Hill Cumorah Pageant


Life as a Cast Member in the Hill Cumorah Pageant

General Information:

I arrived at the hill on Friday July 3rd, without any previous knowledge of what I was in for,I went to because I thought it would be fun, and because I like to perform, I learnt that that was but a small part of the Pageant Experience. At the hill we registered, got our room key, and mingled with other cast members, until dinner. After we had a devotional. Basically at the devotional the pageant presidency told us what to expect, introduced us to all of the staff members, and gave us a spiritual message.

After the devotional we met our cast teams for the first time. Cast teams are small groups that we are put in for the duration of pageant, if we weren't rehearsing we were to be with our cast teams, it was a sort of activity group, we did all sorts of things, like touring the sights, swimming in lake Canandaguia, we made many stops to the local ice cream parlor, we did service projects for the town of Palmyra, and played a number of games, in short it was a small pageant family.

After our first cast team meeting we left for Hobart and William Smith colleges where we stayed in dorms, it was tiring 45 minute drive from the hill which quickly wore on us as the days progressed. Someone once said you could always tell the Hobart people from the people at zion's camp, because we were the ones that were always asleep during the devotionals, which is definately a true part of the pageant experience. At Hobart we mingled for awhile, most of the people staying at Hobart were singles, with a few exceptions, where families would house up in the dorms, instead of at zion's camp. We also had devotionals every night at Hobart, and choir practice. In short Hobart was another life away from pageant. The monday night after opening night we even had a singles day at Hobart where we played volleyball, went swimming, and did a number of fun activities.

On Saturday we got up, ate breakfast at the cafeteria, and went to the Hill. At the Hill we had a devotional. Just so it doesn't get too redundant we had devotionals after every meal, and every performance, and every night back at Hobart. After morning devotional we were cast into our parts.

For the average outdoor production, of say less than one hundred performers, it takes three-four months alone to cast the entire production, for Pageant the world's largest outdoor production with over 600 performers takes a little over three hours. The Casting Procedure was as follows: We all went out into the bowl and stood according to age and gender. Those people who wanted to be dancers went to their designated rehearsal areas. Everyone else just stood around and waited. The directors would hectically run up and down the field and choose people to try out for different parts, the person who they felt fit the part best was chosen. I was chosen to be a Frontline Nephite Battleman which was trult an awesome experience. After casting we ate lunch, and checked out our costumes. Afterwards we rehearsed; some parts required a lot more rehearsing than other parts, Battlemen required a lot of traing under the tutelage of the Battlemaster--Ward Wright. For the most part we would practice after every devotional during the day, for a few hours at a time. It was a fun part though, one cool thing we got to do was block out our own battle sequence, so we could make it as intense as our hearts desire.

On Sundays we would have sacrament meeting at the Hill, administered by the work crew and volunteers from the cast. We had our first complete run through on Tuesday--in the rain, and we had our first dress rehearsal Thursday afternoon in the heat of the glaring sun.

We had our first performance on Friday the tenth of July, exactly one week after we arrived at the hill--it is truly a miracle how fast they put this pageant together. Each night before Pageant we would go out amongst the audience and proselyte. We were given companions, from the members of our cast teams, and were trained by some of the local missionaries, our purpose was to get quality referrals for the local missionaries to follow up on. In seven days we collected around seven hundred referrals.

Miracles and Spiritual Experiences:

At Pageant there were so many blessings and miracles bestowed upon us. The director of the work crew gave a talk on miracles that had happened to the work crew. He told of a time when a large steel object had fallen on to a boy's foot, and how it was black and blue, and looked fairly mangled; he was given a blessing, and the next day he couldn't even tell which foot had been injured. He also told of a time when two work crew members walked across stage seven, which is at the very top, and fell through the grating which is about a twenty foot drop landed on the cement that supports the stage and then continued rolling down the hill and came out of the ordeal without even a scratch. He told of a work crew member who was walking across the stage, and when the fibergalss grating fell out from under him he kept walking in mid-air as if the grating were still there. Finally he told of a time when they were having a farewell testimony meeting at the top of the hill by the statue of Moroni, and it started to rain, so they said a prayer that it would stop raining--and it did. However after awhile they looked out over the house and could see rain falling through the lights but it had spared them.

Personally I witnessed a number of miracles while serving in the Pageant. During the singles day at Hobart I had a friend who sprained his ankle playing volleyball. He was a lamanite dancer which was one of the most strenuous parts in the pageant. That night he was given a blessing and the next day he was completely healed, and he never missed a performance. Another miracle I witnessed occured on opening night when right after dinner there was a twenty-five mile blackout, that would have been cause to cancel the performance, as the technicians came in over the radio saying that it could be out for as much as ten hours. However the most amazing thing happened during the evening devotional, right before the opening prayer ended the lights came back on, and as soon as the prayer was over everyone rejoiced, to see the Lord help us. It was experiences like these that really brought Pageant to life, and that showed me the power of prayer, and the power of faith--it truly can move mountains.

Living in a Zion Society:

Being in the pageant is like living in zion for two whole weeks, we are called as missionaries, and totally taken out of the world. Most of all though we were surrounded by wonderful people, all in the continuous task of serving the Lord, as well as one another. It is truly amazing to look around during devotion and see everyone just emminating their love for one another, as well as a deep love, and appreciation for the Savior, it truly is amazing. In retrospect I imagine Pre-mortal existence, and Celestial kingdom to be a lot like pageant. A type of things past and things yet to come. Both places are zion societies. I imagine leaving pageant to be a lot like leaving Pre-mortal existence, leaving choice friends who we knew we might never see again. I also imagine Celestial Kingdom to be a lot like pageant---a place so full of love.

Sunday the 19th of July was the saddest day of my life, I don't remember ever crying as much as I did that day. It was a day of farewells. Even now thinkning back to pageant I get choked up thinking of the day I said goodbye I really miss everyone so much I love them so much they became such a big part of my life in two weeks. One of the ways we woke up and passed the time while on the bus to the hill was to sing hymns. On this particular Sunday we sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again". At first I didn't really know what we were singing as I was so out of from only getting two hours of sleep the night before. When it hit me during the chorus that this song meant farewell and that this day was the last day I would spend with these people it just hit me so hard I couldn't even finish the song before the tears began to gush out but I wasn't embarrased because I wasn't the only one crying. I just couldn't believe that the best thing that has ever happened to me was about to end. Being at pageant was like home for me, even now I'm pageant sick, but never once was I homesick while at pageant.

At the Hill we had Sacrament meeting for two and a half hours, followed by the farewell addresses of our directors, and the Pageant presidency. Then to close our Pageant experience we sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again"--again, and this time it was even harder, it was the last time I would sing a hymn with all these people, I just broke down through the whole song, for me it was just the hardest thing I ever had to do---say goodbye to these people who I've shared so many choice experiences with, and probably never see most of them again, at least not in this life. After Sacrament we said farewells to those who we had gotten to know pretty well, and we took some farewell pictures. I hung out the rest of the day at the hill, and then went to the sacred grove with some friends who later on dropped me off at the bus station, and yet again I was forced into another farewell this time the last farewell. And it was over my pageant experience had concluding leaving me a better person for the experience. But I left my heart at pageant and it will probably stay there a long time.