Cedar City Youth Celebrate New Temple as “a Light on a Hill”

Contributed By Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writer

  • 10 December 2017

Youth perform during the Cedar City Utah Temple cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Article Highlights

  • Songs and choreography paid homage to the area’s rich heritage and culture while striving to connect the youth to the new temple.
  • More than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes participated.

CEDAR CITY, UTAH

In 1851, Joel H. Johnson was one of the original Saints sent by Brigham Young to travel to Iron County in southern Utah. He founded what is now Enoch, Utah, about six miles away from Cedar City in the northeast of the Cedar Valley. Almost two years later, in the midst of the rigors of establishing a settlement in a harsh environment, he penned the words:

“High on the mountain top
A banner is unfurled.
Ye nations, now look up;
It waves to all the world.
In Deseret’s sweet, peaceful land,
On Zion’s mount behold it stand!” (“High on the Mountain Top,” Hymns, no. 5).

The words of that beloved hymn were the opening strains for the youth cultural event celebrating the completion of a temple in the valley where it was written.

The new Cedar City Temple—like the words of the hymn—sits high atop a hill. At night, it shines like a lighthouse across the Cedar Valley, which inspired in part the title of Saturday’s event, “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” explained the program’s director and producer Michael Bahr.

Youth perform during the Cedar City Utah Temple cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Cason Deschine, 16, wears his own regalia and honors Native Americans during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

The program featured songs and choreography paying homage to the area’s rich heritage and culture while striving to connect the youth to the new temple. More than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes gathered to the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus to participate on December 9.

The youth provided a warm welcome to President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other visiting Church leaders and their wives. Also in attendance were Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Elder Joseph W. Sitati, and Elder Larry Y. Wilson, all General Authority Seventies, in addition to Sister Patricia T. Holland, Sister Debbie J. Christensen, Sister Jane C. Curtis, Sister Gladys N. Sitati, and Sister Lynda M. Wilson.

President Eyring promised the youth that participation in the cultural event “will stay in your memory like a light and will draw you back to the light of the temple time and time again.”

He encouraged the youth to record in their journals what they saw and felt during the evening. “That record will help you when you tell your children and your grandchildren what it meant to you to be a part of the celebration of the completion of a temple of God in Cedar City.”

The production developed several themes throughout the program, repeatedly using images of light, red rock, iron, and the woven patterns of a quilt. Youth sang and danced to music from a combination of LDS and contemporary artists and two original songs composed by local Steve Meredith.

One of the beginning numbers highlighted the pathfinders, such as Father Dominguez and Father Escalante, who blazed the first trails through the area’s rugged terrain, and then the Mormon pioneers who answered the call of a prophet to forge mines in the iron-rich mountains.

“Like those who answered the prophet’s call in the winter of 1850 to mine and forge iron, we today continue to forge the iron within ourselves,” said one of the narrators.

Other songs told the story of the Panguitch quilt walk that saved the lives of early starving settlers, as well as the founding of Southern Utah University and the importance of education in the area.

Prerecorded video montages played throughout the roughly 60-minute production. The segments not only featured youth from stakes throughout the temple district, but also showcased the diverse and dramatic local landscape, including aspen trees, juniper bushes, columbine flowers, and the red rock hoodoos of Cedar Breaks.

“We realized the temple isn’t just for Cedar [City], but for all the stakes in the district,” Bahr said. “It was important to us to tell stories from the entire district.”

The program acknowledged the holiday season by explaining that another hymn often sung at Christmas—“Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains” (Hymns, no. 212)—was also written in the Cedar Valley by a pioneer who responded to Brigham Young’s call—John Menzies Macfarlane.

Youth rehearsed the music and dances in their individual wards and stakes for close to two months before the event. The logistics surrounding these events can be formidable. However, Bahr said he saw many daily, small miracles in every step of the planning process—from production to casting to feeding and transporting close to 4,000 youth.

“A cultural celebration is kind of like the world’s largest Primary program. Everyone brings their A-game—whatever that is,” he said. People love it because they see the kids enthusiastically participating and connecting to the theme. The same has been true for his involvement in the cultural celebration, he said.

“I’m really pleased with watching the youth connect and get involved.”

Brynlee Barrick, 14, said participating in the cultural celebration was fun. “There’s a lot of energy,” she said. “We’re excited for the temple. This is how we show how we feel about the temple.”

Melo Egerton, 16, said she made the goal to be more spiritual this year. Participating in the cultural event and all the practices has helped her to feel connected, she said, both with other youth and with her Heavenly Father.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland greet some of the more than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes who participated in the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency speaks during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Ashlyn York, 14, and Jasie York, 16, of the Cedar City 17th Ward, Cedar City Utah West Stake, participate in a musical number paying tribute to iron miners during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

More than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes cheer for President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency before participating in the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Cason Deschine, 16, wearing his own regalia, performs during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Young people participate in the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Cedar City Utah Canyon​ ​View​ ​Stake perform to a song titled “Look Up” during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Cedar City Utah Canyon​ ​View​ ​Stake perform to a song titled “Look Up” during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Cedar City Utah West Stake honor early iron miners in southern Utah during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Enoch Utah West Stake perform a dance to a song titled “Learning” during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Ely and Panaca stakes perform a line dance during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth participate in a musical number highlighting the importance of the iron mines in the history of Cedar City during the youth cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Youth perform a line dance during the Cedar City Utah Temple cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Youth perform a line dance during the Cedar City Utah Temple cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.

Youth from the Cedar City Utah Cross Hollow Stake honor weavers as they create blankets during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Cedar City Utah Cross Hollow Stake honor weavers as they create blankets during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Cedar City Utah North Stake carry flags during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.

Youth from the Cedar City Utah North Stake carry flags during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.