27 July 2006

Hill Cumorah Pageant: Reflections, Part 2

The Hill Cumorah Pageant attempts to tell the story of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon—a 70-minute narrative spanning about 1,000 years of history. Due to the obvious time constraints, the screenwriter had to choose which stories he would relate and which would be left untold. Many, if not all, of those selected are stunning. Here are a few scenes:
• Nephi shocks his brothers, then builds a boat (sailing scenes are beautifully choreographed)
• A massive storm nearly wrecks their ship (complete with rain, waves, and lightning)
• Abinadi prophesies boldly, then is burned to death (real fire on stage)
• Faithful people narrowly escape death due to the timely miracle of a night with no darkness
• Christ appears following massive destruction
• A civilization-wide battle (involving about a hundred actors) ends in the destruction of an entire nation

Partway through the performance, I began to consider whether the chosen stories are what I would select as the most powerful in the Book of Mormon. By “powerful,” I mean spiritually moving, intellectually captivating, or emotionally staggering.

I asked myself: “What are the most powerful parts of the Book of Mormon?”

One scene jumped to first place in my mind: Zeezrom’s repentance. There is a lot that is moving or amazing in this story, from the exquisite doctrine taught in the streets of Ammonihah, to the destruction of innocent believers and the physical suffering of Alma and Amulek. But what really moves me are the words exchanged between Alma and Zeezrom:

6 And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
7 And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
8 And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
9 And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.
10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man....

I find this part of the story so fascinating because it happened on a personal level and does not involve an explicit miracle. In the former sense, I find it easier to relate to this story because it is so personal. In the latter sense, this story seems more applicable because it does not rely upon an unusual type of divine intervention. I do not mean to suggest that miracles do not occur, but because they are (I think by definition) rare, the absence of an imposed singularity is what makes the story remarkable. After reading, I that I can play the part of Alma, trying to forgive the unforgiveable, or the part of Zeezrom, probing my conscience so deep that it is truly haunting.

As a final thought: Mormon gives his answer to my question here. How do you answer?

Please Note: This post is not about what should be added to or deleted from the Pageant. For many reasons, including continuity of story-line, limitations of the pageant medium, and the desire to appeal to a wide audience, many stories from the Book of Mormon simply would not be “pageant-able.”


Robert C. said...

My wife likes really likes the story of Abish for a similar reason. And I've always liked Helaman and his brethren who were "no less serviceable" b/c I being like Captain Moroni seems like a bit too much of a stretch for my less assertive personality....

BrianJ said...

Re Abish: yes, that's an interesting--and crucial--story that is just thrown into the narrative. I wonder how/when Mormon decided to incorporate it. Did he go back and realize he had left out that important detail, and then just scratched it into the margins?

Re Moroni: We do know that Mormon had a very high regard for Moroni--after all, his son shares the same name.