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Oakland Pageant

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Introduction

The Oakland Temple Pageant, "And It Came To Pass...", was a pageant performed by members of the Mormon Church in Oakland, California. The pageant was first presented in 1964. It was performed in the Auditorium of the East Bay Interstake Center on the grounds of the Oakland California Temple. Unique in the church, the Oakland Pageant was a completely live performance, with full Symphony Orchestra, 450 voice Balcony Chorus, Actors, Soloists, Stage Chorus and Dancers.

The pageant has been suspended indefinitely [1].

Synopsis

Christ in Palestine—In its latest version, the pageant began at the time when Jesus Christ established His church upon the earth. Christ ordained Apostles and sent them forth to preach His Gospel. As the Apostles died or were martyred, the church lost it leaders. The Apostle Paul is depicted telling of a "famine of the words of the Lord", followed by a restoration of the Gospel.

Beginning in 1820 in New York, Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father to restore all of the saving principles and ordinances needed for the human family to reside again with Heavenly Father some day. A portrayal of the condition of religion during Joseph Smith's time is presented, culminating in his first vision -- that of the Father and the Son appearing to the boy, Joseph. Joseph & Family—Following this experience, Joseph's life unfolded as he received revelation, persecution and finally martyrdom at the hands of his enemies.

The second act of the Pageant portrayed the harassed Saints (members of the church) as they were given new leadership under Brigham Young, and moved westward to establish themselves as a dominant force in the western part of the United States.

The third act portrayed the youth of today carrying the Gospel to all the nations of the earth.[1]

History

"And It Came To Pass..." was ten years in the making. In 1955 Bishop Thomas J. Curtis, of the San Bruno Ward, commissioned two members of the church to create a pageant based on Church history. James Ira Young1 was to write the script and R. Whitney Groo, Jr.2 was to direct, produce, and help with the music. The concept of a trilogy was developed to be presented on three consecutive nights by three different groups.

The first night's production would be the Joseph Smith story, a 12 scene pageant dealing with the restoration of the gospel. The second night would present the Brigham Young story, the movement westward and the establishment of Zion in the Rockies. The third night would depict modern life and the way in which the Church meets the needs of man today. The first twelve scenes were presented in commemoration of Pioneer Day, July 24, 1956 in the Burlingame, San Bruno Ward building.

In 1964, as the Oakland Temple was being constructed, the Music Committee of the General Boards of Mutual Improvement Association sent a letter to Doyle T. West requesting him to organize a program in commemoration of the dedication of the temple. Doyle West called together the area Young Men and Young Women M.I.A. Presidencies to plan a program. At that meeting Elsie Lyon suggested that Whit Groo be contacted to see about the pageant that he and Ira Young had co-written ten years earlier. The three-night production was condensed into three acts. Thus was born, "And It Came To Pass..."

The pageant was first presented on December 3, 1964, one week after the dedication of the Oakland Temple. Five performances were presented the first year. Today the pageant continues to thrill and inspire all that hear its powerful message and inspirational music.

In 1979 Keith Merrill adapted and rewrote pageant to its form as we see it today. Brother Merrill directed the production that year. New scenery and costumes were added to correspond with the change in format of the production.

Footnotes

1 James Ira Young grew up in Ogden, Utah and attended Weber College. His education was interrupted by a mission to the Northwestern States for two years, from which he returned just in time to serve four years in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he attended Brigham Young University, and after getting his Master's degree in History, he became a member of the BYU faculty. He moved to Burlingame in 1953, and the following year, while convalescing from a heart attack, began writing what was to become ten years later "And It Came To Pass...". Brother Young served in many Church capacities, including being in four bishoprics. Brother young passed away in March of 1976 before his last music, "Ring Out For Liberty", was performed in the Pageant that July.

2 Whitney Groo, Jr. came into the church as a convert just three years before he began working with Ira Young on the pageant. During World War II Brother Groo organized and toured the Seventh Division Chorus and the GI Chorus of the Pacific. His musical background included such diverse activities as playing viola with the Honolulu Symphony, being assistant director of the Choral Society of New York City, singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and producing several large performances of Handel's "Messiah." As a forerunner to the Temple Pageant he produced and directed the musical "Promised Valley." Brother Groo has served in many Church callings including serving in a bishopric. Brother Groo passed away in 1996.

3 Keith Merrill won an Academy Award for his first major film, "The Great American Cowboy", and has won many honors and awards for his work since. Currently many Imax productions produced by Brother Merrill can be seen around the country, including "Legacy" and "The Testaments of One Fold and One Sheperd" in Salt Lake City.


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