“Miraculous”, “life-changing”, “sure witness of the spirit”. These are only a few of the descriptions associated with the recent production of “The Savior of the World” put on by the Richmond Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the west side of Houston, Texas.
The four goals making up the mission of the production were to strengthen testimonies, to unify the stake, to reach out to the community and to strengthen families. After Hurricane Harvey, the musical was postponed to allow time to aid in the recovery, and a fifth goal was added: to help all who came, either participating or observing, to find peace in Christ.
There were eight performances over two weeks in both English and Spanish. Between 2,200 and 2,500 people attended, plus a cast and crew of nearly 300 people, including stake members and neighbors. It was a massive undertaking with everyone’s contribution needed and appreciated, including the babysitters’ volunteered time.
This musical drama was first produced in the LDS conference center in 2000. It is repeated there each Christmastime. Purportedly, the Richmond Stake is the first to present the musical in both Spanish and English on successive dates using the same bilingual choir.
Producers Keith and Andrea Lutz had been involved in the production in various roles five times in California. After moving to Texas in 2013 they dreamed of producing it here. With stake approval in 2016, Nicole Lenfesty was selected to lead the direction committee and Jodie Jensen tapped as music committee head.
Jensen shared, “The English and Spanish speaking singers learned to pronounce and memorize both languages. They saw they could do hard things. There was one common purpose to testify of Christ. Nothing is more powerful than testifying with one voice.” The stake choir previously had about 25 members she said. Since the musical, over 80 attended the latest rehearsal for stake conference. “People from all wards were hugging and so glad to see each other. It has unified the stake,” Jensen added.
During the last performance, the electricity went out. “They stepped on the stage with faith, knowing the Lord was with them. They belted out the song acapella, trusting the Lord would not let them down,” Lenfesty said. “He sent a miracle. The spirit was tangible.” She added, “Several people have come up to me and said ‘thank you for forcing me to do this. I had no idea it would be so life changing’.”
Before being seated, attendees were treated to a 30 A.D. market area and a room filled with artwork depicting the life of Jesus Christ. Filling one wall were handwritten testimonies of the Savior. “People asked, ‘Why are you doing this in the stake center and not some big auditorium?’ It was to bring people into the building, to show the community we believe in Christ, to let them feel the spirit when they come into the building,” said Keith Lutz.
Andrea Lutz added, “The mission was accomplished. The experience was worth every adversity. When you are doing the work of the Lord, nothing is impossible. The spirit in our stake, in our homes and families, in the lives of investigators has never been so strong. We were able to experience the message that the Savior did indeed walk upon the earth.”