Remnants of a spirit of dedication, unity, faith and testimony, left here by the early members of the Church, is what the historical musical "City of Joseph" is all about.
And it's that spirit that has strengthened and bolstered Karen Clark's testimony as she has performed in the musical since her baptism more than a year and a half ago." `City of Joseph' has helped me put things into perspective," said Karen, a member of the Maryland Heights Ward, St. Louis Missouri Stake, who now attends BYU. "I understand the gospel more, especially the Restoration. And I know we [the castT are here for a purpose. This show is about missionary work. That to me is what we are striving for."
A cast of 350 perform in the outdoor musical - held Aug. 2,3 and 6-10 - to tell the story of the founding and growth of Nauvoo during the 1840s.
Karen's interest in the gospel came a couple of years ago after talking with a friend who had just returned from performing in "City of Joseph." Still enthralled with the spirit of missionary work, he told her of his touching experiences on the hill in Nauvoo. He felt that was where he received his own testimony of the gospel.
Little did she know that some time later she would be baptized into the Church and performing herself in "City of Joseph."
"For those who attend the show, it really gives them a positive overview of the restored gospel," remarked R. Don Oscarson, author and producer of the show. "For those who are in the show, it really gives them a deeper appreciation and real personal understanding of what the early members of the Church went through and what their faith consisted of."
About 50,000 people, more than half being non-members, were expected to attend the pageant this year. The production, now in its 16th year, was written from the histories and journals of those who developed the Nauvoo area.
Music for the show was also written with the period in mind, said Maughan W. McMurdie, composer and musical director of "City of Joseph."
"Music of that period was simplistic," he remarked. "They didn't have great orchestras or bands. The music was music that would stick in your mind. That's what I wanted to write for `City of Joseph.' "
The cast, all volunteers, comes from 16 states, according to John P. Mathews, publicity director for the pageant.
Each year cast members "are willing to work night and day and truly sacrifice," McMurdie commented. "That is something you don't normally see on a daily basis, but you see clusters of them constantly at it here."
F. Gerald Bench, director of the production, said cast members feel the spirit of Nauvoo when they pull together and are dedicated to accomplish their task, just as the early Church members did to build Nauvoo. - Sheridan R. Sheffield