After traveling through Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, BYU’s Living Legends returned back to the United States on May 17. The Living Legends Artistic Director, Janielle Christensen, shares a few significant moments from the trip:
Taking the Living Legends’ Seasons show (the Story of the Book of Mormon) to Central America, and to the descendants of the people and lands of the Book of Mormon, was for audiences and the members of Living Legends alike, a particularly tender, powerful and inspirational experience. With a blend of formal performances in world-class venues, to firesides attended by thousands of people, to outreach performances for special-needs schools (which our show was benefitting) to visits to ancient ruins and indigenous villages, the students were aware daily of the blessings of sharing their cultures through music, dance, lights, costumes and testimonies, and of learning from the precious people and rich culture of these historic countries.
The opportunity to present six firesides in 21 days proved to be a great blessing for which this particular group was uniquely prepared. With many of the group already fluent in Spanish, we were able to share testimonies without the need for interpreters. Those who did not speak Spanish worked for long hours on the bus and late into the night at hotels to write out their talks and then have a fellow group member translate it and work with them in pronunciation and delivery. This, along with the dedication of the group back on campus before we left, to learn eight fireside songs in Spanish was not only impressive to our audiences, but allowed the students to share their testimonies and songs in a most powerful and meaningful way. Although scheduled for young single adults, many families attended these firesides and afterward many young men and women communicated to our performers with great emotion their decision to serve a mission because of what they felt during the fire! side. Visits to the LDS temples in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala City, and the newly dedicated temple in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, were also spiritual highlights.
The outreach experiences were particularly emotional as performers danced and sang for deaf, blind and physically and mentally handicapped children and young adults in less than ideal facilities. As much as the children loved the Hoop Dance, Slap Dance and vibrant Mexican footwork, it was when the group stood quietly singing “Child of God” in Spanish or K’iche’ that the spirit in the room seemed to envelop these precious little ones, calming their troubled bodies and minds and brightening their countenances, preparing them for the warm embrace of the group members eager to make that human connection.
Walking into a large hall in the isolated mountainous village of Nahuala with hundreds of radiant children, youth and adults in traditional dress waiting to greet us, it was easy to imagine we might be gathering with the original people of the Book of Mormon and watching them depict their daily life in traditional dances and ceremonies. With fresh pine boughs covering the entire floor in our honor, the sights, smells and events of that cultural exchange will stay forever in the hearts and minds of those of us fortunate enough to experience it.
Although our show was received enthusiastically with sold out performances throughout Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, perhaps our most resounding confirmation of the power of the Seasons show and its message came during our last performances in Nicaragua. Following the show our sponsors, a married couple, (he is a member of congress and she is the president of the University of Managua) came to tell us that the President of the National Assembly, Santo Rene Nunez Tellez, and his council had been in attendance and were profoundly moved not only with the professionalism and spectacle of the show, but especially with the storyline that was woven through the presentation. The next day we were privileged to meet with Mr. Tellez personally where he told us with great emotion the things he had felt during our performance. Although he loved the entire show, it was the story of the cycle of civilization, from seasons of promise to prosperity to pride to war and rebirth, ! along with the message of the importance of family, education and lifting others around you in our final song “Go My Son” that touched him most deeply. He felt that he saw the cycle of struggles, challenges and successes of his country portrayed on the stage in such a beautiful, powerful way and that the message of the final song expressed his vision for his country and of what is most important and meaningful in our lives. He said that he could think of nothing more important than for every person in his country to see that show, to feel what he felt and to learn what he learned.
We left humbled, moved and grateful for the opportunity to share the joy, beauty, majesty and history of the Lamanite cultures with our brothers and sisters in Central America and to experience their rich culture. How much we shared we can’t be sure, but this we know, they gave us more!