Noting the changing cultural face of Salt Lake City, President Gordon B. Hinckley urged members to continue befriending others of different religious persuasions. Then, in a call to remember those who settled this area, he emphasized that the Days of '47 celebration is about the pioneers.
"I have felt that we must never permit ourselves to lose sight of the great and singular achievement of those who first came to this valley in 1847," said President Hinckley, addressing a near capacity congregation of 21,000 in the Conference Center on July 22 in a devotional service that was announced as "the first annual Pioneer Day Commemoration."
"No one before [the pioneers] had ever grown a potato, or an ear of corn, or moved a plow to break this sunbaked soil," President Hinckley said, referring to the barren and inhospitable land of the Salt Lake Valley.
"We must never allow recognition of their trials, of their sacrifices, of their tenacity, of their faith and their prayers in establishing this great community to lapse or be forgotten," he said.
"We all need reminding . . . that our people came here and settled these valleys so that they might worship God according to their desires. . . . We have instituted these services as a feature of our Pioneer Days celebration."
In addition to comments from President Hinckley, the hourlong program included music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a choir "first organized in pioneer times." Proceedings where rebroadcast by satellite by tape delay to members of the Church around the world.
Also attending were President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, and President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency. President Faust conducted the devotional.
The stage of the Conference Center was designed as a desert mountainscape. Sagebrush packed around a weathered covered wagon depicted the arid harshness of the desert land on one side of the stage, while a lush, green forest of trees and brightly colored flowers adorned the other.
Prior to President Hinckley's comments, the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed nine selections of pioneer hymns found mostly in the Church hymn book. They performed traditional hymns that described the plight and faith of the pioneers, such as "Come, Come, Ye Saints," "They the Builders of the Nation," and "High on the Mountain Top."
Included in the program were several selections not in the current hymnal including, "Yes, My Native Land," from a Manchester hymnal prepared by Brigham Young in the 1840s that highlights the melancholy strains of early members leaving the comforts of their homeland.
Another, "The Glorious Day Is Rolling On," came from hymns gathered by Emma Smith in 1834.
Several emotionally moving moments during the performance included video scenes that accompanied the music. One scene portrayed a man helping his wife to stand after burying a child along the trail. Another showed a woman gently laying a wreath of desert flowers on the earthen grave of a loved one.
Special musical performances included a violin solo by Jean Bradford, and bass soloist Michael Chipman.
"I have not the slightest doubt that Brigham saw this place in vision," said President Hinckley. "There is no other explanation for what occurred.
"This gathering tonight is an expression of remembrance and appreciation and thanksgiving."