Behind the scenes of the Brigham City Utah Temple cultural celebration

By Josi Kilpack

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Nov. 16 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Harvest of Faith, a cultural celebration commemorating the heritage of the Brigham City region, at Box Elder High School in Brigham City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

BRIGHAM CITY — On Oct. 3, 2009, President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that a temple would be built in Brigham City, Utah. The building process began several months later and a small plot of land in the center of the city began to transform. In April 2012, five months before the anticipated opening of the temple, I received a call to be on the committee for the cultural celebration, an event that would be held the night before the temple dedication ceremony.

The title “cultural celebration” defined what the event would be: a celebration of the cultures and elements that contributed to the current temple district, which included northern Utah and southeastern Idaho. The committee was instructed that the primary purpose behind the event was to create an opportunity for the youths to connect with the temple; to see it as their temple. There were several details we needed to be aware of from the start: this would be a First Presidency event, the program could not exceed 80 minutes in length, it would take place on the football field of Box Elder High School, and it needed to include every youth in the area who wanted to participate.

The Cultural Committee was made up of professionals from the temple district: music producers, dance instructors, theater directors, professional artists, videographers, costumer designers and choral teachers — each of them leaders in their field. My specific task was to write the script for the program, and a rough draft needed to be completed in the few days following our first meeting. My fellow committee members started suggesting ideas, and I took four pages of notes. Toward the end of that meeting, Laurie Nielson, the assistant art director, leaned over and gave me a scripture reference she had recently read that she thought might be helpful: Alma 33:23. That scripture became the framework for the script:

“I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen.”

At the next meeting, I read the rough draft aloud and the committee members told me what to take out, what to add and where to go for additional information. We agreed on “Harvest of Faith” for the title, an appropriate reflection on the agriculture of our area as well as the themes that had been implemented in the structure of the temple itself. I went home, prayed some more and began implementing their suggestions. With the help of the committee, I had a final draft ready to submit to the church just before Memorial Day weekend.

With the script complete, the other committee members then used their skills to build a production unlike anything any of us had ever done before. Permission forms were created for every youth, costumes were designed, original music was written, and rights were purchased for existing songs that would be used in the production. Costumes were borrowed from California, thousands of yards of fabric was purchased from the East Coast, stake dance instructors were recruited, and more than 1,800 seamstresses throughout the temple district were put on notice that we would need petticoats, dresses, bow ties, hats, blouses, sashes, shirts, ties, skirts and bonnets just as soon as the fabric arrived. There would also be Native American costumes, Latin dresses requiring 14 yards of fabric apiece, Chinese uniforms, military ensembles and lyrical dresses for a special dance number about The Bird Refuge.

With my main task finished, I was put in charge of the printed programs but spent most of our committee meetings wondering how on earth this would work. None of us had done something this big before— temporally or spiritually — and while we had specific skill sets, we were all reaching beyond our abilities — and we knew it.

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