The life of a nameless Nephite cast member may not sound very appealing.
It requires dressing up in a Nephite costume, applying makeup, a lot of waiting, repetition and responding to instructions from directors and producers under a scorching July sun. And drinking a lot of water, cast member Angel Rodriguez said.
To be honest, he said, it’s not a bad life. What makes it worth it, the Nephite extra from Puerto Rico said, is the opportunity to sit at the feet of an actor portraying Jesus Christ in a Book of Mormon scene and have a spiritual experience.
“I had a one-on-one with Christ,” he said. “It wasn’t too long, but it was a special moment for me.”
After a year on hold, Rodriquez is one of more than 1,000 actors, staff and crew members who have assembled near Springville, Utah, to resume filming the Book of Mormon video series for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Season 4 will center on the appearance and teachings of Jesus Christ to the inhabitants of ancient America as described in 3rd Nephi, often considered the pinnacle moment of the Book of Mormon. The production staff constructed an outdoor set including a temple and other structures to depict Christ’s visit to the land known in the book as “Bountiful.”
The first episode of Season 4 is scheduled to be released in 2022, with a fifth season to follow.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is one of many church leaders who has visited the set in recent days.
“It feels as though the ground is hallowed … because of what you depict here,” Elder Renlund told the cast and crew.
The purpose of these scripture-based videos is to help people increase their faith in Jesus Christ, said Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy who also serves on the Book of Mormon Visual Library Steering Committee.
“It is the message of Christ as the center of the church, in the center of the gospel, really the center of (the Nephites’) world,” Elder Hamilton said in a news release.
Portraying Jesus Christ
Anthony Butters, a native of New Zealand, was chosen to play the role of Christ in the Book of Mormon videos. He says he doesn’t have a lot of acting experience and was offered the role after submitting a video audition
Thanks to COVID-19, Butters had an extra year to memorize his lines, which consisted of almost every word spoken by the Savior in 3rd Nephi.
“The biggest challenge is there is a lot of dialogue,” Butters said with a British accent. “So I’ve had a lot of time to get memorized, which has been great, because as soon as you step on to the set, you forget it all anyways.”
Butters spent Monday afternoon dressed in a white robe, filming scenes where he walks among hundreds of Nephites, teaching and giving instruction. He didn’t appear to miss a single word.
What is it like to play Jesus? Butters is trying not to think about it. For now, all he’s hoping to do is portray a good, compassionate and kind person as he speaks the sacred scriptural words. Butters did add that preparing for the role has strengthened his faith and deepened his personal relationship with Christ.
“I’ll let it all sink in after it’s done,” he said. “It’s kind of a big deal, and it’s also not a huge deal. I’m here doing a job just like everyone else. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
What is the Book of Mormon videos project?
Latter-day Saints believe “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ” is a book of ancient scripture and consider it a companion to the Holy Bible.
The multiyear Book of Mormon video project was announced in 2016 and production started in 2017.
The first two seasons of filming, a total of 15 episodes, were released on Sept. 5, 2019. They depict scenes from the first four books of the Book of Mormon, 1st Nephi through Enos.
A trailer featuring eight episodes from Mosiah to Alma was released in March 2020. That third season was released from March to May 2020 and covered covered 221 pages of the Book of Mormon, from Mosiah through much of Alma.
The fourth and fifth seasons of filming and production were delayed in 2020 by restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fifth and final season of filming in 2022 will feature episodes that depict the writings and teachings of ancient prophets, such as Mormon, as well as more stories from the books of Mosiah, Alma and Helaman.
The church’s First Presidency hopes the Book of Mormon videos project will supplement, enhance and “lead to increased study and understanding of the teachings of the Book of Mormon.”
“The videos should support but not replace the personal study of the Book of Mormon,” the First Presidency said in a letter to church leaders. “We invite all to use the videos and images at home and at church.”
Brazilian Ricardo Costa plays Jonas, one of the Savior’s disciples in the Americas. He’s humbled to be part of such a large production with a monumental objective.
“It’s a really big production, but it’s for a big purpose — to change lives,” he said.
How can I watch the Book of Mormon videos?
All Book of Mormon videos are available on the Gospel Media, Gospel Library section of ChurchofJesusChrist.org, the church’s Book of Mormon Videos YouTube channel and in English in the United States on the Amazon Prime platform.
As with previous seasons, Season 4 videos will be available in 15 languages — Cantonese, Cebuano, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog and Tongan.