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Steve Tolman
The auditorium was filled to capacity with stake members.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake South Cottonwood Stake members are celebrating 2011, the 50th-year anniversary of the stake's establishment, with the theme “Rejoice and Give Thanks!” Stake members spend the year learning, celebrating and seeking personal improvement.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites celebrated the year of the jubilee by recognizing the mercies of God in offering them forgiveness and salvation. In turn, the year was to be spent in mercy and honor toward one another. The word jubilee means “remission” and comes from Jobhel, the curved horn of the ram. This horn was sounded at the beginning of the year to commence the celebration.

Led by Stake President Jay A. Parry, members were asked to live the jubilee year in gratitude. “The purpose of this theme is to unify, to celebrate together, the spirit of reminiscence and gratitude,” he said.

Some suggestions were to keep a blessings journal, offer specific prayers in gratitude and rejoicing, forsake personal spiritual bondage, forgive someone, trust in God and honor the Sabbath.

Three celebrations will bring the stake together through the year. First, in the spring, members participated in a stake-wide clean up, improving their building and neighborhood. Following a general conference challenge from President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to remember the 75th anniversary of the church welfare program by participating in a day of service, this stake used that challenge to celebrate the jubilee year.

A cultural celebration was Saturday, Sept. 10, and involved 300 cast members and featured episodes in the 50-year existence of the stake, through song and dance. It was standing room only in the auditorium.

Later this year, an Evening of Thanksgiving will bring the adults together at a special Sunday fireside with music and speakers bearing testimony of this significant year.

The cultural event was a spectacular show organized, written and directed by Norma Barrowes. Since January, she has organized and presented vignettes of the stake's history. “We took all of the stories in the show right out of the history book, including the 8-year-old boy inviting only girls to his birthday party.”

Every age group was well represented in the show, from families telling about early family farms and dairies in the area to the men building the first meetinghouses. A picnic scene showcased a harmonious singing barbershop quartet, an impressive brass band and a 5-year-old expert hula hooper.

At one point, the Primary children told of how they went to the Salt Lake Temple to touch the granite, strengthening their desire to enter the building some day. These children also expressed their hope in serving missions throughout the world. As they sang, currently serving senior missionaries joined them on stage.

The director even resurrected a Relief Society group called Singing Mothers, led by the renowned Joanne Ottley, a member of the stake. Some sisters had even sung in the original group years ago. Singing Mothers was orignally organized in many Relief Societies throughout the world. Louise Y. Robison, the seventh Relief Society General President, first organized these performing groups and suggesed they dress in white shirts and black skirts as to easily blend groups together, at a ward or stake level. The groups sang in the Tabernacle for various conferences and even sang regularly on a radio program. It was good to see these particular Singing Mothers of various ages singing together in proper dress and a corsage on their shoulders.

Crawford Gates supplied some of his music to the celebration, allowing Barrowes to rework the words to relate the stake’s history. And it was a pleasure for many to see Gates in the audience.

Additionally, this summer, the young men and young women participated in a handcart trek that was tied to the jubilee spirit of gratitude.

The stake has done an excellent job preserving its past over the years. The history book was updated by Ron and Patricia Madsen and will be made available to the public for a small charge.

Many groups have celebrated the jubilee in many ways over the years. President Howard W. Hunter, the 14th church president, conveyed the spirit of the jubilee in a 1994 Christmas message. He said that because of our love for Christ and in gratitude for what he has done, “We should strive to give as he gave.” He continued with the following admonition:

“This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again” (from the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in December 1994).

Jan Tolman blogs about Relief Society at www.ldswomenofgod.com/blog.