On August 22, missionaries and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped with the celebration that marked the opening of the light rail extension from Sycamore to Mesa Drive, along Main Street in Mesa.
Speaking at the celebration, Leslie Stanton of the Federal Transit Authority said that the goal of America is “to put opportunity within everyone’s reach,” and noted that cars and trucks are “no longer the only option” for travel between the centers of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.
With the latest extension, one opportunity within greater reach is the chance for more people to visit a temple of God, as the light rail now ends across from the Mesa Arizona Temple.
Alan Collier of the Easter Pageant Presidency, said, “The temple grounds are public. People can now come to the temple on the light rail and experience the Spirit of Christ that’s present on the grounds.”
For this opening, the City of Mesa needed 120 volunteers in two shifts.
“Mesa knew that the missionaries would be quick to help,” said Sister Brady, a full-time missionary. They contacted Elder Kent Wood, a service missionary, who spread the word through email, and 111 missionaries signed up almost immediately.
Some greeted those who attended the festivities, offering a fan with information printed on it, answering questions, and helping passengers safely board trains. Other volunteers distributed bottles of cold water.
To make the day even more momentous, Valley Metro gave each of the four new light rail stops a specific theme for the celebration. The theme for the Mesa Drive stop was “Discover History.” The Church was invited to participate in that as well. Steve Harms of the Metro-Phoenix Public Affairs Council put together a team to organize and set up several booths in Pioneer Park so passersby could learn about “Pathways to Mesa’s Heritage.”
Alan Collier was part of that team. Earlier in the summer, Brother Collier was driving to Nauvoo with his family when he was struck with the idea that the booths should display “handcarts and wagons.”
Youth from the Mesa Maricopa and Apache Junction stakes, who had participated in Trek reenactments this summer, dressed like 19th-century pioneers and helped inform the public of the 1,300-mile journey made by the Saints in 1847. Four handcarts were displayed and visitors who wondered what it was like to push one were given the chance to find out.
Daryl Hatch, restorer of old carriages, exhibited a beautiful green wagon built in 1843 by Brigham Young’s favorite wagon maker, Peter Schuttler.
Owen Garner and Curtis Standage shared their vast knowledge of the Mormon Battalion that marched 2,200 miles from Iowa to San Diego, carving out the Southern Overland Route and finishing in 1847.
To help visitors understand that the LDS people focus on the Savior most of all, murals of Him were displayed at a large booth manned by members of the Lexington Young Single Adult Ward.
Jenee Prince, director of the Easter Pageant, handed out pictures of the temple and visitor’s center. She said, “It’s a great gift to the community to have the pageant and the lights on the temple grounds at Christmastime.”
The director of those lights, Stacey Farr, spoke of the City of Mesa Parks and Recreation Department, Valley Metro, and Entertainment Solutions of Arizona, saying, “The teamwork to make this celebration happen has been delightful.”
The celebration was a reminder of those in the past who toiled through this harsh land, as well as a tribute to the 21st-century builders, namely Valley Transit Construction, who built a modern roadway that now leads directly to the temple.