A full-scale replica of the Tabernacle of Moses, including the golden Ark of the Covenant, just made its first appearance in Arizona.
General contractor Ed Hoke of the Huntington Beach California Stake was asked by his stake presidency to study the Lord’s description in Exodus detailing how Moses was to build the Tabernacle, then build a replica for their 2016 youth conference. The task took approximately eight months.
As a portable kit, the Tabernacle has now journeyed to 11 stakes in California and Utah for tours. It has even gone to the Ann Arbor Michigan Stake, Brigham Young University and the University of Southern California.
The Queen Creek West Stake used the replica for their youth conference in March. Forty adult volunteers labored six hours to assemble it. At night, the Deacons camped around the 75- by 150-foot wall of the outer courtyard, as did the Levites who protected the Tabernacle centuries ago.
Each member was invited to tour the Tabernacle, with youth guides explaining the symbolism. Symbols represented the Messiah bearing everyone’s burdens, protecting them, and being the only way back to God’s presence.
Much preparation went into the event. The youth delved into the Old Testament, learning how the Tabernacle relates to modern temples. They created colorful cloth banners representing the 12 tribes of Israel for a special moment of the conference.
That moment came after the 503 youth had each written a personal covenant with the Lord. They gathered at Desert Mountain Park, where the replica of the Ark of the Covenant awaited them, and put the papers containing their covenants into it. “It felt like a permanent prayer,” said High Councilman Whit Church.
Then, banners aloft, they walked from the park along the Queen Creek Wash Trail toward the church, with their bishops— the latter-day Levites— carrying the Ark, and saw for their first time the Tabernacle.
Jacob Good, age 18, said, “People had conversations along the way. But as we got closer, they quieted down, knowing the importance of what we were doing.”
The procession continued into the Tabernacle courtyard. The Ark was taken into the Holy of Holies, where the written covenants were removed and a replica of the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments was placed inside it. Also in the Holy of Holies, each bishop told his own flock of youth about the importance of making and keeping sacred covenants with God.
Another highlight for these youth was crushing and pressing olives with up to 10,000 pounds of weight to make oil.
Stake President Gary Smith said, “It was important for us as stake leadership to help those youth recognize the significance of that olive press and what our Savior accomplished for each one of us when He bled from every pore.”
Seventeen-year-old Grace Ogden noticed how it affected everyone. “Learning the symbolism of the Atonement of Jesus Christ brought a feeling of peace,” she said. “It was very, very touching.”
Together, the Tabernacle and olive press offered an impactful hands-on experience.
To rent the Tabernacle, email Sister Julie Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org.