Recently our family performed in a musical production called "Savior of the World." It was a tremendous experience for me and my family. Following are some of my thoughts regarding the experience:
For two weeks, now, I have been pondering the events, firesides, and rehearsals that led up to the production of Savior of the World. It has had a more powerful effect on me than I could ever have imagined. The collective experience has been one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. In the time that has followed, I have had a wide range of emotions – from grand elation to deep mourning. These emotions have been very close to the surface and have caused me to weep many times, both for sorrow and for joy.
I was quite surprised when I first looked at the initial cast list and discovered that I had been asked to play the role of the Savior. Nothing had been further from my mind. I had anticipated nothing more than being in the chorus with our family. While the part meant more involvement than I expected, it has been a wonderful gift.
Our family had initially decided to be in the production as a way to share a unique spiritual experience together. With the exception of our six-year-old daughter, we each participated in learning lines and music. We also had numerous discussions at home that focused on the topics we were rehearsing. Even though our youngest daughter, Anna, was not able to be in the play, she heard us singing the music enough that she knew most of the words herself. Life continued at home much as it always had, but there was a subtle difference. As we began to discuss the life of the Savior more, His light increased in our lives.
We were delighted to find that we were not unique in our experience. Each time we attended the Saturday chorus rehearsals, we made new friends who had similar stories. It was wonderful to meet so many good people from neighboring stakes. I was grateful to become better acquainted with members of my own stake. Each of us had come together to make words and notes on paper become a presentation of testimony and faith. As we worked to learn our parts, the seeds of unity were sown and they began to take root in our hearts. I believe those roots unknowingly intertwined with each other. We became stronger as we relied upon each other for help. We became happier as we found we shared something beautiful. I recognized the seeds of Zion, and longed for it.
I remember meeting for the first time the men who would play the roles of the apostles. We left a chorus rehearsal to act out a scene in an adjacent room. The setting was when Jesus called to them while fishing on the Sea of Galilee. There was no water or fish in that room, just a group of us casually appraising each other, not knowing what to expect. The distance that accompanies unfamiliarity soon left as we practiced our lines and worked together to learn our parts. Each rehearsal began to create a bond between us. I don’t remember which one of us noticed first, but I believe we each felt the influence of the Spirit as we visualized the scripture and tried to repeat the event. This feeling continued to grow until we realized that we felt much like one would expect to feel in the Holy Temple.
The scene where Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene has been one of my favorites from the start of this production. It is there that the hopes and expectations of prophets and saints for hundreds of years is suddenly realized and Mary becomes the first mortal witness of the resurrected Savior. The apostles were too close to the Savior to fully understand what he had taught them. They were too emotionally wounded to believe that he could actually have risen as he said he would. What took place was unprecedented.
The moment when Mary Magdalene recognizes the voice of he Lord and turns to meet Him is extremely significant to each of us. It is a point of realization that what He said is true. It is the point in our lives when we really see, not just with our eyes, but with our faith. He does live, and he will come just as he said. Just as Mary looks into the eyes of the Savior, each of us is meant to have an intimate experience where we turn and recognize the Lord. Each of us can embrace him without touching him. We can hold on to what he taught. We can remember him. Each of us can believe with our hearts and follow with our covenants.
Some of the most spiritual experiences I had did not happen on stage. They occurred back stage, in the green room, and in other unexpected places when I could have individual conversations with many of the cast members. It wasn’t only when we were acting. Those spiritual moments happened when we forged friendships that will bless my life forever. Largely because of the role I played, I felt a unanimous acceptance. I felt the support of everyone involved, and it was a great blessing to me. Then something really beautiful happened. When I put on the costume and the beard and played the part of the Savior, everything changed. Each of the cast would look at me, and yet they weren’t looking at me. For a brief moment in each performance, it was as though I had the privilege of representing everything they believed in. Those moments truly felt sacred. I felt such an outpouring of love for the Lord.
The feeling then continued on stage with Mary Magdalene, the apostles, and the disciples. They looked at me, and yet they were looking past me. It seemed as though they were no longer acting. Instead they were worshipping. It was the Lord, Jesus, they worshipped, even though it was a set on a stage. Since then I have thought much about the topic. I was taught volumes about worship because of what I saw and felt.
After our performances were concluded, a great loss settled in my heart. I experienced sadness like I had not for many years, and I marveled. “How is it possible that this experience could have such a profound effect upon my heart?” Not only had I come to depend on the Lord, I had come to depend on how I felt when we performed. I had come to depend on being with my friends. I had grown accustomed to the roots of unity that had intertwined between us. When it was over, and we could no longer act out the scenes together, there was an immense void. I can only imagine what those who were truly close to the Savior actually felt.
Through this experience, I learned to appreciate mourning more. I discovered that mourning can be a beautiful gift – it can be a reverence for that which we treasure. Mourning for something we no longer have can increase our capacity to live – to do what we need to do to again obtain the thing we have lost. I loved those who loved me, more deeply than I could have ever thought possible. It was so sincere and simple. Every time I think about it, I feel it grip my heart. I feel the sorrow of not being able to experience that feeling the same way again. I am also very blessed to have loved and shared.
For me the play was life changing. My life will be much better because of this experience. Because of what I felt, my heart became more sanctified. I felt a greater desire to remove the obstacles and impurities in my heart. Others came up to me and confided the same feelings, that this production was a great blessing in their lives. They had either experienced difficult times, or they did not feel as close to the Spirit before the play. The play changed that for many.
We reprioritized our lives for a brief time with extra emphasis on the Savior, his words, his life, and his message. Frequently we prayed to Father for His help. I believe the requests became deeper with each prayer, as did our gratitude. We prayed personally, as families, and together as a cast. We prayed in our hearts, continually, and relied upon the Lord. Our prayers were focused. Who can wonder that the answers to our prayers were so great? Everything else in our lives moved or adjusted to accommodate the Savior. This time, there was room at the inn. We made room.
I have found, after having such an amazing experience, that I want to mourn with those who are mourning over the absences of the spirit. I wish to rejoice with my friends over our experiences – because they happened. As I look at the events of the past year that led up to this production, I see the Lord's hand in it. He is doing his work, and he is kind enough to let us assist. I feel as though I have been given a private lesson on how to be a better shepherd. And now I will be. I am better prepared to feed his sheep, because I love Him, and because I love them.
If I could pick one day to live over and over again, it would be that last Saturday. Our preparations, our time together, and our performances made it a very special day. The spirit I felt that day was overwhelming, particularly in our last performance. I hope to never forget the feelings we shared that night.
I express my gratitude to each member of the cast, chorus, and crew for making this such a special and memorable event. I truly love you. Thank you, especially, for being my friend. You were all so wonderful to work with. I know in my heart that the message we shared is entirely true. I know that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer, of whom we testified. As I pattern my life after His and seek His divine help, I feel His influence in every part of my life. That influence grows in my life as fast as I am willing to let it. It fills my heart and spills over through small acts of services. Because of the witness of the Holy Ghost, I know Jesus came. I also know he will come again. For him I will wait, and I will trust that he will keep his promises. May we all be faithful in our testimonies and the witness that was born to us through this production is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.