Children of the Mesa Easter Pageant

By Jill B. Adair

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Sing unto the Lord a new song, and … [let] the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice. … Let them give glory unto the Lord (Isa. 42:10–12).

Acted out on a giant stage 200′ (61 m) long and 40′ (12.2 m) high just north of the Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center, the Mesa Easter pageant tells the story of Jesus Christ from His birth to His Resurrection, as told in the scriptures. Each year, more than 100,000 people from all over the world come to see it during the week before Easter. The pageant will be celebrating its sixtieth anniversary in 1998.

Over four hundred people are in the cast, and hundreds more help behind the scenes. Melissa Hakes (5) was in it with her mom and her four sisters. “I liked being in it because I learned more about Jesus,” she said.

Drew Nichols (8) said, “I liked it because I felt like Jesus was really there.” It was a special year for Drew because he got to be in the pageant and he was baptized too. He said that he liked the scene in which John the Baptist baptizes Jesus Christ because it made him think about his own baptism.

Kimberly Roberts (11) has been in the pageant more times than she can remember. One reason she likes it is that she meets lots of people and makes new friends every year. In 1997 she made a costume for her doll that matched the one she wore in the pageant. She played the part of one of the children in a scene with Christ. She said, “It’s neat to know that He really came and blessed the children. It makes me cry because I really feel the Spirit.”

Besides being a cast member, Julie Ashton (10) was a pageant guide. Each night before the show began, some cast members, dressed in their costumes, welcomed people to the pageant and handed out programs. She even learned a few greetings in Spanish and was able to visit with Spanish-speaking members of the audience.

One of the scenes Julie especially liked was the one in which Jesus Christ teaches the multitude and performs miracles like raising the sick and the dead. “I loved the song they played, and I loved seeing Jesus smile. It gave me a good feeling inside.”

Her very favorite part of the pageant was the finale. All the cast members went on stage or out on the grass and sang “I Know He Lives!” while Matt Hale, as the Savior, was lifted by wires 40′ (12.2 m) above the ground. “I liked that best,” Julie said, “because you were bearing your testimony to the audience. It let them know that you know that He lives. I know He lives because I’ve prayed about it and got a really special feeling in my heart. I know it’s true.”

Photos by Scott P. Adair

1. More than a hundred children take part in the pageant. Some of them have been in it before. Some are in it for the first time. This picture shows many of them sitting on a rock on the stage during a scene in the pageant.

2. Practice, practice, practice is followed, finally, by dress rehearsals. Several of the children and the pageant narrator listen for directions during one of the dress rehearsals.

3. In February, the children try out for the cast. Then they wait for a letter to tell them if they were chosen for a part. A broken arm didn’t keep Emily Rush (6) from being in the pageant.

4. Benjamin Nelson (6) has been in the pageant every year since he was eighteen months old! His mom and dad and his older brother, Cory, have also been in it. “It’s really fun,” Benjamin says. “It’s fun being with my family, and it’s fun being an actor.” This year he played a special part—Jesus as a young boy. In this picture, he brings a bouquet to Mary during a song called “Mary’s Lullaby.”

5. Lauren Reynolds (4) loved dressing up in her costume for the pageant. She played the part of a crippled child who was healed by Jesus Christ. She is in the scene where she runs back to Him, grateful for having been healed.

6. Lots of music, dancing, and colorful costumes help tell the story of the Savior. In this picture, Amber Peterson (8) dances with other children in a scene.

7. Many animals are also in the pageant, including small horses, sheep, goats, and doves. Krystal Adair (10) pets the donkey that is used to carry the actor portraying Jesus Christ.

8. Melissa Butler (6) holds her sister, McKayla, one of two babies who played the part of the newborn Christ.