For the past four months, my husband and I have had the privilege to serve as Stake Chair/Producers for the Gilbert Temple Cultural Celebration, which finally took place on March 1, 2014.
It’s difficult to explain how amazing this experience was for us, for the 12,000 youth, and for the other thousands of leaders who worked through the challenges, obstacles, colossal expectations, limited time/resources, and the constant flow of updates, changes, and instructions.
(For example, how would we gather 12,000 youth from places as far as an hour away to one location, to spend 12-14 hours rehearsing a production, with no parking allowed? Here’s a shout out to all the extra volunteers who dropped the youth off, AND picked them up again for both the Super Saturday practice and Game Day; and another shout out to the Executive Committee for organizing drop-off times which made such a feat even possible without serious traffic delays.)
And yet, after all of the hours and sacrifices, the torrential rain on “game day” was truly like a capstone to this epic event, and it will never be forgotten. It is a bit ironic that only a week before, we needed to cancel the last practice of the day due to hazardous levels of dust:
But with ALL THE RAIN that poured down on ‘game day’, what will be the memory? Will it be a disappointment? Will the celebration be remembered as a failure?
Not by a long shot.
There is a principle, which promises that contained in every adversity is a seed of equal or greater benefit, and getting soaked and cold during the final performance is no exception.
To illustrate, let me share a message I received after the celebration was complete.
I’m posting it as an “open letter” to all the youth who participated:
(A final note from me before I post the letter… Dear Youth, as much as it enriched your life to be a part of it, perhaps you can feel something new as you shift your focus on what the rest of the world got out of seeing you perform it in the rain…)
Gilbert Temple Youth Celebration 3/1/14
I don’t live in Arizona. I am older and unable to do much anymore, but need daily to study or find things to uplift me spiritually, to understand more deeply the doctrines the Savior has given us, and to be exposed to the efforts of others in building the kingdom! For me, other than reading, it needs to be on TV or the Internet. My grandchildren were part of the Youth Celebration, and when I received the link I was anxious to see what they had helped to accomplish. I thought I would watch just for a while. I was busy texting family and friends about it, and trying to get the program to load, and when I settled in to watch, the first thing I saw was a magnificent horse and rider with thousands of ‘Nephites’ racing onto a rain soaked field. The Title of Liberty is so timely now, and given to us for a reason, and I was thrilled to see it depicted as it was!
I ‘saw’ the rain, sometimes falling in torrents. I saw the rain streaming down soaked hair, faces upturned many times, wet and radiant; and the thought occurred to me, ‘this is what a person looks like coming up out of the waters of baptism!’ I knew the clothing was soaked, the shoes soggy, and the youth cold. I knew as well that parents and leaders had umbrellas and coats and were concerned for their children. My thoughts went to the Stripling Warriors and I knew I was witnessing that same courage, strength and willingness. These incredible children are being prepared to become great leaders in the church, their communities, and in this country.
As the program progressed, I couldn’t turn it off as I had intended. Sitting at a computer for long isn’t easy. Such majesty, such magnitude with the numbers present on that field, I was stunned! I knew they were presenting to families and to the Prophet and those with him. But I also knew that many of them understood their Celebration was presented to the Savior who had blessed the establishment of a temple in Gilbert, AZ.
I think too that people like Lucy Flake and her husband were also watching from the world of spirits. In March 1893, they traveled on a long, perilous trip from their Arizona home to Salt Lake City to participate in the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. “We went by team,” she explained in her journal, “as we hadn’t the money to go on train.” The journey by wagon was “a cold hard trip, through snow and mud.” They and thousands of spirits like them would witness your celebration for another temple in Arizona and she would especially appreciate the mud and rain you were enduring. (Stories of Sacrifice and Devotion: The People Who Built and Loved a Temple: LDS Newsroom)
Some may have felt that it was unfortunate, that after all your sacrifice of time, energy, with school, jobs and other responsibilities, that the rain could not have been stayed with all the prayers uttered.
But may I say, because of the way my heart was touched and my spirit uplifted, and my soul moved as I teared up many times, I feel your prayers WERE answered. This presentation would not have been so moving, to me at least, had you not gone forward in spite of the downpour. Your performance was perfection, not only in the execution, but also because of your energy and attitude. Each segment was as good as the last! I simply don’t have adequate words to express the tenacity, the responsibility you demonstrated and how well you carried it. I can only say, “Thank you!”
Today building a temple does not require what it did in the early days. But it does require effort and sacrifice in other ways, and you, all of you, demonstrated that. In watching, I thought some of those early sacrifices. Dedication speaks more to it, though. Dedication to a commitment until it is finished, no matter the discomfort.
“John Rowe Moyle … was a convert to the Church who left his home in England and traveled to the Salt Lake Valley as part of a handcart company. John was an accomplished stonecutter and, because of this skill, was asked to work on the Salt Lake Temple.
“Every Monday John left home at two o’clock in the morning and walked six hours in order to be at his post on time. On Friday he would leave his work at five o’clock in the evening and walk almost until midnight before arriving home. He did this year after year.
“One day, while he was doing his chores at home, a cow kicked him in the leg, causing a compound fracture. With limited medical resources, the only option was to amputate the broken leg. So John’s family and friends strapped him onto a door and, with a bucksaw, cut off his leg a few inches from the knee.
“In spite of the crude surgery, the leg started to heal. Once John could sit up in bed, he began carving a wooden leg with an ingenious joint that served as an ankle to an artificial foot. Walking on this device was extremely painful, but John did not give up, building up his endurance until he could make the 22-mile (35-km) journey to the Salt Lake Temple each week, where he continued his work.
“His hands carved the words ‘Holiness to the Lord’ that stand today as a golden marker to all who visit the Salt Lake Temple. (Film: Only a Stonecutter, directed by T. C. Christensen and starring Bruce Newbold)
Today we have a more efficient method of etching “Holiness to the Lord” on many of the Latter-day Saint temples that now dot the earth, the hand-carved letters on the Salt Lake Temple are a sobering reminder to Church members everywhere that pioneer families more than a century ago sacrificed nearly all they had in funds, energy, health, time, inconvenience, discomfort, for a legacy of temples. They were not all professional builders, and even those who were, had farms to manage, and had to earn a living in any way they could.
Your hardships in practices, and the performance in bad weather, your presentation of testimony in this way to Jesus Christ will be historical and noted among the spirits. I would not have felt as I did thru the entire program, had I not witnessed it in the rain. Your performance added something of such worth to the subsequent dedication of the temple. Those reading of it down thru the decades will add it to such accounts of other temples, and what it took to build, dedicate and attend them.
Kirkland Temple comes to mind, and many of you know of such accounts.
“A stone quarry was located two miles south of the building site, and a wagon load of stone was immediately quarried. But the Saints were so poor, an early member recalled, that “there was not a scraper and hardly a plow that could be obtained among the Saints”, to dig foundations, so much of the construction was done by hand with limited and inadequate tools. Almost all able-bodied men who were not away on missions worked on the temple. Under Emma Smith’s direction, the women “made stockings, pantaloons and jackets” for the temple workmen. Mobs threatened to destroy the temple, and those who worked on it by day guarded it at night. Night after night for weeks, they didn’t take off clothes, and slept with guns in their arms. John Tanner gave money to pay for the temple site and then sold his twenty-two-hundred-acre farm in New York in order to give three thousand dollars to buy supplies. He continued to give until he had given almost all he owned. One journal entry states that glass and crockery were given to strengthen the stucco finish and to make the surface glisten. It isn’t clear if any was fine china, but even in that impoverished community, donating plates and glasses would have been a sacrifice perhaps an inconvenience, for many. The sun did make the temple glisten like the jewel that it was.” (CHURCH HISTORY IN THE FULNESS OF TIMES STUDENT MANUAL chapter 13)
I hope in some small way I have conveyed what your drenched presentation did for me, and I am sure many others in different states who watched it, felt as I did! It would not have touched me so, if I had not witnessed 12000 going ahead despite the cold and rain on a wet and muddy and probably slippery field and stage. My son and family are in Hartford, Connecticut and he is part of the building committee for the temple they are erecting there. With seconds to spare I was able to give him the link to watch your presentation. “Wow”, he said, “What a performance!”
Watch the complete full-length performance here:
To learn more about the Gilbert Temple and why it is so important to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, watch the ABC special below: