Church pageants canceled for 2021, with Hill Cumorah finale to be 2019 rebroadcast

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that three pageants planned for 2021 — the Hill Cumorah Pageant, the Nauvoo Pageant and the British Pageant — will not be held this year because of COVID-19 pandemic limitations and precautions.

With the 2021 cancellations comes the final curtain on the Hill Cumorah Pageant, which was supposed to have its final live performance this year, after having a planned 2020 finale postponed a year because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Nauvoo and British productions are two of three Church pageants to continue after 2021. The third is the Mesa Pageant, which has been paused during renovations of the Mesa Arizona Temple and its grounds.

In place of a live-production Hill Cumorah Pageant this July, the Church will rebroadcast the 2019 performance — the last one conducted — with the event to commemorate the rich, 84-year history of the pageant that dates back to the 1930s and the tens of thousands of volunteers who have been involved.

The streamed event will be available beginning July 9 on broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org and will be captioned in Spanish and Portuguese.

The Church announced the postponements, rebroadcast and commemorative presentation Tuesday, March 9, on Newsroom.

Postponements prolonged final production

In October 2018, the Church announced changes to local celebrations, including pageants. While local celebrations of culture and history may be appropriate, “larger productions, such as pageants, are discouraged,” the statement said, adding that “as it relates to existing pageants, conversations with local Church and community leaders are underway to appropriately end, modify or continue these productions.”

Soon after, word came that the Hill Cumorah Pageant would be discontinued entirely following a final 2020 summer production, with the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah, no longer to be directly supported by the Church after its 2019 run. In addition to the Manti Pageant, two long-running productions in Utah — the Castle Valley Pageant and the Clarkston Pageant — were also discontinued.

Read more: How the Church historic sites are fulfilling their purpose during the pandemic

In April 2020, the Church announced the 2020 Hill Cumorah Pageant was postponed due to restrictions on large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the production’s final run tentatively rescheduled for July 2021 — and now canceled. 

Cast members perform in an early scene from the Hill Cumorah Pageant.
Cast members perform in an early scene from the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Credit: Kenneth Mays

Plans for the Hill Cumorah include rehabilitation and restoration to its natural forested state in preparation for a quieter role, similar to that of the nearby Sacred Grove.

Conducted on its namesake hillside, the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant in Manchester, New York, had become a seven-stage production with an all-volunteer cast of more than 770 and seating for 8,000 — one of the country’s largest, free outdoor theater productions.

After its premier in 1937, the pageant ran for more than 80 years, finishing as a 10-scene show — nine episodes portraying stories from the Book of Mormon and the last depicting the modern Restoration of the gospel. 

Ongoing pageants

The Nauvoo Pageant’s next production is tentatively scheduled for July 5-30, 2022.

The British Pageant — which will continue in Chorley, England, every four years under area leadership — is tentatively scheduled for 2022. It has been conducted twice since its inception — in 2013 and in 2017.

Due to renovations of the Mesa Arizona Temple and the surrounding temple grounds where the annual Easter season event was presented, the Mesa Pageant has not been held since 2018. After the completion of the renovations, the annual pageant will resume and continue under area leadership.