In 1982, Valdo Benson, a regional representative of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, asked Rhett S. James, a teacher at the Logan LDS Institute of Religion, to write a historical musical play representing the life of Martin Harris. Martin Harris was one of the three witnesses of the gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. Harris died on July 10, 1875 in his son's Cache Valley home in Clarkston, Utah. Benson told James that Denzel Clark, the Mayor of Clarkston, and the Clarkston citizens were building the Martin Harris Memorial Amphitheater in the small town for cultural and civic activities for communities throughout the valley in Utah and Idaho. Clark gained the support of both Governor Matheson from Utah and Governor Evans from Idaho, as well as L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Ezra Taft Benson, president of the quorum. Both Perry and Benson were Cache Valley natives. The Martin Harris Pageant was just one of the many events that would be held at the amphitheater.
In 1982, Rhett James wrote the script and lyrics, Norma and Frank Dupree composed the music accompanying the prose in 1982. By August of 1983, the pageant was performed for its first season. The audience totalled 35,000. Copyrights for the script and music were retained by James and the Duprees. Donations from both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the community were used to finance the production. Rhett James's Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew was also published at this time in its script form with endnotes. The proceeds from sale of the books were donated to finance the pageant's first three productions.
Support for the production exchanged hands between LDS church sponsored regional and area events for the next few years. Concerned about the longevity of the pageant, Denzel Clark was eager to transfer responsibility for the event over to the LDS church. On May 17, 1990, Robert L. Backman, Director of the Missionary Department, assumed responsibility for the production and placed it under the direction of the department's exhibits committee.
The LDS church asked the pageant's original committee leadership to serve as the presidency. Denzel Clark became the president; Rhett James and Dwayne Huff, the pageant's director, were asked to serve as his counselors. Almost two years later, on February 21, 1992, Clark was set apart by Marlin K. Jensen, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. His counselors were later set apart by Alexander Morrison from the Area Presidency.
Initially, the pageant was organized as a community project for Cache Valley, though members of the church were involved in its planning. Now, under the direction of the LDS church, the pageant serves as an education tool for its members. It is also used for missionary work for the LDS church.
Minutes, agendas, reports, budgets, correspondence, missionary efforts, ticket requests, programs, publicity, research, scripts, music, and production reproductions relating directly to the Martin Harris Pageant administrative concerns. (1983-1997).
Committee minutes, agendas, and notes are placed together and organized by year. They cover the period between 1984 and 1997. The pageant's budget including the years 1988 to 1995 is included in the collection. a financial report for 1990 is also enclosed in the collection.
The collection also includes samples of the programs and broadsides representing each year of the production except for its first year in 1983. These samples include programs, tickets, broadsides, and advertisements for other related events. Newspaper advertisements and feature articles are included in the publicity for the event. Publicity since 1994 is not included in the records. Advertisements and articles appear in many of the Cache Valley, northern Utah, and Idaho publications. Some also appear in publications throughout the country.
The pageant made a great push for missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The pageant kept careful records detailing nonmembers and inactive members attending the pageant each year. Experiences of the audience members were kept as well as requests for tickets from people throughout Utah and the country. Policies and guides for missionary work are also kept in the series.
Correspondence to the pageant presidency and other members of the committee is found within the records. Letters from leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, including Presidents Ezra Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley and Apostles David B. Haight, Neal A. Maxwell, and Boyd K. Packer, mark the importance of this local event. General files found within the collection include research, invitations, book copy orders, and information on the setting of the pageant are included. Files containing information on the Martin Harris family reunion, the Larry Cantwell accident, and "The Witness Series" of Bill L. Hill are included.
The original 1983 script and changes to the script after the first production are included in the records. Pageant scripts and changes also appear for 1984 and 1988. Text and stage directions are exhibited as well. In addition to the pageant's script, its original music is represented in the collection. Video tapes and cassette tapes of the pageant conclude the collection.
Restrictions on Access : Restrictions
Open to public research.Restrictions on Use : Copyright
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Utah State University Libraries, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.
Permission to publish material from the Martin Harris Pageant records must be obtained from the Special Collections Manuscript Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.Preferred Citation :
Martin Harris Pageant records, 1983-1997. (COLL MSS 243). Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives Department.
Collection is organized into 12 series:
Detailed Description of the Collection