What is the allure of pageants? In my experience, they’re not particularly inspiring, educational, or entertaining. Rather, they are long, overcrowded, often baffling spectacles, and I confess that I simply don’t understand their purpose. The first one I ever saw was the Nauvoo “City of Joseph” pageant when I was twelve or so — an inauspicious introduction. In addition to being bored out of my skull, I remember being particularly disturbed by the fact that, in the obligatory cutesy boy-dates-girl scene, there was one male voice and one female voice coming over the loudspeakers… with three different couples lip-synching and going through the motions — a sort of microcosm of pageant rationality.

And then there are the anti-Mormon protestors. Why do they even bother? Picketing these things really makes me question their grasp on reality. First of all, who would want to sit through a Mormon pageant if they’re not even Mormon (seriously, don’t be martyrs). But more importantly, why would they want to distract people’s attention from the main event? If they’re trying to spread confusion, a pageant is definitely more effective than a few pamphlets.

If they really insist on showing up, though, they should just come at the end. As people file out they could say things along these lines: “You have just experienced a taste of Hell, let us help you avoid an eternity of it.” Such an approach would generate a lot more honest interest, if you ask me.

So why do we stand in line (or reserve blanket space) for so many hours just to have the privilege of falling asleep in an uncomfortable position while a bunch of people on a distant hill lip-synch to a track that sounds like it was recorded fifty years ago by the same people that produced the narration for that campy, papier-mâché Salem Witch Trial Museum?

Of course, some pageants are worse than others. The Martin Harris Pageant gets good marks for letting the main characters do their own talking / singing. The “new” Hill Cumorah Pageant is fairly watchable by pageant standards: short (75 minutes), no singing, and a few pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure. I have heard a rumor that the Nauvoo and Manti pageants were / are receiving similar face-lifts, which I sincerely hope turns out to be true, since the old Manti Pageant really outdid itself in terms of length, incoherence, spectator discomfort, and Salem Witch-like audio.

But my question is a sincere one. I know I am an incurable pageant cynic, but I am genuinely curious to know why others appreciate them (assuming that anyone does): Why do you enjoy pageants? Is it the tradition of it? Is it just something wholesome to do together as a family (either as a participant or observer)? Do they attract that many non-members? Does anyone have any actual missionary experiences to share that involve pageants in any way?

Maybe it’s just one of those things I’ll have to wait until the next life to comprehend.