With a mix of song, prayer and speech, Utah's Capitol was rededicated Friday during an hour-long ceremony attended by invited dignitaries, residents and politicians.
The 91-year-old building has been closed the past three years for extensive renovations. It is now cleaner and brighter, with a new foundation and historically accurate furnishings.
During the dedication event, politicians and religious leaders gave remarks that focused on retrofitting, and called on residents to renew their efforts to support the state and democracy.
Gordon B. Hinckley, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked during the dedicatory prayer that the Capitol be protected and be a place where residents can gather.
"This is the official house of the people of the state of Utah," President Hinckley said. "May it be preserved from the elements of nature. May wisdom dictate all that is said and done here. May the people whose building it is feel free to wander its halls and marble staircases, admiring its resplendent beauty."
President Hinckley was asked to dedicate the building in a nod to its first dedication in 1916, where LDS President Joseph F. Smith gave the dedicatory prayer. Other speakers also mirrored that first ceremony, with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. speaking, and opening and closing prayers given by religious leaders from northern and central Utah.
David Hart, chief architect over the reconstruction, said the dedication event was part of "an epic day," that ended nearly 100 months of planning and construction on the Capitol.
"It is important that we always remember this is more than a building," Hart said. "It is a special place. It is the people's house. It is a temple to democracy. It is the physical manifestation of our constitution and our rights."
After his speech, Hart handed a gold key, symbolic as the key to the Capitol, to Gov. Huntsman and first lady Mary Kaye Huntsman. Gov. Huntsman said he was happy to return the building to the state and to hear legislative debates and watch high school students at their junior prom.
"To those who work hard to raise their families and support their communities we offer our deep sense of gratitude," Huntsman said.
After the event, attendees were invited to a reception in the basement, where drinks and food were served. People commented on how open the building looked and said they were nearly moved to tears by the music and singing during the event.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Cathedral of the Madeline Choir, and the brightly-dressed International Children's Choir were part of featured music numbers. Bell ringers from schools and music groups across the state also performed, joining with the audience to ring bells to dedicate the Capitol and celebrate the new year.Beginning on Saturday, the Capitol will be open for a weeklong series of open houses. The public is invited to attend and explore the building.
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