The Mesa Arizona Temple hosts the largest annual Easter pageant in the world. And this year, after a three-year hiatus due to temple renovations, more than 700 volunteers have once again come together to celebrate the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ through live performance and music. A new special from KSLTV highlights the history and community impact of the pageant as well as the great love residents and participants have for the tradition.
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“This pageant is a part of the fabric of the community because it’s the life story of the Savior Jesus Christ. It lifts everyone when they see it,” Elder Ronald A. Rasband said. “This is a community pageant. Our church may host it, but the community in Mesa feels that this is the Mesa Community Pageant. They love this pageant! They line the streets. They open their windows, they want to hear this beautiful music.”
“It is universally admired and loved by the community,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said, “and very much supported by people of all faiths.”
Rev. Larry Fultz, director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, said, “When I first moved to Phoenix in 1970s, I came and saw this event and it was just mindblowing.” And Episcopal Diocese of Arizona Bishop Jennifer A. Reddall said, “That open invitation and hospitality that you can come, bring your blanket, and sit here, and experience Jesus [at the pageant] was just beautiful.”
As a part of the community fabric, more than 9,200 chairs are set out on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple and countless visitors sit out on blankets for each of the 70-minute performances. And in an effort to invite even more community members to participate, ASL interpreters are offered for the first week of performances, and Spanish translation headsets are available every night. No tickets or reservations are required, but space definitely fills up fast and families are encouraged to arrive early. Nearly 100,000 people attend the pageant every year.
Local Phoenix radio station KTAR 92.3 FM will broadcast the Easter pageant soundtrack 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (AZ time) on Easter Sunday, April 9. Utah radio station FM100.3 will also broadcast the Easter pageant soundtrack and it can be listened to online 9-10:30 a.m. (AZ time) on Easter Sunday, April 9, at FM100.com.
The historic Mesa Easter pageant recently got a refresh with a new script and musical score written under the direction of Lamb of God writer and composer Rob Gardner, but it didn’t come together easily. The soundtrack was finished just days before the first rehearsal for this year’s show.
“I had this really awful writer’s block. … So I spent hours and hours combing through all the hymns in a specific meter, and I came across this text that started, ‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.’ … And a good lyric spawns a good melody, so I wrote this melody … and it became this secondary theme of the pageant … So if there’s one thing I want people to leave this pageant [with,] it's that we are surrounded by love, we’re surrounded by mercy, and there's no limit to it.”
You can watch the full 40-minute KSLTV special in the player below.