How are you spending your summer vacation? Many Mormons teens are spending part of it working on summer pageants—not beauty pageants, but elaborate outdoor plays. Most teens live in the United States, but some even come from other countries, paying their own way and volunteering their time. They work long, hard hours with no pay, but they get a chance to help share their faith, make friends, and build their testimonies. And for these teens, that’s more than enough pay.
The New Era, a monthly magazine for Mormon teenagers, has featured many of these young volunteers over the years. In 2008, they wrote about a group of teens who have made an unusual contribution to the Nauvoo pageant in Illinois—they play the bagpipes. The bagpipe band volunteers work for about two weeks, playing before shows, in mini-shows, and in the actual pageant. Many of these teens belong to bagpiping families and say playing such an unusual instrument has given them many opportunities to perform around the country. The bagpipes are considered an important part of the pageant because they represent part of the English culture of many early pioneer immigrants and because they draw people to the players. The teenagers say being in the pageant teaches them to interact with strangers of all types and to be away from home, which is excellent preparation for missions.
In 1990, the New Era wrote about a teenager named Craig who played Moroni in the Hill Cumorah pageant in New York State. It is a small but critical role. Moroni was just a teenager when his father died. In fact, all of his family was dead, as were all his friends and every single one of his people. He alone survived. Imagine that situation for a teenager. Now add to it that everyone who is alive wants to kill you. That was Moroni’s situation. He took the record his father had been working on and finished editing it down to a manageable size. It was the entire history of his people in the Americas. When Mormoni finished, he buried it and left, returning once to add to it. Then he hid it again and slipped out of a city still anxious to kill him. We don’t know what happened next until Joseph Smith, a fourteen year old boy, prayed to ask God which church to join.
God told Joseph not to join any of them just yet. A number of years later, Moroni returned, now an angel, to begin tutoring Joseph in preparation for restoring the Savior’s full gospel to the earth. So, even though Moroni’s part is small in the pageant, it’s a key to the whole play. Craig’s father plays Moroni’s father, Mormon.
Craig grew up right in Palmyra, where this whole story happened, where Moroni hid the records and where Joseph lived. He said that when he was a teenager, he finally gained a real testimony of the gospel as he sat in the same woods where Joseph once prayed for truth. Now, playing Moroni, he tries to let his testimony of that experience shine through.
Read more about Craig in the Hill Cumorah pageant.
If you’re interested in doing pageants next year, check out this article about teens in the pageants and learn how to get involved: