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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, from right, homeless advocate Pamela J. Atkinson, Utah Jazz President Randy Rigby, Father Martin Diaz, Cathedral of the Madeleine and Elder Gifford Nielsen of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stand at the public Bible reading at the state Capitol with community and religious leaders reading favorite passages from the Bible, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City has been selected by the National Bible Association as the National Bible City of 2013, and with this honor, the National Bible Association will host several interfaith Bible-themed events.

SALT LAKE CITY — A “joyful” gathering of political, business and ecclesiastical leaders in the Capitol rotunda Monday afternoon celebrated the language, teachings and everyday applications of the Holy Bible.

“We really ought to spend more time reading the scriptures,” said Gov. Gary R. Herbert, the first of 13 participants who stepped to the temporary podium in the Capitol rotunda for an hour of public Bible reading as part of the National Bible Association’s celebration of Salt Lake City as National Bible City 2013.

On Saturday evening, Salt Lake City’s selection was observed — and the teachings and language of the Bible honored — during a special interfaith concert in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square.

“Regardless of our religious affiliation, the Bible provides us with a road map to heaven, to happiness, to how to conduct our lives,” Herbert said. “Like any good road map, the Bible can keep us from getting lost and can help us understand the directions we should take in our lives.”

Although all of the readers who shared favorite Bible passages during the hourlong event were asked not to sermonize or elaborate on their readings, Herbert couldn’t resist following his reading of the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan with the observation that he loves the fact that “there is no government involvement in this story — just people serving other people,” and he expressed his profound appreciation that here in Utah there are a lot of people who will “go and do thou likewise.”

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy officially represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the event, sharing a passage from the New Testament Book of Ephesians. After the gathering he said the LDS Church “is so honored to be part of this, joining together with other faiths to share our mutual love for the word of God found in the Bible."

“This is purely joyful,” Elder Nielsen said.

The Rev. Gregory Johnson also shared a reading from the Book of Ephesians during the program. After the event, he echoed Elder Nielsen’s sentiment, noting that “this book brings people together.”

“The Bible tells us that God will bless the reading of his word,” the Rev. Johnson said. “I don’t know how, but he will bless what we do here today.”

Utah Jazz president Randy Rigby certainly hopes so. Moments before his reading of Acts 3:1-20, he told Richard Glickstein, president of the National Bible Association, who hosted Monday’s event, that “I should probably pray, too, because the Jazz are 1-14.”

Others who shared favorite scriptures during the Monday event were Pamela Atkinson, a community advocate; Bruce Bingham, co-founder of Hamilton Partners; Rabbi Frederick L. Wenger, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kol Ami; Sheri L. Dew, president of Deseret Book; Father Martin Diaz, pastor of the Cathedral of the Madeleine; Ahmad S. Corbitt, a trustee of the National Bible Association; and Pastor Jim Ayers, senior pastor at Lifechurch.

“It can be disconcerting to be the last one on the list at something like this — you worry that someone else will read the scripture you wanted to read,” Pastor Ayers joked. “Fortunately, it’s a big book.”

Two young Bible readers were also invited to share scriptures during the gathering. Hayden Taylor, an Eagle Scout from South Jordan, read from the Gospel of St. Matthew the parable of the unforgiving servant. And Tia Thomas of Bountiful, a participant in the recent National Bible Bee, shared a reading of related scriptures from throughout the Bible, from Exodus to 1 Peter.

The event concluded with Cantor Emanuel C. Perlman’s presentation of the Aaronic Blessing. His stirring, melodious Hebrew was still reverberating in the rotunda as participants and observers mingled and shared insights and impressions from what they had just experienced.

“It’s the Bible that brings us all together,” Glickstein said.