Fourteen days is not very long. But two weeks was all we had as cast members of the Hill Cumorah Pageant to read the Book of Mormon cover to cover.
I knew that reading the 531-page script would make it easier to bear my testimony to the thousands of investigators that came to see the show. The reasons to read were obvious; however, the ways to find time to read were not so obvious.
The cast of 600 came to the Hill Cumorah from around the U.S. and Canada to perform this annual pageant. Not quite a vacation, daily practices started before sunrise and ended as late as 2:00 A.M. Every day was filled with learning our parts, attending classes, and having as many as four devotionals a day. There was no personal study time set aside. I snatched bites of the book during meals, on the bus rides, and during visits to the Sacred Grove.
The sacrifice to read became greater as each day and performance passed. Although I was tired and sore, my spirit was awake and eager to finish the sacred book. The characters were becoming my friends—partly because I was reading so much about them in such a short time, and partly because my friends literally were those characters in the pageant.
The couple playing Nephi and his wife, for example, made their characters real for me. I watched as she supported Nephi, making sure he arrived at rehearsal on time. I saw her straighten his headband and clothes, preparing him for his part. Laman, although a contentious character, was played by a sociable, popular guy. It made me wonder if perhaps the real Laman had a likable side—he just never caught on to the gospel message. Before the actors who played Jesus and his Twelve Apostles took their turn on stage, they gathered in prayer in a grove of trees near the stage. They took their parts seriously, as I’m sure the real men did. By having people dressed as these well-known characters, we realized that these scriptural people were human beings with individual personalities.
I headed for dinner just before our last performance. But then I saw Moroni walk by, which reminded me that I hadn’t finished the last few chapters of his book.
I wanted to meet the challenge and finish the Book of Mormon before our final performance. So I skipped dinner and climbed to the top of Hill Cumorah in my Nephite outfit. Although tourists and costumed cast members were on the hill, I found a private place away from the beaten path.
As I read the last words of Moroni, I looked into the woods and imagined what Moroni must have felt as he buried the plates. “I wander withersoever I can for the safety of mine own life” (Moro. 1:3).
I was getting to know Moroni as I read his words and sat where he may have been when he wrote them. It almost seemed as if he were reading aloud the last few chapters of the book.
“If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me” (Moro. 10:23). I thought of all the hard things I had done, such as read the book in 14 days, and all of the hard things yet to come, such as standing up to peer pressure, fulfilling my church callings, and doing well in school. But Moroni reminded me that with faith we can accomplish what the Lord would have us do. He was becoming a real person to me.
I finished the last few verses of Moroni on his historic hill. I felt as if Moroni and I were sharing this moment together. I knew I wouldn’t forget the friendship I felt between us that night.