'Light of the Nations': LDS church cultural program highlights diversity

Published: Thursday, Oct. 25 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Dancers participate in the final dress rehearsal for the LDS program "Luz de las Naciones" (Light of the Nations) at the LDS Conference Center.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Fili Sagapolutele is a busy man — a local attorney with a heavy caseload and plenty of professional and family obligations.

But when the Lehi resident was asked earlier this year to help choreograph the Samoan and Hawaiian dances for this weekend's LDS cultural program, he eagerly accepted.

"It's been a big time commitment — but what better way to serve than to share your talents?" he said.

Sagapolutele is just one of about 1,500 Utahns involved in the production of "Luz de las Naciones: Sus Promesas" (in English "Light of the Nations: Your Promises"). It's a colorful, festive program of song and dance staged tonight and Saturday night in the LDS Church Conference Center.

The cast includes hundreds of volunteers from across the state, performing songs, dances and instrumental numbers from a variety of Latino and Polynesian cultures and traditions. The program will be presented in Spanish, with a limited number of headphones available for those who would like to listen in English or Portuguese.

The Conference Center doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and all in attendance should be seated by 7:15 p.m. Tickets are required, although those without tickets can join a standby line on the west side of the Conference Center at Door 1.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints staged similar cultural programs in 2004 and 2006.

"Ours is truly an international church," said Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the LDS Church's Presidency of the Seventy. "Our members can be found in nearly every nation and represent many diverse cultures and backgrounds. Here in Utah, the church recognizes and appreciates the great diversity found in the community."

"Luz de las Naciones," he added, reflects the church's vast global family.

"While the program is produced locally by hundreds of volunteers, we hope its impact will stretch far beyond the boundaries of Utah through subsequent distribution and broadcast," Elder Clayton said. "Our support of the event is another example of the church's international outreach and inclusivity."

The program recounts the varied traditions of a great white god that's prolific among the native inhabitants of North and South America and the Pacific Islands. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the prophesied return of Jesus Christ are also highlighted.

Cast members hope audiences will respond to the program's inclusive message.

"This will be a wonderful event to help bring communities together," said cast member Annya Becerra, an Orem resident and a native of Mexico.

"Luz de las Naciones" will be recorded for future international broadcasts via BYUtv International.

Prior to the event, visitors can view a Conference Center exhibit featuring the works of Latin American and Polynesian artists, as well as photographs of the first Spanish-speaking LDS unit in Utah.

email: jswensen@desnews.com

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