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More than 19,000 people gathered here May 21 for the centennial commemoration of the Manti Temple, giving a momentous welcome to the beginning of its second century.

Centennial events included a commemorative program at which all three General Authorities in the Utah South Area presidency gave addresses, and a dance festival in which 4,000 youths and adults .performed for some 15,000 spectators.

At the dance festival, Temple Hill was covered with people sitting on quilts or lawn chairs who watched the performance on the sprawling south temple lawn. The dances honored the heritage of pioneer settlers and Indians and struck a patriotic note with the depiction of a flag the width of a football field.

Delivering addresses at the centennial program were Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, president of the Utah South Area, and his counselors, Elders Paul H. Dunn and Russell C. Taylor, all of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

The leaders noted that the temple was dedicated May 21, 1888, and paid tribute to its builders and to the present generation. They encouraged members to continue in the tradition of dedication established by settlers and carried on by each succeeding generation.

"It is a thrilling thing to live in this time and in this generation," said Elder Featherstone. "We're attached to [the gospel] like we have hold of two high power lines - we can't let go if we wanted to."

He said the members in the Manti Temple district are people of "great qualities, great integrity and great loyalty to the Church."

Elder Featherstone said these qualities lead people to the temples. Which are sources of freedom in a free land.

"We are not free if we are tied to our wealth and income . . . in fact, when we violate the commandments, we are shackled and bound in ways that we would never dream. And we are never freer than when we are obedient, absolutely and totally obedient, to God's command.

"And I hope that we understand that it will be the temple from whence I think will come the freedom that will burn across this land. And I think these freedoms will be flamed in the bosom of every single soul that goes inside the temple."

Elder Dunn said he is asked by many youths, "Why do we do all this [temple work]?" "My answer is simple," he responded. "First of all, it is the Lord's way. Marriage, under the blessing of the priesthood, becomes a permanent arrangement. It creates a union between the marriage companions and the Lord."

"What is more permanent in God's plan than families?" he asked. "What happens in these great houses [temples] tends to rule out divorce." He said that children from the families sealed in temples are born under the covenant, which binds families forever. "When properly understood, the experience from the temple brings ths blessing of the priesthood into the home."

Elder Taylor commented that the temple was dedicated 100 years ago, and "we are back here today renewing that dedication. Hopefully we can make some renewals within our own lives. . . ."

"Could this not be the new beginning of spirituality for us as a people within the stakes and regions that comprise this great district?

"That's my prayer - that because of the significance of this great celebration, our hearts may have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."

Also speaking at the commemorative program was Manti Temple Pres. Alma P. Burton, who said the builders of the temple "fulfilled their errand to the Lord in building this temple. They, too, I am sure, have interest in what is taking place here today."

Several other activities also took place during the centennial observance, including:

- A special temple session for stake presidents of the temple district.

- The publication of a temple history book (that is now sold out).

- A project that cleared and planted pines on the north slope of temple hill.

- A display of historical artifacts from the temple-building era and before.

- The performance of a temple district choir.

- The issuance of a commemorative postage stamp cancellation for which 10,000 stamps were sold in Manti.

- The collection of centennial memorabilia and a special box to be placed in the temple safe.

Lee R. Barton, centennial committee chairman, said all 29 stakes in the district took part in the centennial commemoration. "We think our goals were accomplished to rekindle interest in the temple. Many young people were thrilled to participate."

Vivian Bagnell, chairman of the dance festival, said the festival was planned to capture the "big picture of America" - the cultural roots of those who settled the area comprising the temple district, the major influence of the Indians, and the patriotic nature of the area's current residents.

She said the number of youths participating in the dance festival mushroomed as the event grew nearer. The dancers were mostly youths, but included some up to age 45. "Within three days before the final rehearsal, the number jumped from 2,500 up to 4,000," she said.

Hundreds of dancers performed energetically in native American, European, American Folk and Scandinavian dances in colorful, scarved costumes.

Organizing the mammoth finale - that of using 3,000 people to depict the United States flag - "gave insight into what it must have been like to organize enormous companies of pioneer," said Sister Bagnell. Not all of the dancers were in the finale because of the lack of room, she said.

The youths sacrificed other things in order to take part in the once-in-a-lifetime event. Many high school athletes had qualified to go th the state track finals, but chose to attend the centennial instead.

It was a spiritual event for them, Sister Bagnell said. One youth commented, "If only you could feel what we felt when we saw that human patchwork quilt on the hill - the audience."

A non-member who attended commented, "Leave it to the Mormons to always do things of this magnitude."