1 of 2
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Thousands take in the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti in 2009.

My wife is a Westenskow and the Westenskows are Sanpete people. So this past week, under the guiding eye of Aunt Harriet, we ended up in Manti for a family reunion, a barbecue turkey dinner, and a visit to the "Mormon Miracle Pageant."

It was a chance to kill three birds with one stone.

Before the production the cast members meandered among the crowd. They were all teenagers or 20-somethings.

Of course later, after watching them tug handcarts up temple hill and fight vertical battles, I knew why they were young. All the actors older than 40 were killed off during rehearsals.

While waiting, we met three costumed girls who said they were “evil high priestesses.”

They were about as evil as Thumper, Flower and Bambi.

But on the faraway hill, nobody could see their faces.

In fact, I decided the pageant is like those feature-less portraits by LDS artist Gary Smith. He paints cowboys, farmers and farm wives without facial features. Smith’s plan, I believe, is to show “types” and let us fill in the details.

We can plug in whatever face we wish.

It’s the same at the "Miracle Pageant."

If your ancestor was a pioneer, you can put his or her face on those distant figures struggling through the wilderness.

The faithful Lamanites are all faithful Native Americans. And the young couple searching for a direction are all young couples — your sons and daughters, and mine as well.

A little imagination is all its takes to make your own family part of the play.

It's a family reunion.

As for the other parts of the day, the turkey meal made for great down-home dining at a good, down-home price.

And the reunion, though small, pulled some loose family threads together.

As we chatted and ate and wandered along Manti’s Main Street that afternoon, I remembered reading about the time Hunter S. Thompson, the bad boy of American journalism, was sent to cover the Kentucky Derby.

2 comments on this story

He became so enthralled with the atmosphere surrounding the spectacle — the magnolias, Kentucky Colonels and Southern Belles — he never even made it to the race. He simply wrote about all the sidebar happenings.

And they made for fascinating reading.

A reporter could do the same in Manti.

If they went to cover the pageant but only met the vendors and volunteers — all those Sanpete souls with their friendly ways — their trip would be worth a story.

Of course, we did make it to the production.

And from a distance of 200 yards, I’ve never seen such evil high priestesses.

Email: jerjohn@desnews.com