R. Scott Lloyd, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — With a smart salute befitting the navy veteran that he is, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson received a special recognition from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge at the outset of a Friday evening Constitution Day Concert presented by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.
"Tonight, we have the great opportunity to recognize one of the great servers of our time," said William O. Perry, chairman of the foundation's National Board of Directors, in recognizing President Monson. "He is the epitome of an outstanding servant."
President Monson served his country as a member of the U.S. Navy at the conclusion of World War II, said Perry, who noted that the church leader from a young age "has consistently extended a helping hand to the elderly, the downtrodden and others in need in his neighborhood and community."
Perry said the church president was a member of the Freedoms Foundation's board of directors from 1974 through 1978, and for several years thereafter was a member of its National Council of Trustees.
"He continues today to support one of the missions of the Freedoms Foundation, which is to educate and inspire in words the principles and values our nation was founded and to teach our citizens their responsibilities as members of a free society," Perry said. He added that President Monson was being recognized for outstanding service to his nation, church and community.
President Monson did not speak, but standing at his place in the audience, he received a lithograph of an art piece by Frank Thomas reflecting service and reverence to the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. It depicts a copy of that document on which are superimposed images of soldiers representing each branch of the U.S. military from the Revolutionary War to the present conflict in the Middle East.
Held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the free concert was sponsored by the foundation's Utah chapter.
With conductors Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy sharing duties at the podium, the choir and orchestra performed a selection of classical masterworks and American show tunes. They were bookended at the beginning of the program by the National Anthem and "This Land Is Your Land," and at the end by "God Bless America" and the choir's signature song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Each selection garnered a standing ovation from the appreciative audience.
Near the end of the program, narrator Lloyd Newell invited military veterans in the audience to stand and receive the applause of the crowd. President Monson was among them.
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