Payson Utah Temple Cultural Celebration

        The Payson Utah Temple Cultural Celebration-June 6, 2015. 

My children John and Alisa participated in the Payson Utah Temple Cultural Celebration held on Saturday evening June 6, 2015. This grand celebration proved to be a miraculous and faith promoting event for all who participated - both on the field and in the audience. The journey to performance day had been arduous and required individual dedication and hard work. On the eve of the performance and after practicing under the hot sun for hours, the youth in temple district were anxious to perform. 

Suddenly a typhoon style rainstorm hit the area along with hail, thunder, lightning and 35 mile-per-hour winds. Thousands of participants and spectators moved from the stands and huddled under the stadium for shelter listening to clasps of thunder and a loud warning over the PA system - “Program is temporarily suspended. Take shelter under the stadium or return to your vehicle.” Others hunkered down with umbrellas not wanting to give up their good seats until the intensity of the wind, rain and lightning finally created a mass exit from the stands.

As the minutes ticked by, thousands of rain soaked participants and their disappointed audience wondered if the show would ever go on. Some kept checking the time and the skies while others silently prayed. Young men and women were seen leading large groups of people in prayer as lightening flashed and instant waterfalls cascaded down the bleachers.

The cultural celebration starting time, came and went. Then an hour after the scheduled time to begin the program, the storm unexpectedly stopped. As the dark storm clouds abruptly parted, it felt like a miracle as rain soaked participants and audience members gratefully glanced up at the sky. With a nod from the PA system 13,000 youth, along with their families and local community members eagerly re-filled the LaVell Edwards Stadium. As preparations began for the opening number, all present felt an increased appreciation for this rare and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was show time.
Eager, radiant youth cheered as Church leaders appeared in the stadium riding in covered carts and again as President Eyring walked to the podium. Other leaders (including many who escorted their wives) included Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Quentin L. Cook, and Elder Neil L. Andersen, all of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, and Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy; Bishop Gerald Causse of the Presiding Bishopric; Sister Carol F. McConkie of the Young Women general presidency; Sister Cheryl A. Esplin of the Primary general presidency; and Larry Duffin, temple committee chair.

Following an opening prayer, Elder Kent F. Richards welcomed everyone by saying, "Thank you for your faith and for your patience.”

Then President Henry B. Eyring stood and with a broad smile said, We all feel excitement and gratitude that the weather is going to let us go forward. You have spent countless hours mastering the parts you’ll play tonight. You have found talents as you have prepared. You will never forget the satisfaction as you discovered that through effort and determination you can do more than you thought possible. You have stretched higher and farther than you thought you could. One of the reasons you felt that growth is that the Lord has magnified your performance because of your faith in Him. We feel your faith in the Savior. His light will shine through you.
President Eyring told performers their purpose “is to help the Lord fill the earth with light. He is the Light of the World. His light shines through you to all who are with us tonight. Those of us in the audience tonight will feel inspired because of what is in your hearts. We will feel from the music, dance, and the words your faith in the Savior. This will be a memory of light, love and joy. You will be able to carry this wonderful feeling with you and return to it time and again. So let's fill this stadium with love and light. Let the celebration begin!"

Unexpectedly a large impressive flock of white doves flew high in the air above the stadium taking several graceful circling swoops. A video displaying vast sweeping fly-over views of the cities in the Payson Utah Temple district appeared on large video monitors on each end of the football field. Next, in an Olympic style procession, several youth from each stake walked down the center on the football field carrying a hand-made banner.
A series of rousing and or lyrical songs and dance numbers followed along with powerful narration and solo performances. The opening dance number Happy expressed the joy we experience in life. A more lyrical number, Come to My Garden, highlighted the orchards in the temple district with May poles and apple blossom branches. 

The dance, Through Heaven's Eyes, honored the Jerusalem movie set in Goshen with a dance reminiscent of the children of Israel. Next came a patriotic march that filled the football field with youth dressed in red, white and blue standing in straight lines and snapping flags. Following the patriotic march came the Founding Fathers and characters from the Book Mormon.
A brass band along with a number of bagpipes performed a crowd favorite Amazing Grace followed by hundreds of Stripling Warriors raising their voices and their wooden staffs. Youth from Spanish Fork came next, holding baseball bats and dancing to Take Me Out to the Ball Game highlighting that area’s love of softball and baseball. Payson youth performed in cowboy hats and neckerchiefs spotlighting a local culture of rodeos.
The next number included young men holding long strips of fabric over their heads creating the impression of dark clouds for the number Endless Night. These clouds represented the storms of life. As the performers left, a large model of the Payson temple appeared as young women ran onto the field waving yellow ribbons representing the Son (Sun) or the light of Christ. Then all the youth, both on the field and in the stands joyously sang, while using sign language, a rousing and touching rendition of Redeemer of Israel. Dancers dressed in white ran to the center of the field while others danced on each end of the field with large rings representing the eternal nature of temple covenants. When this number was over, all the youth ran to the east stands preparing for the grand finale.
The final number included all 13,000 youth, wearing white shirts and singing, “I will fill the world with love.” Then section by section, the youth removed their white shirts, revealing matching colored t-shirts. Each section formed one color and together they created a multi-colored rainbow wave across the entire length of the stands. Like Noah of old, these youth made a covenant with God and God made a covenant with them. A release of bright yellow balloons marked the end of this inspiring program as all spectators jubilantly rose to their feet and cheering and clapping in a standing ovation.
Just as the music stopped, a quiet hush fell over the crowd. Cast and spectators looked up to the heavens as gentle rain fell, slashing on their faces creating the perfect ending to a spectacular and miraculous celebration.