What better way for this to happen then for our Relief Society to experience Lehi's dream in a very tactile way? First-hand(ish) was the best way we figured that could happen.
So, we read and re-read the scriptural accounts found in 1 Nephi 8 and 1 Nephi 11. From there we identified four major elements of the dream and recreated them in individual rooms throughout the church, starting with the introduction of the Iron Rod in the Multi-Purpose room.
This room is where our night began, as we sang "The Iron Rod" as our opening hymn and then we had prayer. Our Relief Society President then shared her testimony of the evening's purpose, and introduced the sisters to the rod...as well as bid they join her on the journey.
The sisters then took hold of the Rod and followed it out of the multi-purpose room, along the hallway, and into the Relief Society room where they beheld the Great & Spacious Building and the raging river. Here a member of our Bishopric spoke to the sisters about the Great & Spacious, as well as the river, and what they represent in our lives today. He also helped us to better see where and how we can avoid being distracted and beckoned to the danger that they are. They were again invited to continue along the rod further on the path which led them out into the hallway.
While surrounded by darkness in the hallway, they cautiously made their ways, all while holding firmly to the Rod. Then the heavy mist arose around them, complicating the journey. Each sister pressed forward, and eventually wound up in our Young Women's room (which is quite narrow), and there they heard from another counselor in the Bishopric regarding the darkness & mist, how they are the small but most dangerous distractions in our day-to-day activities and can lead us into apostasy. Once the brother had borne his testimony, he invited them to once again cling to the Rod and continue their journey.
The combination of the particular doorway and the limited space in the room and the adjoining hallway made exiting the narrow room a little bit of a squeeze...but it was the "strait & narrow" so it worked out nicely in the end.
The Iron Rod then led the sisters into the dark gym, where the Rod continued right up to the Tree of Life itself, which was lit from its roots to its top-most branches in white light. At the tree, waiting for the sisters, were the Relief Society Presidency with open arms to welcome them to the tree, to share a smile and to give them a gift from the tree.
Once all the sisters had come and been received at the Tree of Life, they sat at the tables surrounding the tree, and listened as our Bishop explained further the meaning and importance of the Tree in our lives... what it represents, and how it is truly "precious above all." He also shared his testimony of the program they had just completed, as well as a most precious experience he'd had with a similar evening centered around Lehi's dream. All of the talks given that night were wonderful, however the Bishop's talk was my favorite. His testimony was so strong, and even he was emotional as he spoke of the scriptures and his experience....caused me to get teary (and I wasn't even seated in the room, I was watching from behind the scenes).
At the conclusion of the Bishop's remarks, a closing prayer was offered and 3 of our finest young women immediately rolled a cart filled with dinner for all of the sisters. And there we all feasted together, at the tree!
It was simple, and well orchestrated... like clock-work! Seamless. :) (Why do I figure? Because it was the Lord behind it all, not me.) All of the details of the night just flowed. They were simple enough. Putting it altogether for two days straight left our committee exhausted, however it was worth every single minute! So, do you want a run-down of the details? What, you want pictures too?! Well, you're in luck. I took some set-up pics, and only a few from the end of the night. But I also took a run-through video earlier that afternoon just for a clearer idea (audio might seem a little loud, as I took it with my phone). So, buckle your seat belts, cause this is the best I can give you from here:
- The Iron Rod = PVC masterpiece ala Mr LKP! (Have I mentioned lately how amazing he is?)
- The Great & Spacious Building = Built out of covered cardboard boxes, with tealights & flashlights under the fabric to create skyline definition and faux windows...this room was dark for its portion of the program. (Oodles of thanks to Karla for all of her help & creative genius!)
- The Mist = Our handy-dandy fog machine (from Halloween a couple years ago) coming out of one of the classrooms in the hallway.
- The Tree = One old sonotube concrete-form, from Mr LKP's family's construction company, wrapped in twisted & gnarly sections of blank newsprint paper, with fruit tree branches stuck in the top of it, and then lit from top to bottom with clear Christmas lights.
- "Fruit" of the Tree = Gift = These awesome, custom laser-cut wooden pendants/tags which had our theme on one side and our tree image on the other side, handcrafted by THE MOST talented Rob of BullFrog Graphics.
- Place Setting = Each place setting had at its center (where the plate should have been) a single Golden Delicious apple pinned with 2 paper leaves. One leaf had the theme along the edge, and the evening's tree was on the other leaf. (A Special thanks goes out to Dandee for her help in locating this idea!)
- Dinner = Chicken salad. This was quite easy-breezy, but satisfying nonetheless. Each plate that came out of the kitchen had a bed of Romaine lettuce, topped with sliced chicken breasts (seasoned only with salt & pepper, and the lovely Alder wood chips from the Traeger grill it was cooked on- thanks to Ranae, who cooked chicken for us, despite her daughter's college basketball team progressing further in the NWAACC tournament that day!). The toppings were already at each table (almond slices, craisins, mandarin oranges, & dressing), that way each sister could customize her dinner to what she preferred or to what she COULD eat. (Another special thanks goes out to Jenn, as she made the most lovely chicken salads for us a few weeks back when we gathered at her house for dinner & board games. On the drive home that night I felt so very inspired by her awesome, simple idea!)
- Dessert = Berry Parfait. Only instead of yogurt, it was with vanilla pudding. Each sister received her own berry treat...which was great that we were enjoying more fruit at the tree together! It all just went so well together. :) It was scrumptious! (Thanks again & again to Allyson for whipping up sooooo much lovely vanilla pudding, ON her birthday no less!)
|Where the Iron Rod began.|
|The Great & Spacious Building|
|The Mist section. Notice the fog machine hiding along the right side wall?|
|THE ULTIMATE DESTINATION: The Tree of Life|
|The tables turned out so simple, yet so lovely.|
|Member of our RS Presidency working feverishly to get the Great & Spacious completed for lights out.|
|Bishop wanted to read from the scriptures, but it was too dark. Enter the iPad to the rescue! :)|
|OUR AWESOME KITCHEN HELP: Mini-Me and her two friends|
|This front & back of the gifts that were given at the tree, in a simple white glassine bag. (Many thanks to Rob!)|
|A close-up example of the apples at each place setting.|
So, watch for the mist in this video. It was AWESOME! (And a lot thicker during the program.) STILL gives me chills, it was that much better in person and at night with the darker effects.
All in all, it was a beautifully successful evening. I loved hearing repeatedly from sisters how glad they were that they chose to attend. It is one thing for me to tell a sister how glad I am that she made it, but to hear her say that herself makes my heart very happy.
And just so EVERYONE is clear, I am soooo very grateful for all of the hours dedicated to this project. For all of the helping hands involved in carrying out what seemed like such menial tasks...really each task made a HUGE impact. Whether you lifted where you stand/stood or lifted where you sit/sat, this evening wouldn't have been even remotely possible without you. So thank you all very, very much-from the bottom of my heart!
(P.S. In the beginning, the Multi-Purpose room had the only exterior door unlocked for entry, so that the sisters couldn't see the rest of the rooms or the Iron Rod that wove throughout the hallway in advance. And this way they HAD to remain in the first room...don't worry, in case of emergency we could exit through ANY of the doors in the building, the multi-purpose room's door was just the only one that someone could enter the building through.)