Located just off the shore of the Mississippi River, the City of Joseph hosts the Nauvoo Pageant every year. The pageant is a reenactment of some of the defining experiences of the early Saints in the state of Illinois.
The first presentation being in 2005, the pageant was organized to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Likewise, in honor of their pioneer heritage the British Saints held last year on the Preston England Temple grounds a pageant titled “Truth Will Prevail” that depicts important events experienced by the early Saints in Victorian England.
For the first time in its 10-year history, the Nauvoo Pageant received the scripts and stories from England, and the British Pageant was performed as part of the annual event.
According to John L. Ricks, president of the Nauvoo Pageant, in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Nauvoo Pageant, the Missionary Department and the Priesthood Department felt that bringing the British Pageant overseas to Nauvoo would be a great way to celebrate such a milestone.
“[The missionary and priesthood departments] said they wanted to do something very special this year,” said President Ricks. And that special something was to feature the only current Church pageant that is held outside the United States.
“Truth Will Prevail” was put into production for the first time in the summer of 2013 in Chorley, England, and it depicted the struggles and triumphs of the British Saints.
Victorian-era England was rife with hardship, especially on the lower-class citizens. However, with the light and hope that the first Mormon missionaries brought to the English, spirits were raised and conversion to the gospel abounded.
Many of the British Saints eventually boarded ships and traveled to Zion. Many of those Saints helped found Nauvoo and eventually moved on to settle the Salt Lake Valley.
For a large portion of the members of the Church who go to the pageant, their pioneer ancestry comes from the British Isles, so they are able to see the feats of their forefathers presented on stage.
“[The British Pageant] connects us with those members of our families who came [from England], and it helps us understand what their trials really were,” President Ricks said.
The content of both presentations is taken from journals and personal records from those who endured the trials of times past. More than 1,100 members of the Church, who are set apart as performing missionaries, helped make the performances a success by giving life to what was written in those journals.
In addition to the actors and those who helped produce the pageant, support from local leaders and committees was overwhelming, said President Ricks.
The mayor of Nauvoo, John McCarty, who is a devout Catholic, is “100 percent supportive of [the Nauvoo Pageant],” said President Ricks.
The local junior high school, Nauvoo-Colusa Junior High, served as home base for all of the equipment and costumes that would be used in both of the pageants. Knowing that the pageant participants would be clean and respectful of the facilities, the head janitor of the junior high, who also happens to be the brother of Mayor McCarty, felt no need to return every night for cleanup.
While over the past four years, the Nauvoo Pageant was attended by an average of 35,000 people, this year's combined production of the Nauvoo Pageant and the British Pageant was experienced by more than 58,000 visitors.
The Nauvoo and British pageants aren’t the only such productions put on by the Church. Throughout the United States, there are a total of five other pageants that run, starting around Easter and concluding during the summer months.
During the four weeks between July 4 and Aug. 2, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evening featured the Nauvoo Pageant, and every Wednesday and Friday evening was filled with the sights and sounds of the British Pageant.