Youth Celebrate Freiberg Temple in Dresden Cultural Celebration

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 4 September 2016

Young cast members prepare for their performance outside a model of the Freiberg Temple and the former Berlin Wall.  Photo by Jason Swensen.

DRESDEN, GERMANY

Cultural celebrations have become a time-honored tradition in the Church.

Generally held on the eve of a temple dedication or rededication, the cultural events allow youth from across their respective temple districts to come together, rejoice in the Lord's temple, and make new friends.

President Thomas S. Monson's belief in youth cultural celebrations is well established. The Church President has often said such gatherings offer young members once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to be with fellow Latter-day Saint youth and build lifelong friends and memories.

President Monson's Second Counselor in the First Presidency, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, remembers being 10 years old and attending a Church-sponsored youth gathering in Berlin.

On the eve of the September 4 rededication of the Freiberg Germany Temple, President Uchtdorf presided over a youth cultural celebration at the Dresden Messe exhibition center. The cast of young singers and dancers was decidedly international. Counted among the 450 performers were Latter-day Saint young men and young women from eastern Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Sister Harriet Uchtdorf greet young performers prior to the September 3, 2016, cultural celebration in Dresden, Germany. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Latter-day Saint youth from several European nations dance at the September 3, 2016, cultural celebration in Dresden, Germany. Photo by Jason Swensen.

“I will never forget that gathering,” he told the Church News. “It gave me strength to know that I was not alone.”

In his remarks prior to the performance, President Uchtdorf challenged the young people to adopt the theme of the celebration—“Press Forward”—and to incorporate the principles taught in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet into their own lives.

He called the young cast members “a noble generation” who have a key role to play in the Church and at the Freiberg Temple.

“You are the opening act for the rededication of the Freiberg Germany Temple.”

Never be ashamed of the gospel, he added. Find excitement and joy in belonging to the Lord's Church. Be thankful for your parents and your leaders. Find strength in the Lord and “press forward” to live the gospel.

“You are truly the future of the world,” he said. “You are the hope of the world.”

Cast members performed songs and dances that honored the local Latter-day Saints who relied upon their faith to endure the horrors and isolation of World War II and the subsequent Cold War.

Many of the video presentations at the event featured the words of President Thomas S. Monson, who shepherded the members living in the former East Germany in the years leading up to the 1985 dedication of the Freiberg Temple.

The cultural event also focused on the future of the Church in Eastern Europe. The youth spoke of their commitment to befriend others, serve missionaries, and find names for family history and temple work.

Anchoring the cultural program was a large-scale model of the Freiberg Temple. Its message: Stay focused on the temple—blessings will follow.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Sister Harriet Uchtdorf swap high-fives with cast members of the September 3, 2016, cultural celebration in Dresden, Germany. Photo by Jason Swenson.

Young women played key roles in the cultural celebration that focused on the message “Press Forward.” Photo by Jason Swenson.

Youth perform in the September 3, 2016, cultural celebration in Dresden, Germany. Photo by Jason Swenson.

Hundreds of young men and young women from five European nations performed at the September 3, 2016, cultural celebration in Dresden, Germany. Photo by Jason Swenson.

A young woman performs a saxophone solo during the cultural celebration in Dresden, Germany. Photo by Jason Swensen.