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For supporting the Utah Symphony from its beginning more than 50 years ago, the Church was honored May 8 with an award presented to President Gordon B. Hinckley.

The presentation of the Maurice Abravenel Award was made at a luncheon in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. President Hinckley received the award in behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation "for nurturing and sustaining a respected body of professional artists who provide a quality of life all Utahns can enjoy."Named after the symphony's late, former conductor, the award is given annually to recognize outstanding service and leadership on behalf of the symphony.

"The Church's support of beautiful things is a reflection of one of its Articles of Faith," said Harris H. Simmons, president and chief executive officer of Zion's Bank and symphony chairman, who made the presentation. He referred to the 13th Article that says, in part, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

He noted that for the first 32 years of its existence, the symphony performed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Later, the Church housed guest artists at the Hotel Utah, contributed to tours in Europe and South America and effectively donated the land on which the symphony's current building, Abravenel Hall, now stands.

The symphony continues to receive support from the LDS Foundation. The foundation is funded by proceeds from the Church's commercial businesses for use in humanitarian and other worthy causes. Tithing funds are not utilized for these purposes.

In his response, President Hinckley said the foundation was set up in 1981 `to enlarge our ability to give to good causes. . . . We have been consistent contributors to the Utah Symphony and to many other causes. I counted the other day on a computer printout 157 different causes to which we made substantial contributions in 1995, including humanitarian gifts to those in distress across the world. We have been very generous supporters to that which is good and . . . needful."

He added: "We recognize the importance of the arts - music, sculpture, painting, whatever - and we hope that we will always be found as supporters of these factors in our society which add luster to what otherwise may be a rather dull and drab kind of existence. Thank you very much for your kindness and your expressions of appreciation. We'll continue to be helpful."