“Utah Youth Join a Worldwide Church Celebration,” Ensign, Sept. 2005, 72–74
During July and August, youth in areas throughout Utah joined youth around the world in celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Church’s organization and the 200th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth. The largest of the Utah celebrations included 45,000 youth during a “Day of Celebration” in Salt Lake City on July 16.
More than 59,000 youth from the Utah Salt Lake City, Utah North, and Utah South Areas prepared music, dances, and pageants to perform at one of six Utah celebrations. More than 125,000 people attended the live performances held at stadiums throughout the state. Thousands more members and parents viewed the performances via satellite broadcast at local meetinghouses.
The “Day of Celebration” at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City featured a 16,000-member choir, 4,900 dancers, 2,400 flag bearers, and 1,000 young men performing a traditional Maori chant known as the haka. President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke at the celebration. Song, dance, and theatrical presentations were also presented at the other celebration venues.
“We wanted to remind our youth of the sacrifices made by pioneering Latter-day Saints who settled these mountain valleys. We wanted them to remember the Prophet Joseph Smith and all he did to restore the Church,” said Warren G. Tate, chairman of the “Day of Celebration” committee for the Utah Salt Lake City Area.
The Utah celebrations and others around the world were planned following an invitation by the First Presidency encouraging youth to celebrate the Prophet Joseph Smith’s 200th birthday.
Here is just a sampling of what youth have done around the world to commemorate these great events.
Rochester, New York
“Bike to the Beginning, Endure to the End” was the motto of the youth of the Rochester First Ward, Rochester New York Stake, when they commemorated the bicentennial of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth with a 30-mile (48-km) bicycle ride. The riders began at the Rochester stake center and headed east along the Erie Canal. Twenty-four miles and a few rest stops later, the riders arrived in Palmyra and left the canal for a ride south to the Hill Cumorah. At the Hill Cumorah Visitors’ Center, they saw the Church movie The Restoration, then rode to the top of the hill to enjoy the view and a hard-earned lunch. Finally, the group rode to the Smith family farm and the Sacred Grove, before being driven home.
Mia Maid Heather Petherbridge said, “It’s comforting to know that Joseph Smith was as young as we are when he had the First Vision. He had to overcome the same kinds of temptations that we do. He had to withstand all kinds of pressure and stand for what he believed in. It gives me the courage to do the same thing.”
The Gwangju Korea Stake celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet at Gwangju City Hall. About 400 people gathered to watch performances from youth and adults who had been preparing for three months. The program included music, testimonies, and scriptures.
Choi Hye Seon, a young woman, played the violin with her mother. Choi Jeong Hun, a young man, played the cello. “I greatly appreciate that I could use my small talent to help the Church,” he says.
The stake president, Cho Yong Hyun, said, “We wanted this special gathering to teach people that Jesus Christ called the Prophet Joseph Smith as a part of preparing the world for His Second Coming.”
Idaho Falls, Idaho
The youth of the Idaho Falls Idaho Eagle Rock Stake shared their talents and their testimonies as they performed a musical called One Life to celebrate the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth and life. The musical was so successful that they performed it multiple times for local audiences in Idaho.
Krista Klingler, 14, who participated in the ensemble, said, “Doing this play was one of the best experiences of my life. It showed me how great a man Joseph Smith truly was. I am still amazed that at 14 years old he acted upon the principles Heavenly Father revealed to him. From birth to death he lived a remarkable life.”
Guatemala City, Guatemala
The young women of the Guatemala City Guatemala Mariscal Stake celebrated the 175th anniversary of the organization of the Church with an open house teaching about the history of the Church.
As visitors stopped at each station, representing different locations in the Church’s move westward, the young women explained and bore testimony about events during that time period. Stations started with the upstate New York area and included Kirtland, Ohio; Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; and Salt Lake City.
Afterward, the young women showed handicrafts and other projects related to the anniversary of the Church’s organization. Each ward performed a pioneer dance and play to show the cheerfulness of the Saints even in the face of adversity.
“I learned a lot about the history of the Church for this activity,” says Bárbara Rivera, of the Jerusalén Ward. “I enjoyed it very much.”
The Coventry England Stake performed a musical by Kenneth Cope called My Servant Joseph for members and investigators.
The part of the Prophet’s wife Emma was played by Lara Mayfield, 17, of the Solihull Ward. She was impressed as she learned about Emma’s life and how she built the Lord’s kingdom. Lara says, “We have the same responsibilities to use our talents to build His kingdom on the earth. I am grateful for the chance I had to do that in My Servant Joseph.”
Ben Gaughran, 17, of the Chelmsley Wood Ward, was the assistant music director and pianist. Through participating in the production he says, “I was able to receive a personal witness of the severity of Joseph’s trials and just how special he was—truly a prophet of God.”
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Nearly 1,000 youth from 10 stakes covering a stretch of more than 100 miles (160 km) of California coast, gathered for an all-day youth conference at a large interstake center on the grounds of the Oakland temple.
Using the Mutual theme in 1 Nephi 14:7 as their guide, the youth participated in various activities, including watching The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd and learning about the history of the Church in their area. Youth could attend a variety of workshops and a tour of the temple grounds. They ended their day with a testimony meeting and a dance.
The youth of the Lindon Utah West Stake were called by their stake president to be missionaries for a day at an outdoor activity where they gave “Church history tours.” They took visitors to various booths where other youth acted out and told about parts of Joseph Smith’s life and Church history. KC McMillan, a priest from the Lindon Fifth Ward, played Joseph Smith in the Smith family home booth. He says his testimony of Joseph Smith has “increased quite a bit. The Spirit can be so strong when you’re talking about Joseph Smith.”
Following the tour, visitors eventually arrived in an area that represented Nauvoo, where they could play pioneer games and participate in other activities. Youth and other stake members also helped construct a large replica of the Nauvoo Temple.
Braden Sweeten, 18, from the Lindon 18th Ward, helped youth and other stake members build the replica of the temple. He said while he was building, “It really sunk into my heart how much the Prophet and the Saints really sacrificed to build the temple.”
Youth in the Manly Ward, Sydney Australia Greenwich Stake, celebrated by researching the Prophet’s life and teachings and then compiling a book about their findings. They used their Mutual time to complete the project.
The book has 13 chapters, each based on an article of faith, and is titled Praise to the Man (see Hymns, no. 27). The youth and their families plan on using their copies of the completed work to share the gospel with friends. They will also send copies of the book to missionaries serving from the Manly Ward.
The youth learned much more than facts from writing their book. “I have learned that when we have trials we need to trust in God like Joseph Smith did,” says Losi Motuliki, a teacher.
“Joseph Smith was a really great man,” says Antoinette Hilario, a Mia Maid. “He was able to translate the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ. We are so blessed to have this scripture in our lives today.”