The New York Times calls the annual
extravaganza atop Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, Wayne County, "a pageant performed
with the spirit of a George Lucas techno-dazzler and the scope of a Cecil B. DeMille
What gives the Hill Cumorah Pageant a twinge of the eerie
is that it has been performed since 1937 on the very site where 14-year-old Joseph
Smith purportedly discovered what was later to become known as the Book of Mormon.
Every July, the tradition continues under the guidance of members of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons as they are commonly called.
Reminiscent of the religious pageants performed in Europe in the Middle Ages,
but with more theatrical illusions, The Hill Cumorah Pageant mimics spectacular
events like earthquakes, lightning strikes, an erupting volcano and the immolation
of a prophet. A carefully selected cast of 600, decked in magnificent costumes,
begins the show by parading through the audience toward a 7-level sound stage
constructed on the side of 300-foot Hill Cumorah-topped by a 40-foot golden statue
of the angel Moroni.
The story line, beginning at about 600 B.C., describes
how a group of people left Jerusalem and were guided to a land that would one
day be known as America. According to the Mormons, the people were miraculously
visited by Jesus in 34 A.D. Events leading up to this climactic point are dramatized
from stories in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Hill Cumorah itself
is crucial to the story because Mormon religious history is believed to have been
written on metal tablets by the prophet Mormon and hidden in a stone box by him
around 400 A.D on this very hill. They are purportedly the same tablets found
by Smith in the early 1800s.
Non-Mormon viewers may consider The Hill
Cumorah Pageant little more than a well-dramatized fantasy, and may find the salt
potatoes sold by local Lions and Rotarians more palatable. People-watching is
always fun in this natural lawn amphitheater because each performance draws about
10,000 guests. So, whether you consider it dogma or entertainment, come early.
Bring the family and a picnic supper. Plan to enjoy a pageant that is definitely
If you go: The Hill Cumorah Pageant, begins at dusk
(about 9 p.m.) in outdoor amphitheater on Route 21, 2 miles north of NYS Thruway.
Seating for 9,000. No admission charge. 315-597-5851. Performance dates for 2008:
July 11,12 Friday and Saturday and July 15-19 Tuesday thru Saturday.
Margaret Nichols is a former Palmyra resident who now resides in Dansville.
further information on the Hill Cumorah
Pageant click here.