Susan said that within a couple of weeks of getting the theme, the script flowed.The music was all there. “It just settled,” she said. She found herself flooded with ideas in the night and she could see each number clearly. “It was as if someone zipped upon my head and tucked ideas in every night,” she said.
So the inspiration was clear, the organization was impeccable, what happened during the hours that should have been designated as practice on that Saturday of the celebration?
Something that nobody could help. The JumboTron in the auditorium failed. The script was designed so that between each number, a video came up on the JumboTron, interviewing the youth, talking about Kansas and Church history, setting the theme for the next segment. This wasn’t just important to the production; it was crucial. It was the skeleton of meaning upon which everything else stood, the glue that held each piece together.
Of course, the technicians scrambled to try to fix it, but nothing was working. Adding insult to injury, the clock was ticking. “We lost half the day of solid practice to this problem,” Susan said. That was the only day they had.
“As we moved from plan A to B to Z, we knew that it wasn’t working,” said Susan. Yet Todd Hendrickson had begun each meeting with a devotional and he told them from the beginning, that the works of God will not be frustrated. He reminded us that if there are frustrations, we need to stop, step back, and let God take control. We referred back to that dozens of times as we encountered things.
“As we were looking at the schedule, we knew that it was going to be beyond us, but we knew that we had one of the greatest strengths on the floor below—3000 youth. We needed to go down and tell the youth what was happening and draw upon their faith and power.”
That three thousand youth knelt and prayed together. They prayed that the foundation that had been so carefully put in place would be able to be carried out. They prayed for the Lord to make up for what they couldn’t do with the shortage of time. They prayed for the technicians who had so far been failing to find the problem with the JumboTron. They prayed that the workers’ minds could be expanded to see what the problem was, that their skills would be enhanced. They prayed mightily with power and faith. The committee in charge remembered that they had always had a spirit of calm and assurance about this production.
It was a prayer the youth will never forget, not because the floor was hard, but because the Spirit melted their bones.
It wasn’t long before a technician came and found Todd to tell him that the JumboTron was fixed. Noting that it had looked impossible, he said that they had stumbled on the solution by “dumb luck.” Three thousand youth knew better.
Having trembled at the abbreviated dress rehearsal, I watched the production that night, called “One Heart in the Heartland” with astonishment. Could any of this polished performance be the same as the few numbers they had been able to cue during the rehearsal that had been cut so short by something beyond anyone’s control?
Youth rushed in at the perfect cue from the right place. They sang and danced with spiritual energy and precision. Youth, many of whom are the only members of the Church at their high schools, sang together, shoulder to shoulder, raising their hands together like an army of light, “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.”
They were beautiful, their voices touching, the tears coursing down their faces as they pledged to the prophet who was watching them, “Shall the youth of Zion falter, in defending truth and right?”
As for me, I wept and wept through the entire show not only because the Spirit was so strong, like a cleansing fire of joy, but because I had seen so directly and perfectly how the Lord is to be absolutely trusted to fight our battles—even if it is a broken JumboTron and crucial time lost for rehearsal.
I thought when the youth had to cut off their dress rehearsal to let the audience roll in, that I was seeing a near disaster. I could imagine kids wandering in the wrong place, uncertain and looking at each other for help. We’ve all seen embarrassing performances. Instead I saw a testimony of the Lord’s love for all of them and the committee who had laid so perfect a foundation.
When I am down, when I am tempted to think the Lord has forgotten me, I will forever close my eyes and see those shining youth and their stellar performance. I believe the loss of the JumboTron and the need to kneel in pleading prayer for help brought the Spirit that night in ways that a lesser need could not have done. I will never forget it. The Spirit simply washed over the entire performance. It was an answer to my prayers as well, a visual reminder planted forever in my bones and sinews that God does not lie when he tells us that he will make up the difference.
We do not need to be prone to panic, but to prayer—and that intensely to a Father whose love never fails.
Watch for a photo essay from the celebration tomorrow in Meridian.
Changing fields: Returned missionary college football players find new opportunities to share gospel