LANGLEY, British Columbia — The Church in British Columbia was built one by one — one member, one family, one branch, one testimony at a time.
Collectively, those individual efforts laid a Church foundation so strong that nearly 100 years after the organization of the Vancouver Branch in 1911, Latter-day Saints here celebrated the dedication of the Vancouver British Columbia Temple.
During a youth cultural celebration, held May 1 in conjunction with the dedication, young men and young women took the arms of 172 Latter-day Saint pioneers in this area and led them one by one to the floor for recognition.
The audience stood in appreciation.
"That is our story here," said Shelley Murley, a composer who served as director of the youth cultural event. "We are one. We do things slowly ... neighbor to neighbor, family to family, friend to friend."
More than 1,200 youth participated in Saturday evening's youth temple celebration, which marked the completion the Vancouver British Columbia Temple – the LDS Church's 131st operating temple worldwide and the seventh in Canada.
Gathered from eight stakes in British Columbia and the Bellingham Washington Stake, some of the youth drove more than 14 hours to participate in the event.
President Thomas S. Monson addressed the congregation before the performance began, asking the youth to stand alone, if necessary, in righteousness – like the pioneers from British Columbia they follow.
"The Lord will not leave you unprotected if you put your confidence in Him," he told the youth. "We are asking you to be the example the Lord expects you to be."
President Monson added that standing up for their beliefs will win the youth respect. "You won't lose friends," he said. "You will gain friends."
That promise meant the world to youth who are often the only Latter-day Saint in their school.
The Vancouver temple youth celebration, titled "A Beacon to the World," highlighted the land, history and people of British Columbia.
President Monson started the evening by changing — to the delight of the audience — the opening song from a traditional hymn to the Canadian national anthem, "O Canada."
"We are here to enjoy Canada with you," he said.
Jalae Brophy, 17, of the Vanderhoof Ward, and Sabrina Blackmore, 17, of the Blackmore Ward — both in the Prince George British Columbia Stake — rode 15 hours on a bus to participate in the event. "This is the best experience ever," said Sabrina.
Jalae said participating in the celebration is something she can do to be part of the temple dedication.
"We are doing this big celebration because of the temple. It is like we are a part of it."
Morgan Pringle, 17, of the Victoria 2nd Ward, Victoria British Columbia Stake, spoke about riding a ferry from Vancouver Island to the event.
"We were talking to everyone. We said, 'We are going to celebrate our Vancouver temple.'"
Sister Murley said the youth who participated in the event felt a strong connection to the temple. "These kids feel it is their temple," she said. "They really feel this incredible ownership."
In the closing moments of the cultural celebration the youth joined hands and made large circles – representing the eternal nature of the edifice where family relationships have no end — around a huge replica temple. Together, dressed in white shirts and blouses and dark pants and skirts, they looked to the temple.
The message was simple: The temple will now become their beacon as they carry the torch passed to them by early Latter-day Saint pioneers in their temple district and build the Church in British Columbia “one by one.”