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MESA, Ariz. Participating in a beloved Easter tradition, families and friends gathered on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple to witness the music and majesty of the Mesa Easter Pageant, "Jesus the Christ," presented on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple.
In its 68th year, the 75-minute production bears witness to the birth, life, teachings, Atonement and Resurrection of the Savior of the world. It was presented in English on April 5-6, 11-18 and in Spanish on April 7-8. The pageant run was expanded this year to accommodate the nearly 150,000 people who were expected to see it.
David and Irene Lane of the Mesa Arizona Pueblo Stake began attending the pageant when their children were little; their oldest son is now on a full-time mission. The cast of 400 and hundreds more who work behind the scenes were motivated to be a part of a great effort that testifies of Christ.
"We hope to have people come and recognize that we do believe in Jesus Christ," said Lance Willis, who oversaw the entire production in his first year as pageant president.
This year, pageant volunteers continued to expand their efforts to reach the Spanish-speaking community. Gilberto Laparra, who is from Guatemala and now is a member of the Mesa Arizona Boulder Creek Stake, played the apostle Andrew and led efforts to encourage members of the Hispanic community to participate in the pageant. This year, 55 of the 400 cast members were Hispanic. Brother Laparra's family was also involved.
"Many Hispanics have a hard time when they come to this country because they do not speak English, have no friends, and the traditions are not the same," he said. "Attending the pageant provides a marvelous opportunity to celebrate Easter in their native language with thousands of others whose situations and challenges are similar. The pageant is about Jesus Christ and His love for us, which is very comforting to feel."
Elaine Huish of the Maricopa Arizona Stake and pageant wardrobe director and a committee of 10 maintain more than 600 costumes, keeping tabs on which need to be improved or redesigned. "Each year we try to make about 60 new ones," she said.
"We don't want the audience to notice the costumes as much as what is being said," Sister Huish declared. "We want everything to focus on Christ."
Howard Karger of the Gilbert Arizona Stake wasn't a member of the Church last year when he saw the pageant with a friend. He was impressed by the spirit of the pageant and the focus on Jesus Christ. "I felt the Spirit here," he said, "and I realized that Mormons do believe in Jesus. The pageant had a tremendous impact on me."
He began studying the Book of Mormon, met with the missionaries and was baptized six months ago.
This year, he played the apostle Matthew and met audience members nightly before the pageant began. "The desire of my heart is to help other people understand what we believe," he said. "I feel so blessed that God has given me this truth."