On the evening of October 28, 2018, several members of the Church’s Denver Public Affairs Council attended a special Community Solidarity Vigil, hosted by Jewish Colorado at Temple Emanuel in Denver. At the vigil, representatives of the Church were able to visit with Rabbi Joseph Black, who conducted the evening event, and convey the love, condeolences and support of Elder Thomas T. Priday (Area Seventy) and local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in response to this weekend’s senseless tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The vigil, which attracted thousands of members of the community and allowed for standing room only throughout the Synagogue, was an inspiring demonstration of love and interfaith unity within the greater Denver area. Program participants included representatives of the Anti Defamation League, Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, as well as members of the Denver and Aurora police departments and a number of prominent interfaith leaders from the community–representing Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs, among others. Speakers focused on the need for the elimination of hate and bias in our society as well as a feeling of safety and security in our places of worship.
Following the event, Sister Karen LaCouture, Interfaith specialist for the Church of Jesus Christ’s Denver area, stated “I was most grateful and impressed that so many people from all walks of life were drawn together to the vigil at Temple Emanuel in support of our Jewish brothers and sisters, as well as those of all faiths who may be the target of hate, violence or misunderstanding.” Her words echoed those of Church President Russell M. Nelson who, just this week while meeting with media in Uruguay, remarked that Church members and those of other faiths “need to work together to stem the tide of violence.” He added, “The teachings of the Lord are clear. There is to be no contention, no disputation. We should love one another. So violence has no place in society.”
On Tuesday, March 20, the Reverend Shawn DeBerry Johnson was a noted guest of honor at “The Lamb of God” oratorio held at Denver University’s Newman Center. Performances are opened with a word of prayer, and Reverend Johnson honored the show by offering Tuesday’s invocation. Reverend Johnson serves as the Director of Community Affairs, a senior adviser to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. She was joined by friends Jackie Brian and Pastor Lily R. Richardson from My Father’s House International Christian Discipleship Center in Park Hill. Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Marva hosted the Reverend and her guests, and as Reverend Johnson reports, “it was a true joy!”
An oratorio that has become an Easter staple in the Denver area, “The Lamb of God” was composed by Rob Gardner and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010. With local effort from the Colorado Mormon Chorale and Orchestra, Denver area residents have been able to attend performances every Easter season for the last four years. Depicting the final week of the life of Christ and his resurrection, Gardner’s goal is to “bring to life for you the events depicted from the final days of the Savior’s life, and even more, how ‘in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’”
Audience members and performers alike shared glowing sentiments. Shalee Jenkins of Centennial, Colorado said, “The talent of everyone involved was incredible…It was an excellent way to feel of the spirit of Easter. We’ll be sure to attend again next year!” Annie Sullins portrayed Mary Magdalene this year (and was a soloist in 2016) said of her experience, “It has strengthened my testimony that God knows me and cares about me and has a plan for me…The music is tremendous and it was such a privilege to be in it!” Not only could Reverend Johnson start the evening off with her prayer, but she also saw Gardner’s goal realized; her take on the performance was that it was “a very moving celebration of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
On Monday, December 4, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock met with Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This meeting marks the coming together of two people whose aim is to serve and represent the people in their midst. Elder Priday is the highest ranking church official in the Denver area and Mayor Hancock’s $927 million bond that recently passed will fund roads, parks, libraries, health and cultural facilities
For members of the LDS church, with a belief in the gospel comes a belief in Jesus Christ, a continual effort to be good neighbors, and serve the community. It was with this very interest in doing good that Elder Priday met with Mayor Hancock. His offer, to help with Denver Days, Denver Parks and Recreation, and Metro Denver Volunteers, was very well received. The state of Colorado is home to more than 150,000 church members, approximately 70,000 of whom live in the Denver area.
Members’ involvement in the Mayor’s volunteer initiatives could mobilize a large task force. Mayor Hancock was especially enthusiastic to hear about options to recruit volunteers through the church’s web-based initiative – JustServe.org. It is anticipated that the most pressing need this winter will be the Snow Angels effort. Snow Angels is a program that helps ensure the sidewalks of the elderly and those with disabilities are shoveled after heavy snow.
Looking ahead, Elder Priday and Mayor Hancock’s common interest will reach beyond coordinating community service together. This spring, the (more…)