Angels are an integral part of miracles. Humankind seems to yearn for a personal connection to angels, as guardians, protectors, guides and teachers. Angels are traditionally perceived as divine messengers in our lives.
The Mormon Miracle Pageant begins with a search for divine direction and ends with the angelic reward for following the path given.
There is a fascinating mystique about angels and angels portrayed in the pageant carry this same quality. There are certain scenes that have always seemed to elicit comments like, “Ooh, how did they do that?” Not surprisingly, these “mystery” scenes contain angels.
Every time a single angel is seen in the pageant, one particular person, Moroni, is the one represented. He is portrayed in the production as a mortal man and then as a glorified, resurrected being.
Several years ago, new scenery required some major changes in staging, so the first “Ooh” scene occurred prior to that time. This scene took place as the Angel Moroni appeared to a young boy named Joseph Smith. “Moroni” was lighted gradually, until his white personage appeared very bright.
With use of a hand-painted theatrical scrim and with benefit of the sloping hill, the “angel,” beautifully, seemed to materialize and stand in the air. Audience reaction has always been quite audible.
The next angelic appearance comes shortly after the bedroom scene. Moroni again appears, this time on the hillside.
Both scenes are made very impressive with clever costuming, lighting and makeup. The bright spotlight, turned onto a dazzling white robe in the same instant the black covering is removed, gives a stunning effect.
The next time Angel Moroni is seen, he stands on the top of the west tower of the temple. This is definitely another “Ooh” for the audience. Questions such as, “How did he get up there.” “Is that a real person,” How come he doesn’t blow off?” have all been heard.
Another related question is, “How come the Manti Temple has a flat top on the west tower?” A native of Sanpete might facetiously answer, “So the Angel Moroni can stand there for the pageant.”
Answers to the other questions are the angel “gets up there” with a temple escort via a narrow stairway in the tower, through a small trap door, out onto the approximately six-foot-square platform.
The little decorative railing is only about 18-inches high, but the angel doesn’t “blow off” because of support. In the early years, that stabilizing consisted of the temple escort, John Henry Nielson and later, Dean Harmer, reaching through the trap door opening to hold Moroni’s ankles. Now however, there is a steel rod with a waist-high back brace into which the performer leans.
The performer sometimes has raised the trumpet to his lips after the light comes on, to show he’s an honest-to-goodness living person.
The beautiful robe glows brilliantly and flows in the breeze, which usually whips the fabric handsomely. However, once in a while, there is dead calm, no breeze at all. On one such occasion, Brother Nielson tried to remedy the calm by blowing as hard as he could to get the robe to move. After that performance, a small fan was positioned at one corner, just in case.
Many stories have been told and re-told about unsuspecting travelers driving down the highway toward the temple, when suddenly an “angel” appears in the dark sky. Some reports have had the car going off the road as the shocked driver vows to “repent” or to “never touch another drop!”
Whatever truth is in these stories, the fact is, the Angel Moroni on top of the Manti Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed a real person, not just a statue, as is found on other Church temples.
The beginning of the final “Ooh” scene is when one of the lead characters, Robert, dies, leaves his mortal body behind and is “resurrected.” It is truly a memorable scene and this writer has no wish to spoil the surprise by revealing the secret of the resurrection.
So that part must remain a mystery. Suffice it to say, Robert and wife, Mary, rise to be greeted by a spectacular heavenly host of angels. If this sight doesn’t produce chills, you haven’t been watching.