Provo • Brandon Beltrain is dressed in a tunic and leather sandals, his black hair reaching his shoulders. It is surrounded by thatched roof huts and hearths. Around him are similarly dressed men, preparing for the impending battle.
But it’s not an ancient village, and no one is going to die. It’s 2022 in Provo at LDS Motion Picture Studios.
Beltrain is one of nearly 300 actors cast as a “sparkling warrior” for a filmed rendition of a famous fight from the Book of Mormon, the signature scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The story of Helaman, an ancient prophet and military leader who rallies 2,000 young men into battle without losing a single soul, is one of many portrayed in the fifth and final season of the Book of Mormon video series. the church, which began filming this month. .
The project began production in 2016 and released its first season in fall 2019. It will total 45 episodes by the end of season five. (Eleven episodes are scheduled for the final season.)
The videos are available for free on the church’s website. website, Book of Mormon app, Gospel Library and on Youtube. They have been translated into over 15 languages, including Spanish, Russian and Cantonese.
To date, they have received over 50 million views. More than 1,200 cast and crew members, including 200 volunteers, participated in the production.
Season five will be released in late 2023 and will feature stories such as Samuel the Lamanite and Captain Moroni freedom title.
The fourth season, which highlights the crowning achievement of the Book of Mormon—the ministry of Jesus Christ in the ancient Americas—is releasing this fall.
Beltrain, a Californian and student at Brigham Young University, said he prepared for his role through prayer, fasting and a lot of thought about how the history of the young warriors applies to him.
“I understood one day [what] these young men were fighting,” he said. “They were showing [their families], ‘We can do things with faith.’ … They represented so much more than freedom, than being alive. They were also trying to be fed spiritually.
“Happy Christian Viewing”
Latter-day Saint Apostle Ronald A. Rasband visited the cast and crew on June 17 and told the media that the Book of Mormon video series complements scripture study.
The shows, he said, are particularly appealing to children, who “become part of them” watching the stories unfold on screen.
Rasband pointed to the family-friendly nature of the films, especially when compared to content found on various streaming platforms.
But how can the videos be safe for young people when a number of stories involve brutal war and even the collapse of civilizations?
In many cases, Rasband said, producers simply quote directly from the Book of Mormon while showing some kind of background shot.
“That, I think, is the main way we can stay so true to the Book of Mormon,” the church leader, “[by] stay true to how it was written.
He added that the world needs these videos because they share a message about Jesus. “If a family wants good Christian viewing, there’s nothing better.”
J. Anette Dennis, who will become the first female counselor in the General Relief Society presidency in August, spoke about the role of women in the Book of Mormon and the videos.
Although few women are named in the volume, they did not have second-rate roles, she said. And they appear as “main characters” in the videos.
Dennis said it was important for Latter-day Saints viewing the videos to see how important women are to their communities, just as women are now.
“In the church, women are very integral,” Dennis said. “I don’t know many churches that have general female leaders. … [The Book of Mormon stories] could not have gone forward without women.
Is the book always better?
Videos have not been a simple undertaking. General Authority Seventy Michael A. Dunn said a combination of scholars and historians worked to make everything from the set to the costumes as accurate as possible.
Some elements, of course, are simply unknowable – what major characters like Nephi, Helaman and others would have looked like, for example – but they made their best judgments based on what they know.
The filmmakers also looked for cast members who have on-screen appeal, who audiences can relate to, Dunn said, and who can fulfill “the incredible performance demands.”
Dunn, who has served as general manager of KUED and as general manager of BYUtv and BYUradio, currently serves on a committee of church authorities overseeing the Book of Mormon video series.
He said 45 episodes of a show over five seasons is a daunting task for any production company — especially given the pandemic hiatus — so the pace and scale at which the church has created these videos is “amazing”.
Dunn said this project stands out from others in his career because it depicts a “sacred story,” a story cherished by millions of church members around the world.
“People always say, ‘Well, the book was better than the movie,'” Dunn said. “Our task, I think, was to make sure that [people] would go, ‘Wow, the book was as good as the movie.’