“Celebrating the Gospel around the World,” Ensign, May 2004, 128
From song and dance to speech and drama, the cultural arts have long been a part of the Church’s history. Choirs, dances, plays, and other cultural arts events bring members together and offer unique ways to express devotion to God.
With those ends in mind, Church leaders are encouraging stakes, districts, wards, and branches all over the world to make the cultural arts part of the Church’s future as well, by planning and participating in cultural arts activities.
“We encourage local leaders to hold stake and multistake events and activities to provide a sense of unity and opportunities to develop friendships, especially among the youth,” wrote the First Presidency in a letter to leaders throughout the Church. “These events could include music, dance, drama, speech, sports, or visual arts.”
Anticipating an increase in requests for appropriate plays and musicals, the Church’s Music and Cultural Arts Division is accepting scripts, readers’ theaters, oratorios, and other cultural arts submissions. (More information, including submission guidelines, will be included in the June Ensign and July Liahona.)
As part of the Brethren’s encouragement of cultural arts activities, the Church is organizing cultural arts celebrations large and small in conjunction with temple dedications. The first was held in January, prior to the dedication of the Accra Ghana Temple. Similar events have been held in Anchorage, Alaska, and São Paulo, Brazil. Saints in Copenhagen, Denmark, and New York City are putting the final touches on their own celebrations, scheduled for 23 May and 13 June respectively.
Sunshine in Ghana
As part of the special celebration in Ghana, the local stadium was filled with almost 2,000 youth singing and dancing under the summer sun in the largest Church youth activity ever held in Africa.
Based on folktales and dances of west Africa, the storyline of the celebration followed Kwaku Anansi, who searched for all the good things in the world to keep for himself. Each stake and district sang and danced and gave him something good, like courage, love, or family. But when Anansi saw the Accra Ghana Temple, its beauty convinced him that he should share all the good things he had collected.
Snow in Alaska
Saints in Alaska prepared a musical production entitled In the Shadow of the Mountains as part of their cultural celebration on 6 February. With a cast of 600, the performance portrayed the cultural heritage of the state’s Native Alaskans, frontier settlers, and early Mormon pioneers.
The production featured Native Alaskan dancing, a spirited frontier wedding dance, a 300-voice Primary choir, and other songs as part of the storyline. The midwinter event was held indoors at a local high school.
Rain in Brazil
A reported 60,000 members filled Pacaembu Stadium, while thousands more watched via satellite around the country, as more than 8,000 local Saints and 1,200 missionaries sang and danced in celebration of the São Paulo Brazil Temple’s rededication on 21 February.
A continuous rain failed to thin the crowd as dancers in traditional costumes, a 1,200-voice choir from 60 stakes, and giant props such as animals, soccer players, and other puppets performed.
The 1 1/2-hour show took four months to prepare and required several hundred volunteers involved with planning, security, cleanup, and medical assistance.