George Bush ended five days of inaugural celebrations Sunday by solemnly leading America in worship in what he declared as a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir played a key role in that act of worship. It performed a program of hymns and speeches at Constitution Hall. Part of the program was a taping of the choir's 3,101st weekly "Music and the Spoken Word" program on CBS radio.The concert was one of only a handful of services officially sanctioned by Bush's inaugural committee Sunday. The main service was an interdenominational meeting at the National Cathedral attended by Bush.
Representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the cathedral were Stephen Studdert, a stake president who also headed Bush's inaugural committee, and Elder John K. Carmack, of the First Quorum of Seventy.
Bush, who said he wanted faith to be a main theme of his inauguration and presidency, gave a prayer as his first act of office when he was sworn in Friday. And the first document he signed was declaring the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving on Sunday.
At the choir concert, J.W. Marriott Jr. - chairman of the Marriott Corp. and also a stake president of the LDS Church - read the proclamation.
Part of it said, "We celebrate America as `one nation under God.' As I assume the office of president, I am humbled before God and seek his counsel and favor on our land."
It also called for Americans "to gather together . . . in homes and places of worship to pray in thanksgiving for our blessing of peace, freedom, prosperity and independence."
Studdert, who conducted the choir service, said it was only natural for the choir to be officially involved in the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.
"President Bush referred to it as the `nation's choir,' " Studdert said. "It has participated in more inaugural events this week than anyone at all, except President and Mrs. Bush."
The choir, performing with a quintet from the U.S. Air Force Band, sang hymns and patriotic songs, including "Sail, Ship of Democracy," "America the Beautiful" and "God of Our Fathers," which choir narrator J. Spencer Kinard said is the national hymn.
Elder Carmack, in a speech to the crowd, praised the choir's work at the inauguration, saying several members - including conductor Jerold Ottley - had raspy voices and colds from performing outdoors.
The hall for the concert was packed with Washington area members of the LDS Church and many invited dignitaries. Some of those invited included embassy officials from the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Zimbabwe - all nations where the church is working hard to improve relations.