|Since the days of pioneer children singing as they walked…and walked, our Latter-day Saint culture has been filled with music and entertainment. From road shows, to girls’ camp, to Primary programs, to our own world-renowned choir, we’ve quickly learned that there’s more than one effective way to express love for the gospel—and performance works wonderfully.
The first pageant, in Palmyra, New York, began in 1935 as a small celebration of the Book of Mormon and has quickly grown into a theatrical phenomenon that welcomes over 100,000 visitors annually from around the globe. The idea rapidly caught on, and now there are also pageants in Canada, California, Arizona, Utah, and Illinois.
Mormon Miracle Pageant
June 14–16, 19–23
With a canopy of stars and the backdrop of one of our oldest and most lovely temples to set the stage, an evening enjoying the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah, is a wonderful experience. This pageant tells the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his role in the Restoration. The play also demonstrates how those who believed the Prophet’s message endured tremendous persecution and eventually, after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, made the sacrifices required in the journey west.
For first time visitors to the Manti pageant, the following tips may be helpful:
* Arrive early for best seating and bring a blanket and/or lawn chairs.
* You can eat dinner at the stake center from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M., which is located at 3rd and Main or at the Manti Tabernacle, located at 1st and Main.
* You may want to consider staying overnight, as traffic will be very congested after the production, which ends at 11:15 P.M. You can choose from a local bed and breakfast, a hotel, or a campground, but be sure to make your reservations well in advance (see mormonmiracle.org for some ideas).
Gates open at 6:00 P.M., performance begins at 9:30 P.M. at the temple grounds. Call (888) 255-8860 or check out mormonmiracle.org for more information.
Jesus the Christ Easter Pageant
March 28-29, and April 3-7
Located on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple is the largest annual outdoor Easter pageant in the world. It certainly has made quite a name for itself and here’s why. Ever since 1928, the pageant has been home to over four hundred volunteers who act out the life of Jesus Christ and the Easter story directly from the Bible.
It appeals to all ages and Christian religions with its authentic costumes, state-of-the-art scenery and lighting, and dramatic storyline. Performances are at 8 P.M. Performances in Spanish are held at 8 P.M. on March 30 and 31. For more information, call (480) 964-7164 or visit easterpageant.org.
Hill Cumorah Pageant: America’s Witness for Christ
Palmyra, New York
July 13–14, 17–21
The Hill Cumorah Pageant: America’s Witness for Christ has been inspiring audiences since 1937. Having now evolved into one of the most spectacular outdoor theatrical performances in the nation, complete with earthquakes, lightening, a thirty-seven-foot erupting volcano, and a cast and crew of over eight hundred, this production will keep you captivated.
The pageant tells the story of the people of the New World, beginning with the account of Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem around 600 B.C. and being guided to the American continent. The show accounts the rise and fall of the ancient inhabitants of this continent and culminates with the awe-inspiring visit of the resurrected Jesus Christ.
Pageant president Dwight Schwendiman adds, “Frequently we hear those in the audience remark that they felt something special while watching the show. . . . No one can walk on these sacred grounds and not be moved by the spirit they will feel here.”
The show begins at dusk (9:15 P.M.) Parking and admission are free. Call (585) 248-9135 or visit hillcumorah.org for more information on the pageant and nearby lodging.
Castle Valley Pageant
Castle Dale, Utah
August 2–4, 7–11
This ninety-minute historical drama portrays the pioneers who settled the Castle Valley, Utah, area after Brigham Young directed them to leave nearby Sanpete County. Since its humble beginning in 1978 with only five hundred total visitors attending, it has grown greatly in size and popularity to an attendance level of 20,000 in recent years.
The pageant begins with families leaving familiar homes to trek through unknown territories. Once they arrive in Emery County, they must overcome more challenges as they build homes, learn to farm in the dry ground, teach American Indians the gospel, experience heartache, and simply try to endure.
Pageant coordinator Mark Justice explains, “We hope audiences who watch their pageant to remember their pioneer heritage and respect their ancestors. However, the main message of the performance is that families can be together forever. We can see this through the challenges the pioneers overcame.”
The show begins at 8:30 P.M. Located at the Castle Valley Pageant Site on Spartan Boulevard. For more information call Mark Justice (435) 687-2234.
The Mormon Handcart Pageant
Many pioneer companies made it to the Salt Lake Valley with relatively few casualties; this was not the case for the pioneers in the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies. The Mormon Handcart Pageant tells of the tragic events of treks to Zion, heartbreaking, never-to-be forgotten stories of our pioneer heritage.
The Willie and Martin groups of immigrant Saints set off late in the season only to find themselves in a sorry situation when an early winter sets in. Captains James G. Willie and Edward Martin did their best to ration the scarce food, but extreme fatigue, deadly dysentery, freezing weather, and lack of relief took the lives of these pioneers, one by one. The pageant commemorates the companies and their rescuers.
According to pageant coordinator Brent Boswell, audiences are deeply affected by the experience. “When it’s over each night, it’s interesting to see how people react; they don’t seem to be in a hurry to leave. It’s almost like they’re trying to absorb something that they worry might go away if they so much as move, but that’s the best part: the feeling does not go away. It becomes a part of who we are because it is a part of who we are. Whether you’re related to a handcart pioneer or not, this is your story, your heritage, yours to live up to.”
The show begins at dusk (9:15 P.M.)and is kocated at the Juab County Fairgrounds Outdoor Arena (350 West Center Street). Pre-pageant activities, which begin at 6:30 P.M., include a pioneer supper, oxen rides, craft shows and demonstrations, and food stands.
Admission is free and no tickets are required. For questions call (435) 623-0196 or see handcartpageant.com.
Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew
Aug. 3–4, 7–11, 14–17
The Man Who Knew is a historic, musical production held at the Martin Harris Memorial Amphitheater near the Clarkston Cemetery where Martin Harris is buried. The production tells the story of its namesake and his contribution to bringing forth the Book of Mormon.
The amazing details of his experiences in helping to fund the book’s publication—despite tremendous opposition, becoming one of the three witnesses of the gold plates, and helping the Prophet Joseph as he translated the work, are all portrayed with vibrant acting and music. He was given the gift of hearing the Lord’s voice, as well as the responsibility to bear testimony of the divine origin of the Book of Mormon to all. This he did faithfully until his death in 1875.
The show begins at 8:15 P.M. at the Martin Harris Memorial Amphitheater. Free tickets are available at martinharrispageant.org or by calling (435) 563-5090.
Traditionally, the members of the community provide a barbecue dinner for the hundreds of visitors to their small town. A small fee of $6.50 buys a hearty western barbecue feast! Reservations are required. To reserve your dinner tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and specify on which date you will attend.
The Nauvoo Pageant
July 6–August 3
Though the original City of Joseph pageant in Nauvoo began decades ago, the new Nauvoo Pageant is a relatively new addition to the plethora of pageants around the country. Its debut was in 2005, commemorating the 200th birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Although this pageant is still new, it has all of the features necessary to create a professional and popular performance.
For example, the show takes place along the Mississippi River with the Nauvoo Temple as its backdrop. The full event is free, including pre-show activities such as three-legged races, stick-pulling, crafts, games, and quilting.
The story follows the community of Saints who came together to build Nauvoo. Watch characters such as Joseph and Emma Smith, Heber C. Kimball, and Brigham Young. Discover the American ideal of Nauvoo and join in this tribute of Joseph Smith.
This pageant plays Tuesday through Saturday nights. Pre-show activities begin at 7:00 P.M.; the pageant begins at 8:45 P.M.
LDS Living Magazine