Last night, the youth of the Provo City Temple District put on a cultural celebration for the new temple dedication with the theme “Beauty to Ashes”.

The Provo Tabernacle had special significance to me. As a young family, we lived in Provo, and I remember attending stake conferences with my little ones, holding the hands of a little toddler while they climbed that narrow, winding staircase. I was tickled to see they preserved the staircase in the temple renovation, though I’m sure some old person is going to trip and break an ankle one of these days.

This blog and website is devoted to sharing a non-traditional perspective of the church that has come to me out of my struggle with the historical issues so many are facing, such as the issues from the infamous CES Letter.  Out of turmoil over those issues, I’ve been led to peace, and I’m sharing a twofold message on this website. 1) Honestly and openly acknowledge difficult historical issues of the church and find a way to deal with them 2) Identify the “true” truth and beauty of the LDS church that endures any of these historical “truth” issues. The event last night hit on nearly all the points I like to make on that point #2.

The pattern of the event was to introduce a theme, showing the history related to the Provo Tabernacle, personal stories of relatives of people involved with the building, and then a song and dance number from the youth of one the stakes with that theme.  The production quality was surprisingly good. The church obviously has some talented people involved putting these events together. Attendees were both entertained and spiritually inspired.

Themes included:

Service. What better cause is there in the world than to reach out a hand to help a brother or sister? We find joy, healing, and meaning in life as we focus on the service of others.

Missionary tradition. The practice of our young people going out in the world, learning new cultures and languages, learning to work, and losing themselves in the service of others is such a valuable tradition.

Pioneer heritage. Heritage means something. The faith of our ancestors was important to them. Though many are faced with doubt, acknowledging the importance of our heritage, we should be patient and slow to make rash reactions when working through our doubts.  (note: this is my message not the message from the event, which was a generic message honoring our pioneer heritage.)

Family unity and family values. We are committed as a church to marriage and family. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” We celebrate our children, and we make family unity, love, and safety our highest, holiest priority. (It’s very sad we’ve stubbed our toe on LGBT issues, causing this to overshadow the important core message of emphasis on family. Hopefully someday our marriage and family definition will be all inclusive. But I hope that doesn’t detract completely from the good of our message on family and marriage.)

Enduring trials. The youth danced with raincoats and umbrellas singing “Sometimes there will be rain,” as they taught the principle of enduring trials with hope and faith.

Rebirth and renewal that comes through atonement of Jesus Christ. In the video before the dance, a young woman told how she passed by the temple after the fire. She felt just like the temple, feeling ugly on the inside with an exterior that barely could mask the turmoil and pain inside. Fighting the tears, she testified how just like God had better plans for the temple, God had better plans for her, making them both beautiful again.

The final dance of the night was the young women in three stakes in white dresses, dancing to a song celebrating the theme “Beauty for Ashes”.

Isaiah 61:3

3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.

As they danced on the floor, the rest of the 4,500 youth involved, walked down from the top of the Marriott Center, to cover the stairs in all the portals from top to bottom.

The symbolism of the youth wearing the orange and red colors of the fire leading down to the beautiful young women in white dresses was striking. He promises us beauty for ashes. Joy for our mourning. Praise for heaviness. Double portion of blessings for our shame.

The evening perfectly illustrated why I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have heard from a lot of Ex-Mormons that see no value in the church, outside of its truth claims. They claim “the church has nothing to offer that you couldn’t get out of a secular organization.” I couldn’t more strongly disagree, and last night’s event could be Exhibit A. That assertion may sound right in theory, but it just doesn’t hold up in the real world. The community, the values, the focus on service, the strength of our youth, the common desire to worship God. I don’t believe you can replicate this in any secular organization, and I will be so bold to include no other church on the face of the earth.

 

The church is not perfect.  It’s a work in progress.  Just like I am.  Why do I stay?  Better question: Where would I go?

 

John 6:67,68

67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go?

 

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