SALT LAKE CITY -- Each day Utah's lawmakers start off their day calling for help from a higher power. The legislators are asked to stand where they are in their respective chambers and an invited guest leads the group in prayer.

There are a fair number of LDS stake presidents and bishops that are called upon to pray, but the prayers are also led by leaders of the Catholic, Jewish and Baptists faiths within Utah. Christian and Jewish religions aren't the only ones represented in the prayers, the Legislature's calls to a higher power have also been given by Buddhists monks and Native American tribal leaders.

All the prayers are generally focused around the same theme, and more than likely echo the plea of every Utahn -- the prayers are simply asking God to give Utah's lawmakers the ability to come up with good ideas that will bring the greatest amount of good to the state.

"Praise be the one who has called us to exalt our nation with righteousness and taught us," said David Litvack, a former lawmaker, in his prayer to the House on the opening day of the session. "Seek the welfare of your community and pray on it's behalf that all may share in its well being."

Litvack, who is a Democrat and a member of the Jewish faith, is notable in the prayers given at the Legislature.

Traditionally on the opening day of Utah's legislative session an LDS apostle, general Relief Society president or other church general authority has been on hand to offer the first prayers in the House and Senate for the year.

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, opted to go another way this year as she decided to ask a longtime friend of hers, Litvack, to give the opening prayer. Litvack was the first non-Mormon since 1994 to give the opening day prayer in the House.

"It was beautiful, as I knew it would be," Lockhart said.

Lockhart said she was not attempting to make any political statement by not having a high ranking LDS official offer the prayer. She said she simply wanted to have a close associate offer the prayer for her final first day in the Legislature.

Through 45 days of the session the prayers could become routine and complacent to some. They take place along with the daily practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag. After those two rituals, the lawmakers usually jump right into their business and the day moves forward.

For some, though, the prayers set the tone for their day.

"For me, [prayer] works, so I don't necessarily have to have an 'LDS' prayer," said Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton. "I think for me it is a good way to start my day."

Rep. Dean Sanpei, R-Provo, agreed with Gibson. Seanpei said the prayers are a nice way to start the day and appreciated the many faiths that get to be represented at the Capitol through their prayers during the session.

"I appreciate the prayer of any faith. I think it creates a positive ambiance for us," Sanpei said.

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-- Billy Hesterman covers the Utah State Legislature and local politics for the Daily Herald. You can connect with Billy by email at bhesterman@heraldextra.com or by

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