ABA, Nigeria — Wearing traditional African attire and dancing the traditional dances of Africa, some 1,500 Nigerian Latter-day Saints presented "A Day of Rejoicing" Aug. 6 on the grounds of the new Aba Nigeria Temple.
And a day of rejoicing it was. Thousands of members from 15 stakes in this West African land gathered to watch the performers, mainly children and youth, celebrate with song and dance the rich heritage and history of their land.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, who dedicated the new Aba Nigeria Temple the following day, watched the performance.
Earlier in the day, Nduka B. Ojaide, former president of the Port Harcourt Nigeria Stake, stood watching as hundreds of smiling youth began milling around the grounds of the temple.
"Our youth are the future of the Church," he said, watching the young people go by, "They are the future of our nation. When I look at them, I see the future of Nigeria."
The future as well as the past was portrayed in this program, which began with a narrator describing the creation of the earth and ended with hundreds of white-clad Primary children gathering on the stage to sing "I Am a Child of God," "I Love to See the Temple," and "Families Can Be Together Forever."
"It's for the youth," said Sister Diane Clements, a Church Educational System missionary with her husband, Elder Louis Clements. "It's a chance for the youth to get together and have fun. For the Nigerian youth, it's been a wonderful opportunity to revise these traditional dance customs."
Sister Clements, who co-directed "A Day of Rejoicing" with Elder Clements, explained how they urged the five stakes around Aba which were assigned the dance sequences to choose someone to teach the youth these traditional dances.
The program on this warm, humid day began with a quartet of young men singing the national anthem of Nigeria, against a backdrop of all the flags of West Africa. Then the narrator described the earth's beginning and added, "When Adam populated the land with his children many of them made their home in West Africa."
Dancers then began to tell the story of Africa, including dances for hunters, herdsmen, fishermen, warriors and farmers. As the youth performed, others to the side depicted various lifestyles.
Portraying early Christian missionaries during the program were temple missionaries who walked onto the stage. "Talking drums," passing messages the way villagers once did, then began heralding the arrival of the first missionaries of the Church in 1978.
The program, which included the presentation of gifts to President Hinckley, ended with the youth choir and a choir of full-time missionaries taking turns singing verses of "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning." The audience joined for an inspirational — and sometimes emotional — fourth verse.
One young man who will never forget is Kingsley EzeEme of the Hilltop Ward, Aba Nigeria Stake. A drummer for the program, he said participating in the cultural event and performing for President Hinckley will bring a "lot of blessings that will be bestowed on me."
Kingsley called "A Day of Rejoicing" a "joyful day."
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