Temple hill is site of annual pageant

Perched atop a rising knoll, known as "Temple Hill," the Manti Temple dominates the Sanpete Valley of central Utah. Thousands flock to the spacious temple grounds each summer to watch the popular Mormon Miracle Pageant, which is entering its 53rf and final year.

The Mormon Miracle Pageant ends a week from Saturday on June 22nd. I mean, it really ends – as in it will be the last performance ever. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has decided that most church pageants will be phased out, as I understand it.

Evidently it is felt that the Manti Pageant has served its purpose. The lights will go down forever after the eight-night run of the show this year.

I have mixed feelings. It’s hard to see traditions be retired. But it will certainly free up a lot of time for Sanpete families who have been so involved for so many years.

For those connected to the pageant, there have been so many long hours of planning, rehearsals and performances. I’ve known some of the directors over the years. There are many early mornings and late nights.

There has been lots of hard labor setting up scenery and getting thousands and thousands of chairs arranged for the audience. There are dozens and dozens involved in behind the scenes work that most people never think about. The costume staff is just one category.

Fatigue sets in before the performance run even begins. I call it being “miracle whipped.” But it must not be too bad, because Sanpete has pitched in to do it year after year.

No one has taken me seriously when I have suggested that we should do the Mormon Miracle Pageant just once every 10 years like the famous Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany. That play runs again next year in 2020, so the residents there are now “on break.”

I do think it’s a lot of fun to have all the extra people around for the pageant. Those responsible for crowd and traffic control probably wouldn’t agree with me. They have a lot to manage as Sanpete nearly doubles in size on some days.

The good thing about having visitors here is that they are just that –visitors. After their visit, they leave and go back to their own homes.

The pageant has been performed every year since 1967. There are some people around who can say they’ve been involved every year since the very beginning. I’ve told people that the pageant has a very effective method of getting people to help; but it has had no method of letting people “retire.”

I’ve had something to do with the pageant since coming to Sanpete in 1984. I’ve kept thinking that I should retire, but once you’re in it, it’s hard to quit. But, we’ll all go into retirement after this year.

I don’t know how many people were involved in the production in the early years, but nowadays, there are hundreds and hundreds of people scurrying around up on the temple hill in the cast, crew and supporting staff.

The “new” scene in the pageant, which was added some years ago, is spectacular just by the fact that so many people are involved. It’s called the “Christ in America” scene.

The first part of the scene depicts a great storm and earthquakes at the time of Christ’s death. There are a few hundred cast members running around like chickens with heads cut off amidst flashing lights and propane generated fireball pyrotechnics.

Everyone is in biblical type costumes. And remember, this is being done on a steep, grassy hillside that can be slick.

In spite of careful choreography and instructions, I believe the real miracle of the pageant is that the flames haven’t roasted anybody and that no cast member has been trampled to death during that scene.

I’m not in the cast this year. I’ll just have to remember the years that I was on stage in costume as George Washington, Brigham Young, and in other roles. In years past, I have, at times, stepped in on short notice a few times and did parts that I wasn’t familiar with.

One night, I dislocated my shoulder at the end of a scene. When the stage went dark, I marched off the set a different direction than I was acquainted with — thinking I knew where I was going. Suffice it to say, I didn’t know where I was going and stepped off into thin air and got injured.

If you haven’t seen the pageant for a few years, this year is the “last call.” I know that there are many Sanpeters who haven’t been in the audience for many years. Some make it a matter of pride that they stay away and out of sight during pageant time. If you miss it this year, you’ve missed it – for good.

I’ve wondered if there’s a Guinness Book of World Records category for greatest number of folding chairs set up in a short amount of time. I think the Manti pageant would be in the running. It’s amazing to see well over 10,000 chairs go up in a short amount of time.

The number of chairs has grown significantly over the years at the pageant. I think they have purposely reduced the size of the “blanket section” over time. I have a feeling that there have been too many young people on blankets paying more attention to each other than they have been to the show.

As we work through the last of “the miracle” next week, we need to encourage each other. Everyone deserves a final pat on the back for pulling this event off every year. For one more season Sanpete will host the world and we’re going to have fun doing it.

Then, the miracle will just exist in our memories as we move forward to new adventures. Enjoy the pageant Sanpete. It’s about to become part of our history.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!