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Davis Journal

Season 5 Book of Mormon videos cover some of most well-known stories

Jul 05, 2022 01:09PM ● By Becky Ginos

Crews film on the Book of Mormon videos set at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints studio in Provo. Photos by Roger V. Tuttle

PROVO—A set not far from the hustle and bustle of Provo has been transformed into scenes from the early Americas in the Book of Mormon videos, a series of stories from the scriptures produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Season four will be released in the fall and covers the Savior’s visit to the Americas. Season five, the last and final installment, is being taped and is made up of some of the favorite stories that were skipped over in the first four seasons.

“It covers the Stripling Warriors, Samuel the Lamanite, the Jaredites,” said Producer Jaelan Petrie. “It has the biggest sets, the most actors, the biggest schedules and an international one as well. It’s the greatest hits – the most favorite stories.”

Prior to the Book of Mormon videos, the church produced a series of videos depicting stories from the Bible. “We completed those in time to do the Book of Mormon,” Petrie said. “The development and writing phase is pretty long. Representatives from the church get together in a writers room and go over content and decide what stories and episodes we want to do. A steering committee finalizes that and sends it to the First Presidency to review.”

Then it goes through a typical filmmaking process with actors and crew, said Director Adam Anderegg. “It’s similar to any other production. Our casting director finds actors from all over the world to fill the roles. It takes a lot of effort.”

Media Director Bill Elliott is from Fruit Heights and spent 23 years at NBC before coming here 11 years ago. “I grew up at Disneyland,” he said. “I played Tigger as a kid. I think that created a spark of imagination in my mind. I got an internship at CNN and ended up in the Oval Office with Reagan.”

 The news was exciting but so stressful, he said. “I decided I wanted to do more on the creative side. I went to NBC in the story department. We read scripts and one day I was walking down the hall and saw Lucille Ball. Another time I ran into Dick Van Dyke. I got to hang out with Jimmy Stewart and I said ‘OK I like this.’” 

Elliott went on all the shows and did interviews. “It was ‘must see TV’ when I was there,” he said. “I worked on Frazier, Friends and the West Wing. It was fun but the Book of Mormon videos are inspiring. It’s the highlight of my career.”

Jackson Vanderwerken plays the prophet Nephi in the videos. “I’m from upstate New York,” he said. “I was on the crew/grip in season four. I met the products manager who gave me an internship with him. I started helping out on certain projects and he gave me the opportunity to help with the Book of Mormon videos.”

Getting the part of Nephi was more luck, said Vanderwerken. “I had the opportunity to audition when I was 16. My acting was bad but they liked me because of my young face. It had to be a revelation because I wouldn't have had a chance in Hollywood. I also met my wife on set.”

It used to be tough to identify with the people in the Book of Mormon, he said. “Now I can liken the scriptures to myself. I really felt what Nephi felt – emotionally and physically.”

“I absolutely got caught up in season four,” said Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who was visiting the set. “It’s the creme da la creme with the Savior’s visit to the Americas.”

The response to the videos has been overwhelmingly positive, he said. “It adds to the experience of scriptures. It’s complementary. You can read a portion and show the Book of Mormon videos. To be honest it’s hard for smaller children to stay attentive but with the videos they’re up front and center.”

It’s translated into 15 languages, said Rasband. “We want to make it available to everyone in the world in their own language. It’s a worldwide church and we have members and friends of our church everywhere.”

The Book of Mormon is a companion scripture to the Bible, he said. “The Book of Mormon videos are being produced with the express purpose of bringing people to God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our ultimate goal.” λ