Young Men and Young Women in the Queen Creek Stake and the recently formed Queen Creek Central Stake—nearly 800 in all, plus an additional 400 adult leaders—accepted the invitation this summer to embark on a unique journey, one that allowed them to “sail the sea with ancient prophets Lehi and Nephi, listen to King Benjamin, teach with Alma and Amulek and even to go to battle alongside Mormon and Moroni.”
The immersive, four-day experience called “Moroni’s Quest” was also a journey of personal reflection and testimony building, both for the 12- to 18-year-old youth and the leaders who participated.
The youth were divided into “tribes,” with adult couples serving as “tribe leaders.” Over the course of the four days, they witnessed the reenactment of 26 stories from the Book of Mormon, including the story of Laban and the brass plates, the Tree of Life, Enos, Alma the Younger, Ammon and Lamoni, Abinadi, the Army of Helaman and of Nephi’s broken bow and ship building experiences.
Each youth had a turn with their ward or their particular age group to participate in the reenactments. For example, says Bishop Hyrum D’Addabbo of the Circle Cross Ward, “Youth from our ward were the ones throwing rocks as the Samuel the Lamanite scene was reenacted.”
These reenactments “allowed youth to be in a position to feel the spirit and to know these stories really happened,” he says. “It was a tremendously spiritual experience, and it definitely had an impact on our youth.”
Noah Murray, 18, a member of Founders Park Ward, Queen Creek Central Stake, says, “It was spiritually strengthening. It deepened my love for the scriptures, increased my desire to study and helped me understand that the Book of Mormon really happened.”
Noah says he appreciated the reflection time they were given after each reenactment. “After we watched the reenactment, we would go to a spot with our tribe leaders to reflect and talk with the other youth in our tribe about what we learned and felt,” Noah says.
The youth were given a list of questions to be discussed after each reenactment, Bishop D’Addabbo says.
After the reenactment of Abinadi being burned at the stake, for example, “Youth were asked if they would be willing to go through that kind of pain and suffering or to what extent they would be willing to stand for truth,” he says. “It was so powerful to see them consider their own faith and testimony.”
For many, including Joseph Ginnett, 16, of the Stonecrest Ward in the Queen Creek Central Stake, the most impactful was the depiction of the coming of Christ to the Americas.
“It was awesome. We woke up at 2:45 a.m. to loud noises to seem more like destruction,” Joseph says. The youth were instructed not to talk and to leave flashlights behind, but to make their way to the amphitheater.
“We waited there and after a while, the loud noises stopped and we heard playing over the speaker a voice saying what God said before Jesus came. Then, the actor playing Jesus appeared on the hillside, and all the youth started walking toward him, talking to him and hugging him.”
It took nearly four hours, but one by one, each of the Young Men and Women was greeted and hugged.
“We knew it was an actor, but being able to see him there made it more personal and a lot more real what he did for us, that he cares about us so much that he paid the price and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Joseph’s brother, 13-year-old Benjamin Ginnett, agrees. Also inspiring, he says, was the portrayal of the army of Helaman, as the 14- and 15-year-old boys were told to gather on the stage, where they knelt as women leaders placed headbands on their heads and gave them letters from their mothers.
“The reenactments helped me visualize what happened and gave me something to base the Book of Mormon stories on,” Benjamin says.
Kristin and Jaron Jarvis of the Circle Cross Ward served as tribe leaders. “It was neat to watch the Book of Mormon come to life right in front of our eyes,” Jaron says.
“From day one to the last day, it seemed to get more and more spiritual,” Kristin says. “A lot of time and effort went into making costumes as professional looking and true to character as possible.”
“Even knowing they were actors, we still felt the spirit,” Jaron says. “Seeing Christ standing there, taking three hours and interacting with every youth, touched them in ways we couldn’t imagine.”
“They were forever changed for it,” Kristin says.
Jaron adds, “They learned to relate what was going on in the Book of Mormon to their own lives now. They learned that here, in the Book of Mormon, are answers to all of life’s questions.”
Marlea Aarons, who serves as the Young Women’s secretary in the Skyline Ward, says the experience began in September, with a kickoff fireside and a challenge from Queen Creek Stake President Dal Zemp “to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover.”
He bore his testimony, later shared in part on the stake’s Moroni’s Quest website: “I bear my personal witness that the Book of Mormon is true. It is truly the greatest adventure story of all time. We look forward to entering its pages with you at Moroni’s Quest. You will be changed forever!”
In the ensuing months, preparations began as Stake Young Men’s President Rand Olsen, of the Cloud Creek Ward, and Stake Young Women’s President Mari Calhoun, of the Stonecrest Ward, and their counselors and advisors worked to help “bring to pass” this event.
Micah Rogers, of the Cloud Creek Ward and a high councilor in the Queen Creek Stake, was put in charge of overseeing the planning and execution of the event. Those plans continued, and, after the Queen Creek stake was split in April, and new Queen Creek Central Stake was created, it became a two-stake event.
“Brother Rogers coordinated the work of the various committees and his wife, Cami Rogers, was part of the Creative Committee,” says Jared Palmer, counselor in the Queen Creek Central Stake Presidency, who supported and assisted the team who was responsible for creating and maintaining the website at moronisquest.com.
President Zemp stayed closely involved throughout the process and his wife, Amy Zemp, along with Camron Howell, all members of the Riggs Ward, and Cami Rogers “worked together for the past year or so as the creative committees in writing the scripts, recording the soundtrack, and overseeing the reenactments. They definitely deserve a shout-out,” President Palmer says.
He adds, “With 780 youth and 401 adult leaders participating, it was a massive undertaking, but it was so rewarding.”
For several of the wards, fast and testimony meeting the Sunday following the Moroni’s Quest event took the entire three-hour block.
“It was clear that our youth had been touched. Our Young Men stood up first and each of our young people bore heartfelt, meaningful testimonies of the Book of Mormon and of the Savior,” says Bishop D’Addabbo.
“President Zemp promised us that miracles would occur,” Sister Aarons says, “and each of the Young Men and Young Women—each and every one who participated—had their own miracle occur.”