VALLEY FORGE, PA. Members of the Valley Forge Pennsylvania Stake, situated in an area with a unique perspective on the American Revolution and the founding of the Church, created a two-act musical titled, "Freedom and Faith."
"It occurred to me," said President Robert B. Smith of the Valley Forge stake, "while I was in upstate New York helping to share the story of the Book of Mormon [as a volunteer during the Hill Cumorah Pageant two years earlier], that we in southeastern Pennsylvania had an inspiring story of our own to tell. We live in an area known as the 'Cradle of Liberty' where the Founding Fathers relied on their faith in God to help form this nation. Many people of all faiths recognize the region as being 'sacred ground' and are interested in learning more about the origins of our country."
Eric Ebeling was called by the stake presidency to create the pageant. The play is based on accounts of patriots who fought during the American Revolution in the 1770s, and people who joined the Church in the area in the early 1840s.
The play portrays the origins of the nation and the Church in the Philadelphia area through the real-life experiences of the Edward Hunter family. The first act includes scenes of the public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia and the suffering of the Continental Army during the winter at Valley Forge. The second act focuses on the remarkable conversion of Edward Hunter and his search for religious truth in Chester County, Pa., during the 1830s.
The play recounts how he joined the Church after meeting Joseph Smith during his visit to the area in 1840. In 1842, Edward Hunter moved his family to Nauvoo, and later led a company of members to Utah. He became the Church's third Presiding Bishop in 1851.
More than 70 members of the stake helped produce the play, including 26 in the cast and 11 in the orchestra. Newel Kay Brown arranged and orchestrated the music, which consisted of Revolutionary War songs and early Church hymns.
At least 600 people viewed the play during its three public performances held in the stake center.