Youth all over the Church are doing it—rediscovering their heritage. And their discoveries are singing and dancing across stages and filling booths and exhibits in cultural halls.
The Heritage Arts Festival is a time for remembering, but it’s not just nostalgia. The Aaronic Priesthood, the Young Women, and the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA groups this year and next are researching, writing, and presenting original presentations about their heritage. So aside from any historical knowledge they gain, the festival is, as one participant stated, “the toughest, most traumatic, exciting, and rewarding leadership training program I’ve ever known!”
The Taylorsville Utah West Stake presented an original musical for their Heritage Arts Festival. For weeks a 60-voice chorus practiced diligently, while Scouts whooped it up square dancing. Backstage the set designer sloshed paint on canvas and the makeup committee practiced mass-production mascara application. “The Heritage of Our Future” played two nights to packed audiences. The drama dealt with the influence a young girl’s heritage has on her decision to not marry a nonmember and how that decision affects her future.
Heritage Arts Festivals are as unique as each stake. No two are quite the same. The Salt Lake Hunter Stake presented music and dancing from important eras in American history, while booths dispensed homemade bread and instructions on rug weaving.
The organization of the first Primary was the subject of another festival. The Primary Association was first organized in Farmington’s old rock chapel in 1878 under the direction of Brigham Young. Sister Aurelia Rogers had recognized the need for an organization to teach children the gospel while improving their behavior. Eliza R. Snow suggested the name “Primary.”
The youth and adults of the Farmington Utah Stake presented an original musical production about the exasperation leading to the organization of the Primary. Entitled “Oh, Those Boys!”, the musical showed boys killing bats during Sunday School in the attic of the Church. A chorus of young girls sang the pleasures and responsibilities of being “at the end of the row.” (In early Primaries, older, well-behaved children were placed at the end of the row to set an example and control the other children.)
“Oh, Those Boys!” played two nights, and most of the audience went away informed, entertained, and amazed at the job the young people had done.
The Heritage Arts Festival is more than simple nostalgia. It’s doing something significant together and developing talents while creating ties with the past.
The following letter from President Ezra Taft Benson has been sent to Church leaders as a guide for missionaries:
“These are photographs of an acceptable missionary haircut. This is distributed to you to be a guide in determining the proper length of hair. The length and style of hair should not vary greatly from the example shown below. The mission presidents have been given instructions to carefully check each missionary concerning his personal appearance.
“As missionary recommendation forms are submitted to the Missionary Executive Committee, the photograph of the missionary should meet these minimum haircut standards. Each missionary should be informed that he is expected to maintain strict personal appearance standards from the time of his call throughout his mission.”
Members and missionaries in Japan put their heads together to develop an exciting way to present the gospel. After three months of planning they presented the first annual Matsumoto-Salt Lake City Sister City Night.
The missionaries got the idea when they saw a film entitled Mormon and Girl Violinist, featuring a young female violinist and officials of Matsumoto, Japan, when they made a trip to Salt Lake City. Matsumoto and Salt Lake are “Sister Cities,” a concept developed by the International Friendship Association to promote international goodwill.
The elders asked the president of the association in Japan if he would promote a Sister City Night. The president then persuaded other members of the association to support the program. The name of the Church was on all advertising for the event, and a questionnaire about the Church was included in the program.
The International Friendship Association helped the missionaries by providing advertising, programs, money, the building, and talent for the night.
More than 200 residents of Matsumoto watched a slide presentation on Salt Lake City and the Church along with talent numbers and a skit by the missionaries.
A performance contract has been prepared for use in scheduling musical groups for Church-sponsored dances. This contract will help leaders to maintain Church standards at such events.
The contract commits performers to observe the Word of Wisdom during their performance, while adhering to Church guidelines on dress, modesty, morality, and comportment.
It is available from the General Church Distribution Center, P.O. Box 11627, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, at 3 cents per copy.
Bologna musically “met the Mormons” during a concert sponsored by the Italy Milan Mission. The concert, presented by four elders and one sister missionary, was held in Bologna’s historic Mozart Room.
The room, containing a pipe organ, grand piano, and harpsichord, was filled to capacity as over 300 dignitaries and citizens of Bologna listened to the concert and afterwards viewed the film “Meet the Mormons.”
The missionaries played piano, violin, and flute pieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Bach, and Liszt.
The concert and film were both a success, and many referrals were taken after the performance.
Robyn Clonts was recently named Outstanding Teenager of the state of Arizona. Robyn is a member of the Clifton Morenci Ward in the Safford Arizona Stake.
Winner of the “Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow” award, Robyn was also active in seminary and president of the high school honor society and the Student Action for Education group. She serves as pianist in her ward Junior Sunday School.
Robyn handled all her activities while working to save money for college and finished her senior year as class valedictorian.
Robyn, 18, plans to attend BYU this fall.
During the more than 30 years Elder Milton R. Hunter served as a member of the First Council of the Seventy and helped to supervise the missionary effort, he saw the Church’s missionary program expand from 38 to 133 missions. Church members throughout the world were saddened upon learning of Elder Hunter’s death, June 25, of congestive heart and renal failure.
Elder Hunter was also considered among the Church’s most recognized archaeologists. In more than 20 trips to Mexico, Central and South America, he gathered evidence supporting the Book of Mormon. Many of his findings were published in his books Christ in Ancient America, Great Civilizations and the Book of Mormon, and Archaeology and The Book of Mormon.
A native of Holden, Utah, Elder Hunter received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Brigham Young University and his doctorate in philosophy from the University of California. He spent 20 years in education where he served as a principal, a seminary teacher, and an institute instructor before receiving his call as a member of the Council ot the Seventy.
Elder Hunter always appreciated the dedication, sacrifice, and enthusiasm of Latter-day Saint youths involved in missionary work. He said:
“The vast majority of the full-time missionaries are young men nineteen to twenty-one years of age, a time of life in which young people, as a general rule, would not devote themselves to full-time church service.
“It should be pointed out that these young men interrupt their education, put off marriage, and adjust their missions to their military obligations so they can do missionary work for their church and their Savior.”
He referred to this as the “modern miracle of missionary work.” (Ensign, July 1971, p. 50.)
It got rave reviews.
The Shropshire England Star called it “jolly,” “most commendable,” and “excellent!” Sound like a smash-hit musical comedy? Well, it was actually a ham soufflé.
But the ham soufflé did have the help of four other courses and the culinary expertise of nine teachers in the Telford England Ward. The quorum had received catering lessons from their adviser and had decided to put their new talents to the test.
They invited 75 member and nonmember guests to their dinner. For two hours everyone feasted on grapefruit, consommé, fresh vegetables, ham soufflé, chicken chausser, and creamed potatoes, with English trifle for dessert.
The group began at 8:00 A.M. to cook and decorate. The women’s editor of the Shropshire Star wrote, “Most cooks would have flaked out. But that’s the sort of spirit you might expect to find among church members who actually helped with the building of their own chapel. And it’s clear that the youngsters are made of the same stern stuff.”
Besides the press, a local candidate for Parliament also attended the dinner. The newspaper noted that the nonmembers saw “with some envy that none of the church members needed alcohol to enjoy themselves.”
Perhaps the old saying will change to read, “The way to a convert’s ear is through his stomach.”
While the boys were hiking, sharpening axes, and canoeing, Tami was learning to talk with her hands.
Tamara Anderson, 16, was spending the summer with her father at Scout camp. The camp had hired an interpreter for the deaf, and while dad was busy making sure the camp ran smoothly, Tami cornered the interpreter and soon had him teaching her to “sign.” “Signing” is the use of hand gestures to communicate with the deaf. Before the summer was over, Tami had the system fairly well mastered.
Returning home to Burley, Idaho, Tami found that a new family with a girl her age had moved in next door. Lee Anne Whitesides was deaf. Tami’s summer experience helped her to communicate with Lee Anne, and the two girls became best friends. Tami says her mother appreciates her friendship with Lee Anne because “we are two of the quietest teenagers she has ever seen.”
With practice Tami’s skill increased. She began interpreting for Lee Anne at sacrament meetings, bishop’s interviews, and other special events. Talking with her hands soon became as fun as talking on the telephone. “One good thing about sign language is you can talk with your mouth full—but the problem is you can’t talk with your hands full,” says Tami.
Tami’s abilities came to the attention of her stake president, and she was called as a regional Sunday School teacher for the deaf. The program for the deaf had just been started, and Tami was called to teach the children’s classes.
Sunday mornings Tami climbs into the family car and drives ten miles, picking up her students to take them to Sunday School. The first week of the program Tami and her students taught a few signs to the members of the ward where the Sunday School is held so they could communicate with the deaf students. During opening exercises Tami sits on the stand and interprets the talks and announcements for her students.
For the class itself, Tami has had to use a lot of ingenuity. Although she uses Church course materials, many of her lessons are her very own because of the mixed ages of her students. “I just use what I have learned about our Heavenly Father.”
It has been challenging to hold the children’s interest in class. Because her students learn by looking, Tami has to have good visual aids. One of Tami’s innovations is her teaching assistant—a Raggedy Andy doll that uses its hands to “talk” to the class. “I work the hands of the doll to make a few simple words and phrases like ‘My Heavenly Father loves me, and he loves you too.’ They really understand what Andy says. I only wish he could say more.”
After Sunday School Tami drives her students back home. “It’s a job to be driving and have the kids signing to me while I’m trying to watch the road.”
During sacrament meetings Tami sits at the back of the chapel with Lee Anne and interprets the meeting for her. Tami’s hands fly deftly, and Lee Anne seldom misses a word of the meeting. Sunday evening Tami starts to work on next week’s Sunday School lesson. In showing her love for the deaf, her actions as well as her hands speak louder than words.