SALT LAKE CITY — A Mormon leader asked God to help America become a land of Good Samaritans as she prayed in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday as part of the National Day of Prayer.
Sister Jean B. Bingham, general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offered one of five prayers during the event, which included talks by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump arrived after the prayers were offered and said he had listened to them from the Oval Office. He said the United States was founded on prayer and its communities are sustained by prayer.
"And our nation will be renewed by hard work, a lot of intelligence and prayer," he said. "Today we gather to remember this truth: We thank God for the faith of our people. We praise God for the blessings of freedom. And we ask God to forever bless this magnificent land that we all love so much."
As the president walked into the Rose Garden, he shook hands first with Sister Bingham, then with the others who offered prayers — Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of the late Rev. Billy Graham; Hindu priest Narayanachar Digalakote; Levi Shemtov, the Hasidic rabbi who leads the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington; and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Washington.
"As president, I will always protect religious liberty," Trump said.
At the end of the event, he signed an executive order creating a faith initiative at the White House.
"My administration has spoken out against religious persecution around the world, including the persecution of many, many Christians. What’s going on is horrible. And we’re taking action. We are taking action. We condemn all crimes against people of faith, and today we are launching another historic action to promote religious freedom."
Trump said the faith initiative will fashion new policies to recognize the role of faith in families, communities and the United States.
"This office will also help ensure that faith-based organizations have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs," he said. "We take this step because we know that, in solving the many, many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government, and nothing is more powerful than God."
Sister Bingham prayed for two minutes. Here is a transcript:
"Our loving, gracious and perfect Father in Heaven, we approach thee in gratitude for the many blessings received at thy hands. On this National Day of Prayer, we unite to acknowledge that all good gifts come from thee. This nation has been given relative peace and prosperity, and we humbly ask thee to watch over those who are in harm's way protecting our freedoms in the pursuit of happiness.
"Bless those who lead this great nation with the empathy, insights and inspiration they need as they counsel together and sincerely strive to work in harmony. Help us in our quest that we may be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. May each exercise integrity, humility and nobility of character in his or her sphere of influence.
"Heavenly Father, many are in need, and we pray for all who are working unselfishly to improve lives. May we become a land of Good Samaritans, laboring in love to lift the hands of the downtrodden, the oppressed and the afflicted. Knit our hearts together in unity and in love, one toward another. Please strengthen homes and families who provide loving guidance in building capable and compassionate citizens.
"We also recognize the need to improve, Father. Help us to find ways to understand and value one another, to work together in cooperation and selflessness rather than seek for personal gain, to satisfy vain ambitions or to gratify pride. May we examine ourselves and become better individuals, thereby increasing the peace and happiness of each citizen in this United States of America.
"Dear Father, we thank you for every blessing and humbly ask for thy help as well as for thy continued care and keeping, in the sacred name of thy beloved son, Jesus Christ, Amen."
LDS leaders have engaged in national prayer events before.
In 2014, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then second counselor in the church's First Presidency, participated in the Easter prayer breakfast at the White House with President Barack Obama.
The following year, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, participated in the National Prayer Breakfast.
On Dec. 7, 2016, Elder Christofferson offered the morning prayer in the U.S. Senate.
In January 2017, he also was one of 25 faith leaders to pray at the National Prayer Service held in conjunction with Trump's inauguration.