As a child, my family and I used to attend the Hill Cumorah pageant every year, which is a large theatrical production put on every year in the birthplace of the Mormon religion, Palmyra, New York. The pageant is a dramatic re-enactment of the Book of Mormon. The pageant was a festive affair -- my family and I packed snacks and piled into our rickety blue station wagon for the two-hour trip to Palmyra. We sat on the hill, waiting for the show to start. When darkness fell and the hill lit up, I sat in wonder at the story that un-folded before my eyes. All of the Book of Mormon stories I learned about in Sunday School were appearing right before my eyes, larger than life. Lehi, being ordered to leave Jerusalem. The rift between Nephi and his brothers Laman and Lemuel. Jesus, coming to the Americas after his resurrection to preach the Gospel. A dying Moroni, burying the gold plates in the very spot that we were sitting in, which was later found and translated by the prophet Joseph Smith. I was enthralled by the re-enactment of the stories my family held so dear.
One year, when I was five or six, I noticed some people standing at the periphery of the show, holding up sheets of paper. The pageant had just ended and we were heading back to the car. I was sleepy -- the time was hours past my normal bed-time. My family looked at these people askance, while my father warned us in the strongest of terms not to accept anything from them or to engage them in conversation. These people seemed so out-of-place, standing mute with their sheets of printed paper while pageant-goers streamed past them. I had been warned that Satan was trying his hardest to tear the Church apart with lies and deceptions. These people seemed to be proof of what the leaders had been saying. My little-girl mind just knew that whatever was printed on those sheets of papers would be vile untruths. And maybe they were untruths. Or perhaps they weren’t. Either way, my family and I refused to find out. And perhaps that was for the best -- any attempts to engage the protesters would have lead to anger and turmoil during a peaceful family outing.
That night, as my father drove us home, I fell asleep in the backseat snuggled up against my siblings. The unsettling hum of the speeding car combined with the eerie muteness of the protesters to give me uneasy dreams about a world stacked against my family.