ESPOO, Finland — They didn't understand each other's language, and they didn't fully understand each other's traditions, but for a few, brief shining moments, the 7,000 Church members gathered for the cultural program from the five nations in the Helsinki Finland Temple district were uniquely united in spirit.
They cheered like they were greatest friends.
Members from the nations of Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland had never met each other until the dress rehearsal the night before the Oct. 21 performance.
But come performance time, from the first Russian dance to the last chorus of "Finlandia," members throughout the LansiAuto Areena clapped spontaneously.
Since the temple was announced in 2000, organizers of the cultural event wished to emphasize the unique power of the temple to unify diverse and sometimes hostile nations.
The performance opened with a scene from the ancient days of the Tower of Babel. In a scene of raucous dancing and riotous living, the tower is destroyed. In the aftermath, the confusion of tongues divides the people.
The theme of the cultural event was introduced by two women, presumably former friends, who sang a duet lamenting their challenge of finding truth in life without being able to communicate.
"Our paths will now part," they sang, "how can I find heaven?"
As the program progressed, this duet expanded to include a singer from each culture, singing the same lament in her language.
The music was composed by Irmeli Tuisku and the lyrics by Sirpa Happonen of the Hyvinkaa Ward. Music was arranged by Noora Lehtinen.
The Russian members followed the opening scene with a colorful show that demonstrated their rich heritage of song and dance. Using several hundred performers, they told a love story and how the couple was reunited after being divided by war.
Something about Russian music started the toe tapping. No sooner were the first notes of a playful folk song struck on the accordion than the audience clapped in cadence.
Each country followed in turn, the Latvians dressed in white, the Estonians in bright native costume, then the Lithuanians and Finnish. Each group drew applause and appreciation from their fellow temple district members.
With each country divided and separate, an image of the Helsinki temple was projected on a background screen. The cast of performers returned to the stage dressed in white clothes, signifying that the temple heals differences and unifies diversity.
United, the congregation and cast joined in singing "Finlandia," stirring patriotic music by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
Whatever the differences of the past, the temple unifies.
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