During the afternoon all eyes were on the clouds and the threat of rain. In this photo, you can see that above the basin during the dress rehearsal, a circle of blue sky looked like it was holding while the storm threatened. People said things to each other like this: “All day it has been raining all around us, on the left and on the right, but the storm clouds have separated so we could continue.” People wondered if this would be an opportunity for the Lord to stay the rain so the youth would learn the power of faith. They hoped that if it rained, it would be only enough drops to dampen the dust that sprang up whenever the kids danced. No one knew what would happen, but we hoped and prayed for a dry evening.
The clouds loomed above, but, like Captain Moroni, a sea of youth held up their banners stating what they stood for and singing against the coming storm. Each had written their individual messages reflecting the theme of the evening, “Live True.” They seemed to be asserting, “I will.”
This area of Arizona receives only 8 to 10 inches of rain a year—and that water comes in about three or four hard rains a year. It hadn’t rained here since Dec. 20th—and it certainly seemed safe to plan the cultural celebration outdoors. As the time for the celebration to begin approached, it was clear that it was going to rain—and not in polite, meager drops, but in sheets, reflected here in the lights.
Already, the youth were demonstrating that they were going to go on come rain or not. In front of a friendly camera, they begin to cheer and wave their hands that they were not going to be daunted.
President Henry B. Eyring cheered with and for the youth who were going to brave the weather in dripping costumes.
President Thomas S. Monson looked on, pleased at the spirited youth. When the prophet arrived, the rain slowed and then seemed to stop. This only lasted a few minutes before the rain was hard at it again. A “dry run” was not going to be the miracle of the evening. The Lord had something else in store.
Hair slicked back with rain, the youth waved at the prophet. “Shall the Youth of Zion falter? No!”
President Henry B. Eyring told the youth, “Tonight, you honor the heroes whose faith and sacrifice made it possible for us to receive such as blessing [as the temple]. They were pioneers who chose to follow the Lord wherever He needed them to serve and at whatever cost. They were like the brave people who followed Captain Moroni among the children of Lehi. They were willing to give their all for God, their families, and for the freedom to worship God. And they did it with a smile, even when they had little to cheer them. Some were your ancestors who made music and danced as they struggled to build Zion in the desert for their families.”
Robert Madsen wrote original songs for the celebration that were also declarations of how to “live true.” The youth sang:We’ll find Zion in the midst of Babylon‘Courage Strong!’ will be our guideThe light of promise still shines upon usWe trust our God, we’re in his handsFor we’re the children of Abraham.
They sang:We’ll be true to the God of AbrahamHis name is written in our heartsHis Spirit guides us, He stands beside usA nation set apart.
Rosanne Tidwell asked the youth about the anticipated rain. They answered, “We’re not scared. If it rains, we’re excited. Jesus Christ sacrificed his life for us. We can sacrifice an evening in the rain for him.” That seemed to be the message of the night.
If it rains, I choose the Lord and will give my all. If it is tough, I choose the Lord. I choose Him no matter what. It is clear that the downpour became the perfect backdrop for the message.
The cultural celebration talked about heroes through the ages who have lived true like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Before an outraged King Nebuchadnezzar, they proclaimed their undying faith:Let this be known:We are sons of Abraham, and we will never compromiseWe are not alone, and we don’t fear the fireWe chose this road long agoWe’ll not comply. If we die, then we die.
To this defiance, the king stoked the fire 7 times hotter and the king’s advisors sang:They have no respect for our kingThey defied, they mocked him in his royal courtTreason has a painful sting.
Suddenly, in a spectacle that worked even in the rain, youth with firesticks stormed the field.
Dancers with fire that would not be drenched in the rain swung their flames on stage, while passionate dancers joined them on the field singing:We are not alone, and we don’t fear the fireWe chose this road long agoWe’ll not comply, we’ll choose the right
Then Moroni came riding in on a horse with the standard of liberty bearing the words, “In memory of our God, and our religion, and our freedom, and our peace, and our wives and our children.” Organizers were worried that the horse wouldn’t be able to participate in the drenching rain, but it was a moment of triumph when Moroni came riding in.
As if Moroni gave courage to them all, two thousand youth stormed the field with their own standards.
The youth sang:While we know the powers of darknessSeek to thwart the work of GodShall the children of the promiseCease to grasp the iron rod?No!! No!! No!!True to the faith that our parents have cherishedTrue to the truth for which martyrs have perishedTo God’s command, soul, heart and handFaithful and true we will ever stand.
They were kneeling here on sopping ground.
With their bright faces, the youth seemed to be saying, we are determined even when the rain falls hard—tonight, literally, in the future in more ways than we can imagine.
The rain didn’t let up. As Scot took these photos, he finally gave up on an umbrella as useless. His long camera lens was dripping, his viewfinder completely fogged. We wondered if at some point the youth would have to evacuate the field because of that ½ inch of water. Already puddles much deeper than that were evident.
They sang:It’s easy to talk about faithIt’s easy to do what’s rightWhen there’s no sacrificeIt’s easy to preach about ‘heart’And say you’ll be faithful and trueWhen you know there’s nothing to lose
I choose this dayI choose the person I will beDo I fear man, deny who I am, and all that I believeWill I stand tall?Will I soar or do I fall?When the Spirit calls will I be strong, will I obey?I will choose this day.
The skill and artistry that go into these intricate Native American ring dances were not daunted as white fur boots became caked with mud.
If the youth of the Gilbert region are made of hardy stuff, they are building upon the pioneer spirit of those who came before.
Their ancestors who were sent to Arizona to pioneer may have felt like this:Things just aren’t, aren’t working out as I plannedI’m stuck for life here in this dusty, barren landThis just can’t be…the start of something good.
Arizona had little water, ground like concrete, and was a difficult place to be, offering, as they said, “coyote surprise” and rattle snakes instead of cherry pie. Yet these ancestors made the best of a difficult time, and so can these youth and those who follow.
The Hispanic settlers added to the color, life and progress in Arizona.
These youth sang:We all have something to share for we are all children of GodLet’s help each other to smile by taking care of and loving each otherOle, Ole, Ola That’s how I feelOle, Ole, Ola, It all depends on me
Then a thousand hats flew into the air as if to signify, “It all depends on me.”
Who were these youth dancing and singing with such pluck and courage while the rain fell? They said, “We are the lucky ones.”
Their ancestors came to a parched, barren land. They forged rivers and crossed passes. Grew tough and resourceful in a harsh environment, and now, we who have inherited the gospel are the lucky ones.We may have our own rivers to forge, our own barren landscapes, but they have shown us how, and we are made of the stuff they bequeathed us.
Their lives and devotion have made our fortress strongTheir faithfulness and courage write a victory songWe’re in their debt, we won’t forgetThe trials they went throughThese heroes have blessed me and you.For their memory enfolds usTheir love consoles usWe turn our hearts to them in gratitude.
These “lucky ones”, starting to chill in their drenched clothing, really are the lucky ones. Despite the weather, there was no irony about it. The rain reinforced their message. The glowing, new temple behind them spoke volumes. They are a royal generation who will not be daunted.
If possible, the rain fell harder as the newly-called missionaries in the region came out bearing the flags of the places where they will serve. This is the stalwart army of Helaman.
Like the rain that drenched them, water is a symbol of knowledge spreading forth to enlighten the world. Note how shiny with water the elder’s suit is. All of our clothes needed to be wrung out by this point.
Here in the rain, “I choose this day. I will follow the Lord.
Rosanne Tidwell had prayed that rain or shine they would be able to put on the show they had all worked so hard to prepare—and they did. The sunshine was in their hearts.
All eyes were directed toward the prophet who called out to the crowd his love and appreciation.
With both arms in the air, he conveyed congratulations and admiration for the courage of the youth.
They responded back with full hearts.
And waved their standards.Drenched but even more stalwart. They will tell their children and their children’s children about this night.
Two thumbs up from their beloved prophet.
Then, they waved their standards with more intensity. Sometimes the miracle isn’t in sparing the rain, but in sending it.
Our lost shot of the emptying field where the water has begun to thickly gather. This was a night never to be forgotten.