28 June, 2009


we were sure tuckered out the following day, but i think it was worth going to the Manti Pageant last Tuesday night for the first time in about 20 years. officially known as the Mormon Miracle Pageant, it is an enjoyable, if slightly unusual theatrical performance seemingly held over from a heyday of similar church spectacles (does anyone remember the Young Ambassadors?) stylistically, this seems to have been around the time of the American Bicentennial in the mid-seventies, though this pageant actually started a decade earlier. there are still such pageants all over the place, but Manti's is probably the biggest, and possibly eclipsed in renown only by the Hill Cumorah Pageant in Palmyra, New York. both depict the origins of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and i believe that these days they even use the same scenery, shipping the simulated boulders and trees all the way across the country from Manti to Palmyra between shows.

the east tower of the Manti Temple as seen against the fading evening light.  the show starts around 9:30 pm, well after dark has fallen over the Sanpete Valley.

the nice thing about the Manti Pageant is that it's performed on the hill right in front of the temple, so there's a wonderful backdrop for the whole thing. most LDS temples have a gold statue of the angel Moroni on top, but several of the originals, including Manti, don't. instead, as part of the performance, they have a live actor representing him stand on one of the towers, complete with flowing white robes and a long trumpet.

as the name suggests, the "plot" of the Miracle Pageant follows several of the wonders of Mormonism, recounting Joseph Smith's First Vision, wherein he said he saw God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, who let him know that at that time, the Gospel was not to be found in its fullness upon the earth, and that through him it would be restored. part of that restoration consisted of Joseph translating a record of ancient inhabitants of the Americas that had come to the continent from the Holy Land by divine direction. they had been led by prophets who had written about their interactions with God, and one of the last of these, a man named Mormon, had gathered the records, abridged them and inscribed them onto plates made of gold. as such the book that Joseph translated was named the Book of Mormon, and several of the scenes in the middle of the pageant are reenactments of Book of Mormon stories. Mormon's son was named Moroni and as the last righteous man in the line of these prophets of old, he took the plates and hid them in the side of the hill Cumorah and returned many centuries later in angelic form to direct Joseph to them, hence his prominent position as a herald atop so many temples throughout the world.

the most important portion of the Book of Mormon being presented: Christ's visit to His people in the Americas. below, the pageant culmination with a choir of "angels" to the right of the spectacularly floodlit temple, and in front on temple hill a reenactment of Joseph Smith receiving his vision in the Sacred Grove, which actually is in Palmyra, New York, quite near the hill Cumorah.

the Book of Mormon prophets repeatedly stated that the Americas would be a promised land to those who would keep God's commandments; the pageant takes up this theme and culminates with stories of Mormonism's early pioneers crossing the plains and leaving the United States to colonize the Utah Territory. all in all it's a very well done production, requiring something like 800 cast members and a crew of some 300, all volunteers as far as i know.  in recent years they have had attendance of just under 100,000 people over the eight days of performance, and there is seating for something like 12-14,000 provided. not all of those seats were full on Tuesday but i understand weekend crowds are huge; in a town with just more than 3,000 inhabitants, you can imagine what 6,000 cars all leaving at once will do to traffic, so getting home at 1am on a work night was a small price to pay for not being stuck all of a Friday night in a traffic jam down in central Utah.  i guess once every 20 years that wouldn't be so bad, but the experience was a good enough one that i don't think it'll be that long before we go back.

19 June, 2009


still building up to the Peru posts, but here's a little teaser about one of the things that made it possible to bring those posts back to you: my new camera, the first one i've bought since early 1998. that one was a crappy old film point-and-shoot that i got for about $35 to take on my mission with me. it served me well and as far as i know still works, even after taking pictures in the middle of a tropical cyclone in Samoa. but this one is much better. behold:

the Canon SX110 IS in silver. 10x optical zoom and a huge screen on the back. and best of all, it takes AA batteries.

its a bit hefty but it still fit handily in my pocket, and it met my main criterion of having some serious optical zoom (and with the 8GB memory card i got for it, i could take about 3,000 high-quality pictures).  i'm not sure where i picked up this fetish for optical zoom, but Jill seemed to think i had gone quite out of my mind when that was all i could talk about in the weeks prior to ordering it.  but i think even she was convinced of the wisdom of thejayfather when we got to Peru and started tromping around in the great big outdoors.  and i'm sure you will be too, Dear Reader, soon, very soon.  in the meantime, here's a little taste of what it can do:

a shot of the machine in action, as it were, with Jill's Gorillapod holding it to a post; below, the picture we turned out with this handy setup near Parque Del Amor in the swanky Miraflores district of Lima.  a teaser, remember, just a teaser!

17 June, 2009


some of you may have noticed a couple of new flags having surreptitiously appeared in "theplaces i've been" section of thesidebar. it is true that Jill and i recently returned from an exceptional trip to the remnants of the ancient Inka kingdom, now known as Peru. since it's been a while since i've been at the blog (which was partly because i hadn't really been much of anywhere to blog about), i thought i'd get back in the swing with a slightly smaller idea than trying to tackle such an epic adventure as our first foray into South America right away. so here comes a little piece of... the great battle-born state of Nevada!

Jill and i with this cool and memorable sign. thanks Herbert Hoover!

and a little of Arizona, i suppose, as the dam referred to in the title is indeed the magnificent, if quite congested, Hoover Dam, which straddles the state line. we were in Las Vegas last weekend and decided to go and spend part of our Sabbath at the Church of the State, though we picked a rather poor congregation as an example, so to speak, as the Hoover Dam is one of the only US government megaprojects that has ever come in under budget and on time, as far as i know.

the clear waters of Lake Mead play host to the four intake towers that are, in part, responsible for its existence, two-tone hills providing dramatic surroundings; below, Jill and i in front of the dam's concrete arch, the mighty Colorado River alarmingly far below us and those rather short safety walls.

so we approached from the Nevada side, and spent about an hour covering the last three of the 30 or so miles it takes to get to the dam from Vegas. the US Bureau of Reclamation have police officers that "screen" every vehicle trying to cross the dam, and they don't allow any semi-trucks, buses, RVs or vehicles with trailers across for fear of terrorist activities. almost as useful as a TSA checkpoint at the airport, this screen consists of a guy looking into your car--both front and back seats!--to see that the nuclear device or dirty bomb you brought with you has been well hidden and not casually tossed in plain view where its sight might terrify others, and then waving you on. these genius setups were on both sides, so we paid the rather steep parking fee of $7 in Nevada to avoid having to repeat the charade, and walked across what turns out to be a pretty short stretch of road linking the two states.

it is actually a pretty cool site, though absolutely crawling with people. it's done in a pretty nifty and definitely very 1930s design--surprise--with four water intake towers, two of which are used for generating electricity, standing strikingly in the clear blue waters of beautiful Lake Mead to the north. each of the towers closest to the dam itself has a clock that reports the time of the state in which it sits. this is supposed to result in what may seem to be a paradoxical, or at least an odd situation, as a 30 second walk could have you looking at a clock that is an hour ahead of its Pacific Time Zone neighbor. however, since Arizona doesn't celebrate daylight savings with the rest of us, we were robbed of this little luxury and the clocks registered the same time. well almost. apparently Arizona settles for saving just a minute or two of daylight, rather than the full 60.

the Hoover Dam Bypass will allow all the vehicles thought too terroristy to cross the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona without having to take a something like 100 mile detour. it's a win for national security and it looks cool.  hooray for Uncle Sam!

so Hoover Dam is definitely worth a visit, and it sure makes a nice break from the tiresome casinos in town. it has some pretty cool spillways on either side that allow high waters in the lake to flow to the river below and rejoin those diverted through the towers to generate electricity. thus the Colorado keeps flowing, but without any of the dramatic churning at the bottom of the dam as you might expect with a more than 200 meter drop. in like manner, now that i've got some good material, i'll be resuming the flow of blogging, just easing back into it with this place and this post as my starting point and pattern.