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Interfaith rite launches inaugural

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A preview of an inaugural speech, lessons in the importance of kindness and good deeds, prayers by representatives of several religions and rousing songs by Utahns of varying ethnic backgrounds were highlights of an interfaith music service Sunday night.

The service was a pre-inaugural celebration held at the First Presbyterian Church, 12 C St. It attracted an estimated 300 Utahns, including religious leaders, Gov.-elect Jon M. Huntsman Jr. and Huntsman's family.

Afterward, Huntsman held an impromptu press conference in which he promised to try to "bring out the best our people have to offer," and to reach out and touch residents of the state.

On the eve of his inauguration, he said he was what his feelings were. "It's a combination of jubilation and fear," he said. The fear was there because he did not want to let people down, and the jubilation was because "we're really in a position to make changes in the state."

President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discussed the kindness that other faiths perform, such as the Salvation Army collecting contributions to help those in need, the Catholic Church's St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, the Salt Lake Dental Clinic and other charities.

When men and women of good will unite together in doing good, he said, it helps eliminate weakness.

The Huntsman family members are "good people . . . doing noble work for Utah and even all the world," he said. He cited contributions the family has made, including working to improve life in Armenia, and sponsoring the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

During LDS meetings on Sunday, a letter was read about the disastrous tsunami in southern Asia, he said. "I'm pleased that we're there" helping with the humanitarian effort in stricken countries, Pres. Monson said. He said members were asked to give generously to help alleviate the suffering.

Speaking of generous deeds, he added, "We can do it in our daily lives."

President Monson cited the Charles Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol," in which Jacob Marley's ghost cries, "Mankind was my business," and Marley says he should have been attentive to the common welfare when he was alive.

"And then of course he (Ebenezer Scrooge) had that marvelous awakening," he said. He urged people to think of God.

"We look to Gov. Huntsman and his associates" in the coming administration, he added. "We stand behind them."

President Monson said, "They have the community support, and we still have challenges."

The service began with a welcome from Michael J. Imperiale, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. He said his faith has always valued dialogue and members of the religion want to be good friends and neighbors. Hosting the pre-inaugural event was part of that outreach, he indicated.

The Rev. Jerry K. Hirano of the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple expressed the wish that Utahns contribute abundant good will.

Rabbi Joshua M. Aaronson of the Temple Har Shalom, Park City, talked of the diverse beliefs of Utahns. God's purpose for humanity must be to enable every human to achieve a full, free life, he said.

"Let Utah become a light for other states, a beacon of good," he said.

Children of the International Children's Choir, whose costumes reflected many countries and ethnic groups, sang several numbers.

"This is indeed a new day for Utah," said community activist Pamela Atkinson. "I have a vision for this administration. . . . There will be a focus on all Utahns performing acts of service on a daily basis," she said.

Mary Anne Huntsman, the governor-elect's oldest daughter, and Eugene Watanabe performed a duet "Beautiful Savior," the young woman playing the piano and Watanabe the violin.

Readings from Hindu Sanskrit and comments were delivered by Pandit Somayaji of Ganesha Hindu Temple, South Jordan, and Caru Das Adhikary of the Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork.

A rousing version of "God Bless America" by the Ogden Second Baptist Mass Choir shook the church, with drums, electric guitar and audience participation.

Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish of the episcopal Diocese of Utah prayed that God would grant Utahns wisdom and reverence for the land, and that He bless all with democracy and peace.

"I've been inspired by the music, I've been uplifted and edified by the spoken word," Huntsman told the group.

"The most important thing we can do is to come together as Utahns," he said.

He said he celebrates the goodness of the state and the goodness of the people. The past year and a half he has visited all of Utah. "I want all of you to know that I found the heart and the mind and the soul" of the state, he said.

"It has made me a better person." What stands out to him most is the ability as a community to reach out and touch the human heart. "I'm going to do that and I hope all of you will do the same," he added.

He called for respect for others of different backgrounds. "It is now more important than ever that we reach out a loving hand."

At the end of the day, Huntsman added, "it's the human heart that matters." He pledged to do his best to promulgate policies to make the state better.

Inauguration schedule, Utah Statehood Day

Monday: Inauguration ceremonies will be held at Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple. Doors open to ticket holders at 10 a.m.. All guests are to be seated by 11:40 a.m., and at noon the ceremony begins. A receiving line will be in the building's lobby.

Tuesday: Utah Statehood Day Celebration will be held at the E Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City. A free open house will be held for all Utah residents. Doors open to the public at 5 p.m., opening ceremonies start at 6 p.m., music groups and entertainment begin at 7 p.m.

E-mail: bau@desnews.com