You don’t have to be Mormon or Christian to appreciate the magnificence of the annual Easter pageant, “Jesus the Christ,” at the Mesa Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Billed as the largest in the world, it’s a spectacular production that would make Cecil B. DeMille proud.
On a multi-leveled, 9,600-square-foot stage, a cast of more than 400 people, sheep, doves and a donkey, and backstage crew of almost 100 bring to life through narration, music and dance the story of Jesus from before his birth to his crucifixion and resurrection. Some scenes, like the Nativity and the Last Supper, are recognizable to even the most infrequent churchgoer, while others, like Jesus’ interaction with children, round out the story of a man that about one-third of the Earth’s population believes to be the savior of the world.
More than 2,000 costume pieces designed and sewn by volunteers are the result of extensive research to ensure the production is historically accurate. And you get an up-close look as cast members of all ages roam through the crowd on the Temple lawn before the performance to share testimony of their faith — or just to chat and make some 8,000 visitors feel welcome.
The text for “Jesus the Christ” is taken from the King James version of the Holy Bible. So by the time the angels blare their trumpets and Jesus rises from the dead, it feels like you have indeed stepped back into biblical times.
As impressive as the performance itself is the fact that it’s free. Hundreds of volunteers work year-round to produce the Easter pageant. It’s the Mormon church’s gift to the East Valley.
At a time when we’re reeling from skyrocketing gas and grocery prices, divisive state and national politics, strife and violence around the world, it’s refreshing to see one of our venerable institutions give back to the community and offer an uplifting message of hope.
“Jesus the Christ” will be performed Tuesday through Saturday on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center, 525 E. Main St. All performances begin at 8 p.m. and last about 65 minutes. It’s recommended you arrive at least two hours before it starts to ensure you get a parking space. For more information, visit http://www.easterpageant.org.