Each spring, on the lawns north of the Mesa Arizona Temple, hundreds of cast and crew come together to present "Jesus the Christ," the Mesa Easter Pageant.
Tens of thousands more come to witness the spiritual production on these temple grounds, which adds to the sacredness of the event.
"Not only are we portraying the 'greatest story ever told,' but we are doing it on the grounds of the temple," said Stephen L. West, the pageant's president.
Elder David E. LeSueur, an Area Seventy, said the Spirit permeates the production that bears witness that Latter-day Saints follow Christ.
"We see this as a glorious opportunity to restate and reinforce our devotion to the Savior and His life," he said. "On these sacred grounds the Spirit whispers the role discipleship should play in our lives."
There are nine performances beginning at 8 o'clock each night; the pageant was presented in English March 20-21, American Sign Language March 20-23 and Spanish March 22-23. It will be presented in English again March 26-30.
The pageant's director, Jenee Wright Prince, said each of the nearly 500 cast members and another 400 volunteers who work behind the scenes strives to invite the Spirit into his or her life and into every aspect of the production.
"During the rehearsal process we are uplifted and edified by those around us," she said. "You cannot walk on the temple grounds with these amazing people who give so freely of their time and sacrifice so much and not feel the magnificent spirit that each one of them brings to the experience."
Each night before performances there is a cast devotional under the direction of the pageant presidency.
"It consists of a few director's notes, wonderful speakers and usually an Area Authority or visiting General Authority," she said. "There is always a Spirit-filled musical number, and we pray together."
Elder LeSueur said those involved in the 65-minute production bring their "hopes and prayers that their offering of talent will inspire others and be well received spiritually."
The annual pageant features music, dance and drama to portray the life, teachings, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a community Easter celebration and tradition for many.
"It is a beautiful cultural expression of [the Savior's] life," Elder LeSueur said.
"It strengthens the faith of our own members, including the cast, and it provides a glorious opportunity to share our faith with others by inviting them to attend and participate with us," he added.
"This pageant changes hearts and lives," said Sister Prince. "When the pageant ends each night and tears are filling the eyes of those in the audience, we realize the time we spend doing this is very worth it."
President West acknowledged the tremendous contribution given by hundreds of volunteers and said their motivation is seeing the "joy on the faces of those who witness it."
"That joy sometimes translates into change," he adds. "That is the sweetest experience of all."