About the Founders
Here is a little information about the founders who created the Manti Mormon Miracle Pageant.
R Morgan Dyreng
R. Morgan Dyreng, who has given much time, labor, material, unwavering direction and love to the pageant from the beginning, shares some memories: "Our thoughts turn back to 170 experiences (24 years) each similar yet different -our feelings and doings at the close of each of these Mormon Miracle presentations.
"With each season and production something new was introduced or happened to the pageant by the more than 1000 people who comprised the cast or the supporting services - everyone a volunteer and each feeling that the pageant in some small way belonged to him/her. Through all those years, a few tears are shed as young Joseph has affirmed to his mother, 'I know Mother - because I have seen and talked with God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, and they told me so!'
"From the woman on the plains protecting her baby from the storm by the bend of her back, 'This is not rain you feel, my darling, these are my tears. My tears are those of only one, but they are mingling with the tears of Heaven this night.'
"Robert declares, 'Joseph Smith is truly a latter-day Prophet!'
"Joseph Smith teaches them, 'Men and women who love and marry and have children, keeping the commandments of the Lord, under the new and everlasting covenant, shall remain a family unit throughout all the eternities!'
"Mary says, 'Robert, Robert, Come, I've been waiting for you!' We have shed tears each evening as the great anthem, 'An Apostrophy to the Heavenly Hosts', is sung as the angels welcome Robert and Mary back to their Heavenly home and as the last 'Amen and Amen' is pronounced.
"Then as the solemn and reverent audience quietly moves from the temple, the yellow school buses drive to the Seminary building, and the costumes are put back on racks by wardrobe people to be ready for tomorrow, the gathering of the department leaders and many others occurs. Quick evaluations are made - crowd numbers are calculated. Sound, lighting, new scenery and staging arrangements are discussed, and from the crowd come special guests - always praising the production. Traffic moves in double lanes, passing the temple grounds at increasing speeds, being directed by Highway Patrolmen, Sheriff's Officers, City police and volunteer assistants from the local Search and Rescue Corps. We find our way home through back streets. Usually the following morning, a drive around the city park reveals the hundreds who have been camping in the park or in their R.V's, parking compactly on both sides of the streets around the park. Everywhere in the streets of Manti and the surrounding areas people have spent the night in their R.V's.
We drive to the pageant site to check things out. By 7 a.m. the Primary children of the stakes have completely cleaned the temple grounds and surrounding areas. The grounds are spotless and the lost and found articles have been turned in. With heartfelt thanks to Heavenly Father, we know again that he has been with the pageant. As pageant chairman, the great miracle has been the faithful, dedicated and selfless service of the hundreds of people, in the casts and all other supporting services who the have presented the Mormon Miracle Pageant to an estimated 2,200,000 guests."
Morgan passed away in 2001.
Sister Helen Dyreng and her husband made the first adaptation of the Booklet, The Mormon Miracle into pageant form. They spent countless hours in planning and organizing committees to gather and build props, lighting, scenery, a speaker's stand, a stage and a handcart for that first production.
She has written: "My life has been deeply touched by the Mormon Miracle Pageant. It was a telephone call one sunny Sunday afternoon in June 1967, inviting us to adapt the booklet, The Mormon Miracle, written by the gifted Grace Johnson, into a pageant and to direct it for the July celebration commemorating the arrival of the first Mormon pioneers into what is now Utah, that brought this touching story to our lives. Little did we realize that commitment would involve us for 25 years. But it has been a labor of love as we have seen the pageant evolve from a one night stand at the County Fair Grounds to the spiritual spectacular that it is today as it unfolds on the Manti Temple Hill.
"The pageant is now known near and far for its inspirational beauty and excellence. It has been an inspiration not only to see the pageant grow into the moving and beautiful production that it is, but more importantly to see the young people respond and blossom as they have participated in the pageant. The casts, the production staffs, the various committees, and everyone involved have worked unitedly together in harmony and love; giving their very best for a cause they have believed in and have been proud of. Such dedication is more than remarkable, it is miraculous!
"Each evening for an hour or so before the performance, there is much excitement and comradery among all those taking part in the pageant. They are a busy group exchanging experiences, helping each other with make - up, hair styling, or fitting of costumes. Testimonies are borne. Lifetime friendships are formed and love abounds among those participating in the pageant. They strengthen and support each other as they serve as missionaries in this spiritual experience.
"Just prior to pageant time they all assemble in their colorful costumes and make-up and seat themselves on blankets on the lawn for prayer meeting. Members of the Manti or Ephraim Stake Presidencies are in charge. They introduce an inspirational speaker, perhaps a general authority, who speaks to the cast, expressing love and appreciation for their anticipation in this missionary effort. The speaker evokes a blessing upon them. They all kneel and unite their faith in prayer. "Immediately they load into three yellow school busses which transport them to the temple hill. There is always much excitement as they become aware of the huge crowds assembling to see them perform. The Lamanites ride in a large red trailer pulled by a truck. They are required to remain standing to avoid smearing their paint. Their exhuberance is very noticeable.
"We have been privileged not only to have had a great pageant to produce but we have been blessed by an excellent director and script writer, Sister Macksene Rux. We will never forget the exhilarating enthusiasm we felt when we first heard the new script as it had been re-written and recorded on electronic tape. This was an answer to prayer! Everyone responded to their various callings determined to make 'our' pageant a success. Sister Rux inspired us to reach beyond ourselves and magnify our talents in the service of our Lord. We express our love to Sister Rux and Sister Johnson for the marvelous gift of the Mormon Miracle pageant.
"We have felt the spirit of the Lord with us and an out-pouring of His blessings. We have been inspired every time we have heard the beautiful truths of the pageant. We have seen our children grow in testimony and understanding of their life's purposes. We have seen 'inactives' become 'active' members of the Church. We have seen spectators become converts. We have all grown and had our testimonies strengthened as we have witnessed the miracles within the'Miracle.' We are grateful for the privilege of being a part of the pageant, for the people we have rubbed shoulders with. They have become an important part of our lives. We are thankful to our Heavenly Father for this mission of truth and love and for the opportunity to serve in this effort. God bless everyone who has served so faithfully and so well for so long. Thanks for the memories!"
Jane Braithwaite, who has been an assistant director of the pageant each year since the beginning, describes her feelings about the Mormon Miracle: "The pageant is a modern day miracle. It is part of the glorious fulfillment of promises made to prophets of old who looked to this latter day. With every pageant performance, the Book of Mormon's sacred and powerful message has shone forth 'out of darkness unto light,' touching the lives of vast audiences assembled to 'learn of Him.' (See Mormon 8:14-16) Breathtakingly for half of a century, the Mormon Miracle Pageant has flourished. In thrilling harmony, cast and audience, young and old, robust and infirm, have experienced President Ezra Taft Benson's unforgettable testimony that The Book of Mormon has been miraculously prepared, preserved and brought forth to bring men of this day to Christ!
"Somehow, under the stars, stirred with a spirit of remembrance and gratitude, one can sense more deeply the solemnity and significance of the oolite temple -and the nearness of the Holy One of Israel."
Jane is the granddaughter of Manti Temple President L.R. Anderson whose words, spoken in the 1950s, proved to be prophetic. Workmen were building the parking lot south of the temple on a hot summer afternoon, when President Anderson said to one of them: "You know, I will never live to see it, but someday this side will be the most beautiful side of the temple." And, he added thoughtfully, "I don't know why, but thousands of people will come here." (New Era July, 1978, p. 18.)
R. Clair Anderson, was the first chairman of the Mormon Miracle Pageant Committee, and a member of the stake presidency, His wife,Sister Mabel Anderson, was for many years corresponding secretary. Her letter to Elder Mark E. Petersen summarizes the feelings of those who have been affiliated with the Pageant, "Something wonderful happened in our town,'The Mormon Miracle Pageant'. From a most humble beginning it has developed into such a splendid thing it has left a lovely afterglow that emanates from the hearts of those who participate in the production, those who witness it, those who are part of it in any way. And it is a glow that has not left! The pageant is something that came into our lives making us better people, more united, more dedicated, more spiritual. And well it should because it is a great spiritual production, and that lovely afterglow remains with us the year around. Wherever one goes, meeting in crowds of people or individually we feel the warmth that is the essence of the pageant. People who once lived in our valley but have moved away are so proud of what is being done in the place they still call 'home' and many have expressed that pride in words, in appreciation and in financial support."
Grace Johnson, author of The Mormon Miracle, is from pioneer stock, who early joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and left their native Denmark to gather with the Saints in the valleys of the mountains in the territory of Utah. Her great-grandmother died along the way.
Grace declared that when the Lord gives you an idea, you have a responsibility to do something about it. She affirmed that the idea for the story of The Mormon Miracle was a gift, "even the title."
Miss Johnson wrote other books and plays. She had planned to spend her retirement years in writing, but with the request that her Mormon Miracle be prepared to be presented in 1967, she decided to put her writing away for just one year. That year extended into seventeen years, as she gave of her unique talents to help with the pageant.
Grace received dramatic instruction at the University of Utah and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and was a member of the Broadway Dramatists Guild and the International Platform Association for many years. She died in 1984.
Francis L. Urry
Francis L. Urry was involved with speech and drama for most of his life, beginning in 1937 as a private teacher. He was associated with Radio Station KSL in Salt Lake City for many years working in network radio and television performing. He appeared in numerous motion pictures produced for the LDS Church by BYU.
Mr. Urry came to read the pageant with Mrs. Rux in 1969, and was the major male voice on the sound track produced in 1970. He maintained an active interest in the Mormon Miracle Pageant throughout his life, and gave insight and encouragement to cast members as well as those responsible for pageant production. Francis died in 1985.
Macksene affirmed that with the challenge to adapt the original script for The Mormon Miracle into pageant form, she knew she was inspired of the Lord.
Her rich ancestral heritage can be traced back to Hyrum Smith, early patriarch and brother to the Prophet Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Both by training and natural ability, Macksene was particularly adapted to revise the pageant. She has done extensive work in drama production in Wisconsin; New York; Los Angeles; Banff, Canada; and in Claremont, California. Formerly a consultant to the U .S. office of Education, she produced and directed the first dramatic presentation to go out over Educational television (channel 28) in Southern California.
Macksene passed away in 1998.