We Are Excited To Announce The Return Of The Mesa Easter Pageant: Jesus The Christ
This special Mesa tradition will be back this Spring with a new set, script, and music. The beautiful Easter message remains the same. We know He lives!
Celebrate Easter at the Mesa Temple! As part of your Easter activities, come visit in person and enjoy the beautiful array of Spring flowers on the Mesa Temple grounds.
History of The Mesa Easter Pageant
“Our purpose is to bring others closer to the Savior,” said Pageant Director Jenee Prince. “We want others to get to know Him, to feel His love, and to feel more hope and peace.”
For more than eight decades, a gathering has occurred on grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple in downtown Mesa during the Easter season.
Many have gathered as cast and crew, giving countless volunteer hours to sharing the life of Jesus Christ on an outdoor stage. Many more have gathered as an audience, to witness and feel the Savior’s powerful message of forgiveness, hope, and peace.
The Mesa Easter Pageant—now recognized as the largest annual outdoor Easter pageant in the world—draws tens of thousands of people during the two weeks before Easter.
Jesus The Christ
“Jesus the Christ” is not a passion play focusing on the crucifixion, rather, it is a heartfelt celebration of the life and resurrection of the Savior, and invites all to come unto Him and partake of the “good news” that is His gospel.
It’s a very different production from its humble beginnings as a sunrise service in 1938. On that Easter morning, young men and women of Mesa Maricopa Stake’s Mutual Improvement Association, hosted a statewide convention in Mesa, and the culminating event of this festive weekend was an Easter Sunrise Service on the grounds of the temple.
From that time on, it became an annual event and a beloved community tradition.
The sunrise service continued for nearly 30 years as a choral presentation, featuring sacred music that was linked with a brief narration, focusing on the life of Jesus Christ. It was enhanced immeasurably by the setting and backdrop of His Holy House.
In 1967, a more dramatic production debuted, depicting the story of Jesus with a costumed cast posed in tableaux atop a makeshift stage made of cotton trailers.
Scenes focused on important moments in the life and mission of the Savior, including His birth, boy Jesus in the temple, Jesus teaching His followers, The Last Supper, Christ praying in Gethsemane, three crosses depicting the crucifixion, the appearance of the resurrected Christ, and His ascension.
Success After Major Renovations
In 1974, the Mesa Temple closed for a major renovation. The following year, church leaders announced a public open house for the renovated temple. Because Easter fell during the dates of the open house, the First Presidency requested that the sunrise service not be held that year. 1975 would be the only break in its 80-year history.
After it returned, and to accommodate ever-growing crowds, the one-day sunrise service blossomed into a two-evening event prior to Easter that featured hundreds involved in the cast and crew, multiple stages, theatrical lighting, live animals, and a new soundtrack recording. The Mesa Easter Pageant debuted in 1977 as an evening production and was titled, “Jesus the Christ.” It was reported a total of 20,000 people attended the two evening shows that year.
So successful were the evening performances that pageant officials expanded the following year’s performances to four evenings prior to Easter. This time a total of 40,000 people attended.
From then on, the production drastically grew, the script was rewritten several times, new music debuted, costumes were perfected, special effects were added, and people came from across Arizona, the United States and the world. Some years the attendance exceeded 100,000 during the two weeks before Easter.
In 1996, the pageant marked another historic milestone. The production, which ran for six nights that year, was presented entirely in Spanish one of the evenings. The Spanish soundtrack had been a work in progress over several years—first the narration and then the lyrics were translated—and the finished program was received with reverence and appreciation.
In 2015, Valley Metro Light Rail had been completed east on Mesa’s Main Street, ending at the northwest corner of the temple grounds. Some called this the “temple stop” and it made this destination easier to reach from other parts of the Phoenix metropolitan area, which has nearly 5 million people.
Many other downtown Mesa construction projects began about this time, and in the midst of these, officials for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the Mesa Temple would close in May 2018 for the renovation of the structure and surrounding grounds. During this time, the pageant would be suspended.
During the next few years, plans were implemented to move the pageant stage to the northeast side of the temple grounds with a redesign and underground electrical hookups that would make for easier assembly, as well as landscaping that would accommodate the massive stage and movement of a large cast.
The Mesa Easter Pageant is slated to resume in 2022. The story and spirit of the pageant continue on into the future. From a simple sunrise service to a magnificent production, it has always had the ability to draw many to gather on the sacred grounds of the Mesa Temple. And as they gather, the spirit will continue to touch their hearts and build testimonies because it is the story of the Savior and Redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ, and His message ever brings peace and hope to the souls of all those who will hear Him.