Menu
Archives

'A Sacred Place'

Youth in Los Angeles area feel part of temple dedication by participating in cultural event

ANAHEIM, Calif. — In the final moments of a massive production, thousands of teens held colorful flags — significant for an area filled with diverse populations and cultures.

Then, with a march as steady as the Church itself spreading across the world, the flags changed from their bright colors to a unifying white — much in the same way a temple in nearby Newport Beach has unified Church members in this community.

The production, staged to celebrate Church history, the Restoration, and the construction of temples across the earth, was performed twice on Aug. 27 in Orange County's Arrowhead Pond arena, and was the final event before the dedication of the Newport Beach California Temple Aug. 28.

With the theme "A Sacred Place," the celebration featured 4,000 local teens performing original music and dance numbers that highlighted the rich cultural heritage of Orange County. Intertwining the narratives of local families, the story begins in an early Native American village and progresses through the settling of the American West to the modern eras of economic growth.

Performances highlighted dance reflecting early Spanish settlers and the historic march of the Mormon Battalion. Later came settlers who cultivated the land, the big band era, and the construction of suburbs, freeways and the opening of Disneyland.

Finally, a closing number emphasized the "strength in numbers" shared today by Orange County Latter-day Saints, unified by a new temple and "a much greater gift — salvation and exaltation."

Youth celebration features snapshots of Church history in California, beginning with the march of th
Youth celebration features snapshots of Church history in California, beginning with the march of the Mormon Battalion in 1847. | Photo by Alan Gibby

The show, said director Joel Swenson, wove a thread that connected the purpose of temples, the restoration of the gospel, the Church's pioneer legacy and the history of Southern California.

"We love our home," he said. "We really feel this place is sacred."

Joseph I. Bentley, chairman of the Temple Youth Celebration Committee, said organizers hoped the show would reflect who Church members are and what having a local temple means to them. The unifying theme — "A Sacred Place" — was strong enough to drive the story and music and ultimately "direct the focus of the youth" to the most sacred of all places: the temple, he said.

Participants repeatedly spoke of the event as a unifying cause that not only taught them about local Church history, but also allowed them to be an important part of the temple dedication — part of something much bigger than themselves.

Practices began in May and more than 100,000 total man-hours were spent in preparation, organizers said. More than 600 Church members were involved in the writing of musical scores, choreographing of the dance numbers, building sets and props, and creating nearly 4,000 costumes for the production.

"It was so powerful to see all those people dedicated to be in such a cause," said Erica Hawkins, a 14-year-old member of the Laguna Niguel California Stake.

Young women from Orange County perform with 4,000 other local youth in temple celebration Aug. 27.
Young women from Orange County perform with 4,000 other local youth in temple celebration Aug. 27. | Photo by Alan Gibby

Becki Wert, 14, of the Cypress California Stake said she now knows that she is not alone, but one of many Latter-day Saint youth in Orange County.

Daeoo Lee, 18, of the Irvine California Stake said he didn't initially realize how big the production was. "When everything comes together, it is amazing," he said. "It is so big."

In the show's final moments, all 4,000 youth joined in a choir, singing a medley of temple-related hymns.

The production, said Brother Swenson, became the means for youth to sacrifice for the temple. "It made them an integral part of this dedication."

Brother Bentley added, "It raised the spirits of the youth closer to God than they have ever been."

Madison Wihongi, left, part of early Native American family, opens production with solo performance.
Madison Wihongi, left, part of early Native American family, opens production with solo performance. | Photo by Alan Gibby
Church members donated 100,000 total man-hours preparing for the spectacular production.
Church members donated 100,000 total man-hours preparing for the spectacular production. | Photo by Alan Gibby
Bright costumes are part of dance by Santa Ana South Stake.
Bright costumes are part of dance by Santa Ana South Stake. | Photo by Alan Gibby
Members of the Irvine, Newport Beach and Orange California stakes "sing, sing, sing, with a swing,"
Members of the Irvine, Newport Beach and Orange California stakes "sing, sing, sing, with a swing," during Newport Beach Temple Youth Celebration in the Arrowhead Pond arena Aug. 27. The production featured 4,000 youth from the temple district and retold major events in Church and California history. | Photo by Alan Gibby

E-mail to: sarah@desnews.com

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed

$10.4 million was donated through the 2023 Giving Machines in 61 locations across seven countries.

Lynne M. Jackson is the great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott, who were denied their freedom by the Supreme Court in 1857.

Members of the Relief Society general presidency share their excitement for the upcoming event celebrating the anniversary — and purpose — of Relief Society.

Feb. 29 letter also gives directives that only sacrament services be held on Easter Sunday.

FamilySearch's new Family Group Trees feature lets living relatives upload photos, record dates and complete other tasks on shared family trees.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong conducted the first young adult and youth devotionals held in Northern England by an Apostle in 25 years.