-to-back in Utah. To alleviate confusion, the First Presidency earlier this year drew a distinction between the Utah State Centennial in 1996 and the Church Pioneer Sesquicentennial in 1997.
The state centennial is significant in Church history because "the state of Deseret" - the territory that became the state of Utah in 1896 - was settled and founded by Church members under the leadership of President Brigham Young.In a Jan. 10, 1995, letter to General Authorities and priesthood leaders in Utah, the First Presidency explained: "The State of Utah will celebrate its 100th anniversary in early 1996, and commemorative events will continue throughout that year. By legislation, the State of Utah has funded many of the planned events for the state's centennial in 1996. We support the state in this celebration and encourage all Church members in Utah to exercise their civic responsibilities by being involved in local and and state activities with their families as time and personal resources permit. We hope that everyone will find great pleasure in commemorating this momentous event."
The First Presidency further explained: "In 1997, the Church will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Latter-day Saint pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. The theme of this celebration is `Faith in Every Footstep.' The events of the sesquicentennial are being closely coordinated with Area Presidencies and all Church councils, auxiliaries and publications. More instructions regarding sesquicentennial activities will be distributed in the future. While we encourage everyone to participate in the pioneer sesquicentennial celebration, we urge individuals, families and Church units to be selective and not try to do every suggested activity.
"As a state and as a people with a great pioneer heritage, we have cause for celebrating the many blessings of peace and prosperity that we enjoy."