Manti, Utah True History? Doctored History? Or Fiction?
The Manti “Mormon Miracle” Pageant has been a highly acclaimed production for over a quarter of a century. However, the audience is not told that significant portions of the pageant are not historically or doctrinally accurate. In the interest of discovering the whole truth, some of these inaccuracies are described below:
What About the First Vision?
1.) Revival in 1820? Overall church membership in the area where the Smith family lived declined in 1820, not increased. Church membership records rediscovered by Wesley P. Walters prove the revival did not occur until the fall of 1823 into 1824.
2.) Portrayal of Christian churches: In the pageant, the Christian congregations are depicted singing with raised arms and excessive body motion; this is not characteristic of Methodist, Presbyterian, or Baptist worship. The song sung in the pageant until 1993, “At the Cross, At the Cross,” had not been published in 1820; its author hadn’t even been born!
3.) Which version of Joseph’s first vision? There are many versions of Joseph’s first vision, and the one written in Joseph’s own handwriting disagrees with the second-hand report which the Church now accepts as the official version.
4.) Seeing the light: All official pictures of the First Vision are incorrect compared to the official text (Pearl of Great Price) concerning the light which Joseph saw. The official account says it was a “pillar of light exactly over his head,” however, all official artistic renderings show a cone of light. (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History 1:18)
Anyone looking up at the end of a column sees a round disk; however, light coming down in a column is different. In order to see a column of light, you must be to the side of it. When looking into a flashlight beam that shines a round column of light the size of your head, could you see a column of light?
No, you see the round flashlight lens (try it!)
The Father and his Son both appear in this small light. This brings up more questions. Which way were they floating? Right side up? Upside down? Or horizontally? Just how small are the Father and the Son? Were they wearing temple garments? Were they wearing fig leaf aprons (Genesis chapter 3)? In any case, the light portrayed at the pageant is much larger in diameter and appears more like a lighted area in the trees than like a pillar exactly over Joseph’s head.
5.) What did Jesus tell Joseph? The pageant skips the direct answer to Joseph’s question and only quotes the second half of Joseph Smith—History 1:19. The first part contains the reason why Joseph “must join none of them, for they are all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.” This part is a direct attack against all existing churches by Jesus himself. The true church should tell the whole truth, even if it is very direct and offensive to all other churches.
6.) Conversation with mother: Joseph’s mother asks him, “How can you know that my church is not true?”
Joseph answers, “I know, Mother, because I have seen and talked with God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, and they told me so.”
The narrator says, “The vital spark and force of this miracle lies in the fact that Joseph Smith never denied these words.”
However, Joseph’s actions denied these words when he joined the Methodist Church in 1824.
Ignoring the truth?
Because the pageant ignores most of the negative things that Joseph did during his life, it casts an unrealistic view of his character. The pageant elevates Joseph to a level where it appears that he has done nothing wrong in his life. This position is not a realistic portrayal of any person other than Jesus. It’s no wonder that many non-members misunderstand the position that Joseph holds and falsely accuse members of worshipping Joseph. All prophets were sinners and have been portrayed as such in Scripture. Joseph has been portrayed as a person with flaws in the History of the Church, but not in this pageant. The pageant always gives persecution by other churches as the reason that the saints were forced westward. No reference is ever given to the financial and religious shenanigans of the saints that caused their neighbors to get mad at them and force them to move.
Some Credit Due
There are at least three things in the pageant that have been somewhat improved. The song “At the Cross” was replaced in 1994. In 1995, the wooden jail scene was replaced by a more authentic looking stone block building. Before 1995 Joseph only shot twice, and he died inside on the jail floor. Now, Joseph shoots three times and dies outside the jail. However, he now falls backwards as if accidentally falling out the window. The History of the Church says that Joseph was shot while jumping out the window in an attempt to escape.
Why was Joseph Jailed?
The events that led up to Joseph Smith’s arrest and murder are noteworthy, but are also ignored by the Miracle Pageant. The fact that Joseph claimed to have received a revelation on polygamy in 1842 but hid it from the public during his lifetime is the key to his arrest. In public he strongly denied polygamy while practicing it privately. On June 7, 1844, Joseph Smith read the first (and only) edition of the Nauvoo Expositor. This paper was printed by Joseph’s second in command, William Law and William’s brother Wilson. In this only edition, Law publicly exposed Joseph’s “Plural Wife System.” Joseph had proposed to William’s wife and wanted her to become one of his wives. (The fact that Joseph proposed to another man’s wife is always ignored in LDS reviews of Joseph’s death.)
She was highly offended and told her husband, who purchased a printing press and exposed Joseph in public print. Joseph Smith was so upset about being exposed that he called a city council meeting and, as mayor, declared the press a public nuisance and ordered it destroyed (Documentary History of the Church [DHoC], Vol. 7, pp. 61-65). Even in 1844, this was a violation of freedom of the press.
Joseph was first arrested in Nauvoo, but being the mayor, he let himself out of jail on his own recognizance. This is why charges were filed against him in Carthage. The Nauvoo Expositor was the first newspaper to publicly expose Joseph Smith’s active practice of polygamy and his attempts to marry other men’s wives. The polygamy revelation (D&C 132) was not printed until some years after the saints arrived in Salt Lake. Joseph’s first wife Emma did not like polygamy. After Joseph was killed, she denied that Joseph ever practiced it and blamed Brigham Young for the polygamy revelation (D&C 132).
Obeying the Word of Wisdom?
The pageant also fails to point out the sins that were willfully committed in violation of the Word of Wisdom in Carthage Jail prior to the assassination. Joseph, his brother and their visitors sent out for some wine to drink to cheer them up. They all partook of it, and President John Taylor stated that this was not for Communion (DHoC, Vol. 7, p. 101). According to the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89:5-7), wine is to be used only for the sacrament or for washing the body. Verse 6 states that it had to be wine “of your own make.” Sending out for wine to be drunk for “pleasure” is a direct violation of the Word of Wisdom.
Joseph the Innocent?
Another violation concerns the issue of smuggling two guns into the jail. Joseph defended himself by shooting back with a pepperbox six-shooter that belonged to John Taylor which was smuggled into the jail by Cyrus Wheelock (HoC 7:100). This is a direct violation of the civil law (smuggling guns into a jail has always been illegal).
The gun battle in the jail is recorded in DHoC 7:101-105. John Taylor recorded the number of shots fired by Joseph Smith. He shot all six rounds, but three shots misfired. The three shots that did go off killed two men and wounded a third. It is recorded that Joseph Smith was shot in the back while trying to escape by jumping through the second-story window. His dying words were uttered outside on the ground.
The pageant fails to portray what happened to the other three people in the jail. Hyrum had the other gun but was shot to death before he could use it. John Taylor, who was unarmed, was shot multiple times but recovered. Dr. Richards, who was also unarmed, was not injured. He assisted John Taylor in their escape.
The pageant has the Saints using handcarts to get to Illinois. In fact, the use of handcarts was first encouraged by Brigham Young in 1851 to help people be able to afford to go to Salt Lake City. It wasn’t until the summer of 1856 that the Saints actually used them. This may have been due to the prophesy reportedly received by Brigham Young: “And I am not afraid to prophesy, that those who go by handcarts, and continue faithful and obedient, will be blessed more than have ever dreamed of” (Comprehensive History of the Church [CHoC], Vol. 4, pp. 90-91). However, the first year they were used, two of the five handcart companies ended in disaster. Handcarts were used for three more years before being “abandoned for more favorable means” (CHoC, Vol. 4, p. 106).
The Creation Controversy
The Bible says in Genesis chapter 1 that God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them. The pageant says, “He has arranged it out of the ever-present substance of the Universe.” This disagrees with the Bible as well as the Pearl of Great Price (Moses, chapter 2). However, in the Book of Abraham, chapter 4, some verses sound like creation, but most of the account speaks of organization (it is interesting to note that Moses talks about a singular God creating, while Abraham talks about a plurality of gods).
Women and the Priesthood
In the last scene, it is the wife who calls her husband out of the grave. She doesn’t even have to use his new name. What good is a new name if it isn’t even used in the resurrection? Also, the Bible and the Book of Mormon are clear about men being the leaders and priesthood holders. History confirms that women never held the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthoods. In 1990, the temple ceremony was changed to reflect women’s rights. What is the future of this trend? Are there plans to give women the priesthood? Will there also be women apostles and prophets in the future?
I am interested in seeing the true history honestly portrayed.