A Different Study of the Book of Mormon
“People with the knowledge, like historians and scholars of the scriptures and Church leaders, were counseled [with],” Sister Aburto says about the process of representing the Book of Mormon through film. That research, combined with the knowledge of the cast and crew members and heavenly guidance, has allowed many aspects of this beloved book of scripture to come to life.
Munoa brought over 30 years of experience as a production designer, creative director, and art director to the project. “It’s been a really cool exercise for me, as an art director and somebody who’s grown up loving the Book of Mormon, to reimagine all this stuff for not only a film but something that will kind of be what people think of for the next few years. So, it’s an exciting thing, and it’s daunting at the same time.”
With limited descriptions of objects such as the Liahona in the scriptures, prototypes of different props can vary vastly in design as the creative teams think through possibilities. Ultimately, the prototypes are narrowed down before being presented to the steering committee for feedback and approval. In the case of the Liahona, three models of the approved design were made: a beautiful one for use in visual shots, one with remote-controlled spindles, and a more durable plastic one for use by the actors.
Art directors aren’t the only ones researching, creating, and revising. “I like to say I’ve rewritten the Book of Mormon,” lead writer Elizabeth Hansen says with a laugh. Hansen, who has worked on the videos since the beginning, explains the process of writing the video scripts. “The Brethren and the producers decide what scriptures are going to be dramatized and then they send me a treatment that says, ‘Okay, focus on these particular chapters, and then these are the key messages that we want to focus on, and these are the key scriptures that we want to focus on. Go for it!’” Sometimes Hansen gives the set designers a draft to help them design a model, then she will tweak the script to match the setting they have created.
Lead writer of the Book of Mormon videos, Elizabeth Hansen.
But what about stories or scenes with long speeches that can be visually boring? Hansen explains that for these scenes, such as one of her favorites, the King Benjamin sermon, they try to focus on the reactions and experiences of those who would have been listening to these speeches, perhaps helping the viewer picture themselves at the feet of these great ancient prophets.
Another aspect of making the videos interesting and accurate scriptural portrayals is the costumes. As assistant costume designer Iffer Mitchell explains, not a single detail is overlooked. The costume team does their best to make all the clothing look as handmade as possible, either hand-stitching the costumes with a needle and thread or using a special stitch on the sewing machine that looks handmade.
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King Benjamin and Mosiah teaching their people from a tower. Photo by Church Newsroom.
For instance, Mitchell hand-sewed the beading on King Benjamin’s costume and a volunteer hand-sewed the fringe on the same costume. Mitchell, who helps design hundreds of costumes with the guidance and concept sketches of the head designer, says that even clothing pieces that will never see a camera lens are carefully and lovingly finished. “You won’t even see this part, but we know it’s there,” she says, lifting back the cape of the King Benjamin costume to reveal two more hidden but still beautifully beaded layers. This immaculate work is no small feat, especially considering that some of the actors require multiple costumes as their character ages. But the team takes pride in their work and has seen the hand of the Lord inspiring ideas and guiding decisions when they are stuck on a design. Often, Mitchell says, when they pray for inspiration, “The fabrics tell us what they will be.”
Costumes from various seasons and figures in the Book of Mormon videos.
No matter the detail or design work, Elder Curtis says, “The Lord’s been really kind in helping us.”
A Testimony of the Book of Mormon
“My testimony of Jesus Christ has been strengthened because I realize how much He loves us and that He allowed for this record to be kept and that we have it in our hands to choose to get to know Him better,” Sister Aburto testifies.
Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and member of the Book of Mormon videos steering committee, shares her thoughts, testimony, and excitement about the new videos.
Elder Curtis adds, “For me, every time I open it, it’s like turning on a fan. The Spirit just flows out of that book, and over and over again I get taught and retaught every time I open its pages.”
The videos, which have all been viewed and approved by the First Presidency, will be powerful tools, and those who helped make them know that they were inspired. “You feel this sacredness here and these stories that are so powerful that will inspire,” Guerrero says. “They are real and true and will inspire so many. That’s what we all came together to do, and it was beautiful.”
Images by Jasmine Mullen unless otherwise specified. Lead image courtesy of Church Newsroom.
Check out ChurchofJesusChrist.org, the Gospel Library app, or the Book of Mormon Videos YouTube channel for new videos and images from the first and second seasons that are being released each Friday until the end of the year. You can also own these videos on DVD, available at Deseret Book stores or on deseretbook.com.