Pageant Portrays the Pursuit of Peace from Patriot to Pioneer.
merican’s honor their rich history and the pursuit of independence – both for physical and spiritual freedom. Each year in June, Walk in the Light Productions in cooperation with the Kinston region of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) present The Promised Land – an original production based on the true story of a North Carolina family who fought in the Revolutionary war and who’s descendants moved to Missouri and joined the new and growing Mormon Church.
his story combines drama, inspirational music and beautiful costuming giving the cast and crew of over 150 the opportunity to portray the struggles for peace and freedom as seen through the eyes of the Joseph Taylor, Sr. (ca.1728-1808) family – an ordinary family that lived through extraordinary times.
e wanted to use the story of a common family – one that could represent any of our ancestors –who had the bravery and conviction to fight for our future and to grant us the freedom God intended his people to have,” stated Judy Downey, pageant producer and descendant of the Taylor family.
Despite the earlier views of his father who was loyal to the crown, Joseph Taylor, II (1760-1818) enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776. Few battles were fought on North Carolina soil but in 1781 at Guilford Courthouse, the troops of American General Nathanael Greene clashed with British forces led by Lord Charles Cornwallis. The first line at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse consisted of North Carolina militia. Joseph Taylor II was among those men and was wounded in the head that day. When Joseph returned from battle, he married Sara Best-also a native of North Carolina-and had 12 children. Their first son was William Taylor (1787-1839)-born on the Taylor plantation on Coneto Creek in Edgecombe county, North Carolina. William moved from North Carolina to Kentucky where he met his wife, Elizabeth Patrick and had 14 children. Later, they moved to Missiouri where William was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He believed himself to be the first person baptized into the Church in the State of Missouri. From the time he joined the Church, he became a dedicated and valiant Latter-day Saint following the Church prophet and founder, Joseph Smith and the others through their historic persecutions. Like many of the early ‘Saints’, he was forced to give up one home after another, his property was stolen and destroyed yet never did their faith falter. In 1839 they left Far West for Illinois after receiving word of the extermination order to kill the Mormons. Just before arriving at Commerce (Nauvoo), William Taylor became ill and died, leaving his wife Elizabeth and their 14 children to carry on.
After losing her husband, Elizabeth was given a parcel of land by the Prophet, Joseph Smith and built a house. Elizabeth and her children worked for twenty-four cents per day to provide for the family. Every tenth day, they helped to build the Nauvoo temple. Two of her sons were guards for the LDS prophet who constantly had death threats because of his leadership in the Mormon Church and his claim to see God.
On February 8, 1846 Elizabeth and her children crossed the Mississippi River on the ice when they were once again, driven from their homes after the martyrdom of the prophet, Joseph Smith. They joined the Saints on the historic trek to Utah. In 1850 they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley where they could live and worship freely until the end of their days.
The production encompasses this story complete with flashback scenes from the Book of Mormon, believed to be, by the Mormon Church, an account of ancient inhabitants of the American continent.
The production began as a small church play in 2006 but has grown to accommodate over 1000 attending over the 2-night presentation. Now in its 7th season, cast and crew of all ages come from across North Carolina, Virginia and as far as Utah to volunteer for the cause.
Taylor Petty, 17, comes from Raleigh to perform. “The Promised Land pageant is a unique environment where I go every year to see what amazing things can happen when a group of people work together toward a common, worthy goal. There is so much love, service, and cheerfulness throughout the week as we struggle through dirt, sweat, blinding sun, and even some sleep deprivation to get the production on. We all are so different, but we all have one goal: make the play as good as we can.”
The cast members come together for the first time the Monday before production and lead a rigourous rehearsal schedule despite sometimes record-setting heat and take their roles seriously. Rachel Beck who portrays Elizabeth Patrick Taylor stated, “I loved playing Elizabeth, and was so priviliged to continue sharing her story, even after her death. She is such a great example to me of what it means to be a strong Latter-Day Saint woman…. she’s become a true hero of mine.”
While in town, cast members perform service projects for the community such as cleaning the streets of litter, painting local businesses or assisting local charities. But it’s not all work. During rehearsal week, the cast takes time to go on tours, swim at a local pool and experience a mini-version of the historical Mormon pioneer trek to the West –a game similar to the Oregon Trail online game- but they actually pull handcarts through the streets of Bath from business to business simulating experiences like those of the mid-1800s complete with Indian attacks, cholera epidemics, Buffalo stampedes and such.
“It gives the cast members a glimpse of what it must have been like to be a pioneer exhiled from your home and forced to travel across the country in the 1800s”, stated Downey.
The production runs June 21st and 22nd 2013 and offers pre-show entertainment both nights beginning at 7:00 p.m and includes local performers, colonial and pioneer games, exhibits, food and hands-on activities for children. The production begins at 8:40 p.m. and lasts approximately 90 minutes. Admission and parking are free to the public.