BRIGHAM CITY — More than 3,700 youths in costume filled the entire field at the Box Elder High School football stadium as they joined in song and dance to celebrate the "Harvest of Faith" they represent from the early generations who settled in northern Utah and southern Idaho.
The cultural celebration Saturday — the evening before the dedication of the Brigham City Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — included youths from the 13 stakes in the new temple district. The celebration was only a small portion of the performers' hard work, who met at the school at 6 a.m. for rehearsals and have been practicing their parts for months.
Although the day was long and hot, their smiles and energetic waves after the evening performance showed their excitement for the new temple.
"We've laughed all day," said Kaitlin Pilivi, one of the participants. "We have had fun hanging out with good friends. … It has been neat to see how because of all those people who helped build this place we are now here because of them. We weren't here celebrating us — we were celebrating them."
Prior to the song and dance, Elders L. Tom Perry and Russell M. Nelson of the church's Quorum of the Twelve greeted the performers and offered words of encouragement.
"We deeply appreciate the spirit and the work you have done to perform this evening," said Elder Perry. "This is a wonderful event that prepares us for a gospel culture that will bring us into the holy temple tomorrow."
Elder Nelson said the youths looked like the stripling warriors spoken of in the Book of Mormon. "You are wonderful — I don't think the stripling warriors had beautiful costumes like this, though!"
The event, titled "Harvest of Faith," celebrated the rich pioneer history of the area, sharing through song and dance some of the influences and people who have shaped the cities of Brigham City and the other communities in the temple district.
"As with all things of great worth, the Brigham City Temple was built upon more than a foundation of concrete. It required generations of sacrifice and preparatory work — both spiritual and physical — it required faith and temperance, ambition and unity," the narrator said during the program. "Examples of these values came from the people before us; the sowers of the seeds who we honor and revere for their contributions to this time of bounty we now enjoy."
Beginning the night with the first settlers in the area, youths in Native American-theme costumes danced across the field to the beat of a drum to honor the great sacrifice and contributions of the first sowers of seeds in the area. Other dances during the performance honored Danish, Welsh and Latino settlers.
Large wooden railroad tracks laid the path for a wooden locomotive to cross the field, representing the union of rails in Box Elder County to create the first transcontinental railroad in the 1869. Other dances celebrated the agricultural harvest and industry of the area, with a special mention of the bird refuge.
A dance dedicated to the soldiers of the military and Bushnell Hospital — a hospital that served fallen soldiers for six years during war — showed the area's patriotism and dedication to country, and another dance depicted the growth of industry in the area.
During the last dance, all participants walked onto the field wearing white button-down shirts holding flags from around the world. The youths sang the popular missionary anthem and LDS hymn "Called to Serve" as pictures of the 380 missionaries from the area currently serving across the globe covered a big screen.
All events leading up to the cultural celebration — the groundbreaking and open house — brought out thousands of people, making it no surprise that the Box Elder High stadium was filled to capacity for the celebration.
For the woman who oversaw the evening's event, the night's performance was a culmination of a lot of people's hard work.
"It has been neat to have so many people feel very involved with this temple," Beverly Yeates said. "As people work with you, you can't help but be so excited to help."
Yeates said more then 1,800 volunteers offered to sew the costumes for the event, and the youths have been willing to put in a lot of hours of practice. "I've been going to the practices and seen pieces here and there, but when it comes together, there is a special feeling."