Story line same, but pageant doesn't get old

"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue," might be said of this year's Mormon Miracle Pageant, witnessed by more than 50,000 people as it opened on the slope of Temple Hill here July 8-10.

With the majestic, lighted Manti Temple as a backdrop, the production also was performed July 13-17, with the total audience for eight nights estimated around 125,000. About 10,000 folding chairs were set up on the temple grounds at the base of Temple Hill to accommodate the crowds. Many people spread out on blankets.Something old: The story line of the pageant remained the same, and although it is almost as old as history, it doesn't get old because it brings new application to life with each annual production, according to pageant participants and attendees.

Included in each performance were colorful scenes from the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the gospel and martyrdom of Joseph Smith, the hardships and blessings of the westward migration of the Saints and the eventual settling of Manti and the surrounding Sanpete Valley.

Something new: A new song, written and composed by Church members Wilbur Braithwaite and W. McLoyd Ericksen, is used in the opening scene of the pageant to introduce the audience to the New England of the 1820s. The number has a melody that fits right into the pageant's taped sound track.

As in previous years, many cast members and production people were new in their roles. Renelle Smith expressed excitement at having been cast in the role of Lucy Mack Smith, her third great-grandmother. She performed the role on alternate nights with Shirley Frischknecht.

Renelle said she has a great love for the early Smith family and was honored to represent her ancestor in the production. "I think of my great-great-great-grandmother as a woman of unwavering faith, a woman who believed in the testimony of her son, Joseph, and who gave him her full loyalty and support," she said.

New choreography was added to the dance scenes of the pageant, and dancers were double-cast, as were most of the principal actors. Also, new movements were taught to approximately 150 "angels" for the pageant's closing scene.

Something borrowed: Again, as in years past, BYU's mammoth sound system and technicians were provided. The powerful system carried dialogue and music to a widespread audience.

Something blue: The beautiful Sanpete County summer evenings, which again this year as in times past were devoid of rain, enabling pageant performances to go off without a hitch.

Directed by Ronald Hall, the pageant depicts the "miracle of the birth and growth of the Church." This year's pageant general chairman was Lee R. Barton. Some 600 people participated this year, with another 1,000 helping behind the scenes directing traffic, putting up and taking down chairs, cleaning up (done largely by Primary children), distributing programs, cooking meals, serving on costume and make-up committees and working as stage and lighting directors. The production required the cooperation and help of the six stakes in the Manti Utah Region.

One cast member, Joan Morrow Naylor, has participated in about 125 pageant performances through the years. She explained her feelings about the event: "It is a great privilege to be a member of this cast. I am always spiritually lifted each time I perform, and my testimony is strengthened by that same Spirit. I have seen miracles each year as problems are solved with definite assistance from on high. Possibly the greatest miracle that happens each year is that it goes off at all. Somehow the hundreds of youth all manage to do their parts well, and afterward bear unbelievably strong testimonies strengthened by the message the pageant brings. I am a better person for having participated in this great event."

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