City of Joseph Pageant

(August 2003)

Overview

This entry contains copies of my testimonies and thoughts about participation in the City of Joseph Pageant.

I             Thoughts From August 2002

Today I am concluding my time serving in the City of Joseph cast.  I have reflected on what we have done during the last week.

As members of the church, we are no longer required to cut stone, or create lumber or install windows in the temple.  But I believe we are involved in building spiritual temples.  I believe the City of Joseph Pageant is a spiritual temple.  I have never participated in anything that has so fully integrated all of the aspects of the mission of the church in a single activity.

During this last two weeks, I have served with my three children and my wife.  A few years ago, my brother and sister-in-law were able to participate in the reenactment of the pioneer trek to Salt Lake City.  I asked them about their experience.  They had expected there to be a strong feeling of the Spirit.  But their feelings were that it was simply hard work.  It was hard to do what they had to do everyday.  I think that is appropriate.  The early saints who made that journey did it not because they wanted to match into the history books, but because they had a testimony of the gospel, and they felt it was their duty.  It was hard work for them as well.

These two weeks has been hard work.  Although there have been moments of spiritual insight, for the most part, it has been hard work.  I have been pleased to see my children work perhaps as hard as those children did when they crossed the plains, from early in the morning until late at night, outside, doing physical labor in heavy clothing.  We have worked as a family, along with a host of other families who have taken care of our children as if they were their own, in a loving “cast family” setting.  Certainly the work of “Perfecting the Saints” has gone forward.

I have been able to attend the temple everyday this last week.  When I attended on Wednesday, all the lockers were full, every session had been full, and all the sealing rooms were full.  I thought that the temple president must have a better understanding of how Brigham Young felt when the saints thronged the temple from morning until night.  Certainly the dead have been redeemed.

The missionary aspects to the pageant are well known.  But I believe proclaiming the gospel means something more.  As I have studied the life of the Savior, I have been impressed that he assessed each individual’s standing, and then challenged him or her to move to higher ground.  He challenged the woman taken in adultery to “sin no more,” and his lead apostle to follow him.  The greatest spirit I have felt while talking to people on the hill prior to the show has been as I have born testimony to the children that the story of Joseph Smith they were about to see is true.

[I was able to bear testimony to a young man, a member of the church, struggling in his relationship with his parents.  I challenged him that if he would read one page of the Book of Mormon every day it would improve his relationship.  I challenged another couple that has used the church’s family history resources to search out their own ancestors to welcome the missionaries into their home the next time the come by.  I told them the spirit that comes from doing family history is compounded when we enter the temple, and that being sealed as husband and wife is so important that my wife ancestors felt the need to enter the temple on Christmas day 1845 to be sealed together.]

I spoke to an individual from this area that had open-heart surgery a few months ago.  He said that during that time he died for a period. He told me he knew the Mormon Church wasn’t true because when he died he didn’t see any signs that said, “The Mormons were right.”  We talked for a while, and I enjoyed speaking with him.  He talked about the peace he felt there, and then said, almost as an afterthought that the only thing that upset him was that there was a building, and he knew God was in the building, but he couldn’t go in.

I bore testimony to him that the building he had seen was the temple, that God is in the temple, and that there are keys that open the temple.  The peace he felt on the other side is to be found here in this life in the temple.

The work of proclaiming the gospel is done in this spiritual temple.

My family and I are just off the steamer in a sense when it comes to the pageant.  This is our first year here.  I am grateful that we have been able to add a little bit of mortar to the building of this temple.  I have gained a glimpse of the years of heavy lifting that has been done by so many people to build it:  The temple Architect, Lynn Bodily and those who work with him, and the good sisters that have clothed, fed and taken care of us, Charlene Lee and Karen Laney among others, just like those good sisters of old.

And just like the original Nauvoo Temple, this temple hasn’t had to wait for completion before it was useful, and it is still under construction.  But I sense that with the completion and dedication of the rebuilt temple this year that a new floor has been completed on this spiritual temple.  Just as more blessings were available each time the original saints added a floor, so too, I believe the pageant is entering a new phase of increased usefulness and influence.  We should raise our sites to what this pageant can become.

The words from the pageant say a great deal:  “A temple, a temple, a temple.”  I am grateful to have been able to act my part in the building of this temple.  I am grateful to have been able to “preach” and bear testimony as Joseph might have done in this city.  I have gained a greater testimony that Joseph was and is a prophet.  And I hope to someday stand with my children in white in the temple.

(Journal Entry, Monday, August 5th, 2002.  Page 2945)

II            Thoughts from August 2003

I have tried, during this last two weeks, to put this City of Joseph Pageant experience in context.  What does it mean?  Why is it significant or is it significant at all?  This is my second year of participation.  Last year I thought that this experience was very much like building a spiritual temple, much like the newly completed Nauvoo temple was.

This year, I have reflected upon how much we are engaged in building Zion while here.

II.A           Kirtland–Preparation

So, how did we get to Nauvoo?  For almost all of us, it probably began some place like Kirtland.  When our application is accepted, we look forward with anticipation toward spiritual experiences.  We are told to “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing;” (D&C 88:119).  For some, the day we are set apart might be like the dedication of the Kirtland temple, with some glorious manifestations.

II.B           Tried, Chastened, And Purified

Then we show up on the hill on Saturday morning.  Our hopes for days filled with spiritual manifestations give way to frustration and flared tempers.  It is as if there is no Temple.  Welcome to Missouri. See if this scripture, from section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants, describes your first week like it did mine.

6 Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.

D&C 101:6

Brothers and Sisters, I don’t think there could have been a Nauvoo, if there hadn’t been a Missouri.  By passing through Missouri in our own lives, we come to see more clearly our own defects, and weaknesses.  Many of the things we suffer are because of our own weaknesses.  But other challenges are simply the refining necessary to make a Zion-like production.  We come to know what it really takes to build Zion.

4 Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.

5 For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.

D&C 101:4 – 5

II.C          Redemption of Zion

So, how shall Zion, or our experience in the City of Joseph Pageant, be redeemed?  Listen to these slightly edited—OK, heavily edited—verses in D&C Section 105.

1 VERILY I say unto you who have assembled yourselves together that you may learn my will concerning the redemption of mine afflicted people[cast and crew]—

2 Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions [mistakes] of my people, speaking concerning the church [cast and crew] and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now.

3 But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I [the director] required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil [sloppiness], and do not impart of their substance [energy], as becometh saints [cast members], to the poor and afflicted [audience] among [in front of] them;

4 And are not united [clustering] according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;

5 And Zion [the City of Joseph Pageant] cannot be built up [performed] unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I [my Spirit] cannot receive her unto myself [attend].

6 And my people must needs be chastened [practice] until they learn obedience [their parts], if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer [on the final Friday and Saturday mornings].

D&C 105:1 – 6

Brothers and Sisters, what a standard of excellence!  The “principles of the law of the celestial kingdom!”  How could we ever even hope to live by, to perform according to, or to create something worthy of those principles?

And yet, Brothers and Sisters, I think our experience here has given us a much clearer picture of how to do it than perhaps any other experience we have had in our lives.  Let me list a few of my observations about how we have lived as a Zion community.  There are two great scriptures that define Zion.

18 And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

Moses 7:18

21 Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn.

D&C 97:21

My impressions include the following:

  • “They were of one heart and one mind.”  We are a covenant community, people who have come together with a purpose, a commitment, a covenant to do what the Lord requires
  • They “dwelt in righteousness”.  I am impressed by everyone’s obedience.  As an example, I am impressed that families that have participated for years and years have attended every meeting, on time, even though they may suspect they know what will be discussed.
  • “There was no poor among them.”  I know what fewer than 5 men I have met here do for a living.  I do not know what type of home any of you live in.  I have witnessed great sharing of whatever was on hand.  I have not witnessed class distinctions.
  • Zion is “The pure in heart.”  I have not heard or seen anything during the two weeks that I think would have been inappropriate if said or shown to the Savior.
  • “Let Zion rejoice.”  In general, everyone participating in this pageant is overwhelmingly happy.

II.D          Nauvoo and Beyond

The saints were in Nauvoo for a short period of time, really.  At most, it was 6 years perhaps.  It was a time of relative peace, and resting point before continuing the journey.

I believe that some of the members of the cast begin to “come to Nauvoo” perhaps 6 days before returning home.  Others though, similar to some pioneers, are only here for a day or two.  It is still not an easy time.  There is much work to be done.  But somehow, it isn’t as difficult to do.  I hope we all find the temple in the second week.

And like Walt says at the end of the show, “Nauvoo wasn’t the end, it was really the beginning.”  The past few years my good wife Kari and I have felt that our family was not complete, that we were missing someone.  We returned from the City of Joseph Pageant last year to learn that we were expecting.  But the pregnancy was not an easy one for our family.  It required a significant amount of work and sacrifice.  Perhaps we were, in a way, crossing the planes after leaving Nauvoo.

The other day in the Temple, my wife said to me, “Perhaps the Lord is preparing another blessing for us.  I would go through another year like the last to have [our son] join our family.  Perhaps this new blessing will require sacrifice and effort as well.”

My hope is that all of you might return from this experience, with a better understanding of what it means to be a part of Zion.  May the Lord prepare a way before you.

 

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