Provo is Utah’s third largest city, and it’s a well-known fact that the Mormon community has helped it grow and develop since the 1850s.
It’s no wonder then that the LDS Motion Picture Studio has set up their studio, which looks like you have just walked into an ancient village. The era of days gone is emulated by the straw structures and various props, and it is surrounded by cameras, actors, producers, and extras. The Book of Mormon videos are being filmed in the heart of Utah County.
Some years ago, the LDS Church of Jesus Christ came out with what they entitled “Bible Videos,” with snippets of the New testament in live-action form. Because the church views The Book of Mormon as the Bible’s companion that fills in any void the Holy Book might have, it is only logical they set out to make this series. The Bible only follows Christ in ancient Jerusalem, but The Book of Mormon follows Jesus when he visits the Americas upon His resurrection.
The videos will be released on the ChurchofJesusChrist.org site as well as in the Gospel Library Application. It will also be released on their YouTube channel by the name of “Book of Mormon Videos.”
The Book of Mormon is said to have been predominantly written by the prophet Moroni, and the last chapter is entitled The Book of Moroni. Throughout the scripture, Moroni tells the tale of Lehi and his progeny.
Starting from the beginning, the show opens with the First Book of Nephi and follows Lehi, who lived in Jerusalem in 600 B.C. It is written that Lehi had a vision from the Lord, telling him the city will be overrun by Babylonians. God also urges Lehi in the vision to flee with his family to America, the land across the great waters. The descendants of Lehi have stories of their own, including when they see Christ who visits, as the Latter-day Saints believe, after the resurrection.
All the stories from The Book of Mormon will be depicted in chronological order but will be longer than the Bible counterparts. Those were just short 5-minute-long sketches of the scenes in scripture; the show’s episodes will, however, be around 15 minutes long on average.
The costume designers made nearly 3,000 costumes for all the actors. One of the assistant designers, Iffer Mitchell, shared they used old documents and internet resources to get inspiration for the historic-looking garments. Even archeological records from biblical times were used to make them as genuine as possible. When asked what the best part of working on the project was, Mitchell said it was the power of prayer. Everyone who worked on the series prayed every day before starting work, and she truly felt the Spirit.
Jaelen Petrie, the show’s producer, said that it would not be like a typical New Testament depiction or a standard Bible-inspired video. Those productions are very literal with their story realization, but this version adds more details to it. There is visible character formation, and story arcs are followed through, making this show stand out from the rest. This makes the characters real and tangible, and the word of the LDS church can be spread worldwide, even in illiterate communities. The show, of course, depicts conversion — Alma and Mosiah’s sons go from rebelling and destroying the church to building one.
Those who belong to the church quite often accredit their conversion to The Book of Mormon because they feel it has the totality of Christ’s gospel. Most of the faithful feel that the Holy Bible surely lost some of those teachings after all the translations hands it passed through.
Adam T. Anderegg, the director, spoke up about what he was trying to achieve with this play. He said it wasn’t about creating a dramatization but rather a visualization. Anderegg wanted to stay as true to the book as possible, so it’s not about getting the thrill of an action movie. It’s meant to be an immersive experience, so the viewer can feel like they’re in the book — as if it has come alive before their very eyes. It will be a special experience for the LDS community because he’s really kept it true to the form.
The actress playing Abish is Amber Weiss, and she felt incredibly lucky to get the role. The Book of Mormon has only a few names of women scribed in it, and this character in particular is a pivotal one. Abish was a key component in the story of Lehi’s progeny and the war between them.
Weiss is a stay-at-home mother and wife, and her focus is on that real-life role. She shared that she only auditioned for the fun of it and did not expect to get the role. However, she really took it to heart and is happy to play such a strong female character. The role of Abish teaches young women that they have the power to do great things.
L.C. Guerrero plays Queen Lamoni, and she expressed how incredibly empowered she felt. As she is a woman of color, she never believed that at 35, she’d play the role of a queen.
Ryan Wood, who plays Abinadi in the series, has also expressed feeling grateful for the opportunity. Wood is actually an engineer who works in New York City, but he felt called to play this role. He also felt somewhat apprehensive because the role carries a burden of a sort with it — that character appears briefly in the story, but his influence reverberates through the rest.
Wood points out he was honored and that he did his best to do the role justice. Abinadi is, of course, martyred, and it was a tough shooting for the actor. The story is so well-known, he has noted, that discussing this part of the role doesn’t really give the story away.
This role was more than a career notch to Wood, who himself had used the words of Abinadi in his days as a missionary. The point, he shared, was that God loved all, and everyone was of worth because God loved them. It was a privilege to channel that message in this way, he concluded.
Sister Aburto of the Relief Society, an organization for women run by the church, also expressed her elation. She said the series stresses the most important message about Jesus — that he was this world’s savior. She was hopeful that this project would have more people wanting to know more about Christ, the church, and God.
Episode one is set to air on Friday, September 20, and the schedule will be once a week for eight weeks total. The second season will also have eight episodes and is due to be aired at the start of 2020.
The crew is working hard and are nearly done filming Season 3, which is set to come out some time next year. Seasons 4 and 5 will be filmed after this one is completed and are to be aired in 2021.
The church has shared that the series will be released in 15 different languages.