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South Florida youth celebrate their multi-cultural history

Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen
Credit: Jason Swensen

More than a thousand Latter-day Saint youth staged a cultural celebration with enough enthusiasm and energy “to light up the whole southern part of Florida.”

That was the apt assessment of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who presided over the May 3 evening of song, dance and celebration at the basketball arena on the campus of Nova Southeastern University.

The cultural event was held on the eve of the May 4 dedication of the Fort Lauderdale Florida Temple.

“It is wonderful to be with you tonight,” said President Uchtdorf during his brief remarks at the beginning of the program. “President Monson loves the youth. I love the young people. My wife and I, we love to be here in Florida. We have just come from the temple, and it is a beautiful temple.”

Florida is, of course, the Sunshine State — and the youth of the Church, he added, “are a sunshine for Florida.”

“Show through your goodness and your kindness what this gospel and this Church is all about.”

President Uchtdorf added he was impressed by Florida’s state motto: “In God We Trust.”

Titled “United by Our Faith,” the cultural event was staged by youth from six stakes in southern Florida that comprise the new temple district. Through song, dance and video clips, the cast told the story of the rich LDS history in southern Florida.

Other musical numbers paid tribute to the efforts of Latter-day Saint Floridians in times of need, such as the aftermath of hurricanes and other disasters.

At the core of the event, of course, was the new temple. It is the Church’s 143rd such edifice in operation. Several young members shared their testimony of the temple via video clips.

The evening concluded with the unveiling of a massive model of the new temple at the west end of the arena.

Seventeen-year-old Cameron Lieber is one of only a few LDS youth at his school. Celebrating the opening of a new temple with some 1,200 young men and young women of his faith made for an unforgettable experience for this priest from Pompano Beach.

“The whole concept of ‘hastening the work’ is really being put in motion,” he said. “I’ll never forget how close the youth of the Church all became because of the cultural event performances.”

Nathan Birch, a 13-year-old deacon, said the cultural event added a memorable element to the opening of the temple. Performing for President Uchtdorf and the other “special visitors” was “an unbelievable experience,” he said.

President Uchtdorf was joined at the event by his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf. Also in attendance were Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Katherine Christofferson; Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and Sister Melanie Rasband; Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and Sister Marsha Richards; and Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson and Sister Lesa Stevenson.

jswensen@deseretnews.com

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