Elder and Sister Watts

Elder and Sister Watts

Hill Cumorah Visitors' Sites Mission Statement

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
3 Nephi 5:13

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The excitement continues here in Palmyra, New York as preparations for the Hill Cumorah Pageant continue!  The community is proud of this event, displaying banners, posting signs, and handing out cards to advertise its coming.  The local Lions and Rotary Clubs offer food just prior to the pageant.  These two non-profit organizations do much service in the community.
The Hill Cumorah Pageant tells the story of an ancient civilization here in the America's that lasted from 600 BC until 421 AD, climaxing with the appearance of the resurrected Christ.

As mentioned in our previous blog post, a crew of young men ages 17 - 19 spend one month setting up equipment, stages, etc.  supporting the production by running the lighting and special effects, and then, after it is all over, taking down all of the equipment, stages, etc.  Because of our role as Cast Trainers, we were able to spend some time with these great young men.  They come to Palmyra for one month, at their own expense.  They work late into the night, rehearsing with the cast sometimes until 1:30 in the morning and then are up eating breakfast by 6:30 AM.  Then they either meet with us and the sister missionaries for training or have personal scripture study, followed by companion study.  At 8:15 AM they board the flatbed and are taken to the pageant area to begin working for another long day.  When they attend Sunday firesides (below) they dress as missionaries. 


Last Friday night we attended the first all cast meeting, a fireside, in the study shelter.  It was amazing and inspiring to sing with over 800 volunteers, The Spirit of God, and to hear the wonderful messages delivered by the pageant president, participants and directors.

Brent Hanson is the Artistic Director and is assisted by 8 other directors.  Theirs is an incredible job of casting and directing over 740 participants and preparing the pageant for the public in just 5 days (there are no rehearsals on Sunday).  The casting started immediately after the fireside on Friday evening and was completed by 10:00 PM that evening.

Here is an example of how the casting works.  In this instance, young women and older women that want to be cast in a dance or movement scene, approximately 300, meet on the lawn and are taught a short dance.  They then begin performing the dance over and over while the directors watch.  If they are to be cast in a movement part they are given a card with the part.  From then on, unless they are in costume, they were their assigned part on their lanyard with their name tag.  Each scene or group is cast the same way. Everyone that is selected to come to the pageant is guaranteed at least one part and many have two or more parts.

The very next morning rehearsals begin in earnest, with different groups rehearsing in different spots; on the stage, in the large grassy areas, etc.  Below cast members rehearse the destruction that occurred here on the American continent where Christ was crucified. 

On this day (Tuesday) as the cast was rehearsing the temperatures soared into the 90s with 89% humidity.  Still, the energy they put into the practice was admirable!
When cast members aren't rehearsing they are doing other things, such as setting up 9,000 chairs and being trained by our sister missionaries.

Not only was it hot outside, it was even hotter in the study shelter where our sister missionaries trained groups of cast members on how to greet the guests that come to watch the pageant.  Many guests arrive a couple of hours before the pageant begins the the cast greets them in their costumes as they arrive and visit with them while they wait. These cast greeters explain their characters and read scriptures from the Book of Mormon that relate to their characters.  They also offer guests  free Book of Mormons or DVDs.  Guests can also visit the information booths for a free picture of Christ.  These young sister missionaries worked with cast and crew from 6:30 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening for three straight days, giving 9 presentations each day.   We were so appreciative of the energy these sister maintained throughout the training.  Because of other responsibilities we have as site missionaries, we put in three 15 hour days ourselves. But now the fun really begins - it dress rehearsal tonight!


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