Pageant Just Part of Several Historical Experiences in Nauvoo

Contributed By Sam Watson, Church News contributor

  • 1 September 2017

Visitors to the country fair, which takes place before each pageant performance, compete in a stick pull.  Photo by Marilyn Matthews.

Article Highlights

  • United Kingdom Church members created a new show called “Truth Will Prevail” that now is performed in Nauvoo.
  • A country fair, cart rides, blacksmithing, brickmaking, and musical performances take place in Nauvoo.
  • Cast members perform historical vignettes delving deeper into the lives of their characters.

“In a general sense, the Nauvoo Pageant becomes the Nauvoo Pageant experience.” —Jack Renhouf, Nauvoo Pageant former president

NAUVOO, ILLINOIS

The Nauvoo pageants are performances based on actual records, accounts, and journals from the early days of the Restoration. Many of the characters portrayed in the pageants are real people, some of whom have names that are recognizable to Latter-day Saints. Other characters are composites of the experiences of several Saints of the time.

Visitors who haven’t been to Nauvoo in the last few years might have missed the debut of a new major performance: Truth Will Prevail, often simply called the British Pageant. This newer pageant was created by Church members in the United Kingdom, who performed it in Chorley, England, in 2013. This story of Church members in the British Isles was soon adopted into the pageant schedule in Nauvoo as well, and the two pageants, Truth Will Prevail and Nauvoo, are now performed there on alternating nights.

When Nauvoo was first performed in 2005, replacing the original City of Joseph pageant, Jack Renhouf, then the president of the pageant, talked about how the new performance was intended to be only one part of a wider endeavor. “In a general sense,” he told the Church News at that time, “the Nauvoo Pageant becomes the Nauvoo Pageant experience.” Thus, the pageants are only part of what the Church offers in the city.

Both performances are preceded by the “country fair,” where members of the family cast host a variety of activities for visitors, including dancing, sack racing, pulling handcarts, games, and crafts.

Young performing missionaries also put on a variety of shows and events, and some of them participate in the pageants as well. The core cast members of the pageant also put on a set of historical vignettes, reprising their roles from the pageant. These shorter performances give visitors an opportunity to experience certain significant parts of Nauvoo’s history in greater depth than they are shown in the pageants.

The vignettes include a retelling of the early history of the Relief Society, readings from letters exchanged between Joseph and Emma Smith, an excerpt of the Prophet Joseph’s sermon at the funeral of his friend King Follett, and stories of the missionary experiences of some of the early Apostles of this dispensation.

Missionaries, including senior missionaries, host many activities and events around Nauvoo as well, including cart rides pulled by horses and oxen, teaching about the old-fashioned blacksmithing or brickmaking methods in re-created or preserved buildings of Old Nauvoo, and even a musical performance.

Rob Abney and Joy Gardner, the actors who portray Joseph and Emma Smith, speak to cast members representing the Saints at Nauvoo. Photo by Jill Franklin.

A pageant scene portrays a British market in the British Pageant. Photo by Kyle Franklin.

Family cast members carry props during the British Pageant. Photo by Kyle Franklin.

Core cast members portray figures from Church history in the “Women of Nauvoo” historical vignette. Photo by Marilyn Matthews.

Rob Abney portrays Joseph Smith speaking to the Saints at Nauvoo in the Nauvoo Pageant. Photo by Jill Franklin.