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Utahns gather in prayer

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As many Utahns were glued to their television sets Tuesday night, thousands of others were involved in worship and memorial services around the state, the largest of which took place in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took to the Tabernacle pulpit to tell members of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Underwriters, who are convening in Salt Lake City this week, that the planned concert for the group by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square would become a memorial service for those who perished and their loved ones.

"Today has been a day that will be remembered always in the annals of our beloved nation. It has been a day when the ugly face of hatred has shown itself with terror, death and destruction. It has been a day when uncounted numbers of the innocent have perished, and their loved ones have been left to sorrow. Many have been wounded, and this our nation has been seriously injured and insulted.

"Now we welcome you to this historic Tabernacle, a building dedicated to the gospel of peace. . . . Our hearts are deeply touched, as are those of all Americans and of free people across the world. This has been a tragic, solemn and dark day. We have been reminded that evil is still rampant in the world. Its insidious and dastardly hand has struck again in a most reprehensible manner."

President Hinckley was flanked by his two counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, who opened and closed the musical tribute with prayers for the victims and the nation. Music ranged from hymns of consolation to patriotic anthems, including an encore performance of one of the choir's signature selections, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," at the request of President Hinckley.

Several hundred emotional concertgoers rose from their seats to join in the chorus and kept director Craig Jessop and his musicians for a second encore after the First Presidency had left the Tabernacle.

"Dark as is this hour, there is shining through the heavy overcast of fear and anger the solemn and wonderful image of the Son of God, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, the exemplar of universal love, and it is to him that we look in these circumstances. It was he who gave his life that all might enjoy eternal life. May the peace of Christ rest upon us and give us comfort and reassurance and, particularly, we plead that he will comfort the hearts of all who mourn," President Hinckley concluded.

As services at the Tabernacle were getting under way, an evening Mass had just concluded a few blocks east at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. There scores of worshippers gathered to pray and contemplate the tragedy of domestic terror.

Monsignor J. Terence Fitzgerald led the Mass, in the absence of Bishop George Niederauer. The leader of Utah's Catholic community is in Washington, D.C., for committee meetings of the U.S. Catholic Bishops and has expressed his "profound sadness" at the "terrible cloud" of devastation and death "that hovers over" the nation's capital."

"We are shocked, saddened and grieved at the attack on this nation and its citizens," Msgr. Fitzgerald said. "It's time that we join with people of faith in prayer. We pray for national calm, for a compassionate response, and for the proper support and wisdom for the victims and their families. We ask God's guidance on the nation and our leaders as they respond."

Prayers and worship services also took place at churches, mosques and synagogues throughout Utah. At an evening synagogue service at Bais Menachem in east Salt Lake City, two uniformed Salt Lake City police officers stood guard outside the building, apparently to ward off any potential violence.

E-MAIL: carrie@desnews.com