51 Fun Facts about the Mormon Miracle Pageant


This year marks the 51st season of the Mormon Miracle Pageant. In that time, millions of people have witnessed the pageant’s story unfold on the hill beneath the Manti Temple.

To commemorate the pageant’s 51st year in operation, we compiled a list of 51 fun pageant facts.

  1. The pageant debuted in 1967.
  2. The pageant was originally a relatively small 24th of July celebration for the South Sanpete LDS Stake.
  3. The first performance was held just west of the temple, at the Sanpete County fairgrounds.
  4. The pageant was moved close to its current location in 1968.
  5. The original story was written by Grace Johnson in the 1940s.
  6. BYU and BYU-Hawaii used Johnson’s story as a readers’ theater in the 1950s.
  7. A live choir provided music for the pageant for the first three years, from 1967-1969.
  8. A 25-35 piece orchestra also accompanied the pageant those early years.
  9. One of the noted musicians was violinist Richard Nibley, brother of Hugh Nibley. He is also heard on the soundtrack.
  10. Grace Johnson’s story was adapted to true pageant form in 1970 by Macksene Rux.
  11. Macksene Rux directed from 1970 to 1989.
  12. The pageant has had only six directors.
  13. The recorded soundtrack was produced that same year by Bonneville International in Salt Lake City.
  14. Much of the original recording is still in use today.
  15. Elder M. Russell Ballard’s father, Elder Melvin R. Ballard, is the recorded voice of the prophet Mormon.
  16. Elder Ballard (nephew of Macksene Rux) donated some props to the pageant in 1971.
  17. For the first two decades, the total cost of production was provided almost entirely by local donations.
  18. The first production sported only one handcart to represent the entire westward trek of the Mormon pioneers.
  19. In 1968, no vehicles for the production were allowed on temple property, so all scenery and equipment was hand carried over the fence.
  20. Seating for 1968 was outside the temple grounds. The audience brought lawn chairs to sit on the sidewalk, and bleachers brought from the fairgrounds provided seats on the road.
  21. The present seating area of the pageant used to be a hay field, with 20 to 30 large trees along the north edge.
  22. Young Joseph Smith

  23. It took five years—until 1972—to obtain permission to remove the last of the trees.
  24. From 1967 to 1971, pageant attendance increased from about 1,500 to 83,000.
  25. In 1972, pageant attendance jumped to 121,000.
  26. For several decades, the American Bus Association named the pageant as one of the top 100 productions in North America.
  27. The National Institute of Outdoor Theater lists (as of 2014) the Manti pageant as having the largest nightly attendance of any production in America (including all Shakespeare festivals).
  28. Over 4.5 million visitors have watched the pageant in its 50-year history.
  29. About 100,000 people now watch the pageant annually.
  30. Visitors have been registered from all 50 states and every continent.
  31. The sound technology was provided from 1969 to 1997 by volunteer technicians from the BYU audiology department.
  32. Most of the spotlights used for the first decades of the production were homemade—from gallon cans sprayed black, then wired with light globes.
  33. Alvin Beal conceived the idea for these “can lights,” and his family made most of them.
  34. Douglas Barton has worked with the pageant lighting for 46 of the 50 years.
  35. There are now six huge light towers, with hundreds of spotlights to illuminate the huge stage area.
  36. Since 1998, the LDS Church’s light and sound equipment has been shared by all Church pageants—Manti, Hill Cumorah (NY), Nauvoo (IL), and others.
  37. Operating technicians from Salt Lake City accompany and supervise the technical equipment, but the balance of the light crew remains mostly local youth.
  38. Many of the first costumes, including all angel costumes, were made from donated bed sheets.
  39. Practically all costumes have been made by local seamstresses—for all 50 years.
  40. Rumors circulated in 1972 that the pageant would move away from Manti, but locals fought to keep it in the Sanpete Valley.
  41. Efforts and plans to rewrite or change the pageant have been frequent—an announcement was made that 1991 (the 25th year) would be the last year of the Mormon Miracle Pageant. President Gordon B. Hinckley, serving then as the vice chairman of the pageant committee, refused the plans to cancel.
  42. In the early years, chairs for the audience were borrowed from BYU in Provo and LDS wards from Spanish Fork to Richfield (and many in between).
  43. Now there are about 14,000 pageant-owned chairs set up each season.
  44. 400 volunteers (from local LDS stakes) set up and take down the chairs.
  45. The process of setting up and removing the 14,000 chairs has been streamlined to about 1½ hours.
  46. The present scenery design was donated by renowned designer Gary Daynes. Construction was done in Provo, Utah.
  47. In addition to the cast, 1,500 and 2,000 volunteers help put on the pageant.
  48. 2016 had a record number of cast members—1,100.
  49. About 80% of the cast is under 18 years of age.
  50. One original dance director served 24 years.
  51. Morgan Dyreng served as Chairman/President from 1967 to 1990. Subsequently, there have been eight pageant presidents to supervise the production.
  52. Music for the Christ in America scene, added in 2000, was composed especially for the pageant by prominent musician Merrill Jenson.