SALT LAKE CITY — Wanted: Actor to play the major Book of Mormon figure Nephi. Must be male, early 20s, tall, strong and physically fit with an olive complexion and Mediterranean appearance.
The LDS Church announced a four-to-five-year project on Thursday to produce a video series of scenes from the book of scripture that gave the faith its nickname and was called by church founder Joseph Smith "the keystone of our religion."
Filming on the project is scheduled to begin in June at the church's Jerusalem movie set in Goshen, Utah, and in nearby Provo.
The first video is scheduled for release in 2018.
Thursday's announcement came about just over a week after publication of the 104th and final segment of the "Life of Christ" Bible video series, a five-year project of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormons believe the Bible and Book of Mormon, a record of ancient American civilizations, to be companion books of scripture.
"These Book of Mormon videos will have the same purpose as the Book of Mormon itself — to bring people closer to Jesus Christ," Elder Larry R. Lawrence, a General Authority Seventy, said in a news release. "We hope the video library will build bridges of understanding and increase interest in God’s word, which in turn can change hearts and inspire people to live better lives."
Nephi is the author of the first two books in the Book of Mormon. He described himself as large in stature and born of goodly parents. He become the first prophet and king of a people called the Nephites.
Applications are due Dec. 28 to play him, his parents Lehi and Sariah, his brothers Laman, Lemuel and Sam, his father-in-law Ishmael and others. Details about the casting call for those and other paid roles are available at casting.lds.org.
Additional casting calls are expected as production moves forward with scenes from the rest of the Book of Mormon.
Filming may include other North American locations, according to the release.
The church's short Bible videos, which range from about one to seven minutes in length, tell stories from Christ's life in vignettes. All dialogue is from the King James Version of the Bible, and the scriptural text accompanies each scene. That makes them non-denominational for Christian audiences, and they are broadly used by many faiths.
The videos have been viewed millions of times. The actors felt the weight of their roles.
"I think the hardest part was that I really felt the burden of portraying Mary," British actress Savannah Stevenson said in 2013. "She was a remarkable woman. Possibly the most incredible woman to have graced the earth, to have been chosen to be the mother of the Savior. I felt the weight of that on my shoulders."
The Book of Mormon series will be filmed in English and translated into other languages. So far, more than two-thirds of the Bible videos have been translated into 10 languages. The rest will be completed next year.
The church built a realistic replica of Jerusalem scenes, settings and backdrops in Goshen and filmed the Bible video series there from 2011-13. The unusual movie set is located on what once was part of a church-owned dairy farm.
The Bible videos are available for free at BibleVideos.org, LDS.org, Mormon Channel YouTube and on the Bible Videos mobile app and Gospel Library app. A two-disc DVD set is available for purchase for $5 at store.lds.org.
This summer, the church published a related set of children’s Bible videos called The Life of Jesus Christ: Children's Narratives. Interviews with children retelling the scripture stories in their own words are added to footage from the Bible video series.