CALGARY, ALBERTA, CANADA
Calgary has hosted some big-name events, including the world-renowned Calgary Stampede, which is noted as “the richest ride in rodeo,” and the 1988 Winter Olympics. However, according to Latter-day Saints here, those events can’t hold a candle to the biggest event to take place in this city at the foot of the Canada’s Rocky Mountains: the dedication of the Calgary Alberta Temple on Sunday, Oct. 28.
In a massive program held Saturday night, the eve of the dedication of the Church’s 140th temple worldwide, 1,643 young people, their leaders, five heads of cattle, two horses and one dog put on a show that told the story not only of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Calgary but also much of the history and culture of the city and the Province of Alberta. The event took place in the Stampede Corral in downtown Calgary.
In a pre-recorded message, President Thomas S. Monson extended his greetings to the youth in the temple district’s six stakes. The theme was “A Light Upon a Hill.”
“My beloved friends, although I would love to be with you in Calgary this evening, it is my dear wife Frances’ 85th birthday,” he said. “She is unable to travel with me to Calgary for the temple dedication, and I felt it was important for me to be with her on this milestone birthday. I know you will understand. Both Sister Monson and I will be viewing this celebration live via closed circuit broadcast in our living room in Salt Lake City.
“I plan to be in Calgary Sunday to dedicate the beautiful Calgary Temple, which is the reason for this great celebration.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve presided over the cultural program and addressed the youth. Elder Ballard invited the cast members and audience to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” to Sister Monson, after which the stadium erupted in cheers and applause.
Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy and executive director of the Temple Department conducted the pre-show portion of the program.
The program opened with a scene depicting the arrival of John H. Sheppard and his family, new converts to the Church who emigrated from England to Calgary in 1910. Charles W. Penrose, an Apostle and president of the British Mission, answered a query from John: “Dear Brother Sheppard, Go to Calgary and if the Church is not there it will come to you.”
When the Sheppards arrived, they were the only Latter-day Saints in the city. In the portrayal of their arrival, the program’s narrator stated, “And so it was that the first Latter-day Saints, acting on faith, arrived in Calgary, Alberta, bringing the initial rays of gospel light.”
Actors portraying the Sheppard family came on the scene. The family looked around and saw the prairies of the Rockies (shown on a backdrop), teepees, a theater, school children, shops, various kinds of activity — and cowboys.
A scene unfolded to depict drumming and dancing of “First Nations” peoples, the first inhabitants of this part of Alberta.
In 1875, the Northwest Mounted Police, later to become the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (who “always get their man”), built a fort at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers. “The RCMP Musical Ride” portrayed this bit of Alberta’s history.
Ranching and farming have been mainstays of life in this part of Canada. In 1883, the Canadian Government opened the area to colonization by leasing grazing land at minimal cost. A settler could lease up to 100,000 acres for one cent per acre per year. Dancers to live fiddlers were highlights of this era.
A video and photos on large screens portrayed the first sacrament meeting in the city, held in the Dudley home on Feb. 2, 1913. A month later, Calgary’s first branch was formed, a dependent branch of the Cardston 1st Ward.
The program portrayed scenes representing the Calgary Stampede, which began in 1912. Its organizers encouraged people to dress and decorate their businesses in the spirit of the “Wild West.” The program’s narrator said that for nearly 50 years, Latter-day Saints shared the light of the gospel by setting up bleachers for the annual Stampede parade and manning food booths on the fairgrounds. The money raised supported local welfare and budget needs.
“Rodeo is the heart of the Calgary Stampede, one of the largest and most famous events of its kind in the world. Indeed, it is ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,’ ” the narrator declared.
A young man “rode” an inflated bull, “cowboys” roped another youth dressed in a calf costume, young women rode stick horses in a barrel race, clowns performed acrobatics and other activities of a typical Stampede were acted out. Chuckwagon racing was added to the Stampede in 1923. This was portrayed by three mini-chuckwagons, each drawn by four youth, in a race. As the narrator declared that no rodeo is complete “without a rodeo dance,” youth rushed onto the arena floor and performed line dancing.
Photos on the screen showed scenes of the World War I era. “The Church in Calgary struggled,” the narrator explained. “Military men came and went. Among them was Major Hugh B. Brown, who would bring many of his men to Church services. Four decades later, he was called as an apostle.
“On Nov. 10, 1921, Calgary’s first independent branch was organized with Berg Ellingson as branch president. They were part of the newly organized Lethbridge Stake, led by Hugh B. Brown. In just over 11 years, one family had grown to a Church membership of 170 members, strengthening those initial rays of gospel light into a small but steady flame.”
Scenes portrayed the discovery of gas and the oil boom in Turner Valley, southwest of Calgary.
The narrator said that as Church membership surpassed 300 members in Calgary, Church President Heber J. Grant advised them to build a chapel of their own. Using shovels, wheelbarrows and strong backs, volunteers dug the basement for the new chapel. David O. McKay, first counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the Crescent Road Chapel on July 1, 1941.
A youth choir sang “On This Day of Joy and Gladness” as golf carts drove across the arena floor with nearly two dozen members who were present when the chapel was dedicated. The audience stood, applauded and cheered.
A medley of musical numbers and dances took place as the narrator described how dancing to the sound of live big band orchestras helped give respite from cares and worries surrounding people during World War II. The war brought many military personnel to Calgary, a major training center for Canada’s military. This number paid tribute to local veterans who were in the audience.
The narrator told of the formation of the Calgary Alberta Stake in 1953, with N. Eldon Tanner called to serve as its president. He held that position until he was called as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1960. He served also as an Apostle and as a counselor to four presidents of the Church.
In 1963, Latter-day Saints began a tradition that grew in reputation and popularity in Calgary: an annual live Nativity pageant held outdoors. This December will mark the pageant’s 50th year. A manger scene was spotlighted, with shepherds gathered about the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and a “choir of angels” sang as wisemen approached the manger.
The narrator told of how the Church launched a first-of-its-kind citywide food drive in 2005. It broke Guinness World Record in 2008 when more than 7,000 volunteers from a non-organized charity group collected more than 230,000 kilograms (some 66,139 pounds) of food. Over the years, Latter-day Saints have been involved also with interfaith humanitarian service, and have contributed to many centers, shelters and other charities.
The weather seems to always be a topic of conversation. Residents of and visitors to Calgary talk about it a lot. In Calgary, it changes dramatically and unpredictably from day to day and even hour to hour. “It is possible to experience all four seasons in one day: a blinding snowstorm, driving rain, howling winds and glaring sunshine.” Young people went through motions of shivering in their winter attire to fanning themselves in summer dress.
Calgary has changes in its population, also. To represent the diverse cultures, youth performed Spanish and Mandarin dances; and re-enacted scenes from the 1988 Olympics, including bearing flags of many nations.
Hockey is Canada’s national winter sport. “The Good Old Hockey Game” was sung. Spectators cheered as goals were scored on the arena floor.
The narrator proclaimed that as great as hockey is in Canada, this was even more exciting: A video clip showed President Monson announcing in the October 2008 general conference that a temple would be built in Calgary. A tremendous shout rose from the arena’s floor and stands.
Young people took their places by wards in the temple district, and turned on lights as their units’ names appeared on screens. A lighted outline of the temple was displayed at one end of the arena as the young people sang the Calgary Temple Youth Celebration Anthem by Andrew Hawryluk, “Arise and Shine Like a Light Upon a Hill.”