MESA, Ariz. Under clear, desert skies, an estimated 100,000 people saw the Easter story re-enacted here, and many left with a renewed appreciation for the gift of the Atonement and the Resurrection.
Paul Ragle of Mesa, a member of the Baptist Church, said he had seen the pageant many times but this year it meant more to him than ever before. "My dad passed away a year ago," he said. "It was comforting to be reminded that he is in heaven. I really believe that message of the pageant."
Trisha Whitmer, 15, of the Greenfield Park Ward, Mesa Arizona Kimball East Stake, said she, too, had been to the pageant before and each time she sees it, it helps her to learn more about the Savior. "It really helps me to better understand Christ's life and all He did for us," she said.
The 75-minute production, which opened by proclaiming Christ as "the light and life of the world," ran an extended eight nights this year, April 13-15, and 18-22. The opening night, on Thursday, was presented entirely in Spanish. The cast included more than 400 people, with an additional 100 volunteers who helped backstage, plus countless others who helped with costuming, makeup, construction, publicity, lighting, sound and security.
In its 62nd year, the pageant is presented on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple, located in downtown Mesa. The story of Christ's life is told "from the beginning," including moments of the creation and early prophesies of Isaiah. The audience sees, along with the shepherds, as the angels herald His birth, the miracles He performed as He taught the gospel, and the audience agonizes with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, as well as rejoicing in proclaiming that "He lives!"
"The story is so beautifully portrayed," said Elder Weston Killpack, director of the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors Center. "Everyone seemed moved by it."
He said thousands of people came into the Center each evening before and after the pageant to see the "Christus" statue and the video, "A Road to Emmaus." He said hundreds also asked to learn more about the Church.
Pageant Chairman Ron Evans said he also believed that the audience was moved by the spirit of what they saw, heard, and felt. "Each night as the pageant ended, the audience remained still for a few moments and they seemed to ponder the feelings that they had," he said. "It was a display of reverence for the sacred nature of the pageant. I really noticed and appreciated that."