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Brigham Young actors recount Church leader's 19th Century visits

SALEM, Mass. — As part of the Peabody Essex Museum's summer long "Legacy of Faith" Church exhibit, spectators learned more of the Church's early connections to the city of Salem in street theater productions recounting Brigham Young's visits to the old New England seaport.

LDS actors Michael Wuergler and Lewis Heaps alternated playing the role of the Church's second president in multiple performances of the 20-minute production.

The performances were held at Salem's Old Town Hall. The dialogue ranged from humorous exchanges with the audience, to enlightening the crowd with historical facts of the city, to recounting Brigham Young's visits to the area, to bearing testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

During the performances, Brothers Heaps and Wurgler portrayed an older Brigham Young who had returned to the 21st century version of the 19th century city where he and various other Church leaders had visited. The actors portraying the Church leader conversed with the crowd and then began reminiscing of his visits.

The most stirring part of each performance came when "Brother Brigham" told the audience of a strange experience he had while sitting in the Boston Train Station on June 27, 1844. Both actors drew from historical accounts in which Elder Young described how an unexplainable feeling of "melancholy and sadness" came over him as he sat in the train station. It would be three weeks before he would learn that on that day his beloved prophet, mentor and friend had been martyred with his brother Hyrum in Carthage.

One spectator who viewed two of the performances noted that during each performance, "a hush fell over the crowd as the actors told of the impressions Brigham had on that fateful day."

For Brother Heaps, playing the role of Brigham Young "was a lot of fun."

"I learned a lot about the man Brigham," he said. "He came from a very simple background, and was greatly blessed by the Lord to have the vision to accomplish what the Lord had in store for him."

Brother Wuergler, a convert to the Church, employed his experience as a college theater major and professional actor for his portrayal of the Church's second president.

"I felt that we only scratched the surface of this magnificent figure in our history," Brother Wuergler said. "I was astounded by the folks who approached us, many of them non-members, and thanked us for coming. Many had no idea Brigham Young ever visited their city."

The performances are scheduled to again take place on Saturday June 17th, during a second "Legacy 2000" activity day. Brothers Wuergler and Heaps, and their families, are members of the Northborough Branch, Boston Massachusetts Stake.