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Sunbeams: The unexpected ways Primary children contribute to the Manti pageant

MANTI, Utah — On a recent visit to Manti, the Primary general presidency learned that local Primary children pick up trash from the Manti Utah Temple grounds every morning after performances of the Mormon Miracle Pageant.

They had only one question in response: “When can we come?”

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary presidency, greet children performing in the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah on June 20.
Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary presidency, greet children performing in the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah on June 20. Photo: Savannah Hopkinson

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president, and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, were in Manti the morning of June 21 to see the daily 7 a.m. service project for themselves. They were accompanied by members of the Primary General Board, and Sister Jones gave a post-cleanup devotional on the importance of temples.

The morning, however, was about the children, many of whom were up late the previous night participating in the pageant. Sister Jones praised their spirits during an interview with the Church News.

“These children are amazing, and I wish the whole world could see what these children are doing,” she said. “They know who they are.”

Milton Olsen, the pageant president, said although several wards in the Manti or Ephraim stakes typically cover the temple grounds cleaning assignment every morning, the Manti Utah Stake Primary presidency opened June 21 to any Primary child because of Sister Jones’ and Sister Harkness’ visit.

Two-year-old Lucas Carmody helps pick up trash left over from the Manti Miracle Pageant. Children from all over the area came to participate in the early-morning service project.
Two-year-old Lucas Carmody helps pick up trash left over from the Manti Miracle Pageant. Children from all over the area came to participate in the early-morning service project. Photo: Savannah Hopkinson

This meant that instead of the usual 20 to 30 children and their leaders helping out, there were 300 to 500 people, according to Manti Utah Stake Primary presidency member Marianne Barton. This also meant that the typical half-hour or less cleaning time was finished in “record time.”

Barton said the tradition of Primary children cleaning the temple grounds during the pageant has existed for as long as the pageant itself. They allow children ages about 3 or 4 years old and up to participate, and the children are “always looking forward to what they can do,” such as setting up chairs when they reach Young Men and Young Women age.

“There’re things that the Primary kids can do and there’re things that they can’t do,” she said. “Putting up chairs is not a little person’s job. But doing service by picking up and cleaning up and making the Lord’s grounds look good, this is something they can do.”

Barton said this service particularly benefits those who didn’t get a good look at the temple grounds during the evening pageant but who may revisit them the following morning; she also said although cleaning the grounds so early in the morning is a large sacrifice for many of the children, “they’re just happy and bright-eyed by 7 in the morning.”

The grounds of the Manti Utah Temple the morning after the June 20 performance of the Mormon Miracle Pageant. Children from all over the county come each morning to clean the grounds of trash.
The grounds of the Manti Utah Temple the morning after the June 20 performance of the Mormon Miracle Pageant. Children from all over the county come each morning to clean the grounds of trash. Photo: Savannah Hopkinson

“[The Primary children] want to help Jesus. They want to make His place, His house and the grounds, look good for people,” Barton said. “It teaches them service. It teaches them to serve with joy.”

She also said they set an example by getting their parents out of bed.

“Everybody thinks ‘If the small ones can do it, I can do it,’ ” she said.

Jenny Sullivan, a local mother who brought her three children to the service project, said it was their first time helping out.

“It’s just a great feeling to know that we’re contributing in some way to this pageant,” she said. “It touches a lot of people’s lives, I think, and it’s fun to be part of it.”

Bradie Crane, another local mother who brought her two children, said she grew up participating in the pageant. Her family has helped clean the temple grounds before, but she said it was a particularly special day with members of the Primary general presidency there.

“I think it’s just the best opportunity for service, and it’s fun that we have this in our little community,” she said.