In the final moments of a massive celebration — and in the shadow of a huge replica of the new Phoenix Arizona Temple — more than 4,200 youth stood together on a football field. Each held up a single light.
Collectively the sea of lights represented the power of the youth in the Valley of the Sun — where, strengthened by the new temple, they will “be a light.”
The cultural celebration of music and dance was staged on Saturday, Nov. 15, in conjunction with the dedication of the Phoenix Arizona Temple, the Church’s 144th worldwide and fifth in Arizona. The temple was dedicated on Sunday, Nov. 16.
President Thomas S. Monson presided at the cultural event, held on the Sunrise Mountain High School football field and titled “Be a Light.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, briefly addressed the youth.
“You are indeed choice,” he told them. “You are children of the light.”
The youth in the temple district represented not only the state of Arizona, but also Church members across the globe, as they shared a “message of light,” he said. “This temple — among the other four already established in this great state of Arizona — will enrich the people, the nation, the communities and each and every one of us.”
The production featured Arizona’s five C’s — copper, cotton, cattle, citrus and climate. “Everybody knows the five C’s of Arizona,” said President Uchtdorf, noting that the teens themselves represented additional C’s — creative, caring, cheerful and courageous. “Tonight you are also cool,” he added.
The celebration began by highlighting the local culture of the area, where a city was first built by the Hohokam Indians in A.D. 1. Because the Hohokams constructed irrigation canals from the Salt and Gila Rivers, the youth paid tribute to “the ancient inhabitants that brought life-giving water to the dry desert.”
The Hohokam culture disappeared from the area around 1450. The opening number of the production highlighted the phoenix — a mythological bird that rises from ashes. The city of Phoenix is named for the bird because the modern-day city rose from the ashes of the former civilization.
In addition, the teens paid tribute to the Honeymoon Trail (a 400-mile-long route from LDS settlements in northeastern Arizona to the temple in St. George, Utah), those who have served in the military, air conditioning and to the “culture of service” shared by modern-day Latter-day Saints. The celebration ended as missionaries from the Arizona Phoenix Mission marched around the football field carrying the flags of many nations.
Allyson Echols Morris, cultural celebration chairwoman and director, said the production was written to encourage the youth — and the whole world — to be a light.
“You can see the light in their eyes when they glow with the gospel,” she said of the youth, ages 12 to 18. “These kids do that. … We want them to go out and be a light to the world.”
She said during practice sessions the youth were divided into six groups and given a word to remember that had to do with light — magnificent, spectacular, awesome, amazing, outstanding and brilliant.
“We want them to know that each one of them is magnificent and spectacular,” she said.
Sam Hawker, 17, of the Shaw Butte Ward, Phoenix Arizona North Stake, said the celebration helped the youth show their gratitude for the temple. The youth held lights at the end of the celebration “to represent us being a light in the dark of the world, to be an example and let our inner light shine. We are children of our Heavenly Father.”
London Wheeler, 17, of the Royal Palm Ward, Phoenix Arizona North Stake, said in addition to the youth being a light, the temple can also “be a light to guide us back to Heavenly Father.”
Emma Garcia, 14, of the Encanto Ward, Phoenix Arizona Stake, said performing in the celebration required a lot of practice, but was also a lot of fun. “Everyone came here to show the world that we can stand together and shine forth,” she said. “We can be a light to the world and share Christ’s light.”