The Manti Pageant (as we know it) will end in 2019 and the Hill Cumorah Pageant will follow soon after in 2020. The announcements follow an official statement released Saturday by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints indicating that large productions like pageants are now “discouraged.” Here is the Newsroom statement in full:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is growing across the earth. As this occurs, local Church leaders and members are encouraged to focus on gospel learning in their homes and to participate in Sabbath worship and the Church’s supporting programs for children, youth, individuals and families. The goal of every activity in the Church should be to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to share His gospel message throughout the world. Local celebrations of culture and history may be appropriate. Larger productions, such as pageants, are discouraged. As it relates to existing pageants, conversations with local Church and community leaders are underway to appropriately end, modify or continue these productions.
According to Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle, the Hill Cumorah Pageant public affairs director, Amanda Lonsberry, explained, “…Church leadership made the decision after an extensive review of all pageants.” She continued, “Leaders said they took under consideration how to reduce the burden of church member time commitments, cost, security, impact to church sites and more in their decision.”
In the case of the Hill Cumorah Pageant, another factor could’ve been decreasing attendance and proselytizing benefits. Earlier this year, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that in 1997 the event drew 73,000 attendees including 35,000 non-members. In that year, about 2,400 referrals were collected by missionaries. Contrast that with this past summer, when there were only about 25,000 attendees, most of whom were members of the Church. Missionaries were forbidden from attending the event.
According to the Deseret News, church sponsorship of the Manti pageant will end in 2019, but the community is working to keep the pageant alive in some form. A local stake president talked with the newspaper,
“We’re going to continue to move forward through 2019 and probably make some adjustments in the way we … go about our production in advertising and casting and in delivering the pageant,” President Olson said.
“There will be some modifications. We are currently planning further discussions with various local leaders, the pageant presidency and others.”
The same Deseret News article reported that the Nauvoo Pageant would be unaffected. The fates of the Church’s other four big pageants have not been announced (British Pageant, Castle Valley Pageant, Clarkston Pageant, and Mesa Easter Pageant).
What are your thoughts on the announced changes?
Lead image from LDS Media Library.