1,200-Plus Youth Perform in Star Valley Temple Cultural Celebration

Contributed By Julie Dockstader Heaps, Church News contributor

  • 30 October 2016

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016.  Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

AFTON, WYOMING

Just as a peaceful mountain summit beckons one from the “clamor of the crowds,” so does the perspective and peace of a temple invite, “even calling, urging us,” to receive the “gifts of the holy mountain.”

So said the narrator of the cultural celebration commemorating what would be the dedication of the Church’s 154th temple, the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple.

More than 1,200 youth gathered from throughout the temple district in western Wyoming and parts of Idaho on Saturday, October 29, the evening before the scheduled dedication of the new sacred edifice. Dancing to and singing songs of pioneer legacy and of faith, they performed for hundreds crowded into the gymnasium at Star Valley High School in Afton, just a few blocks from where the temple stands on Highway 89 in this “star of all valleys.”

Entitled “Mountain Heir: Clean and Pure,” the performance reflected “our feelings that we are blessed by those who have come before,” cultural celebration director Wendee Graham related, referring to the pioneer heritage of Wyoming. “We are heirs to their dreams, to their hard work, to their sacrifices.”

Speaking of the theme, which symbolized both the clean and fresh mountain air of Star Valley and being “clean and pure” heirs to the blessings of the temple, Sister Graham told the Church News: “We are having a mountaintop blessing. We’re heirs to this temple, and we’re also heirs to this valley.”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the beginning of the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Performing a dance with umbrellas were some of more than 1,200 youth from the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple district during a cultural celebration Saturday, October 29. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

 

Four cultural celebration performances were open to the public and broadcast live online as well as to meetinghouses in the temple district. Attending the Saturday evening performance was Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Accompanying the Apostle was his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, who was raised in Afton.

“The Lord has blessed this area with a temple. That is a remarkable blessing, and I have an invitation for each one of you young women and young men,” Elder Bednar said in his remarks before the performance. “It is really very simple. Please live worthy so that  you would always be worthy to enter into the temple. Always.”

Explaining that that the world is becoming an increasingly challenging place in which to live, Elder Bednar declared, “I invite you to devote yourself, to commit yourself to living according to the Lord’s standard of happiness.”

And there is a simple way to know “how you are doing,” he continued. “Please be worthy to enter in the Star Valley Wyoming Temple or any other temple in this Church so you can perform ordinances for your own ancestors.”

Also attending the performance was Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy and General Authority Seventies Elder Wilford W. Andersen, Elder C. Scott Grow, and Elder Larry Y. Wilson, who is Executive Director of the Temple Department. Wives of the visiting authorities, Sister Rosana Soares, Sister Kathleen B. Andersen, Sister Lynda Wilson, and Sister Rhonda Grow were in attendance.

In addition, U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming was in the audience.

Against a mountain scenery backdrop that included constructed mountain peaks—ultimately topped by a smaller version of the statue of the angel Moroni bringing to mind the spires of a temple—the youth of the celebration flowed on and off stage to the sounds of narration and music. Actors portrayed Nephi, Captain Moroni, and early Church leaders, including Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Charles C. Rich, and Moses Thatcher.

The story of faith began with Nephi proclaiming he had been “caught away to an exceedingly high mountain” where he beheld that the “power of the Lamb of God would descend upon the covenant people of the Lord.’

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Susan Bednar greet missionaries prior to the performance of the cultural celebration the day before the dedication of the Star Valley Wyoming Temple. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Then the history of the pioneers in Wyoming—including the Mormon handcart companies—and of the “covenant people” of Star Valley was portrayed through words of early Church leaders and accounts of other settlers, as well as modern-day examples of faith and fortitude.

Finally, the announcement made by President Thomas S. Monson in October 2011 that a temple would be built in Star Valley was shown on large screens. The actor portraying Moses Thatcher declared, “You are seeing the light of the temple in this special valley!”

In perhaps the most poignant moment in the performance, the youth came onstage holding lights. Shown on the large screens was a prerecording of more than 740 Primary children also holding lights and singing “Teach Me about the Temple.” Included in the recording was a small orchestra of youth playing their instruments in a nearby field.

Sister Graham related that the children recorded the musical number in September on the south lawn of the temple at sunset.

Elder David A. Bednar, right, speaks with youth prior to the performance for the cultural celebration for the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple. Just behind him is Sister Susan Bednar and then, to his right, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy, along with Elder Larry Y. Wilson and Sister Lynda Wilson and Elder Wilford W. Andersen and Sister Kathleen Andersen. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

As the song concluded, the youth in the gym held up their lights at the same time the children turned toward the temple, holding up their lights.

Among the many songs performed was “We Are the Lucky Ones,” originally written for the cultural celebration commemorating the Gilbert Arizona Temple dedication in 2014. When the composer, Robert Madsen of the Mesa Elmwood Ward, Mesa Arizona Central Stake, was contacted for permission to use the song, he was stunned.

His great-great-grandfather William Walton Burton was an early settler in Star Valley and served as a counselor in the first Star Valley Stake presidency.

“I was deeply humbled,” Brother Madsen told the Church News in a telephone interview. “I felt such a connection to the whole [cultural event] through my great-great-grandfather.”

The message of that song, said Sister Graham, “was what everyone here feels. We felt this was written for us.”

As part of a preshow before the cultural celebration for the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple, displays of art created by the youth were laid out in the gathering area at Star Valley High School. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

To spiritually prepare for the cultural celebration, the youth of the temple district went on stake-sponsored hikes to various mountain summits. One such youth was McKenzie Hammond, 17, of the Montpelier (Idaho) 5th Ward. During a particularly difficult part of the hike, she recognized the need of being helped and in turn helping others. “The Savior helped me get through my trials and then I helped others get over their trials.”

The temple, the young woman said tearfully, “has filled me with so much love for the gospel and my Savior.”

Twelve-year-old Kate Johnson of the Thayne (Wyoming) 1st Ward portrayed a pioneer woman helping pull a handcart. Recalling her stake hike to the mountain overlooking Star Valley, she said, “Once you were at the top, you could see the valley stretching below us and the temple below us, and it was amazing.

“This valley is a special valley,” she added, saying she can’t wait to perform baptisms for the dead in the new temple.

“It’s a tiny temple just like our tiny valley.”

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Youth perform during the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

Wendee and Scott Graham, directors for the cultural celebration held the night before the dedication of the new Star Valley Wyoming Temple, express their love for and delight in the youth after the closing number and finale. Photo by Julie Dockstader Heaps.

Elder David A. Bednar and Sister Susan Bednar applaud at the end of the cultural celebration for the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.