BRIGHAM CITY -- A cultural celebration here Saturday to kick off events for the dedication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple today proved to be enormous, colorful and heartfelt.
About 4,000 of the 4,594 young men and young women in two counties -- Box Elder County and Oneida County in southern Idaho -- participated in the event, which included the telling of the story of the founding of the two areas and how the pioneers and settlers sowed the seeds of faith.
Inside the football stadium at Box Elder High School, they were dancing, singing and parading in colorful costumes as they told the tale of their heritage and pride for their new temple.
"This gives all these young people a way to get connected to the temple," said Box Elder County stake president Ron Frandsen, who also served as the local coordinator for activities leading up to and including the temple dedication.
Frandsen said he hoped the participants understand they have the DNA of their forefathers who settled the area in difficult and challenging times.
"They will need that DNA in a much different way," Frandsen said. "The world today is becoming much more hostile to things of the spirit."
"Harvest of Faith" was the theme of the evening, which included a slideshow of fruits and vegetables being harvested this time of year as a backdrop to the performance.
The celebration was attended by thousands of spectators who watched from remote locations in their stake centers and ward buildings.
As the performance was set to begin, area youths who were participating said they had learned from their efforts.
Dalton Burkick, 18, of Thatcher, believed he was the oldest and perhaps the tallest among the cast members.
Madi Price, 12, of Thatcher, believed she was the youngest and perhaps the shortest.
Price, who turned 12 just two days before the deadline and who stands just 4 foot 9 inches, was cast to follow directly behind Dalton, who stands at 6 foot 4 1/2 inches in one of many lines of youths at the start of the program.
Burkick, who is already putting in his papers for his mission call, said he had learned about patience from the experience of preparation.
Madi said she liked following behind her large friend, whose shoulders she couldn't reach when cast members were asked to space themselves in that way.
"He's a pretty good leader," she said. "He reminds us when we have to go."
Alexis Smith, 17, who lives just outside of the Box Elder High School stadium, said participating in the celebration helped all the youths feel involved in a "life-changing event" in Brigham City.
"It helps us understand more about the temple and the importance of it," she said.
Alexis said she's planning to get up early every Wednesday morning and walk to the temple to do baptisms for the dead.
The event told the story of faith and unity of those who had settled in the area between 1851 and 1871. There were Shoshoni Indians, Danish people, Welsh settlers and Hispanic agricultural workers who immigrated to work on the farms.
One of the most colorful dances was one that featured traditional Hispanic festival costumes, with the boys wearing black wide-brimmed hats and the girls wearing full skirts they could wave back and forth.
Before the event began, the participants were told by Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, that they looked like stripling warriors. That was a reference to 2,000 young men in the Book of Mormon who fearlessly marched into battle on the faith they had learned from their mothers.
Elder Russell M. Nelson, also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, reminded the youths about whose life it was they would honor and serve in the temple, referring to Jesus Christ.
He also told them not to worry about their performance that night.
"We just hope you have made a lot of friends that will last into eternity."