SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — On the rainy Saturday morning of May 12, thousands of youth living in the Jordan River Utah Temple district filled the front lawn of the recently renovated temple to sing a hymn, recite a scripture and show they are prepared and “Ready” — the youth celebration theme — for the edifice’s rededication on May 20.
“Our whole theme has been ‘being ready’ and as we take steps outside of our comfort zone to grow we become more ready,” said Michelle Boothe, who is the Jordan River temple youth celebration co-chairwoman. “We talk a lot about how being ready is a process. … Today was an effort of stepping out beyond our comfort zone to be ready.”
With 490 wards in 66 stakes in the temple district, Boothe and her husband, Ross, have tried to get more than 17,000 youth involved in the rededication celebrations.
Recognizing they couldn’t include all of the youth in a traditional “cultural celebration,” the Boothes started thinking of how they could involve so many youth in other positive, meaningful ways.
“We did the open house, where one day we had youth going through the temple all day. And then we did an outdoor concert, and then this has been our last ‘everybody’ activity,” Michelle Booth said.
The youth in the temple district met at various meetinghouses around the area and then, as a temple district, walked to the temple.
Some routes were just over a mile, while other routes went up to 8.8 miles. No matter the distance, the final destination was the house of the Lord.
“Normally they stretch themselves by singing and dancing and doing things they don’t normally do, but because that wasn’t really an option, today was an opportunity for them to stretch a little bit beyond their comfort zone and do something that they wouldn’t normally do,” said Michelle Boothe.
For many of the youth, the walk helped them realize how close they actually live to the temple.
“It was really cool to walk here,” said Aaron Abercrombie, 15, from the Riverton 2nd Ward. “The temple is really close to where we live. I was able to walk here in just about an hour. It is a blessing it is so close. I am happy it is back.”
About once a month, he and the young men and young women from his ward have attended other temples while the Jordan River temple has been under construction. Now that the temple is about to be rededicated, Abercrombie looks forward to attending the temple with his family and friends.
“I only attended this temple once before it closed,” said Tyler Hagen, 14. “So I am excited to go in and do baptisms.”
When Colby Rich, a Scoutmaster in his ward, heard that two of his young men wanted to walk the entire distance from their stake center, he offered to join them. “They heard our stake was going to leave from a different location and decided they wanted to walk the entire way,” Rich said. “So, “We left at about 5 a.m. this morning,” he said.
The three walked 15 miles — about three times longer than the rest of the youth in their ward — to get to the temple.
“Our stake is one of the farthest away stakes,” said Luke Johnson, 17. “We wanted to go the whole way.”
“I’m not walking back,” Caleb Wilbur, 15, joked. “But it was rewarding to finally get here.”
The teens said about one-third into their walk they started to question their decision to walk the entire way, but then started to think of the sacrifices the pioneers made.
“As we were walking I actually did think of the pioneers and how they had to walk all the way across the plains,” Wilbur said.
For Kalo Taukeiaho, a 17-year-old young woman from the Taylorsville 6th Ward, preparing for the temple dedication has been a positive experience. Emma Manusete said she is looking forward to “getting back” into the habit of attending the temple often.
Although she and Kalo have attended other temples while the Jordan River temple has been closed, they are excited to be back in the temple they first attended.
“I’m excited to get back to doing baptisms for the dead,” Kalo said.
Their friend Kaho Tuai moved from California while the temple has been closed and, for her, being together with all of the youth in front of the temple was unifying.
“It is so full here today,” she said. “I look around and see people I know from school, people I have classes with but I didn’t know were members. It is cool to see us all together.”
A cultural celebration will be held on May 19 in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, where 2,000 volunteer youth will perform music and dancing. “Every activity has been documented and those documentaries will be played, so they will still feel like they are a part of the cast,” said Michelle Boothe.