Church youth gather to have fun, mark Joseph Smith milestone
More than 22,000 youths and advisers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filled the stands of Romney Stadium on Friday night to share in a “Vision of Truth” and to stand together as “Warriors of Light.”
The concert-like pageant, titled “Vision of Truth — Warriors of Light,” was one of many across the state held to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of LDS Church Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. and to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the founding of the church. The pageants were created at the request of President Gordon B. Hinckley to encourage youth to have fun and enjoy life while still living by the standards of the church.
“The event is for the kids to have a really good time,” Artistic Chair Ronda Thompson said. “To come together to dance, sing and celebrate what they stand for. Hopefully when they walk away from this they will have an incredible experience that will have touched their lives.”
Red and white shirts lined the bleachers as youngsters and adults alike echoed cheers from one side of the stadium to the other. Crowd participation was greatly encouraged throughout the event and enlarged replicas of The Book of Mormon were raced down the edges of the stadium as a demonstration of the Gospel being spread to the ends of the Earth. Youths were given the challenge of finding actors portraying the “Three Nephites” of Book of Mormon fame who were concealed in the crowds. A Joseph Smith look-alike contest was also part of the program.
Nearly 4,000 youths participated in the actual pageant, which had been in the works since January. There were five main leads in the show, portraying a group of youths rallying around a friend who is struggling with his own identity. To answer the boy’s questions, the friends taught him of the young Joseph Smith and his struggles to understand life’s questions. The storyline was accompanied by pioneer vignettes, imitations of stake dances, video clips of church movies and youth testimonies and live performances by Eclipse, Enoch Train, Jenny Jorday-Frogley and Greg Simpson.
LDS Apostle Elder M. Russell Ballard attended the celebration along with other LDS general authorities. He thanked the advisers for all the work that was put into the program. He thanked the youth for their participation and dedication to the Gospel.
“You have been absolutely wonderful,” Ballard said. “There has not been one incident that would be off-color in any way. And so we commend each and every one of you.”
Ballard told the young men to prepare to go on missions. He spoke to the young people about his love for them and the other general authorities’ love for them.
Drama Director Kathryn Fielding said the whole event was a huge success and taught the kids involved more than just basic Gospel principals.
“It’s taught them not to go through life and be lazy,” said Fielding. “It’s such an awesome thing that they would never have a chance to do. The energy here is so awesome. They’ve had so much fun. They’ve learned there’s so much more to life than just watching TV.”
Participants interviewed by The Herald Journal on Friday night agreed whole-heartedly with Fielding. Many relayed the experience as “awesome.” Most of the youth also said they learned a lot of patience from being involved in the pageant. Many appreciated the chance they had to meet new people from different parts of the valley.
“There’s a lot of cool people I have got to meet here,” said Jessica Butler, a 17-year-old from Nibley.
Kayla Fellows, a 15-year-old from Logan, said the best part of participating in the pageant was interacting with all the other young people involved, the fun times they had and the memories they made. She said she has learned a lot about working with people and the amount of energy and commitment it takes to pull off such a big event.
The hour-and-a-half event tallied a lot of hours from a lot of people. The youths, who came from places as far as Star Valley, Wyo., and Malad, Idaho, spent months learning the songs and dances that were part of the event. Participants spent the three days prior to the event in sweltering heat, coordinating choreography and putting the big pieces together.
To keep the kids cool, people manned the hoses and water was given out in generous amounts. Most of the kids managed despite the heat and couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
A group of 14-year-old baseball players from Logan passed up an opportunity at winning a championship game to participate in Friday night’s program. Kay Pingree, a mother of one of the boys, said not one of them regrets missing that game.
“There’s not one kid that’s upset about it,” Pingree said. “There’s not one kid who would have chose the other way.”
Taylor Pingree, son of Kay Pingree, said the celebration was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and it was well-worth missing the baseball game for.
Ryan Lambert, another boy who missed the championship game, said, “Some things are worth sacrificing, but the outcome is great.”
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