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Sapporo Japan Temple youth cultural celebration: ‘Becoming the Light of the World’

Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver
Credit: Sarah Jane Weaver

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SAPPORO, JAPAN

In the mid 1920s, Tamano Kumagai — who had accepted the gospel in her teens — learned the mission in Japan was closing and that Latter-day Saint missionaries were going home.

Soon World War II started and fierce persecution toward Christians erupted — making it impossible to hold Latter-day Saint Church meetings in Japan. Yet, Sister Kumagai kept her faith. Amid this discouragement, she began holding Sunday School in her home.

Latter-day Saint youth in the Saporro Japan Temple District honored her sacrifice and example during the temple youth cultural celebration, held Aug. 20 in the Sapporo City Kyozai Hall.

The theme of the program — “Becoming the Light of the World” — is not only intended to help the youth look back with appreciation to the many Latter-day Saints who have pioneered the work in northern Japan, but also to help the youth understand that they too can be a light to the world, said Kazusa Iwamoto, chair of the temple cultural celebration committee.

Sister Iwamoto said youth have a responsibility as they receive the blessing of a temple in Hokkaido — Japan’s second largest island. “We need them to be strengthened and shine their light. This is something the Lord is expecting of each youth,” she said. “They will have to make up their minds to be worthy to receive this blessing.”

Some 150 youth — wearing happi coats or traditional dress for festivals — participated in the program, celebrating their Latter-day Saint heritage through music and dance.

The youth ended the program by performing a special birthday message for President Thomas S. Monson — who was watching the program from Salt Lake City and turned 89 on Sunday, Aug. 21, the day of the Sapporo Japan Temple dedication.

President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told the youth that their performance was a special gift to President Monson.

For many generations, prophets have foreseen this day, when temples would dot the earth, he said. “We have the exciting privilege of being part of this Latter-day work when the gospel will go to every nation.”

Members in Japan now have all the blessings of the gospel, “right here in Hokkaido,” he added.

“You are part of history,” President Nelson said. “You will live to see many other great and marvelous events. Stay well. Keep the commandments. You will have a lot of joy.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told the members of the Sapporo Japan Temple District that their faith brought the temple to Hokkaido. “This temple is truly a gift from the Lord.”

“There is much to celebrate,” he added. “We celebrate the wonderful history of the Church in Northern Japan, and the bright future of the Church here as well. Our future is brighter because of this beautiful new temple.”

Youth paid tribute to their pioneering past and rich future during the celebration.

The program opened as the teens performed a folk dance of Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido. Soon missionaries joined the dance, representing the introduction of the gospel to Hokkaido. The group then performed “Nanchuu Soran” Yosakoi dancing which represented the Church of Jesus Christ steadily growing in the area.

Sister Mai Watabe who also worked on the cultural celebration said she wanted the youth to participate in the celebration because she wanted them to “feel the temple is very important to them.”

Sister Iwamoto said in the beginning working on the cultural celebration was hard. “I was to create something I didn’t know,” she said. “So I didn’t know what to do.”

Then she read in the Book of Mormon of Nephi’s task to build a boat and followed the patterns taught by this early prophet.

Sister Watabe also felt unqualified to work on the committee. “It was challenging,” she said. “I humbled myself and asked the Lord’s help through prayer. I was able to find what to do.”

When challenges arose, she would go to the temple grounds, look at the beautiful building and ask the Lord for help.

Many Latter-day Saint youth in Hokkaido are the only members in their school, she said.

“I want them to remember the special spirit they felt,” said Sister Iwamoto.

Megan Dyer, 16, watched as ground was broken on the new temple and as the statue of Moroni was placed atop of the grand edifice. “It is such a blessing,” she said, “as the youth are really lucky to have a temple in the area.”

The youth in Japan live far way from each other, she added. “The temple brings us together.”

Ayato Takahashi, 12, echoed her sentiments. “Because we have the Sapporo temple here in Hokkaido and by participating with other members we can be united and strengthened,” he said.

Ai Fujimori also said she does not have many opportunities to gather with other Latter-day Saint youth. “I feel peace when I am around other LDS youth,” she said.

Mayu Migita, 16, said she wanted to show her faith by participating in the event. “The culture night is broadcast live so my friends are watching. I want them to know about the Church. I want them to know the temple is great.”

sarah@deseretnews.com @SJW_ChurchNews

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