Hundreds of people of many faiths gathered in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Saturday, 23 November 2013, for a concert to celebrate the Bible. The "Concert of Praise for God’s Word" was the signature event for the 72nd Annual National Bible Week organized by the National Bible Association, based in New York City.
“I would encourage you to read the Bible every day,” urged National Bible Association president Richard Glickstein to an enthusiastic crowd assembled to hear musical performances by faith-based singers and dramatic scripture readings by actress Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”) and her husband, producer Mark Burnett (“The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” “Survivor,” and “The Voice.”).
The couple is most recently credited with the successful television miniseries “The Bible,” which was produced for the History Channel and was named the top new cable show in 2013. “It’s lovely to be here in Salt Lake City,” said Downey, who lived in Utah for nearly 10 years while filming “Touched by an Angel.” “I have such good friends here and it’s good to be back.”
Actress Roma Downey
Following an invocation offered by Reverend Gregory Johnson of the Standing Together Ministries in Utah, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles extended a warm welcome to the audience on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We join with those of many faiths in our community in declaring our love and gratitude for the Holy Bible, whose passages have been read from this pulpit for over 150 years,” said Elder Christofferson. He told the crowd that the word of God is “marginalized” and “too often ignored and judged to be irrelevant or impractical in modern society.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
“What was once only available to the clergy, the meticulously hand-copied version, can now be accessed anywhere in the world with devices that fit in the palm of your hand,” added Elder Christofferson. He said the teachings of the Bible “will ultimately lead us to Christ and salvation.”
The Singing Sensations Youth Choir
The interfaith concert included musical praise from Cantor Emanuel C. Perlman of Baltimore; The Singing Sensations Youth Choir from inner-city Baltimore; the Salt Lake City Mass Choir; and two choirs from local universities, including the Salt Lake University Institute Singers and Brigham Young University Singers. Combined performers concluded the concert with an arrangement of "The Lord Is My Shepherd."
Brigham Young University Singers
Perlman said of his chance to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during its Thursday evening rehearsal, “I have wanted to do that since I was five-years-old.”
Cantor Emanuel C. Perlman of Baltimore backed by the Salt Lake University Institute Singers
Reverend Doctor Al Hathaway, Senior Pastor of the Union Baptist Church, traveled to Utah for National Bible Week and was thrilled to see The Singing Sensations Youth Choir from his Baltimore, Maryland, neighborhood excite the audience with their upbeat music and talent that had many people clapping to the beat. The singers received a standing ovation at the end of their set of four songs. “At the core, what unites us is that we understand the importance and the significance of love,” said Doctor Hathaway following Saturday night’s performance, which wrapped up his three-day visit to Salt Lake City.
The audience enjoyed the evening of hymns and scripture
Doctor Hathaway formed a relationship with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Baltimore that began through a connection with the National Bible Association about five years ago. This relationship has highlighted the positive interfaith work underway in Baltimore. Craig Halsey, president of the Baltimore Maryland Stake, echoed Doctor Hathaway’s sentiments, describing a “great feeling of unity” following the weekend performance.
Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett
Backstage, prior to the performance, Downey and Burnett explained their love of the Bible. “We know that it’s a book that changes lives,” said Downey. “I grew up in a faith-filled house and have loved Jesus my whole life. It was such a privilege for me for all those years on CBS to play an angel and to deliver a message of God’s love for 20 million people every week.”
National Bible Association president Richard Glickstein
One of the Bible passages they read was Psalm 23, which Downey explained was meaningful to them because they had read it at their parents’ funerals. “We are so grateful to our faith because we know that death is just the beginning, and I will be remembering my parents tonight and I know that Mark will be thinking of his mom,” she said.
Salt Lake City Mass Choir
Burnett added that many people thought the Bible series and film would hurt their careers in Hollywood. “Actually just the opposite has happened,” he said. “People have embraced the Bible series. One-hundred million Americans watch the series. This week, the Bible series is #1 in Hong Kong.”
Tia Thomas recited Bible verses from memory
The National Bible Association chooses a different venue every year for the annual event, which has been held the week of Thanksgiving since 1941. Salt Lake City was designated National Bible City 2013 by the association, which has a goal to “encourage everyone to read the Bible and raise awareness of the Bible’s importance and relevance to our nation as a whole, as well as in the lives of individuals.”
Community activist Pamela Atkinson
National Bible Week runs from 24 November to 1 December 2013 in Salt Lake City. The week also featured a National Day of the Bible event that was held in the Utah State Capitol Rotunda. Those reading scriptures at the capitol included Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert, Randy Rigby of the Utah Jazz, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the Church’s Seventy, and Rabbi Frederick L. Wenger, as well as other political, religious, business, and civic leaders. Participants read 15 to 20 verses of their favorite scriptures.
Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert
Governor Herbert read Luke 10:25-37, known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. “I think we should be spending a little more time reading the Bible,” said Governor Herbert. “It’s a road map.”
Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the Church's Seventy
Richard Glickstein of the National Bible Association thanked Elder Nielsen for hosting Saturday night’s concert on Temple Square. “It was a great joy to be there,” Glickstein said. Elder Nielsen read Ephesians 6:1-20 at the noon gathering at the capitol. Glickstein was pleased with the governor’s enthusiasm to read the Bible and the reception that he received in Utah.