By Corey Baumgartner
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–It was an evening of celebration and inspiration in honor of the newly constructed temple in Cedar City. The theme, “A Light on the Hill and Iron in our Will,” signifies the sacred mission and power of the temple and the faith and fortitude that comes to all those who keep that light shining brightly within their hearts and their lives by keeping the commandments and covenants of God.
The main mission of the cultural celebration held Saturday was to honor the heritage, culture and legacy of Cedar City and the surrounding areas, and also to connect the youth and the audience to the spirit of the temple through dance and song. Performances included tributes to the Native Americans, the majestic Utah mountains, the historic and heroic quilt-walk, the iron miners, and reaching through the veil to our pioneer ancestors of the past. One performer, Clain Heaton, was excited to finally get to perform and see the temple completed. “I’ve been looking forward to this since they announced it,” he said.
Preparation for the celebration began back in August and the event combined more than 3,700 youth, ages 12-18, and their leaders from 106 LDS wards and 14 LDS stakes within eastern Nevada and southwestern Utah. The challenge was how to tell such an inspiring story in such a short period of time and with such a large number of youth from such a vast area.
Director and producer of the cultural celebration, Michael Bahr, was the perfect person for the task. Bahr is a natural communicator and connecter—with his professional teaching and leadership skills perfected during his current professional calling as the education director at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Bahr brought together not only the youth, but many other talented people that helped make every aspect of the production an inspiring success. A success which he knows that the Lord was in the logistics every step of the way.
“From the very get-go inspiration came in small ways from different people,” he said. “It’s about listening to other voices, not just your own.”
Bahr’s love for performing is eclipsed only by his love for those he is honored to teach and to work with. “I want the youth to know that they have been part of something that is more than a once in a lifetime experience; it is a one-time experience and they were part of it and were successful. It connects them to those who went before, and they will be able to tell others that they were part of the celebration.” He added, “There are people beyond the veil, both those in the past and those waiting to come who are interested in the story we’re about to tell.”
Lisa Allen, a committee member of the temple cultural celebration committee noted, “There is no playbook for cultural celebrations. There were a million little challenges and million little miracles to go along with them.” In the end, like many who have loved this pioneer performance of hard and heart work, she expressed, “It will be bittersweet because I’ve loved being a part of this and seeing people’s talents and abilities. It’s been miraculous.”
Prior to the performance, leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were welcomed warmly into the America First Events Center. The youth cheered loudly as President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accompanied by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and other church leaders made their way into the arena and onto the stage to watch the performances. President Eyring also shared a few heartfelt and inspiring words of wisdom to the youth.
“You will never forget this night. Years from now you will bring your children back here. You will tell them how you felt as you participated in this great cultural celebration before the dedication of the beautiful temple of God. The reason for this event is for you to express your love and appreciation for all whose sacrifice and faithfulness made it possible for the Lord to give us the blessing of a magnificent temple of God here in this place.” He added, “Tonight you honor those heroes and their faith and sacrifice. They were pioneers who chose to follow the Lord wherever he needed them and to serve whatever the cost. Each of you who perform tonight is such a hero yourself. You worked hard to prepare for this event.”
Shelbey Townsend, one of the heroic performers, agreed. “I look forward to being able to tell my kids that I was a part of this and inspire them to go the temple with me.” Another performer, Andrew Maxwell, said he was looking forward to using the experience as, “A wonderful opportunity to talk about our church with those who aren’t members.”
Then, speaking of the importance of the experience, President Eyring counseled, “My dear young friends, when you go home tonight, write in your journal what you saw and felt this evening. That record will help you when you tell your children and grandchildren what it meant to be a part of the celebration of a completion of the temple of God in Cedar City.”
In closing, he emphasized the memories from the experience. “I bless you that your determination to follow the Lord, Jesus Christ will grow and will remain with you. I bless you that this experience tonight will stay in your memory like a light and will draw you back to the light of the temple, time and time again.”
Echoing those sentiments, Peter Ipson said of his experience, “I want to remember the whole thing; that I was part of the memory.” This night was full of memories and was much more than a celebration. It was a connection to an historical past and the weaving and leaving of a legacy that will inspire and bless generations yet to come in Cedar City and beyond.