While parade floats glittered and marathon runners panted, a few hundred folks sought a contemplative hour in the middle of it all.
"If you listen carefully, you can hear it," said Elder Vaughn Featherstone, in his Sunrise Service address in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square. "The pioneers . . . arm-in-arm . . . marching down through the centuries," watching to see whether we uphold their vision for the West.
"I've wondered what the members of the handcart companies would say if they saw this," said Elder Featherstone, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By "this" he meant
developments such as downtown Salt Lake City, the airport and the University of Utah. The pioneers would call these things miracles, he said. "But the miracle is not in the buildings . . . it's in the hearts of the people."
Three teenagers sharpened Elder Featherstone's point, reading essays that had won the statewide Days of '47 contest.
"Be strong, be an example" for coming generations, said Michelle Cooper, a 10th-grader from Viewmont High in Centerville. We can be the pioneers of today by standing up for what we believe in, she said.
Courtney Nay, 13, came from Panguitch to her first Days of '47 celebration. Inspired by the pioneer women who had laid quilts down so their families could walk across deep snow, Courtney wrote an essay that made her the youngest winner of this year's competition.
Matt Cannon, a senior at Salt Lake's Skyline High School, wrote about traveling in a covered wagon, somewhat pioneer-style, for two days. "It was the bumpiest, most uncomfortable ride I've ever been on," he said, adding that it taught him not to take luxuries for granted, be they Nintendo games, sport-utility vehicles or "even a glass of water."
The Choral Arts Society of Utah and the Morgan Community Choir opened the Sunrise Service with Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and closed it with "Let the Mountains Shout for Joy." An impressive crowd nearly filled the Tabernacle for the 7 a.m. service, just before the Utah sun had begun to roast the paradegoers outside. Members of the Mormon Battalion conducted the flag ceremony.
"I think we'll watch the parade on TV in the coolness of our homes," said Meriel Peterson, a Salt Lake Temple missionary from Oakley, Idaho. But coming downtown for the Sunrise Service "was certainly worth it," added Nona Glenn, a missionary from Phoenix.
Coming out of the Tabernacle to celebrate the 153rd anniversary of the pioneers' first arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, the crowd had been impressed with a clear message: The travelers who came before have been inspiration. Now it's up to this generation to hearten those who come after.
"Yes, this is the promised land. But all the promise is in the future," Elder Featherstone said.