A British Pageant? Part 1

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One of the unique parts of American Mormonism seems to be the penchant for pageants. Although I have never previously attended a pageant I have seen pictures and they seem like strange affairs, like LSD-soaked Roadshows with a glossy sheen of sentimentality. Geography (I am from the UK) is not the only reason I have never been to a pageant, it would very likely not be something I would enjoy. Recently, members of the Church in the UK – after obtaining approval from the First Presidency no less – announced that in 2013 the UK will have their first pageant. I am not convinced this will be a good thing.

There are three reasons for my lack of enthusiasm. First, pageants tend to be superficial and emphasise spectacle over substance. Second, I suspect that the British public will find this weird. Third, it continues to foster a form of religious capital which is accrued through a desire to emulate American Mormonism.

Pageants by their nature reduce or simplifying the stories of pioneers or Book of Mormon prophets to trite platitudes or moralistic stories. No doubt these are well-intentioned efforts to ‘share the gospel’ but I think that parading our faith in this matter does little to demonstrate the beauty and depth of our theology nor the faith of those who have sustained us as a church.

A UK pageant will likely draw on a variety of anglocentric narratives that have special relevance to British Mormon saints. I am sure that many members of the church will find this inspiring but these stories will not speak to those who are not of our faith. Recounting the early years of the church in Great Britain is not, and will not ever be, like the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Nor is it like, to look at the other side of the theatrical coin, The Book of Mormon musical which is currently sold-out in London. Those non-Mormons who do attend (and I imagine they will be few and far between) are unlikely to resonate with these stories nor understand why they are important because they will merely see deluded, poverty-ridden Northerners seeking a new life in a new world where we see faith-filled sacrifice. The reality is that both of these narratives are important but I suspect that the pageant will not be able to accommodate or facilitate that nuance. More than this, efforts to recreate and perform these stories will strike attendees as odd – the British do not seem to have the same penchant for kitsch and hammy theatrics. In short, the pageant will not increase good will toward the church.

All of this would be fine, of course, if it were not an effort to raise the profile of the church in the wake of the Mormon moment. In fact, it is difficult not to see the pageant as a response to the Book of Mormon musical coming to London. However, assuming that this pageant is primarily an opportunity for local members to rejuvenate their faith through a re-telling of our sacred narratives, then surely this is a good thing.

I suspect not; and this leads to my third point. A British pageant would inevitably draw on a form of religious capital that is tied to the cultural imperialism of American Mormonism. Religious capital is a term which refers to the accrual of status or position in a religious context. Over the last few years, American Mormonism has begun to offer the UK (and, I assume, other places around the world) their cultural exports. First, EFY and now Pageants. British Mormons have been all too willing to jump on the bandwagon and promote the virtues of American Mormonism and thus implicitly these values become a standard worthy of emulation.

By seeking to import pageants to the UK we are inadvertently undermining our own claims to a British Mormon culture. Increasing ethnic diversity in British Mormonism highlights the importance of developing forms of cultural expression which are able to give voice to the eclectic mix of languages and heritages which is our local experience. Inserting white, British Mormon history into this imported format will seek to reinforce cultural codes that are quite alien to both new converts and long-standing members.

Pageants have a high likelihood of being superficial, they are unlikely to resonate with those living in Britain, and they do not represent the cultural forms of local people. If we must develop UK-wide cultural events, then lets use the creativity and intellect of the council who are currently organising this pageant (and others who are not listed but who I am sure would love to help) to develop new ideas about how we can celebrate our Mormonism in ways which values our rapidly changing communities.

Comments

  1. it's a series of tubes says:

    Given that you have never attended a pageant, you have some strongly negative things to say here…

  2. Um, Europe has a very loooooong history of religious pageants — since medieval times, at least.

  3. Aaron, one of the things that surprised me when I visited Britain and went to various Methodist and evangelical churches there was how much they seemed to influenced by the United States. Many of the pastors were visiting the United States for ideas about how to reinvigorate their communities. It made me wonder what the relationship between American and British churches currently is and which churches are standing apart and maintaining a deliberately British sentiment (I would guess the Anglo-Catholics and other high Anglican branches).

    Ardis, True — but Britain and the rest of Europe have largely been abandoning that tradition, and as a result, what would have seemed in keeping with tradition a few decades or centuries ago is now jarring. I also highly doubt that the British pageant Aaron is describing is going to draw on medieval passion plays for inspiration. For better or worse, it’s likely that the British Mormon pageant is going to be read as an import.

  4. Pageants are nearly extinct in the US, too, except for Mormon pageants — and that pesky tradition everywhere of Easter and Christmas pageants — although they were common enough in the US when the Mormons started doing them. Even Hollywood had a 20th century religious pageant tradition. If the pageant is seen as an import, it will probably be seen as a Mormon thing, not a generically American one. And whether or not the British pageant draws directly on Piers Plowman for its inspiration, or Oberammergau for that matter, the influence is undeniable.

    But thanks for superiority of your highly informed mini-lecture.

  5. I ditto #1 and #2.
    I seem to recall reading some of these plays in an early English Literature class.

    ” the British do not seem to have the same penchant for kitsch and hammy theatrics”
    Uh, how then do you manage to sell a single ticket to an American-made film?

  6. Markus W. says:

    Britain and the rest of Europe have been abandoning everything to do with religion for a long time now, so that in itself isn’t really an argument. Or, rather, it’s an argument that would also suggest we abandon chapel building or holding sacrament meetings.

    So some people have taken the initiative to put together a pageant. How about wishing them luck and hoping that it turns out well, rather than assuming the worst from the outset? Is there any idea that wouldn’t be immediately labeled an American import?

  7. tubes (#1) – that is fair; not unexpected, but fair. Yet, I do not think that my issues with bringing these pageants to the UK are any less valid because I have not been to a pageant in the US. Primarily this is because my single concern with the form of the pageant (i.e. ‘superficiality’) is not really that controversial. The others are more to do with how they will translate into British culture.

    Ardis, I will comment a little on that in the next post but I think Amanda is right. With that said, I would be far more supportive of something which draws inspiration from passion plays. Second, because that is not present in the minds of most people in the UK they will not only feel like an import but they will just seem alien.

    Amanda, the rising disaffection among UK denominations has led them (foolishly, IMO) to draw lessons from the American model of church. There are quite obvious reasons for this: the far higher rates of religiosity among US churches being the primary one. My suspicion would be that this type of borrowing is quite common but I am not really in a position to comment in more detail.

  8. rt, I did not say that we do not a penchant for those things but just that it is not the same. On top of that, until very recently, almost all cinemas in the UK are filled with American-made films. As the British film industry has grown, more of that money has being going to British-made films.

    Markus W., I sincerely hope I am wrong and that it is a huge success. Obviously I think that is unlikely. Any idea that did not come from America, but from say France, would be unlikely to be labelled an American import?

  9. I’m with Markus on this one. The level of appreciation for anything religious in the UK is extremely low and if we are to base our decisions on what services and activities to hold upon public understanding and appreciation then we might as well close up shop.

    As long as it appeals to the membership of the church in Britain (which I assume it will as it is being organised by Brits) then I don’t see an issue.

  10. it's a series of tubes says:

    the British do not seem to have the same penchant for kitsch and hammy theatrics

    But see Blackadder, Are You Being Served, Monty Python, et al.

    And Aaron, I’ve lived in the UK long enough and and at enough different times that I understand where you are coming from.

  11. “deluded, poverty-ridden Northerners seeking a new life in a new world”

    Why Northerners? Are you using statistics here, or stereotypes? I’m as used to seeing early Mormon converts from Devon, Kent, London, and Wales as those from Liverpool, Manchester, and Scotland, but I would be interested in a chart or table showing the concentration of converts from the different regions of the island.

  12. tubes(#10), glad to hear it. I would just point out that all of those are comedies: no question that we like to laugh at it.

  13. Amy T., impressionistic. I could be wrong, but my sense is that the vast majority of converts came from the north. However, I acknowledge that I could very well be wrong about this.

  14. Wow, Aaron, you’ve kicked a nest here, young man.

    What Mormons almost always fail to see, even British Mormons, is how utterly American the church is. For good or ill, that is just as fact. Your commenters have proved it by somehow imagining that a modern Mormon style pageant is somehow akin to the medieval passion play. What a load of rubbish. I’ve been to the Hill Cumorah pageant and enjoyed it quite a bit, but it bears little resemblance to the kind of religious plays which once took place here and which still do.

    So, can we please stop with the lectures from Americans as to what constitutes religious drama in England in 2012?

    The mystery play is alive and well. My local cathedral is hosting an Advent play this very night. One of the most remarkable recent iterations was Michael Sheen’s epic 72 hour passion play which involved the entire town of Port Talbot in Wales (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-13176102).

    I hope to attend the British Pageant and I think it will be a meaningful experience for those involved. I am therefore more optimistic than Aaron. However, if its aesthetic is largely American, and if it simply tells the story of the American Hero bringing salvation to hopeless, urchinly Brits, I shall be a bit sad. How wonderful if would be if the music drew upon Wesley as much as JKP, and if the story of these isles’ turn to God was seen to begin not just in 1837 but in 604 with arrival of Augustine of Canterbury. Maybe it will, in which case, bravo.

    I look forward to part 2.

  15. I love your observation of “American Mormonism”. How apt to address the religion born in the USA that inadvertently though with good will tries to convert a lot of its followers or the typical non member into American cultural ideas woven into the very clearly all American religion that it is. No doubt there will be the disconnect you speak of both in process of preaching to the choir, and to a world not of American western cultural experience.
    Instead I think that that church or its officials should concentrate in emphasizing the universal qualities of Christianity that if claims if it wishes to be heard or taken sensitively. But we need to be serious about that appeal and not a people that shy away from croticism if that claim. The truth will out. Your post was excellent.

  16. Such a good post Aaron. Your observations about the potential downsides of this experiment are very astute and match what I came away seeing after living for a number of years in the UK and enjoying the Mormon experience available there, in all its richness. I was there as EFY began to creep in as a cultural import, displacing more authentic British ways of relating to and incorporating youth into the religious landscape.

    We must remember that the Mormon experience in the UK includes engagement with a state that has an established church. What this means is that most national holidays, public ceremonies and other celebrations are infused with a level of religiosity that is not possible (and perhaps not desirable) in the United States. Perhaps UK Mormons should be examining ways to plug into this default public religiosity through civic engagement, including through Anglican channels in charitable efforts. Integrating the Church in this way can promote an effective congruence between the existing church-state relationship and our Church as an outsider that, looked at in this way, is comprised of societal insiders (i.e. citizens and residents participating in the civic fabric of society through the structural framework actually currently in place in the UK).

    This raises the question of whether such a pageant, especially if put on in the spirit of the imperialism of kitsch American cultural Mormonism (as you helpfully discuss), would serve to further alienate a religion that already stands on the outside looking in with regard to participation in the religious narrative of the country.

    With The Book of Mormon musical in London, we are down on the mats, it is true. Now we get to experience renewed public ridicule and marginalization in addition to settling on a societal position on the outside of the cultural religious framework. But Mormonism, or being a Latter-day Saint, in the UK doesn’t have to be like this. We can hold to our own unique beliefs while promoting the home-grown characteristics of British Mormonism. If this pageant comes across as a response to The Book of Mormon musical, I believe it is a risky endeavor indeed and very likely a cultural debacle in the making. It could actually set things back decades for British Mormons in terms of cultural integration and participation in the fabric of society.

  17. 13 — Well, that’s an interesting question then. Is it possible that your ideas are colored by the ubiquitous stories of Preston and the River Ribble and all those pioneers leaving from Liverpool? Herefordshire — Benbow’s Farm and the United Brethren — wouldn’t be considered Northern England, would it? Or would the West Midlands be grouped (historically) with the industrial northern regions?

    I don’t know if the subject of converts from the north vs. the south has been treated in any theses or dissertations. Truth Will Prevail shows a map of the British Isles with “places prominent in Latter-day Saint history.” In England those places are (north to south) Alston, Downham, Preston, Manchester, The Potteries, Birmingham, Malverns, Bedford, and London. That’s inconclusive.

    There’s a glaring lack of good history of the Church in the British Isles.

  18. “How wonderful if would be if the music drew upon Wesley as much as JKP, and if the story of these isles’ turn to God was seen to begin not just in 1837 but in 604 with arrival of Augustine of Canterbury.” I give that a hearty AMEN, Ronan.

    If this pageant emphasizes, like Peter Ackroyd (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/67714.Albion), that Albion has always been populated by religious dreamers and visionaries, and that the narrative of Mormonism — including as rooted in the folk tradition of Britain’s most religiously animated and rebellious progeny, the United States — fits nicely, even admirably, into this native narrative, then it will be a big success, despite my reseverations about the imperialism of American cultural Mormonism in my comment # 16. It could open doors in people’s minds that have previously closed with regard to the value and potential of Mormonism as something worthwhile for Brits who aren’t already enamored with American cultural imports.

  19. Tangential but relevant:

    Many of us would like there to be Mormon presence at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday morning along with the other religions. It really is *the* national ritual and a Mormon presence there would be a huge coming of age. To that end, the church here has recently started a fundraising relationship with the Royal British Legion who oversee the “Poppy Appeal.”

    This is great.

    On the other hand, I was at an LDS church on Remembrance Sunday where the two minutes’ silence was held at 9.30 not 11 and without standing. Utterly disgraceful.

    Many British Mormons know where they want to go but without Salt Lake’s guidance (there is nothing in the Handbook about Remembrance Sunday) they haven’t a clue how to get there.

    A British Pageant can be a British Mormon coming of age or it can be a Mormon show that happens to be in Britain.

  20. Amy, I’ve heard it argued that the north-south divide in the 19th century was actually a diagonal line from the Bristol Channel to the Wash, which would place the Malvern sites in the “north”.

    I am from Malvern and find it laughable to be called a “northerner” but I am aware that people “down south” consider anything north of, say, the M25 to be “north.” All that said, it is noticeable that very little in Mormon church history takes place in London or the truly southern counties.

  21. John,
    From Albion Road — greetings!

    I agree with your assessment. I often wonder what it would take to awaken British Mormons to the Christian heritage around them. It wouldn’t take much. Just trace Yankee Christianity to its English roots. That’s not to say that there isn’t something uniquely American about Mormonism, but it’s also true to say that without Henry’s disengagement from Rome, without Tyndale’s Bible, without Augustine’s ministry, and without English Puritanism, there would be no Mormonism. To weave the Restoration into the account of England’s spiritual dreamings, and thus to explain its appeal to groups like the United Brethren, would be to tell a great British story.

    But I’ve seen these stories told before: the urchins cough on the fumes of industry/religious oppression before being rescued by the American Hero.

  22. Add masonry to the list of Joseph Smith’s English ancestry. A fun alternative history experiment would be to imagine the restoration in a non-”English” land.

  23. Your commenters have proved it by somehow imagining that a modern Mormon style pageant is somehow akin to the medieval passion play. What a load of rubbish. I’ve been to the Hill Cumorah pageant and enjoyed it quite a bit, but it bears little resemblance to the kind of religious plays which once took place here and which still do.

    Since I’m the one who brought this up and therefore the one you’re jeering at so scornfully, please note that I said no more than you are saying: That there is a European pageantry tradition (as you say, “religious plays which once took place here and which still do”). I was surprised that the mere idea of pageantry was treated as so utterly alien. If the British pageant turns out to be kitsch, that’s a shame. Pageantry need not be kitsch, as the outdoor religious plays native to Europe evidence.

    Stop transferring your disdain for American Mormon pageants (none of which I have ever spoken well of) to this American Mormon who happened to point out that you have a longstanding native tradition of pageantry to draw upon. It is not an alien idea.

  24. >Inserting white, British Mormon history into this imported format will seek to reinforce cultural codes that are quite alien to both new converts and long-standing members.

    Just read this in your OP. I realise that my suggestions for celebrating England’s wider Christianity it still rather white. As John will tell you, the future of Mormonism in the urban wards here is not white. So, how to celebrate the ethnic diversity of Britain and British Mormonism. Artistically I would suggest two parallel stories — that of a Hindu Nepalese coming to Britain and meeting the missionaries (the religious in-migration) told alongside the 19th century religious out-migration of people already saturated by the yearnings of Albion.

  25. “Second, I suspect that the British public will find this weird.”
    I’d imagine the British probably find most of their fellow countrymen pretty weird…

    If the land of Shakespeare and the West End find a pageant weird, then we might as well give up.

  26. I’m with RJH in #21. As an American I see the roots of restoration sprouting in Britain before they could grow here (US). Britain has had a tremendous influence on the Churches development. Many of our hymns originated across the pond. We have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir thanks to the great choral traditions of the Wales and England. Personally I think a pageant could be successful if done the right way.

    This is just a side note, but as I have spent time in parts of the world outside the US I have been flabbergasted by how much these other cultures embrace such stupid and tawdry American pop culture imports such as some music,TV programming and films. Some parts of our culture worth of borrowing, but much of it is not. I wish these other cultures could understand that.

  27. Aaron that’s a great post I understand completely where you are coming from and the view you are espousing. To some extent I agree warmly. I don’t quite understand what the motivation is, or what we are actually celebrating? If this is going to the fluffy narrative retelling of warm milk stories which ultimately goes to reinforce devotional history, then I am less enthused. If it is rather the British and European struggle, loss and complete uprooting then that is a different matter. Only one third of 19c converts from Britain made the journey, little is known of these others. The majority of which did indeed come from Wales, Midlands and the North including Scotland. It will no doubt be a fun day with lots of sweetness. Perhaps my nuanced view come from studying these ‘other’ narratives that were anything but nice, disease, low mortality, and sad tale for many Mormons.

  28. #25 You need to add “Dr. Who” Shakespeare and the West End.

  29. #25, you have no clue, do you, what “pageant” means?

  30. KerBearRN says:

    Please, God, ANYONE other than JKP. I’d take Wierd Al Yankovic over JKP.

  31. Let me offer a correction for the post and subsequent comments: not “American Mormonism,” but “Intermountain West Mormonism” or “Legacy Mormonism.” Those of us who live on the east coast and who do not have ancestry in the church also deal with this, except on a much more pervasive scale (more generational members moving into the ward). The difference between our situations, however, is that apparently everyone is oblivious to the fact that we’re being “colonized.” When was the last time a general authority was called who was from the South or the East who was actually born and raised there? Even many of our Area Authorities are transplants! I’m not terribly upset about this (though there are perplexing moments such as when an announcement was made in Elders Quorum that a group was getting together to go to a Utah Jazz game a couple hours away – as if Utah Jazz was the rough equivalent of MoTab on tour), but just wanted to point out that you don’t have to travel too far from Salt Lake to see the same dynamics at play, and locals here may have an even smaller voice.

  32. J. Stapley says:

    Not a particular fan of pageants myself. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  33. I had a brief vision of a Mormon pageant mixed with the British pantomime tradition. I wonder who could play the Dame?

  34. Craig M. makes a solid point. Legacy Mormonism is not American anymore than the Wild West is American. It was American, but if you want a contemporary American church you’d have to look for an evangelical, I’d expect. All that aside, I was born and raised in the Mormon corridor and I never understood the penchant for pageants. Stake roadshows, skits at Mutual, and the strong cultural impression that everyone should be able to play the piano always seemed foreign to me despite my never knowing anything else. Like the OP points out, pageants (and these other odd bits of performance-worship) are usually superficial. They feel to me like an aging generation grasping at the fading memories of youth, enamored with the purity and fullness of the past (the past as they remagine it, anyhow) and desperate to recreate the meaning they believe they once held. I may be overstepping my bounds as an American (but what’s more American than overstepping bounds?), but I believe the usually stoic senior British reach out to their memory differently – less solemnly, creating an interesting divergence from the senior American experience of aggressively wistful nostalgia. Note that while you were laughing at Bean and The Flying Circus, we were living vicariously through Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford.

  35. Geoff - A says:

    I would be equally concerned with Aaron that the kind of person who would think up the idea of a pagent and get approval for it, would not be sufficiently aware of cultural cringes involved in a mormon (us culture is part of the church) UK pagent. Some members are just not sensative/aware that Utah culture can be disconnected from the church (with difficulty). We have had conference talks recently differentiating the Church from the Gospel (though little detail) but there is also the need to separate out the culture. I can remember as a new member in the 60s that it was seen as some how related to church activity to not only go to Mo Tab performances but also Harlam Globe trortters, and entertaining Miss America who was a member.

    I would be very concerned that the people arranging a pagent be of the culturally aware sort, otherwise it could be cringe worthy.

  36. “Many British Mormons know where they want to go but without Salt Lake’s guidance (there is nothing in the Handbook about Remembrance Sunday) they haven’t a clue how to get there.”

    I think this is ridiculous. The autonomy granted to local leaders (provided their actions remain withun the bounds of church policy – which can hardly be considered restrictive) is near unlimited. If Bishops and stake presidents know where the want to go the only obstacle is member participation.

    P.S. our minutes silence was at 11AM during sacrament meeting and all in attendance were asked to stand. Failings in this regard are of local leaders not salt lake.

    For behold, it is not meet that Ye should be commanded in all things

  37. TJ,
    Of course I agree with you that local leaders ought not to let this happen but the fact is that it does because many of us *do* need to be commanded in all things. That is a fact of Mormon culture.

    Ardis,
    I only just noticed your comment. First, as I said above, I have been to the HC pageant and enjoyed it, so no “disdain” there. I just agree with Aaron’s concern that the DeMille/Lucasfilm production in New England would look odd in Old England if we’re not careful. And to your point about pageants: given that you stepped in to scold Aaron it seemed to me that you *were* equating the Mormon pageant aesthetically with the medieval mystery play, else I do not know why you were scolding him. This is not about the existence of religious drama or of drama per se (cf. the rather odd comment by someone reminding the British that Shakespeare was one of our own) but simply the aesthetics of such.

  38. Having been raised in Utah and being married to an LDS Englishman, I have experienced firsthand the struggle between these cultures within the Church. It seems The British LDS’ feelings toward their American counterparts vacillates between disdain and obsession and everything in between.
    Some of our British side craved the EFY experience so badly they scheduled their visits to us in the States to coincide with it. Others were highly engaged in the presidential election and promoted pro-Romney links on their blogs and Facebook pages. And still, the desire to maintain a strong British identity was there. One family member who was called to serve in the Salt Lake mission couldn’t wait to come to “show all the Utah Mormons what it means to live the gospel.” Our wedding “do”, held in my husband’s home ward, was so uniquely raucous and British it put all other Utah receptions to shame.
    But this tug-of-war between Legacy church members and the new culture is not limited to geographic location. Often, but not always, it is generational. I see it happening in our own ward in the Mormon Corridor where great battles have been waged over small things, such as what constitutes a proper ward Christmas party or whether or not to reign in the circus that has become Young Women’s Camp. Happily for me, The shift away from from kitsch and sentimentality is noticeable and welcome. I haven’t heard “I’ll Build You a Rainbow” in sacrament meeting since 1986.
    And the church is adapting. One example is the upcoming curriculum changes for the youth. Gone are the teaching manuals and their directive to create “an attractively arranged table” for my lesson. The ability for gospel instructors to adapt to their own settings will go a long way in diluting the Legacy culture that pervades the gospel.
    Sure, pageants are not high art. Not much within the church is. And if we want to change that, I think we’ll need to loosen our grip on our ideological purity long enough to remold those Legacy elements (like pageants) into something that reflects our true image. If it were a pageant, we can only hope would be wonderfully British.
    Incidentally, my Mormon ancestors were from Bosham, Sussex – about as far south as you can go. Except Cornwall, I suppose.

  39. Thanks for your very interesting posts Aaron. If I’m allowed I’ll cross post this response on both threads. I must say that I shared your concerns when I first heard of the Pageant- it’s an American thing, but it won’t translate to this country. I do have to admit a conflict of interest at this point as I serve on the committee- but as I have worked with many great people over the last few months to get the pageant up and running the importance of stories from the British Isles to the growth of the Church has remained preeminent in all of our thoughts. I attended a read through of the first draft of the script this past weekend which I have to say both moved and impressed me (neither of which is an easy feat). I am hoping that the healthy British scepticism of which I suffer in abundance can be overcome and people enjoy an experience that is distinctly British. Without giving too much away, the religious history of the Britain does not begin in 1837 and this is explored in the Pageant through figures such as Tyndale and Wycliffe. We are working hard to make sure it appeals to the non-LDS audience as well, but in essence it is an opportunity to strengthen as well as to share our faith. The people who form the committee, have written the script, will write and perform the score, sing in the choir, act the parts will be British and as such aim to provide a “British pageant.” Like Nauvoo it will be spoken live, rather than having a recorded audio track which should help. I’ve rambled, but I guess I’ve had six months to get used to the concept- it should be fab:)

  40. Sounds positive but it should go back to Augustine and even the Venerable Bede.

  41. The assumption about early converts coming from northern England piqued my interest, so I quickly made a color-coded map (1851 counties) using data from the website Early LDS.

    As I understand it, the database only shows Nauvoo-era emigrants, probably just those who were in America by 1846. It is not a particularly elegant database, but it allows a data sort by birthplace, and I can’t think of any other website that provides similar data.

    Early British Mormon Emigrants

    On the map, yellow shows the lowest concentration, followed by orange, red, purple, blue, and green.

    The “green” areas of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire had the highest number of converts emigrating to Nauvoo. Wales, Ireland, and Scotland had similar concentrations, but I did not break them down by county.

    Other English counties with notable concentrations of emigrants include Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Cheshire and Lincolnshire.

    So, the question is really decided by where you draw the line between northern and southern England; if it’s from Bristol Channel to the Wash, which would put Wales in the north, then most of the successful missionary efforts did seem to be concentrated in the north.

    A couple of notes about the shortcomings of this map:

    1) There is not a single county without at least a handful of emigrants, but some of the emigrants may have been born in those places but joined the Church in London, Manchester, Birmingham, or Canada, which could skew the data.

    2) I know there were significant early missionary efforts in London, because a number of my ancestors joined the Church there in the early days and were part of the branches there for about a decade before they emigrated. And of course, there is also Susannah Mehitable Rogers Sangiovanni [Pickett Keate] who joined the Church in London in 1840 due to the missionary work of Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball, and Parley P. Pratt. Even though many converts joined the Church in the 1830s and 1840s, many didn’t emigrate until the 1850s or 1860s, and some left their native land as late as the 1880s, so they wouldn’t show up on the map.

  42. That’s a really interesting map, Amy. It does seem to indicate a rough SW-NE line from the Bristol Channel to The Wash. So much has to do with the accidents of history/Providence, of course. I doubt Worcs, Gloucs., or Herefordshire would be green if it weren’t for the fact that William Benbow, converted in Staffordshire, had a brother at Hill Farm.

  43. Begin with the connections between Mormon missionaries from the U.S. and their British “cousins,” add a heaping cupful of Albion’s Seed-like analysis of migration patterns from Britain to the U.S., throw in data about the sources of early Mormon converts in the U.S. and family connections among early British converts, and some bright young student has a PhD dissertation just waiting to be written.

  44. Hmm. I swear I put an html “end italics” tag after the word Seed.

  45. Mark, that has sort of been done.

    Oh and Ronan, the pattern is much more than the product of family connections. Fielding also had family in Bedfordshire, but the Mormons had much less success there. And the Fieldings were originally from Yorkshire.

  46. Of course Woodruff needed the United Brethren, but he wouldn’t have met them without Benbow.

  47. True but there isn’t another example of such a receptive and fast joining group in early Mormonism. Connections matter but they are not the only factor in church growth. If I recall, many members of Woodruff’s own family had not joined at that time.

  48. Thanks, Steve. Now I just need to figure out how to get to that article!

  49. I can send you a copy.

  50. Struwelpeter says:

    Why start in 604? Shouldn’t any truly British pageant start with Christ’s visit, with “And did those feet in ancient time” as the musical accompaniment?

  51. I expect that those called to design and direct the pageant will seek guidance from the Lord and be inspired on how best to suit the pageant to the needs of the people. I believe it will be a great experience for the participants and observers. If I was still in the UK I would love to be involved.

  52. Nick in the UK says:

    It’s just another LDS social activity to keep members pre-occupied, busy and involved in the church. Do the members have the time to fit in yet another activity is all that would determine it’s sucess in my opinion? :)

  53. We went to the Nauvoo Pageant in 2010 while travelling in an RV visiting the Church Historic sites. We are a British family and we were able to plan the trip – with a lot of divine guidance – top be able to see both the Palmyra Pageant and the Nauvoo Pageant.

    The Palmyra Pageant was good – a big production telling the stories from the BoM.

    We did not expect anything from the Nauvoo leg of the trip, nor from the Pageant, but the experience blew us away. We came away with our testimonies on fire. The story, the drama, the music, spirituality of the event was amazing. This was no “fluff” or platitude. This was about the building up of Zion, and people gathering from thousands of miles away to Nauvoo.

    There were British members of the cast and we chatted with them about how great it would be to have a Pageant in Britain which depicted the British side of the story – the thousands who acting in faith left their homes and families to travel to a new life.

    If the British Pageant is a fraction as inspiring and testimony building as the Nauvoo Pageant then it will galvanise the British Saints to a new level of spirituality.

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