I’m sorry to say, on the basis of my one experience with the Hill Cumorah Pageant, that Jana Riess’s verdict on the pageant was pretty much mine, as well. I found it impressive and spectacular, but not at all moving. So I’m less sad than I’m sure many are that the pageant’s long run is coming to a close. (I’m sorry, though, for the revenue loss that the community of Palmyra, New York, will suffer.)
My one visit to the Palmyra pageant came in 1994, while I was spending the summer at Princeton University. At one point, my wife and I took our family to visit Niagara Falls and some of the Church historical sites, and to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant.
As we were walking to take our seats, though, I saw two young men — roughly eighteen years of age, I estimated, so probably on the threshhold of serving their missions — locked in earnest conversation with one of the Protestant anti-Mormons who typically show up at performances of the Pageant. Or, rather, they were standing there being harangued by him.
I had known beforehand that critics of the Church would be out in force, and I had vowed to myself that I would not engage with them, that I would ignore them.
But here were two young Latter-day Saint men being hammered by a fellow who, I knew because I recognized him (though I won’t mention his name), made his living as a full-time, professional crusader against the claims of the Church and the Restoration. He was bludgeoning them with an issue to which they clearly had no adequate response.
But I knew how to respond to him. So wasn’t it my moral obligation to step in and help?
I didn’t want to, I had resolved not to, but I did. I told my wife and kids to go on ahead, that I would be with them shortly. And, pretty soon, the two young men moved away, as well, leaving me alone with a really smug, dogmatic, and extraordinarily belligerent born-again Protestant anti-Mormon. I finally got away from the guy just minutes before the show began, and I can’t really say that he put me in a good mood to enjoy it.
Here are a quartet of related articles that I’ve published in the Deseret News over the years:
“How religious faith benefits society” (6 June 2013)
“Is religious faith a mental illness?” (2 February 2017)
“Is religion good for your health?” (8 June 2017)
“Mental health and the Latter-day Saints” (21 March 2018)
I mean, shouldn’t people have been suspicious from the very beginning about a book detailing the alleged personal experiences of somebody named “Malarkey”?