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New film to focus on early Mormons Jane Manning James and Emma Smith

SALT LAKE CITY — Production has started for “Jane & Emma,” a new feature film based on the life of Joseph Smith's wife Emma Smith and Jane Manning James, one of the first black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced Arthur VanWagenen of Excel Entertainment Group, Inc. in a press release.

“This is a story of faith,” said Director Chantelle Squires (“The Work and the Glory” trilogy) in the press release. “In spite of all the hardships these women encounter, one of the things I love the most about this story is how deeply both women want to love God and obey him, even when what he is asking them to do seems impossible.”

Set in 1844, “Jane & Emma” explores the possible events on the night of Joseph Smith’s assassination, through the eyes of James and Emma Smith.

In the years following Joseph Smith's death, Emma Smith and James had significant struggles with the Church. Emma Smith did not join the ensuing Mormon migration to Utah. James did travel to Utah, and in the years following, repeatedly petitioned LDS Church leaders to allow her and her family to receive ordinances performed in LDS temples. These petitions were denied. Later in James' life, the Church's First Presidency allowed her to be sealed to Joseph Smith's family as an “eternal servant.” In 1979, James received LDS temple ordinances posthumously.

The Clearstone Films production began principal photography on March 6 at This is the Place State Park in Salt Lake City and will continue through March 23. Additional filming will take place in Nauvoo, Illinois.

“For both Jane and Emma, their situations are less than ideal, their trial of faith seems never-ending, but their hope in something beyond the pain that surrounds them is what helps them find the will to keep moving forward,” Squires said. “I am honored and thrilled to direct this film and tell the story of these two incredible women.”

“Jane & Emma” is currently slated for a theatrical release later in 2018.