NEW YORK CITY — With all of the New York City buzz on all things Mormon these days — from "The Book of Mormon" to "I'm a Mormon" to dueling Mormons for the Republican presidential nomination — it is understandable that the New York Times felt it was a good time to send a reporter to upstate New York to "get the Mormon view of the extended Mormon moment" at the LDS Church's annual Hill Cumorah Pageant.
In a story called "A Mormon Spectacle, Way Off Broadway," Times reporter Peter Applebome spoke to a number of cast members and audience members to get a sense of how Mormons perceive themselves in the midst of all the attention their church is receiving.
"'Mormons are weird — we're strange people; we get it,' said Rob Moffat, one of the show's production managers and an actor, singer and songwriter in Los Angeles. 'But we're OK with the lifestyle we've chosen, and it comes from a very true place in the heart.'"
"I got interviewed by a lady locally, who was asking if Mormons are becoming more mainstream, and I don't think so," said Benjamin King, 26, a student at West Virginia University, who has been in the pageant since he was 18. "It's not like there's a new fad . . . I think people are seeing the values we've always had."
As far as the pageant itself was concerned, Applebome observed that "the 70-minute show began with heraldic trumpets, the set suggesting the carved stone of a Mesoamerican temple. The storms and disasters poured forth from 12 light towers, water cannons and flame tubes. The narrative unfolded in 10 chapters of Mormon lore. The portentous recorded music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony Orchestra seemed to indicate that the whole place might ascend heavenward at any moment."
Applebome also noted there were a number of protestors with bullhorns and placards out on the street who "shouted their disapproval, calling the performance idolatrous and wicked and the depiction of Christ and his teachings untrue."
"But inside," he concluded, "it was all smiles and talk of uplift and inspiration, this particular Mormon moment apparently exactly what this crowd had in mind.
Those protestors were the focus on the pageant coverage by the Messenger Post newspapers in upstate New York. Reporter Alysa Stryker spoke to several of the placard-carrying protestors who were outside the pageant on opening night last week, including one man who protests at the pageant every year despite the fact that his wife of 30 years is LDS. When asked how it is to leave her in Florida every year while he travels to Palmyra to protest the religion she loves, the man said: "'It's a heartbreak every day.'"
"'I tell her I'm going to miss her, and I love her,' he said. 'She says the same.'"
The annual Hill Cumorah Pageant continues its 2011 run nightly through Saturday night.