Thousands of teens clad in bright costumes and waving colorful flags retraced the rich legacy of Utah through song and dance Friday evening.
Nearly 7,000 youths participated in "Come Up to the Mountain of the Lord," the Draper Temple Youth Celebration for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
"May I assure each of you that any effort you put forth will be rewarded many times over," LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson said at the beginning of the event. He then promised the youths that "tonight will be a night you will never forget."
The cultural event, staged by teens from 25 LDS stakes in the southeast end of the Salt Lake Valley, commemorated the March dedication of the Draper Utah Temple.
A second celebration will be held tonight featuring an additional 7,000 youths from 26 LDS stakes in the southwest end of the valley in honor of the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple, which will be dedicated Aug. 21-23.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, chairman of both cultural events, said the programs were intended to be more than just productions. They are an opportunity for LDS youths to focus on the temple, he said.
"For years the First Presidency has authorized a temple cultural celebration with a temple dedication," said Elder Rasband of the LDS Church's Presidency of the Seventy. "It gives the youth of the temple district, in particular, a special opportunity to celebrate the dedication of the temple."
Although traditionally temple youth cultural celebrations are held the evening before a temple dedication, the celebrations for these temples were scheduled in between the two dedications to accommodate both districts.
Music, sets and the story line for the productions are identical. But each has unique costumes and choreography, said Dennis L. Crockett, coordinating chairman of the celebrations.
Cessilee Smart, 17, of Draper, said she knows she will look back as an adult and be happy she participated in the event. "Not very many people get the opportunity to celebrate a temple being built," she said.
Sam Hunter, 17, of Sandy, said he participated in the celebration as a member of the stage crew because his church leaders asked him to. But, he added, the effort was worth it.
Rachel Ostler, 16, of Draper, also said she has no regrets.
She didn't want her grandkids to hear about a grand production and have to tell them she was "too lazy to participate."
Instead, she said, she will tell her grandchildren "how awesome it was."
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company