ST. LOUIS, Missouri — President David K. Sylvester of St. Louis Missouri South Stake doesn’t just preach the restored gospel to members; he invites them to celebrate it!

Members of his stake have come to expect exciting invitations stirring them to put in practice the gospel in their lives. It is a regular occurrence for the stake presidency to issue challenges in conjunction with anniversaries, like printing of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s birthday and the stake’s own birthday. So of course the tenth anniversary of the St. Louis Missouri Temple provided members with yet another auspicious date to celebrate and make participation in temple and family history work a part of their daily lives.

Over the course of six months — from January to June — members were invited to participate in the “Turning the Hearts” celebration. Members wrote their personal temple experiences and created artistic representations of family trees. On March 17, these were shared in a cultural arts program — “It’s a Small World” — with live performances and displays (see photographs at the end of the article).

Members of the stake were also challenged to record their four generations and prepare names for temple work. Beginning, today, June 1, the actual anniversary of the St. Louis Missouri Temple Dedication, members are scheduled to “Bring Your Ancestors to the Temple” and flood the temple by participating in at least two sessions on June 1 and 2. Another stake in the area, St. Louis Missouri Stake, challenged members to attend ten weeks prior to the tenth anniversary: “ten times before the tenth.”

Temple attendance is up in the area and among St. Louis Missouri South Stake members. But President David K. Sylvester is not as impressed with numbers as what those numbers indicate about how temple work is helping members focus on the gospel and make Christ central to their lives. He observed:

It has been very rewarding to read their stories and see their efforts and creativity.  This has been such a blessing to my own family, so I know how much it means to others. It is amazing.  I think the Saints want to be moving !  I think they want and need challenges to keep them spiritually alive.

Too many people sit in my office overcome with grief from sin that could have avoided the serious pitfalls they are in if they were focused on the Gospel, serving in the Church, attending the temple, making the Scriptures a daily anchor in their lives.  

I hope that the Saints all over the Earth will find reasons to celebrate the Gospel, the Church and their families.  This is what will matter when all is said and done. This has been such a blessing to our stake and to our families.  You could ask anyone who has participated in these events over the last many months!

Come and enjoy, through photographs, some of the displays and ideas presented at the “It’s a Small World” celebration.

Michelle Ricks puts the finishing touches on the clock that greeted patrons for the heritage day activities titled “It’s a Small World.” The theme — inspired by an amusement park ride in Disneyland — fit the celebration, remembering ancestors around the world and across time.

Patrons of the “It’s a Small World” event were given passports and traveled room to room visiting storytellers, each telling the family traditions of their area of the world. Patrons heard the South American stories in this room.

Telling stories of the Pacific Islands.

Mira and Toni Pazolli have the distinction of being the first Albanian couple sealed in the Temple for time and eternity. They told patrons the story of the Church in Albania.

Mamady Sideme, a Muslim from West Africa, shared stories of his musical and wood carving tradition passed down for seven generations of his family.

The Stake Center’s hallways were transformed with quilts and decorations made of colorful paper.

Brother and Sister Fuhriman created a gallery of beautiful artistic vignettes made of the family trees and treasures donated by members.

A family tree of the Walker Branch, a representation of how our family lines intersect.

Foyer table from Jamieson Chapel, first LDS building in St. Louis (1949), dedicated by President George Albert Smith. The book ends (cir. 1930s) were a gift of the late Sister Leola Kuenker, presented in 1996 to Rafael Fuhriman for his faithful service to her as a member of the Aaronic Priesthood.

The oldest family tree in the display, cir. 1800s.

The largest family tree display belonged to the Black family.

Family trees at the “It’s a Small World” event came in all shapes and sizes and there was no end to the creativity shown. This whimsical display is made of Legos!

Photos were found in many family trees.

Who says your family memories must hang on trees? This family has a “Trunk o’ Treasures.”

This family story is told with heirloom fabric and photos.

A father and his children enjoy the displays of family trees and treasures.

On the “It’s a Small World” journey, patrons could rest in the chapel and watch the DVD, “Between Heaven and Earth.” Photos of the temples worldwide were displayed throughout the chapel.

The “It’s a Small World” event culminated in a theatrical performance in the cultural hall decorated in white paper, lights and cloth with a banner above the stage declaring: “Holiness to the Lord.” Performers related stories of how the temple makes a difference our lives. Pictured here is a young girl, dressed in white, participating in the children’s chorus singing, “I Love to see the Temple.”