On Saturday, April 27, 2019, members of the Denver, Front Range and Arvada Stakes–joined by ten full-time missionaries–participated in a special Denver Days kick-off event at Inspiration Point Park. 

Based on Mayor Michael Hancock’s vision of “a city where neighbors not only [know] their neighbors but as a result [feel] safer and more connected to the communities they call home,” The city created Denver Days, “a program….that encourages neighbors to get to know their neighbors by hosting block parties, picnics, and service projects with the focus on small, organic gatherings.”

(See https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-days.html)

Organized by Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Office of Neighborhood Engagement, with further sponsorship support from Comcast Cable, Saturday’s event at Inspiration Point Park commenced with opening remarks from various City officials, including Mayor Hancock, as well as remarks from former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. 

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Mayor Hancock, Elder Priday and friends at the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square’s Christmas Concert

It was a big weekend for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, and Denver South Area Public Affairs Director Craig McIlroy accompanied Mayor Hancock to Salt Lake City for a red carpet weekend. Activities kicked off with a tour of the Bishop’s Central Storehouse.

Shawn Johnson and Mayor Hancock prepare care packages

Not your average service mart, Mayor Hancock was blown away by “so expansive an undertaking.” With the idea that so much of the needed goods are paid for through members’ fast offerings, Pastor Del Phillips, who accompanied Mayor Hancock, said he felt inspired to implement Fast Sundays and Fast Offerings with his congregation. Home to thousands of pounds of food, its own trucking line, and many unique features that enable the Church to be first on the scene at natural disasters, the Bishop’s Storehouse is an impressive sight.

Elder Priday shows Mayor Hancock the Light the World giving machines

Next on the agenda was lunch at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. The team got to visit the charity vending machines unique to the Christmas season and used in connection with Light the World. Buyers can choose to give a goat, fresh water, or a myriad of other necessities to people in need around the world. After Mayor Hancock’s introduction to these vending vehicles for good, maybe Denver can be home to a giving machine next Christmas.

 

Mayor Hancock receives instruction at the Family History Center

After lunch, Mayor Hancock was introduced to Salt Lake City’s Family History Center. With one on one attention, he and his associates had access to millions of records, including access to the Freedman’s Bureau. On the trip with Mayor Hancock was Shawn Johnson, Director of Community Relations. She reports being pleased to “have the opportunity to dig deeper into [our] family’s roots.”

Saving the best for last, Mayor Hancock, Elder Priday and their teams rounded out their evening with dinner and a show. Dinner was hosted by Elder Wilford W. Andersen, General Authority Seventy. He presented each couple with their own “Faith in Every Footstep” sculpture. Dinner was followed by the Tabernacle Choir on Temple Square’s Christmas Concert. This was a highlight for multiple reasons. Earlier that day, the USOC announced Salt Lake City as the US nominee for a future Winter Olympics games. Mayor Hancock was able to congratulate Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski in person at the conference center.

Elder Wilford W. Andersen, General Authority Seventy hosts Denver guests for dinner before the show

 

Tale of Two Cities – Denver Mayor Hancock and SLC Mayor Biskupski meet

The biggest highlight was of course hearing Christmas music sung by the Tabernacle Choir. While beautiful in and of itself, the icing on the cake was enjoying special guest artist Kristin Chenoweth sing. Her first number received a standing ovation. Brother McIlroy reported, her presence was “breathtaking from start to finish.”

One year ago, Elder Priday and Brother McIlroy first met Mayor Hancock in his office. Since then, their relationship has blossomed with joint ventures in community service, working together on a faith council, and attending musical events together. Said Elder Priday, “We were able to have substantive discussions with the mayor and his team that will build significant goodwill and relationships for the Church in this area for years to come. It was apparent that they had been touched by the Holy Spirit.”

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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…)