For the second consecutive year, the Mormon Miracle Pageant has set an attendance record: 147,000 this year, 144,000 last year.
Crowd management chairman Donald Olsen attributed the increase this year in part to good weather and in part to the firesides presented on Temple Hill on pageant nights by the Manti Temple Centennial Committee."I looked out over an audience of 40,000 and continued to be amazed at the size of the crowds," said Macksene S. Rux, now retiring as director of the pageant after 20 years in the position.
"When I was asked to be the director, I told the priesthood [leaders] that if I could make the changes I had in mind, the pageant could bring as many as 5,000 people to Manti," Sister Rux commented.
Sister Rux's service with the pageant began 21 years ago in the production's second year, when she agreed to be one of the two narrators of a script based on "The Mormon Miracle," a dramatic monologue written and presented by the late Grace Johnson.
Sister Rux, a great-granddaughter of Patriarch Hyrum Smith, who was martyred with his brother, the prophet Joseph Smith, had a background in drama production and direction. She called upon that background in making a major revision of the original script to include new scenes and additional characters and dialogue. The new script was then recorded on tape.
Although there have since been major improvements in the sound and lighting systems, in costuming and in stage settings, the script that she prepared, with the exception of one or two minor changes, has stayed the same through the pageant's two decades of performances.
During her 20-year tenure as director of the pageant, Sister Rux has spent about six weeks each summer holding tryouts, directing rehearsals and concerning herself with almost every other phase of the pageant.
To Sister Rux, the pageant has a role much more significant than the usual summertime theater entertainment.
She likes to recall the promise of the Prophet Joseph Smith that "the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly and independently until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country and sounded in every ear."
"We have a tremendous missionary endeavor here in helping the Church fulfill its role as a universal Church," Sister Rux said. "We have brought tens of thousands of people to our very doors without going across the street, and they're coming from all countries of the world."
Sister Rux said the thing that makes the pageant credible is not so much the music, the lighting, the setting and the narrative: "It's the Spirit. They come to Manti because it's the truth."
R. Morgan Dyreng, pageant general manager, agreed. "It's the message," he said.
Of her long association with the pageant as its director, Sister Rux commented: "They have been 20 wonderful years - excruciating but wonderful."
She will be succeeded next year as director by Ronald D. Hall, principal of the Manti LDS Seminary who has been with the Church Educational System since 1966.
Hall, who has a master's degree in cinematic arts from BYU, has taught secondary school drama and music and also has had extensive experience in college and community theater as a performer and director.
"I have in mind only a few minor changes in the pageant as I assume the directorship next year," Hall said.