The Mesa Temple’s Easter Pageant draws visitors from around the country to witness the life of the Savior in a one-of-a-kind performance. The performers, however, experience the show in powerful, often life-changing ways. Sister Brenda Perry performed with her family in this year’s pageant for the first time, and it served as both a culminating event in her life and a very personal application of the Savior’s Atonement.
Sister Perry is from Mexico City, and her connection to the Mesa Temple began with her mission call. She served in Arizona from 2001-2003, at the time the Phoenix and Tempe Missions split to form the Mesa Mission, and she loved the power of the Mesa Temple’s Christmas lights and Easter Pageant to forward the work.
When President Nigel Wappett was appointed to head the Mesa Mission in 2002, he immediately noticed something was wrong with the young sister missionary. President Wappett was a doctor and had serious concerns about Sister Perry’s health. After several weeks of tests, Sister Perry was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder – spherocytosis. Her blood cells, which took an unnatural shape, were being destroyed by her own spleen, resulting in constant anemia and jaundice.
She was sent home to Mexico, but not released. Dismayed to think her mission was over, she underwent surgery to remove her spleen and was able to return to Mesa to finish her service after recovery. Thanks to the Church, she was healthier than she’d ever been after a surgery for which her family could not have paid otherwise.
While that would be blessing enough for a lifetime, she married and began welcoming children into the world.
Spherocytosis is hereditary, and though the Perry’s older children were only carriers, this newest baby had the disease just like his mother.
“He had to have blood transfusions once a month until he was five,” she explains, “until he could have my surgery.”
During this terrible wait, the Perry family attended the Easter Pageant. It was during the portrayal of Christ’s healing miracles that Sister Perry had a powerful experience.
“It was like someone whispered, very clearly, in my ear, ‘Your son will be alright,’” she remembers.
When her son was old enough and prepared for the surgery, he underwent an operation to remove his spleen. He’d never been energetic before, but after the surgery his recovery was quick.
“After a week, I had to learn how to be a mother to a bouncy ball!” Sister Perry says. Her son had come through the surgery better even than the doctors hoped.
President Wappett, in his counsel to Sister Perry when she left to receive medical care, told her to study Christ’s Atonement in her life.
She didn’t know it at the time, but after the diagnosis it became clear her family had suffered terrible losses from the disease. Her father lost three siblings in their early years to the genetic illness, and one of her own brothers passed in his youth as well.
“If my family hadn’t joined the Church,” Sister Perry says, “I would never have had treatment. The Lord knows our pain and our sickness, not just our sin. He can take it from us, because of the Atonement.”
Sister Perry performed in the Easter Pageant this year with her now healthy son, taking the opportunity to give back the support she received through its message in her son’s early fight for his life.