An Inside Peek at the Biggest Church Pageant in the World

by | Jul. 13, 2015

Mormon Life

“It was also a blessing to continue to proselyte in the evenings before the show, and I was able to teach in my mission language because of the diversity of visitors.”

Returned missionary and cast member Aaron Thibaudeau agrees. “It was definitely something I needed to keep me in the right spiritual mindset.”

Hearts Changing

Having the opportunity to portray people from the Book of Mormon is a special chance that brings with it a strengthened testimony and greater connection to scripture stories. Campbell, who had the role of Moroni in the 2014 pageant, recalls how his testimony grew as he studied his role. “Each night on stage as I would say my lines, I could feel the power and truthfulness of what I was saying,” he remembers. “I had been forever changed and remain so by the experience.”

Similarly, Slichta remembers the joy that she felt when on the second day of the pageant, her oldest daughter, who was struggling with her testimony, told her, “I’m changing!” By the last day of the pageant, that same daughter said with tears in her eyes, “I know the Church is true.”

An Inside Peek at the Biggest Church Pageant in the World

Photo courtesy of Chad Hawkins

One of the most sacred and demanding roles, that of the Savior, was portrayed by Chad Hawkins in 2014. Hawkins, one of the oldest actors ever to have the role, speaks about his responsibilities in reverent tones. He remembers studying 3 Nephi chapter 11 and focusing on what the Savior would have been feeling. But none of his studying prepared him for his experience on stage.

“I’ll never forget seeing the multitude of people slowly entering the stage and everyone’s eyes and stares focused on me. It was overwhelming because we’d done that before [in rehearsal], but this time it was different.”

As he reflects on the experience of looking into the eyes of each cast member, he remembers seeing many of them become emotional as they had a personal moment with their Savior. “That’s the part that I was not prepared for,” Hawkins says. “I was focused on the technical side, but it was overwhelming to feel everyone’s love for the Savior and feel their testimonies of what was happening—that it was real.” Even the children could feel the difference when they saw him dressed in white.

Hawkins also remembers spiritual moments with the costume staff and work crew. “When they put my wig on, and when they were putting on the beard, so often they would look at me, and they were crying.” He continues, “It was just so humbling for me as they were taking such great care with my wig and my robe, making sure my harness was right. It was their small act to the Savior.”

Miracles and Memories

Those who participate in the pageant always leave with stronger testimonies and happy memories. “I love the New World scene—when the Savior comes and blesses the children,” costume staff member Jolene Jeppson says. And though she loves what the costumes add to the production, she knows that “what makes them wonderful is the people wearing them.”

An Inside Peek at the Biggest Church Pageant in the World

Photo courtesy of Jannalee Rosner

“I have so enjoyed helping dress people and having them ‘take on’ the person they are portraying,” costume staff member Shauna Jensen adds. “It is fun to see their smiles and confidence as they prepare to participate in the pageant.”

And though the pageant is a lot of fun, there are also sacred, miraculous moments.

An Inside Peek at the World's Largest Church Pageant

For more fun tidbits about this incredible production, check out the July/August issue of LDS Living, available at Deseret Book stores or on deseretbook.com.

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