Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church) love recording and retelling stories of the history of the Church.
Scriptural injunctions reinforce the story telling and recording tradition. In latter-day scriptures, the Doctrine & Covenants (a collection of modern revelations), the Lord commands the Church’s history to be written:
I say unto you that it shall be appointed unto him to keep the church record and history continually; Wherefore, it shall be given him, inasmuch as he is faithful, by the Comforter, to write these things. Even so. Amen. (Doctrine & Covenants 47:3-4)
While crossing the desolate plains from Illinois to Utah in the 1840s, my Latter-day Saint (LDS or Mormon) pioneer ancestors’ journals record days of journeying hardships and evenings of singing, dancing, and story telling. Brigham Young, president of the Church during the Mormon migration westward, encouraged Latter-day Saints to gather around the evening campfire and rejoice together. As they constantly recounted the blessings of the Lord in their lives, the difficult journey became increasingly bearable–one day at a time.
“Come, Come Ye Saints,” a song written during the Mormon trek westward, captures the pioneer’s profound respect for story telling in two of its four stanzas:
Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ’Tis not so; all is right. Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake; And soon we’ll have this tale to tell- All is well! All is well!
We’ll find the place which God for us prepared, Far away, in the West, Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid; There the saints, will be blessed. We’ll make the air, with music ring, Shout praises to our God and King; Above the rest these words we’ll tell - All is well! All is well! 1
Combining All Story Telling Elements into One–the Pageant
Latter-day Saints continue sharing history, culture, and religious beliefs by recounting meaningful experiences through spoken or written word, music, art, dance or drama. Mormon pageants combine all of these story telling mediums.
The United Kingdom is to play host to a new pageant of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titled “The British Pageant: Truth Will Prevail.” The British pageant will follow a similar format to the Nauvoo, Illinois Pageant and the “Mormon Miracle Pageant” in Manti, Utah, but will focus on the history of the LDS Church in the British Isles, written and performed by members from around the United Kingdom.
There will be three main themes running through the pageant as it draws on the history of the British Isles and the Restoration. Throughout their history, the British people have demonstrated this desire to do God’s will, requiring personal sacrifice and tremendous courage. Drawing on historical figures such as William Tyndale, the pageant will open by celebrating their important contributions in laying the basis for religious freedom and the Restoration.
Secondly and against the background of the Restoration and the arrival of the first Mormon missionaries in 1837, the pageant will tell the story of Latter-day Saints who have sacrificed much to build their faith and to strengthen their communities.
Through their abiding faith and deep love for one another and the Savior, the Saints discovered their lives were full of the joy of the gospel. They taught their children, and these youths carried on a legacy of devotion to the principles of the restored gospel [The Church of Jesus Christ is the full restoration of Christ’s ancient church], which is manifest throughout the worldwide church. The third theme will realize the implications of this heritage today, as families and youths in the British Isles know this joy and continue to take it to all the world. 2
The Influence of Individual and Collective Stories
In 1841, Samuel Gadd joined the LDS Church in England and served as presiding elder at Bessems and Cambridge. Filled with a desire to join other Saints in Utah, Samuel determined to emigrate. His wife Eliza Chapman Gadd, while not of the LDS faith, emigrated with her husband and eight children. Soon after joining the Willie handcart company and beginning their journey across the plains, Samuel and two children died on the Wyoming plains. Instead of becoming bitter and resentful, Eliza’s faith increased and she was baptized a week after her arrival in Utah. Eliza, my third great-grandmother, then settled her family in Nephi, Utah, became a midwife and strengthened that community physically and spiritually. Her courageous story strengthens my faith in Christ and I am so grateful to know who she is and who I can become because of her.
Regardless of the individual’s nation and specific sacrifice, each Mormon pioneer’s story proclaims faith in Jesus Christ and a determination to live His Gospel. That heritage remains with Latter-day Saints who rejoice to share their stories amongst themselves and anyone else who cares to listen.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.