Autumn in New England is a time of great beauty — when the area’s dense green foliage turns to vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. It’s also a time associated with the harvest and giving thanks for its bounty.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, prior to the national holiday of Thanksgiving, youth in the Hartford Connecticut Temple district expressed their gratitude in a special way.
Some 1,100 young men and young women from eight stakes showed their excitement for another temple in New England through an evening of song and dance.
The cultural celebration — held in the Toyota Oakdale Theater in nearby Wallingford — was titled “A Marvelous Work.” The production commemorated the heritage and culture of the area and “the marvelous work” resulting in a temple.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, said he was “overjoyed” to be given the invitation by President Thomas S. Monson to represent him at the dedication and cultural celebration.
President Monson, he said, loves the youth and would be watching the broadcast of their performance. President Eyring then invited them to give a round of applause for the prophet to which the youth gave a standing ovation.
President Eyring assured the youth “that this temple in Hartford is an important part of the marvelous work of Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to bring the light of the gospel into your lives and the lives of thousands of others. Our hope is that the memory you have felt as you prepared and performed words and music and dancing will never be dimmed by time or by darkness in the world.”
Keely Knudson, who directed the event, explained that the progression of the show followed the progression of the Church here.
The production begins with a small group of 20 youth singing the words of the theme, “A marvelous work has begun to come forth among all the children of men.”
“And from that small group it just grows and grows and grows and grows,” culminating in the reproduction of the Hartford temple on stage and all 1,100 youth singing “As Zion’s Youth in Latter-days.”
“The temple is ‘a marvelous work’ and these youth are absolutely ‘marvelous,’” Sister Knudson said.
The production included a song paying tribute to the crossing of the pilgrims, a live fife and drum corps, and a reenactment of the legend of the Charter Oak and first Thanksgiving. According to tradition, Connecticut’s Royal Charter of 1662 was hidden within the hollow of a large white oak tree in Hartford to thwart its seizure by the English governor-general. The oak became a symbol of American independence and freedom.
The people of Connecticut are proud of their heritage in the establishment of the nation and the role it played in paving the way for the “marvelous work” of the Restoration, explained Scott Siebers, the local chairman of the cultural celebration.
Several numbers were also dedicated to what it means to be a Latter-day Saint youth in New England.
“There are not a lot of members in New England,” Adam Moss, 15, explained. “You might be the only Mormon at your school.” Which is one of the reasons he appreciated participating in the cultural celebration. “It was kind of a bonding experience,” he said, with the other Latter-day Saint youth in the area. “We get to express our joy together for the new temple.”
Brother Siebers commented that the opportunity to participate in the cultural celebration is a “great gift” for the youth. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they will never forget.”
Bianca Infantas, 15, of the Hartford Connecticut Stake, said preparing and participating in the cultural celebration has been hard work but fun. “This is our way of showing Heavenly Father how thankful we are for the temple,” she said.
Also in attendance at the cultural celebration were Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy; Elder Larry Y. Wilson, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department; and Elder Randall K. Bennett, also a General Authority Seventy. They were accompanied by their wives, Sister Patricia Holland, Sister Susan Gong, Sister Lynda Wilson and Sister Shelley Bennett.