The Paris, Idaho, tabernacle, with its tower that can be seen for miles and its unique ceiling crafted by a former ship’s carpenter, is a landmark in southern Idaho. This year, the structure so lovingly built by pioneer craftsmen is one hundred years old, so residents, former residents, and visitors to Paris celebrated its centennial on July 25 to 29 in a series of events that included a historical play written for the occasion, a parade, and a commemorative program.
The program, held on Saturday, July 29, featured talks by three General Authorities—Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder F. Melvin Hammond and Elder Richard P. Lindsay of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
Elder Pinnock pointed out that the difficulties pioneers faced made Bear Lake Valley, straddling the Utah-Idaho border, “a sort of geographic Zion’s Camp experience” that brought forth a particularly hardy group of Latter-day Saints whose descendants have had a great influence throughout the Church. He called on today’s members to emulate the faith, the intellectual liveliness, the resourcefulness and ingenuity, the courage and love of God that those pioneers showed. Like them, he advised, we should focus our efforts in life on spiritual pursuits—on the activities that matter most in eternity.
Elder Lindsay recalled a prophecy of President Brigham Young, during the hard times of the first years in the Salt Lake Valley, that the rich and influential of the world would come to envy the Saints in their mountain homes.
“When our people were living in little log cabins,” he reflected, “they were dreaming of the spires of the Salt Lake Temple.” The things they foresaw have come to pass, he said, elaborating on the strength of the pioneer spirit. “We need more of that kind of spirit today.”
He called on the descendants of the Idaho pioneers to reach out to others. “Help them to understand that the frontier of the Church is now the world.”
Elder Hammond added his own testimony that the pioneer spirit is still needed today, in a much broader field. He spoke of the need for members with that spirit to take the gospel throughout the world. “You are pioneers, and the world is just opening to the restored gospel.”
Friday, July 28, was Pioneer Family Association Day in Paris. A presentation in the tabernacle dramatized the life of Elder Charles C. Rich, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve who was called by Brigham Young to lead colonization efforts in the Bear Lake Valley in 1863.
In addition to the commemorative program on Saturday afternoon, there was a parade in the morning, a flagpole dedication on the tabernacle lawn, and an evening class reunion program for all those who graduated from Fielding Academy, later Fielding High School, in Paris.
Saturday’s events drew between two thousand and three thousand people to Paris, a town whose population is just over seven hundred.
The week’s events culminated in a Sunday sacrament service in the tabernacle focusing on the pioneers, represented by some of their living descendants. Among the congregation were guests from stakes once part of the Bear Lake (now Paris Idaho) Stake. The stake once included Montpelier, Grace, and Soda Springs in Idaho, and Afton, Thayne, and Kemmerer in Wyoming.
Correspondent: Dorothy C. Law