Youth in the Jordan River Utah Temple district gathered for a “once in a lifetime experience” in the Conference Center on Saturday, May 19, to sing, dance and show they are “ready” — the theme for the event — for their temple to be open again.
“There was this sense of being part of a huge, big thing,” said Adriana Stout, 16, from Riverton, Utah. “There was a band, orchestra, choir and dancers — each instrument had a purpose in being there. It made me realize we each have a purpose in the bigger plan.”
Prior to the program, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency greeted the youth and offered brief remarks.
“My prayer is that this experience will lead to a lifetime of choices to make the temple the guiding star on your journey home to live forever in loving families with Heavenly Father and His beloved Son,” he said. “I am grateful to be on the journey with you, thank you for your companionship today, and may this celebration be another step along our way.”
With some 17,000 youth living in the Jordan River Utah Temple district, the event looked a little different than cultural celebrations of the past. Although it included song and dance, directors had to be creative in how they approached the celebration because of the number of youth.
“Orchestrating 17,000 youth in a 120-minute presentation was not possible,” said Ross Booth, who directed the event with his wife, Michelle.
In order to accommodate that large number of youth, there were many events over the past few months, rather than one event.
“We had a series of activities — treasure hunts searching for the doctrines of the temple, panel discussions, a concert where 20,000 people showed up, a temple open house and our temple walk, and now the celebration,” Ross Booth said. “[Through] all of these experiences we have been united in a common cause, and it is a culmination of all of the people and the celebration of this temple.”
Although only some of the youth were involved in the choir, orchestra, band, dance and narrating parts, all of the youth in attendance were able to participate in singing during a few of the songs, as well as in reciting a quote from President Russell M. Nelson and a scripture recitation.
The program walked the audience through the history of temple building, beginning anciently with the tabernacle, then Solomon’s temple and then to more recent times with the Kirtland Temple.
The narration included the story of the Jordan River Utah Temple — how a farming family donated the land and then how donations from members made building the temple possible.
“Now every time I go to the temple I will think of the history and how a nice farmer gave the land for the temple,” said Westin Price, 15. “That was an immense sacrifice.”
Westin said participating in the event made him realize he needs to be “ready” for whatever comes his way.
“I need to be prepared for every event in my future,” he said. “A mission, marriage, kids, I need to be ready for that. This helped prepare me for life, and with all of the others I felt like I was not alone.”
Michelle Booth said the entire theme of the event was geared toward helping the youth be ready — for the temple dedication and beyond.
“We talked to the youth about not just being ready, as the theme said, but staying ready,” said Michelle Booth. “We hope they leave here ready and will stay ready so [they] don’t have to get ready again.”
Recognizing the program was different than traditional cultural celebrations of the past, the directors said one of the major differences is that it was a production by youth, for youth.
“Typically it has been youth making a presentation for the parents,” Ross Booth said. “Today we are doing a presentation of youth for the youth. It brings unity and a unique experience.”
During the program, snippets of videos were played, showing youth at their activities from the last few months.
“All of the activities we have had have been symbolic of the importance of the temple,” said Malia Warden, 15, from Riverton, Utah. “It was neat to look around and see all of the other youth. It strengthened my testimony and helped me to know this is where I need to be and who I need to be with.”
Artwork submitted by the youth of the temple district was displayed in the Conference Center during the event, and prior to the event, wristbands were put under every chair so, as participants put them on their wrists, synchronized multicolored lights filled the Conference Center.
Ethan Price, who was in the orchestra, said he will remember “the Spirit I felt, and the glowing wristbands.”
When Kaylee Salazar, 18, heard she could volunteer to be in the choir, she knew she wanted to sign up.
“It is a great way to feel the Spirit and be involved,” she said. “It was really neat to be with a bunch of other youth who all want to be there and want to celebrate the temple.”
“It felt really good when everybody started singing,” said Kaylee’s younger brother Aaron, 12. “I felt warm and had a good feeling inside. I felt happy.”
For Jaden Mills, 13, participating in the choir was a new experience.
“I haven’t really cared for singing [in the past], but after this I started to get better at singing,” he said. “I felt the Spirit strongest during the performance while I was singing.”
Many of the youth said participating in the event helped them get excited for their temple to open again. Many have been waiting to perform baptisms for the dead in their boundary temple the entire time they have been old enough to enter the temple.
“I turned 12 in March, and the temple closed in February, so I barely missed going inside,” said Sarah Stout, 14. “I have been to other temples, but have been looking forward for two years to go in the Jordan River temple, my boundary temple.”