It seems like it’s been roughly 1000 years (just an approximation) since the Church announced their plans to film a live-action Book of Mormon series. Then, last spring, we heard some amazing news: the first videos, featuring the story of Lehi and his family, would be available in September.
Yet September came and went with no new videos and no word on when they’d be released, leaving us all scratching our heads and wondering what happened.
But good news: the live-action Book of Mormon videos ARE coming… And while the Church has been rather tight-lipped about when they will be released, sources claim that it’s going to happen soon. After all, 2020’s Come, Follow Me curriculum is the Book of Mormon — so waiting to release the videos? Well, it probably wasn’t a coincidence.
So what can we expect when we finally do get to see the videos? To put it succinctly, some pretty amazing stuff.
- The Book of Mormon videos will have five “seasons,” the first of which chronicles all of 1 Nephi, and they won’t all come out at once. In fact, only seasons one and two have completed filming.
- Though the script will stick largely to dialogue from the Book of Mormon, it will have additional dialogue not contained in the scriptures — largely to give women a more significant role.
- Where the Bible videos are rather short, these videos will be a little longer. The seasons will contain somewhere around 8 – 10 episodes, with each episode clocking in between 13 – 20 minutes. However, the Church will likely cut clips out of these episodes so people can share shorter clips in classes, on social media, etc.
- It’s not location-specific — i.e., the Church isn’t making any kind of stance, subtle or otherwise, as to where the videos are specifically taking place within the Americas. The videos are meant to focus on the doctrine, not geographic speculation.
A New Perspective
Like the Bible videos, these live-action Book of Mormon videos are going to be an amazing supplemental resource to reading the scriptures.
Actor Gabe Spencer, who plays one of the sons of Ishmael in the video, explained how the videos will make the scriptures more real and relatable.
“Just think about that 10 or 12-year-old kid who might still struggle with fully understanding the scriptures. When he learns about these stories, he wonders, ‘What did it feel like to be in that situation?’ Then he can go to the videos! It helps us to see that these were people that really existed thousands of years ago.”
The videos will also provide a different perspective on some key characters in the Book of Mormon.
“The videos really humanize the characters of the Book of Mormon,” Spencer said. “I feel like that’s a really necessary thing because so many people read the Book of Mormon and see Laman and Lemuel and see that they’re completely evil. But the series shows that they did have spiritual experiences, but didn’t have the faith to follow through.”
Actor Sam Petersen, who acts as Lemuel in the series, said these videos — and acting as Lemuel — gave him a whole new outlook on the sons of Lehi and a greater understanding of the Book of Mormon as a whole.
“I feel like Lemuel and Laman are seen as inherently evil, stereotypical villains,” Petersen said. “You’ll see in the videos that this is definitely not the way the writers and directors chose to portray them. In many ways, Lemuel is just like most of us, and you see that. He’s skeptical of things that don’t make sense to him. He’s harsh to his little brothers at times. He complains when things get tough. He doesn’t think to pray when he should. Doesn’t that describe all of us to some degree? Of course, there’s some stuff we probably wouldn’t do, like threatening to kill your brother and then actually attempting it. But you’ll see that in many scenes with Laman and Lemuel, they’re fairly respectable guys on a really long family trip.”
Although they did a lot of bad things, Petersen explained, the videos enabled him to see these brothers in a light that exposed their strengths as well as their flaws.
“Something interesting I realized while studying for this role is that while Lemuel and Laman had plenty of faults and passed down a bitter, hateful narrative about their brother and dad to their posterity, they also passed down something really good and important to their children. They were committed to their wives and children and loved them. In Jacob 2, Jacob — probably just a few decades after being in the promised land — talks about how the Lamanites were more loyal to their wives and children than the Nephites. To me, that’s solid proof that Laman and Lemuel weren’t purely evil. And I think there’s something to learn there. I’ll let you decide what lessons are there, but I think there are a few.”
But the new outlook on Laman and Lemuel — as well as their descendants — isn’t the only paradigm shift viewers will experience.
They’re going to see a whole new side to the women of the Book of Mormon, too.
A Stronger Voice for Women
One of the hugest differences between the text and the Book of Mormon videos includes more dialogue for women.
“I have to give all the credit to Christina Torriente-Robey, one of the directors,” said actress Shaunna Thompson, who plays Ishmael’s wife in the new videos. “She was sitting in the room with some members of the Seventy, and they were going over scriptures, mulling over, ‘Do we keep it like the New Testament videos and stick strictly to scripture?’ And that’s the direction the Brethren wanted to go. She said, ‘That’s fine. If that’s how you want to do it — but if you do that, you won’t hear a word from a woman.’ At that moment, she said the Spirit just totally flooded the room and they were on board with adding dialogue.”
Since the scriptures focus primarily on the prophets and their ministry, the female dialogue won’t be super heavy, but it will be deeply meaningful.
“The scripts are very light as far as dialogue for the women, but it’s so well written and it really brings them to the forefront as these powerful people,” Thompson said. “That was one of the biggest takeaways for me: there were women there and they worked hard. The women were in charge of the animals, the meals, and so much of the hard stuff. And they were bearing children! For me, I walked away from the experience thinking, ‘These women are the rockstars! They are the unsung heroes.'”
Even though we don’t hear a lot about women in the Book of Mormon, Thompson explained, they were incredibly important and had influence when it came to their families and husbands.
“Nephi’s wife is a pivotal character. You can see the influence these women have on their husbands,” Thompson said. “Nephi’s wife wouldn’t have been a silent partner, even back then. She would have to have a voice. These were tough, resilient, strong women who were powerful and could do many more things than we ever consider.”
The Book of Mormon videos obviously have a lot to offer: a stronger role for women, a deeper humanization of the people it records, and a more visual understanding of its doctrine. So even though we’ve felt our patience tested as we’ve anticipated these videos, one thing is clear: it’s going to be well worth the wait.