The Cultural Celebration was quite literally one of the best days of my life! I was beyond excited to be there and to be performing. I knew that we were performing for not only the Prophet, but we were performing for Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, showing our gratitude for the sacrifices that have been made to make this possible for us. I was performing out of the testimony that was burning in me all the day long and all the time leading up to the Celebration and for weeks after. We were a testament to the community that we will do what we know to be right and we will persevere even when it seems utterly ridiculous and somewhat dreadful. That night and all day I learned of the power of prayer, the will of the Lord, and his extreme love for us as His children.
Starting the Tuesday before the Celebration my good friend and I decided to fast every day leading up to it. We fasted breakfast and lunch, in order to feel the Spirit and have a sincere prayer in our hearts all week. We were bubbling with excitement for the celebration. At times throughout the week we would be sitting in class and we would look at each other and know that both of us were so hungry, but we would remember our purpose of fasting. Heavenly Father knew that the desire of our hearts was to have a sincere testimony building experience that we would remember forever and He truly listened and we received it with overflowing hearts.
Throughout the day I watched the clouds with wonder. It was miraculous to see the dark rain clouds split directly over Discovery Park while it was raining across the street. I knew that Heavenly Father knew us and our purpose and that His will would be done. Even when it started sprinkling I knew that everything was good. As the rain started pouring and we were preparing for the grand performance many people asked me if we were still going to go through with the program even in the cold rain. I was so ecstatic and nothing was going to change that and I was determined to do it even if no one else was going to. I wanted to perform so I told them that we were absolutely going to! A couple of the sweet Beehives that I was near were freezing cold as we sat there in the pouring rain and they simply asked me why it was raining even though everyone had prayed throughout the week that it wouldn’t. I told them that it was a test of our faith and I knew that whatever Heavenly Father’s will was it would be done and He knows best. I know that there was so much sacrifice throughout all time that has been given and added up to make it possible for us to have this magnificent Temple and opportunities. It was our sacrifice and it was Heavenly Father’s way of making it known. The song that introduced our fire-dance was “Let This Be Known.” The words of the song go, “We are sons [and daughters] of Abraham and we will never compromise. We are not alone.” In that moment I knew that we were not alone, we are of the House of Israel with the truthfulness of the Gospel and as we danced joyfully in the rain we would be a testament to all who saw that we will not back down, that we know what we know, that God is with us, and the sacrifice is more than worth it.
We all rushed onto the field to prepare for President Monson, President Erying, Elder Walker, and all the others that were here to visit and watch us perform. The rain continued to pelt down on us, getting harder every minute, but I wasn’t worried. All I could do was smile from ear to ear and literally jump up and down with joy and excitement. I am pretty sure that everyone around me thought that I was crazy, but I was so overcome exhilarated, that I just couldn’t help it! It was an excitement of peace and overwhelming happiness. There was a young man standing next to me and he was talking with his friend and he said something to the effect of, “Man, why are we dancing in the rain? This is going to be terrible.” Then he looked at me and said, “Uh, I mean this is going to be the best ever….” I hope that he truly felt that way at the end, because I did. People around the field started to sing hymns and some people were huddling under tarps and ponchos, but the rain wasn’t bothering me anymore. We saw them coming and as I stood on my tip toes there was a window between people’s heads and I could see President Monson and Erying coming. I could see them and I knew that they are disciples of Christ. We were all cheering as loud as we could as if it were the Super Bowl or something, except it was much more pure and sincere.
Then I came to the conclusion that only our church could get 12,000+ youth to all stop talking. The rain was holding off and it was barely sprinkling now. Elder Walker introduced the program and then we had the privilege to look towards the white tent at the top of the hill and listen as President Erying stood and spoke with radiating happiness that blended in with how we were all feeling. As he spoke of heroes and missionaries I knew that I wanted to become just that. I wanted to take the Gospel of Christ and share it for everyone to hear so that they could know and feel the same joy that I was experiencing. I knew that the Lord truly did see the desire of my heart. He was answering my prayers and fasting with every moment. I am so grateful for the testimony that I gained and that he gave me the strength and optimism to gain the most out of the Cultural Celebration, like President Erying said I will never forget it. President Erying concluded his talk with a blessing to all of us that our desire to live true to our covenants would increase and our determination to follow Christ would grow. “And I bless you that this experience tonight will stay in your memory like a light and will draw you back to the temple time and time again,” he said. It truly has. Every time I am at Discovery Park I remember that we made that muddy field next to the freeway a Holy Place. Every time I drive by the Temple I can’t wait to go do baptisms the next Tuesday morning. I have seen in myself and my friends that we are always looking back on that experience and wanting to do good and have that pure joy for eternity.
When we returned to our seats they looked more like puddles, but I was grateful that we had chairs because the other regions did not. I watched the other regions perform before us and we sang when it was our turn. The rain did start pelting down again, but I knew that it was okay, in fact it was beautiful and amazing. I was sitting there smiling and as I look back I hope that the sweet beehives around me could feel the warmth of the Spirit and the pure joy that could overcome the physical discomfort of being drenched and cold. I could not wait for our turn! When the time finally came I listened to the lyrics of the song that introduced the Fire-Dance. At the beginning of the song we stormed the field and went to our places on the field (well, where we thought they might be, everything was sort of a mess of mud and water). Luckily the rain subsided and the Fire for the dance started. The energy was exuberant and the spirit could not be denied. My partner, Josh, and I went through the program beaming with excitement and I knew that we were all being examples and living true. I could feel the determination in our region with every move and grunt and at the end when we held our sticks (torches) high and showed the world who we are and what we stand for. I loved watching the flag dance. I knew that we could be trudging through mud, but hold our banners high and always remember why we are here and what we stand for.
I know that all around the world, from Europe and Asia to the Americas, since the very beginning of time each decision and sacrifice of our ancestors has led to this miraculous opportunity to have the Gospel. I am beyond grateful for the Gospel. I have a testimony that this is the truth and that the Atonement is real; it is there not only for our sins but also to help us through our trials, discomforts, and sorrow and to give us the joy that mirrors the joy of salvation. I know that we have the fullness of Christ’s Gospel and have the priesthood power that enables families to be together for time and all eternity and ordinances to be performed for our ancestors. As we do our part, hold tight to the iron-rod, and live true we will be able to accomplish all that Heavenly Father has for us and receive the blessings thereof. As we put our full trust in His will we will grow and become. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet of God on the earth at this time and that President Henry B. Erying is an apostle. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each individual and knows every single one of us and the desires of our hearts. They listen to us and it is through Christ that we can be forgiven and be perfected, growing towards our potential. Christ is the Son of God, He died for us, and He overcame death for us.