Fire Away: Manti Pageant Adds Arrows to Scene with Samuel the Lamanite

Contributed By Kaitlyn Bancroft, Church News staff writer

  • 6 July 2018

An arrow flies at Samuel the Lamanite during the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah, in June 2018. Joshua Peterson, who plays Samuel, was unaware that arrows were being used this year until they started flying during dress rehearsals. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson.

MANTI, UTAH

The scene was set, the performers were in costume, and the stage crew was ready to fire arrows at Samuel the Lamanite during the Mormon Miracle Pageant’s dress rehearsal.

There was only one person pageant leadership forgot to tell about the arrows: 17-year-old Joshua Peterson, who stood on the wall playing Samuel the Lamanite.

Luckily, Peterson saw the stage crew preparing to shoot.

“I kind of figured it out,” he said.

The June dress rehearsal marked the first time in the Mormon Miracle Pageant’s 52-year history that the director chose to have arrows shot at the Samuel the Lamanite character rather than rely on a recording of crowd noises, according to pageant president Milton Olsen.

“We’re just grateful [Joshua] didn’t jump down off the wall to get out of the way,” Olsen said during the June 20 cast devotional with Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President. (See related article.) “He didn’t know he was getting into that when he signed up for that part.”

Olsen said the pageant uses a total of eight bows, and stage crew members shot between six and eight arrows each during Samuel the Lamanite’s scene—meaning nearly 60 arrows went up every night during the pageant.

The arrows are less about aerodynamics and more about momentum, he said. Made of wood with a piece of heater hose on the end, the arrows wouldn’t hurt Peterson if one happened to hit him.

As of the Church News’s visit on June 20, Peterson hadn’t been hit during the pageant, though he said there was a close call on the first Saturday night because of wind.

Joshua Peterson, 17, plays Samuel the Lamanite in the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah. Peterson was unaware that the June 2018 performances and dress rehearsals would be the first year arrows would actually be shot at the Samuel character. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson, Church News.

Mormon Miracle Pageant president Milton Olsen shows off the arrows that have been flying at the Samuel the Lamanite character during June 2018 performances and dress rehearsals. Olsen said no arrows have hit the actor as of June 20. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson.

Cody Alder, left, and Anna Johnson before the pre-show devotional. Alder plays Zerahemnah in this year’s production of the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah, in June 2018. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson.

“I was scared for my life,” he said. “But you just have to go up there and know that you’re not going to get hit. It’s not going to happen.”

Peterson, who grew up several miles north of the Manti Temple, said he’s been involved in the pageant for approximately seven years and has played a variety of characters, from Joseph Smith to the angel Moroni. He said the arrows made the scene more authentic by showing the people’s opposition, as is referenced in the original story in Helaman chapter 16 of the Book of Mormon.

It also made Samuel the Lamanite more real to Peterson, helping him speculate about the kind of life Samuel might have lived.

“Every night before I go on … I meditate, think about what Samuel’s life was, although it’s not recorded anywhere in the Book of Mormon,” Peterson said. “You see him as a boost of faith, you know? And that’s what we all need in our lives. I need a boost of faith.”

The pageant is essentially a four-week mission for cast members, 70 percent of whom are pre-mission age, Olsen said, adding that the pageant “springboards them into the missionary work.”

The spirit of the pageant is also felt by audience members.

“Those that come, come for the same takeaways the cast members do,” Olsen said. “They come because the Spirit has a chance to testify of truth. … It gives people hope. And the Spirit—just think how it testifies to those that come.”

A display of headdresses waiting for actors at the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah, in June 2018. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson.

Costume helmets wait for actors behind the scenes at the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah, in June 2018. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson.

A scene from the Mormon Miracle Pageant depicting Moroni and Zerahemnah in Manti, Utah, in June 2018. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson.

A scene from the Mormon Miracle Pageant depicting Joseph Smith and the First Vision in Manti, Utah, in June 2018. Photo by Savannah Hopkinson.