Kansas City Temple Cultural Celebration

It took two years to build, but the new temple in KC is finished! It has been open to the general public for a month, so that anyone can tour it and see what it looks like before it is set apart, dedicated, and consecrated as a holy place, the House of the Lord. Temples are not secret, which is why they open to the public before being dedicated, so anyone can go to see the baptistry with the oxen representing the twelve tribes of Israel, the simple instruction rooms where we learn about and remember the creation story and the plan of salvation, the small but brightly lit rooms where marriages are sealed for time and all eternity, and even the private changing rooms with individual stalls and lockers so people can modestly change into the white clothes we wear in the temple. Nothing is secret, but it will be set apart as a sacred place, after the pattern of temples in the Old Testament. After today’s dedication, only those who have prepared specifically and proven themselves worthy of making and keeping sacred covenants will be able to enter the temple.

Everything is about making and keeping covenants. Some say that our church has too many rules, or is legalistic, or is too “hard”, but none of it happens all at once. It comes a little at a time, as we seek to become more like the Savior. The point of most all religions is to progress in righteousness as we study and try to become closer to God and becoming better as He works in our lives. Christianity depends on the atonement of Jesus Christ to do so. Following His example changes us, and as we learn individually and collectively, we make choices about what to do and what not to do. This does not earn His love, but does give evidence of our love for Him and evidence of His Spirit working in our lives – as well as acknowledge our dependence upon the grace of God to provide for us, enable us, strengthen us, and empower us.

Last night was a cultural celebration honoring the people of Kansas and Missouri, past and present, and celebrating those who will be in the district for the new temple. While I am in the district for the Oklahoma City temple, my brother and his family that live in Springfield will be in the new district for the Kansas City temple (they previously used the St. Louis temple). We can visit any temple as long as we have our “temple recommend” that gives evidence of our worthiness to enter (signed by our ward bishop, stake president, and ourselves), but our local temple is the one we use primarily.

Traditionally, when a new temple is dedicated, the youth of the district put on a performance to celebrate their local culture. We attended the cultural celebration last night, in which my nieces sang in the choir as well as dancing (along with my nephew). It was amazing! There were more than 3,000 youth (ages 12-18), and they filled the floor of the arena, the circle walkways around the floor levels, and all the aisles!

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First there were some remarks from the prophet, President Monson. The kids were so good, sitting still while he spoke. I am so grateful that we have a prophet, to know that God is the same God today as He always was, and that He works in the same ways He always has. I am grateful for the guidance of the prophet to us as people, and for the Spirit that gives personal revelation to guide me as well (and to correct me, which I often need just as much).

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After his blessing, which included encouragement for the kids as they did their best, they began to sing, and the show began! It was so amazing to see so many kids who had worked so hard, and sacrificed so much! After the opening song, the kids performed by stake – a stake is a geographical area, like Springfield or Joplin – with each group having a specific theme. The first group shared the native and pioneer history of Kansas and Missouri, all in song and dance:

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The next stake showed the cultural changes with the 1900’s, the 1920’s, and 1940’s. They did a maple leaf rag dance, which I loved because of my study of the Peabody in ballroom dance. They did so great! They also did a number from “Bye, Bye, Birdie”, which mom loved. Then they celebrated basketball in a fun number where the bouncing of their balls matched the music. It was so fun!

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The third group was the Springfield stake, so my nieces left the choir to join their friends and my nephew, and did some line dancing! I knew for the Midwest, a line dance would have to be included! They did so great!

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The next group were the Polynesians, as Kansas and Missouri (along with Arkansas and Oklahoma) have some of the highest population concentration of Marshallese, Polynesians, Hmong, and other immigrants in all of the United States! Their dance was by far one of the most fun favorites, with the cheers roaring long and loud. These kids were amazing!

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There was also a Hispanic group, with the flying colors of the girls’ skirts:

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And a German group with the whole arena clapping to the polka:

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And a Russian group, whose dances were another crowd favorite:

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These cultures came together for a final number that reflected our diversity:

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The next stake was Joplin, and I cried and cried – no, I sobbed – through the whole thing. It was the most emotionally powerful of the evening, and I think most everyone sobbed. It was beyond incredible. As you know, a year ago one third of Joplin was wiped out completely by a tornado, including their stake center. My brother’s family was driving through on their way to drop off and pick up kids from weekend visitation, and they missed the tornado by minutes. I was called as a first responder, and spent the next three days in the storms and wind trying to help find survivors. In the first 24 hours, we pulled out 120 people and only 7 of them were alive (you can read my experience HERE). A few weeks ago, we met with the survivors and spoke with them, and I so love them and am so bonded with them through this experience, though my experience of the aftermath was nothing compared to their experience of surviving it. But for all of us, this moment in the cultural celebration, even the restoration of a temple in Missouri in historical context, was healing to all of us after the purging and cleansing that had to happen first.

In this song, Joplin told their story. In this song, Joplin proved itself beyond survival. In this song, we cried together and we healed together.

The song, sung by the who survived the tornado and then lost his arm in helping with recovery, opened on a dark scene with houses flattened and debris everywhere:

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Then separated families searched for each other, running to embrace as they found each other again. This is when we all lost it, sobbing as we felt the power of the experience following the tornado, a temporal example of our frail and difficult mortality, a spiritual symbol of how the temple blessings gathers our families together again, and heals us, and unites us, and brings us peace.

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Then the people began to pick up debris:

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Then the kids formed a circle around one of the torn down homes, and built a shelter:

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While they finished the shelter, more kids came on and wrapped blankets around the survivors:

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Then kids wearing “Mormon Helping Hands” t-shirts showed up, packed up boxes of food and supplies, and passed them out to the people:

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While they worked, more kids showed up and built more shelters:

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When all three frames were put back together, the kids encircles each one in arms of love, and another climbed a ladder and put an American flag on top of the middle one. The crowd roared, still sobbing, but standing to their feet and cheering and crying:

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It was so moving, and so powerful, and absolutely the highlight of the night.

The final segments included a tribute to the primary children with “popcorn popping on the apricot trees”:

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Some hip hop dance and alternative music numbers:

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There was also a drumline:

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And a tribute to the military, which got another standing ovation, as did the tribute to the missionaries:

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Then I was delighted to see that the final song was done in sign language, which is important especially because the Kansas State School for the Deaf is right in the area, and because Kansas City has a mega-huge Deaf population. What an amazing thing, to see 3,000 youth signing together! I have never seen anything like it, and I loved it!

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At the close, the youth cheered back when President Monson saluted them. I was so proud of our kids!

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I was even proud of the little ones who were so well behaved through the whole show!

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Comments

Kansas City Temple Cultural Celebration — 40 Comments

  1. I loved all of these pictures from the performance last night!! I was actually in the performance. I was apart of the first group number. It was such an amazing experience to be dancing for my prophet!!!!!!! I even chose to be apart of the cultural event instead of going to my senior prom!! But i can tell you one thing, IT WAS DEFINATELY WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Oh! I am so honored you left a comment, and so grateful for your sacrifice! It was amazing, truly! You did a wonderful job, and it really was incredible! Thank you!!

  2. √Čnorme et incroyable! What a huge event! Glad for you love the last picture.

  3. I was in the Joplin stake and to find this and know you loved it means a lot to me. This is the best blog about the cultural celebration that i have found and i have pinned, tweeted, and face-booked this,and hope to get lots of responses. i feel very blessed that i was in this and would do it again in a heartbeat! Thank you for posting these pictures and i am very glad you loved the cultural celebration!

    • Katy! I did love it sooo much!!! It was really the most amazing thing I have ever seen, and so powerful a spirit – a true testimony and witness of the power of the grace of God to protect us, calm us, empower us, heal us, and restore us! I <3 Joplin!!

  4. Great pictures! I was searching for temple pics to put on my blog and ran across your post on the celebration. I just finished a post on it as well, but you had much better pictures than I did! We were pretty high up and I was too busy clapping and wiping my tears to get too many, so it was great to relive it through your blog! Thanks! Wasn’t it the BEST????
    Rebecca

  5. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post with all of us Emily! Your words at the beginning of this post were perfect. And the pictures are great. It is so exciting for the temple to finally be dedicated. I’m excited to make a trip to Missouri to see it myself in a few months.

  6. i love these photos. i was in the inspired hearts section and in the priest and laurel group. i loved the spirit and excitement we felt that night. i was so glad to in front of the prophet almost the whole time. I was in left during telephone hour on the big screen.)

    • Victoria! I am so glad you could feel the spirit and the excitement! It was so powerful! You did an amazing job!! Thank you!

  7. I thought I was coming down off the spiritual high I was on all weekend, finally my eyes were dry. Then my wife just sent me your post. WOW. now my eyes are wet again…
    Thanks for all the pictures and the great blog about this event. Really one of the choice experiances of my life! You must have been siting right close to us, your pictures caught my two children very well both in the Kansas City Kitty and Telephone Hour. And YES, Joplin was AMAZING!
    All I can say is I am so proud of our youth, our leaders and our Members!
    Hurrah for Israel!

    • I am so glad your spiritual high was so powerful. It really was amazing. I keep saying that, but nothing else seems adequate! Thank you for being one of the amazing parents of amazing kids!

  8. WOW! Thank you for sharing. We were there the last weekend of April to tour the new Temple. My youngest turned 8 on the 27th so for his bday and because I lived in the KC area in 77/78 We just HAD to go. We live in AZ now but it was so worth the time. I am so happy for the ppl of the KC area to have a Temple now. It is so beautiful and such a spirit there. I would have dearly loved to see the Celebration, particularly the polynesian, ASL and Joplin parts. I stayed with a family in Grandview for 2 months who moved back to Joplin before the tornado’s hit. I found out they are safe. I hope someday to get back there and actually do a session or 2 there. I am still so very excited about this!

    • Too fun! That’s great you drove so far to come see the temple! Funny because I once drove from here to see the temple in Mesa!

  9. p.s. a big SHOUT out to my friends who are or may be in the Lee’s Summit / Blue Springs areas!

  10. Thank you so much for posting all of these great pictures of the Cultural Celebration. I was there as a chaperone and unable to see the show. So these pictures are great. I can’t wait to see a recording! I know that the Spirit was strong. I know that all of the youth worked very hard to make this show a success. Thank you so much for the comments about the Joplin Stake number. My kids were in that number.

    • Oh, your kids did an amazing job! And thank you sooooo much for all your hard work backstage! We loved the signs that said “RUN” and “SHHH”. They did so great, and all the parents who helped out backstage made it possible. We are so grateful! It really was amazing!

  11. Pingback: Kansas City Missouri LDS temple soon to be dedicated! | Shelley Beatty

  12. Emily,
    Thank you for the great pictures and wonderful narrative. The Cultural Celebration was more than I could have ever hoped for. After months of working with some of the youth who participated there were times when I had my doubts! But, like the primary programs Heavenly Father directs them in the end! The youth are in awe of some of the Miracles that took place that evening. I understand that there were numerous technical difficulties to deal with, and they would retreat in prayer and each time they were miraculously worked out!! I feel so blessed to have had such a spiritual prelude to the Temple Dedication. It truly set the tone and Spirit for the youth and the audience. Your wonderful blog brought back all of the wonderful feelings of that night. Thank you.

    • The opening of temples is one of the specific times we are promised ministrations from angels, and I think we all experienced this in all kinds of ways. It truly was amazing. He is good to us, yes?!

  13. Thank you Emily for the pic’s and narrative. I wish we could have been there for that wonderful weekend. I served my mission in the Central States 1969-1971 and then we lived there (Independence) 1976-1982. My wife grew up in Independence, so we both have our hearts tuned to the KC area.

    • Oh, thank you for the spirit of love for the area! It is felt, and everyone is grateful. How special it will be one day when you and your wife are able to visit!

  14. I am still reveling in the jubilee of this past weekend, and instead of studying for a Physiology final, I went surfing on the web for our weekend highlights! Your posting is absolutely wonderful and by far the best with the most detailed coverage. My son performed in the Lenexa stake (who danced the line dance and tribute to America as well), and I was so busy cheering and clapping that I did not get a single pic! I’ve been surprised to see very little of their performance in other postings…Furthermore, my husband was not able to attend and I have been searching for “good coverage”….Your posting is perfect—thank you for taking the time to share!

    • I am so happy and pleased that it was helpful! I was clapping, too! And crying through most all of it! Tell your son I said thank you!!! It was so well done!

    • Also, I am so grateful for those who have shared which stakes did what. I was so focused on not losing my mother in the crowd that I lost my program. So I turned out to be a poor historian, but I did try! I will be more careful next time!

  15. Emily, thank you for your take of the Cultural Celebration as I was able to watch it over the Church’s satellite system. I would like to make a note and that is when the Platte City Stake took to the floor. Remember the young lady sitting on the couch that was wheeled in on the couch and left on the couch. About a year ago this young lady had a stroke. Today as many witnessed she is improving. It was so great for her grandparents and branch members to see her able to participate. This is the goodness of the Church in all its teachings. May there be many more experiences to come as we celebrate this great event.

    • That is an amazing story! I felt there was one, but I did not know it. Thank you so much for sharing, and for testifying of healing powers!

  16. I was at the performance with 2 of my daughters performing. Unfortunately they were separated to different sides of the dance floor. I was able to get photos of one of them but not the other. I see my daughter in several pics of yours and was wondering if you would be willing to email them to me so that I can put them in a special album for her, as a keepsake.

  17. Thank you sooo much for your wonderful blog Emily! The pictures are amaaazing! My best friend Emily who is investigating in our church was actually apart of our celebration. She loved it and was amazed by the wonderful spirit that was present there. We were apart of the Polynesian section!!! I love your blog and promise to check up on it weekly! :)

    • Oh! Thank you for sharing your story! The Polynesian group was amazing! Thank you for your hard work, and sharing your dances and music with us!

  18. Thank you so much for your pictures and words. I was a leader behind the scenes and didn’t see much of the performance so I was delighted to see your pictures. I’m so thankful for the youth and the hard work they put into the day to perform for our beloved prophet and their families. The cultural committee members were amazing as they worked teaching songs and dances with patience and love over the two months they had to prepare.

    • Oh, wow! Well thank you so much for all your hard work, truly! It was an amazing experience with a powerful spirit. I so appreciate all the hard work you and the kids put into it, and the sacrifices that brought such a pure spirit to us! Thank you so much! I appreciate all you did!!

  19. I happened by your site via a google search while looking for some info on the KC Temple Cultural Celebration. I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the level of detail and content that you put into both the pictures and the retelling of this marvelous event. You truly have a gift with words. Thank you for sharing your talent/ gift thru this blog.

    I did attend the event but reading this again sharpened my memory of all the talents, messages, stories, and experiences that were shared that night.

    I live pretty close to the Kansas City Temple (19 minute drive) and what a blessing it is to have a temple so close. Maybe I’ll see you there sometime.

    Thank you again for sharing your talent and may the LORD continue to bless you with prosperity for the rest of your days!

    Best Wishes & Good Health to you,
    Josh