Artists use talent to testify

The desire of a multitude of LDS performers to share their testimony of the Savior drew a near-capacity audience to the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Sunday, June 8.

Held with the cooperation of the Utah Salt Lake City Mission, the program featured well-known LDS musician/composer Kurt Bestor, the Steve Goodman family, Pro Musica, the Sterling Singers, a 60-piece orchestra and an 80-voice choir.Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke briefly and bore his testimony of the Savior and the Atonement.

The idea for the program was conceived by Virginia Schmidt of the Bingham Creek Ward, West Jordan Utah Bingham Creek Stake. Her experience with performing arts includes work as associate director of the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, N.Y., for 19 years.

Sister Schmidt had worked previously with Brother Bestor in presenting an event for a group of LDS single adults, and asked him if he would do something similar for a missionary-oriented event. It involved his conducting an orchestra and chorus in a live performance of the score for the video production "The Lamb of God," while the video was shown on a large screen. (He composed the score for the video when it was produced.)

"I knew Kurt would want to do it again," Sister Schmidt told the Church News. After enlisting his involvement, she contacted Pres. David Christensen of the Utah Salt Lake City Mission to see if such an event would be useful in the missionary effort. He gave his enthusiastic support, and the necessary approval was then obtained through the Utah North Area presidency.

"The idea was to give free tickets to stake mission presidents, who were encouraged to invite investigators and non-members, as well as newly baptized members and people within their stake or ward boundaries who might be struggling with their testimonies," Sister Schmidt explained. Full-time missionaries worked closely with stake missionaries in inviting people to the program.

Brother Bestor said "The Lamb of God" is a very powerful production, that has primarily been seen by seminary and institute students, but not by Church members generally. Hearing the music performed live while watching the video gives a different effect than hearing the recorded music, he added.

"In a year when we're celebrating the pioneers, we often forget that the reason the pioneers came here to this valley wasn't for the skiing," he said. "It was to be free to worship God and Jesus Christ as they saw fit. `The Lamb of God' motion picture covers seven days in the life of Christ."

He said it is a touching portrayal, as evidenced by the sniffling that was going on in the Tabernacle during the presentation. "It's important that people understand the reality of the Crucifixion for them to comprehend the wonder of the Resurrection."

As part of the evening, Brother Bestor talked of his family's conversion to the Church in 1976, and of his serving a mission subsequently in Yugoslavia.

The participation of the Goodman family was moving, Sister Schmidt said, as they recently lost three children in a tragic car accident, but in their performances have affirmed their faith in the Resurrection and the Plan of Salvation. Shortly before the accident, the entire Sandy, Utah, family performed for Pope John Paul II in Rome. They were invited by him to perform in Rio de Janiero when he travels there, Sister Schmidt said.

Sister Schmidt said she has received letters telling of how the event in the Tabernacle touched people's hearts. One was from a woman who took her daughter and daughter's fiance, who is not a member of the Church, to the program. He had been resistant to missionary lessons. But after seeing "The Lamb of God," and hearing Elder Ballard's testimony, he said the apostle's words had expressed his own sentiments that evening.

Turnout for the program was good, Sister Schmidt said, despite its conflicting with a championship National Basketball Association game being played in the Delta Center just a few blocks away and which was broadcast live.

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