MESA, Arizona

After a three-year hiatus, the Church-sponsored Mesa Easter Pageant, “Jesus the Christ” — highlighting the Savior’s life, ministry, atoning sacrifice and resurrection — resumed in April on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple.

“As a gift to our community, the message of the Mesa Easter Pageant is an important reminder that there is more that unites us than divides us,” said Stephen L. West, who served as pageant president from 2013 to 2021 and now serves as executive director of the new Mesa Temple Events Committee.

“We are all in need of a Savior,” he added. “The pageant gives us an opportunity as a community to acknowledge together that He is the way, the truth, the life and the light and that His great love extends to all of us, no matter what our religious affiliation, race, culture or economic circumstance might be.”

The 75-minute, free community event features an all-new script and music written by composer Rob Gardner. The music was recorded earlier this year with the London Symphony Orchestra, followed by local recordings of singing voices and speaking parts. Jenee Wright Prince, who was called in 2012, continues as creative director.

The production, which was temporarily suspended due to major renovations of the Mesa temple and grounds, draws approximately 100,000 people to evening performances spread over two weeks before Easter.

This beloved community tradition began in 1938 by a group of young people who gathered at the temple for an Easter Sunrise Service and — in the eight decades since — has grown to a spectacular production highlighting the powerful and poignant moments of the Savior’s life through music, dance, drama, live animals and special effects. The show is performed on a massive four-story-high stage by a 425-member cast, as well as hundreds who work behind the scenes.

“Thousands of volunteer hours go into producing the Mesa Easter Pageant,” said pageant chair Matthew Riggs. “Visitors will be amazed by the volunteer cast who practices for weeks leading up to the pageant, but what they don’t see are the numerous committees who function separately and then bring their efforts into a beautifully unified effort to produce the pageant. This amazing presentation could not go on without all of these consecrated and dedicated volunteers.”

Putting on the final touches are costumers Jenifer Allen, left, and Heather Frost with Wade Denman, left, and Robert Allen, who both play Pharisees in the Mesa Easter Pageant, presented April 6-16, 2022. Photo by Scott Adair, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Costume director Kay Walker and her committee of 12 created and refurbished nearly 1,100 costumes for the presentation. They work with the idea in mind that dressing individual cast members with care helps them better portray their character and the spirit of that character, in turn, is extended to the audience.

“A lot of people learn visually,” she said, “and the right costumes help bring the storytelling to another level.”

Another group that audience members may not notice — but are considered vital to the production — are a group of young and mid-single adults called “Frontline.” Doeshann Beach serves as director, considering this group the “oil” that makes everything else go. About 40 of them serve each night, and their duties include helping with parking before, trash cleanup after, and “a little bit of everything in between.” She added, “And they’re always cheerful and kind and happy to serve.”

Others working behind the scenes include Liz and Steve Porter, who oversee the stage and props. Countless hours have been given by them and many others to ready the stage for the all-new script, including building a boat and creating panels that look like buildings in a village. But they and the backstage crew believe it is time well spent.

“We are all invited to ‘come unto Christ,’” Liz Porter said. “That’s the message for all of us, and we feel so blessed to be a part of this production that is all about our Savior.”

Cecily Condie, who co-authored a book on the pageant’s 80-year history and influence, said, “It was a distinct privilege to learn more about the story behind the story of the Mesa Easter Pageant and to see not only the many thousands of man hours and resources that have gone into this Easter celebration over the years, but, also to witness how those efforts have touched lives and hearts and have helped so many to know more about Jesus Christ and to feel His peace and love.”

Preston Merchant, who grew up participating in the pageant with his family, portrays John the Beloved this year for the first time. He said he is grateful that his family took the time to allow him and his six siblings the opportunity to be a part of the pageant and he naturally memorized verses that he heard repeated night after night from the New Testament, recounting the Savior’s life and mission.

Actors portray the Last Supper, during the Mesa Easter Pageant, presented April 6-16, 2022. Photo by Scott Adair, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“It has been really important to me to draw on that throughout my life,” he said. As a father of two, he hopes to continue that tradition with his own children.

He understands that some react to changes with feelings of nostalgia of how it used to be — and perhaps sometimes reluctance. But he says since rehearsals started he’s been so touched by the spirit of the new presentation and realizes that sometimes we need to be willing to let go and trust God.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “To me it’s like the renovating of the temple and grounds over the last few years; it’s symbolic of what the Savior does with us and our lives. It’s going to be beautiful; with all the offerings the people involved have brought to this, it’s just going to be beautiful.”

The pageant will be presented through April 16. For more info, please visit