BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Over the past several years, temple dedications across the world have been colorfully augmented by cultural events that allow the young people of the new temple district to celebrate their heritage, patriotism and faith.
The events - be they in Samoa, the Ukraine, El Salvador or some place in between - never fail to deliver. Youth by the thousands come together in native costumes to perform familiar folk dances, sing national anthems and commemorate their own unique Latter-day Saint history.
Each cultural event is an opportunity for a temple district's "rising generation" to sing, dance, to make new friends and to have fun. But the celebrations also offer every young man or young woman whose name is counted on the massive cast list to say: "I am here - I am ready to serve and contribute."
Such sentiments were again found Sept. 8 at the Buenos Aires youth cultural event. The performance was held in the Independiente Stadium in the south end of this sprawling capital city.
More than 2,000 Latter-day Saint youth sang and danced on the venue's storied soccer field. Meanwhile, some 10,000 young people from distant areas of the country also played a prominent role. Their animated folk dances were videotaped on location in several areas of Argentina and then rebroadcast on large screens during the live event.
"I express gratitude to you from the Lord and from his prophet," said President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, during brief comments prior to the show.
He noted the sacred occasion of the next day's rededication of the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple. "The temple we are dedicating is the Lord's house and we are here to honor Him."
President Eyring added that it's his hope that the young cast members will believe that the Savior knows them. He wished them all "a wonderful evening."
"You will have a feeling tonight that the Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth and that the temple is His house," he concluded.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve called it "thrilling" to be with the young performers.
"Argentina has always been a special place for the Ballard family," he said - adding that his son and grandson both served missions in Buenos Aires.
Elder Ballard said the cultural event would be one of the highlights of the history of the Church in Argentina.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke of his beloved memories of serving a mission in Argentina. He thanked the young men and women for their sacrifices, required to stage the massive performance.
"I hope the youth can always remember this experience," he said.
Utilizing two lifted stages and almost the entire soccer field, the cultural celebration included several spirited folk dances. Some performances paid tribute to the country's immigrant heritage, while others celebrated Argentina's distinct "vaquero" or "cowboy" culture.
Included in the event was telling of the nation's rich Church history, a tribute to the ongoing missionary efforts and a celebration of the reopening of the temple in Buenos Aires.