The dancing and singing program was carried along with film interludes projected on a large electronic screen that told the story of the Tabernacle from its origins until it was transformed into a temple.
These celebrations are much more than just an evening of entertainment. For the youth, they incise the temple into their hearts. You love what you invest in. With each sacrifice they make to attend practices and devote their time to the cultural celebration, they become more temple centered and excited to go there some day.
For instance, Julia Gonzales, a senior from Springville played a sister missionary. She said, “I’m definitely going on a mission next year and the directors said, ‘When you sing and dance, you are sharing your testimony.’” She said she thought about her mission with each dance step.
The early days of the Tabernacle were portrayed in a song called Pioneer Journey, where the youth pulled handcarts, danced with quilts and marched with sticks.
Abraham O. Smoot was asked to leave a comfortable home in Salt Lake to come to Provo. Here he served as mayor, president of the Brigham Young Academy Board of Trustees and as a stake president. Though many sacrificed whatever they could to build the Tabernacle, Smoot mortgaged businesses and homes to pay for what he saw as his stewardship—this beautiful building and community center.
The pioneers built the beautiful Tabernacle while many of them were still living in the humblest of circumstances.
Elder Oaks said, “Our Utah pioneers excelled at putting the general welfare and community goals over individual gain and personal ambition. That same quality is evident in the conversion story of modern pioneers. Upon receiving a testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, they have unhesitatingly sacrificed all that was required to ensure that the gospel blessings will be available to their children and to generations unborn.”
The youth did a vibrant circle dance to the song “Through Heaven’s Eyes.”
“It is no coincidence that the first meeting held in the Provo Tabernacle, long before construction was finished was a patriotic event, a memorial service for President Ulysses S. Grant. Though they had been on the receiving end at the hand of appointed federal officials, there remained an inextinguishable hope in the principles of freedom and the promises of the Constitution.”
While the boys were in uniforms and waved flags, the girls played Rosie the Riveter. Often in the past the Tabernacle was used for patriotic gatherings.
When U.S. President William Howard Taft arrived in Utah via a special train, flags and bunting were on nearly every building along the President’s route to the Tabernacle. During his talk, President Taft noticed the noisy chorus of babies. He quipped that he didn’t object to these noises if he could construe them as voices of approval.
The youth combined two songs together: “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” and “Keep the Homefires Burning.”
Boys of three stakes danced to a very jazzed-up version of “Give Said the Little Stream.”
Their dance was a symbol of the service that the Provo Tabernacle had always been to the community. For more than a century, the Tabernacle was the ideal ambassador for the Church. So many visitors just stopped by to see the building, tours were started.
Polly K. Dunn, who was the chairman of the Cultural Celebration said the only way they were able to pull off such a complex show with 4500 youth was because of the support of incredible people.
The youth began practicing in January and continued twice a week from then on.
Many of them said that their mothers told them it was an experience of a lifetime and they’d never forget it.
In this missionary dance to “Called to Serve”, the youth were gathered in many small circles across the floor. Then one at a time, they arose with a letter in the air as if they had just received a call.
Each of the dancers for this song sported a missionary badge as they sang “Called to Serve.” For many of them that will come true before they know it.
The youth waved flags from various countries and held up copies of the Book of Mormon.
Will we go serve the Lord? We will!
When the Provo Tabernacle burned down on December 17, 2010, everyone was shaken. One woman said, “I stood there for a few hours I think, crying. Everything hurt.”
With blue umbrellas, the youth sang, “Sometimes He lets it rain. He lets the fierce winds blow. Sometimes it takes a storm to lead a heart where it can grow. He can move mountains of grief and oceans of pain, but sometimes He lets it rain.”
In one of the last numbers the youth kept a huge purple ball afloat, which signified the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which will fill the whole earth.
Just before the finale, girls in white came onto the stage dancing to “Savior, Redeemer of My Soul.”
This dance was introduced by a moving story. One woman related how she had often visited the Provo Tabernacle before it burned down, and now that it was becoming a temple, she was sad that she couldn’t go there anymore. As she and her Mom were walking away from the building, she thought, “Yes, you can go back through those doors. Go to the temple. You are welcome.” She said that she hadn’t been to church in a long time, but she knew she needed to go back up those steps and back through those doors.
In the introduction to this dance, another woman told of driving by the burned-out shell of the Tabernacle while she was having chemo and was feeling very sick. She said that burned out shell looked like she felt inside, like she was being poisoned. “I felt blackness inside of me,” she said. Then she added, “I was serviceable as a tabernacle, but I knew the Lord had bigger plans for me.”
Oh, there is reason to rejoice for as David Bednar said of the Lord, “He can reach out, touch, succor, heal and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be, relying only upon our own power.”
All the youth held tea lights and danced because of the good news that we have a Savior and Redeemer. It was a night never to be forgotten.