in July the small town of Palymra, New York becomes the convergence point for a celebration nearly eight decades old. this is the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a production representing the cumulative effort of thousands of volunteer members from the LDS Church. these individuals forfeit three weeks of their summers–sometimes the only vacation time they have all year–to help construct, produce, and act in a dramatic rendition of the Book of Mormon. there are fire and water effects. there are points in the play when hundreds of newly-minted actors sway and jump in unison to music. there are actors who dramatically writhe as they are burnt alive in paper flame according to pre-recorded narration.
it was the second time i’ve been able to make it to “Pageant,” as they say. but Pageant isn’t just the production at the Hill Cumorah; it’s a larger experience of being in Palmyra where Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith grew up. and watching the unfolding of what many have only read about in the Book of Mormon, on the very site where Smith uncovered the plates from which he would later produce America’s homegrown bible. for me it was the opportunity to stand with Sister Reynolds, a young Mormon woman from Utah nearing the end of her mission, as she pointed out the significance of our tour location at the Smith family farm. “Right now,” she says with bright eyes bordering on tears, “We’re standing between two of the most holy places on Earth.” She was referring to our place between the the Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove, where Smith received his first vision.
i first met Sister Reynolds at Book of Mormon Publication Site on Main Street. She took me on a private tour which winded its way between two adjacent townhouses and culminated in a view of a first edition Book of Mormon (see below!).
we’re now in the midst of exchanging e-mail regarding seer stones and early Mormon history, and hope to meet at Pageant again next year.