Why ‘The Chosen’ creator made a ‘final, definitive’ statement on Latter-day Saints and Jesus Christ
Dallas Jenkins, creator of the “The Chosen,” a popular show on the life of Jesus, addressed questions about what he called the “LDS issue” in a YouTube video. Here’s what he said.
Does the evangelical creator of “The Chosen” believe that Latter-day Saints are Christians or that they love the same Jesus as evangelicals?
“There has been an increased amount of attention given not only to the show itself lately, but to a comment that I made several years ago that I probably need to add a little clarification to and this is what we kind of call the ‘LDS issue’ or the ‘LDS question’ when it comes to ‘The Chosen,’” Jenkins said in the video.
According to the video, Jenkins said false statements have been attributed to him in which he states that “Mormons and evangelicals love the same Jesus” or “LDS are Christians.”
“Is it true that I said that?” Jenkins said. “The answer is no. I did not. Did it appear like I said that? Could it be easily interpreted as me saying that? I think that’s true. ... I probably could have given more context and clarity then that I’m giving now.”
Why are those statements a problem?
“Not because there aren’t LDS folks who are Christians and not because there aren’t LDS and evangelicals who love the same Jesus, but because it would be wrong of me to ever say that any one group believes any one thing altogether. That is just a level of arrogance that I don’t have.”
He continued: “It would be just as dumb for me to say that all LDS are Christians, as it would be to say that all evangelicals are Christians, or that all Catholics are Christians or any other faith tradition. It would also be dumb for me to say that none are.”
Jenkins acknowledged working with and developing deep friendships with several members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in recent years with the show.
“I stand by the statement that those friends of mine that I’m referring to absolutely love the same Jesus that I do,” he said. “Now, you may still go, ‘Well, that can’t be true,’ and that’s your right to think that. But it’s not fair to say, ‘Oh, then you are now speaking about everybody.’ I know plenty of evangelicals who I would say don’t know the same Jesus that I do and don’t love the same Jesus that I do.”
Taking down ‘religious walls’
Speaking at Utah State University in March, Jenkins said he has witnessed ‘The Chosen’ bring people of different faiths and religions together in remarkable ways.
“To me, one of the joys of this project is seeing the religious walls that come down when we’re focused on Jesus himself,” he said. “It’s just been so beautiful to watch.”
Rumors involving Latter-day Saints and ‘The Chosen’
Jenkins and his team recently denied rumors on social media that ‘The Chosen’ is produced by the church. There are some Latter-day Saint connections.
- “The Chosen” is distributed by partner Angel Studios, a streaming video company that was co-founded by brothers Neal and Jeffrey Harmon, who are Latter-day Saints.
- Angel Studios raised millions through crowdfunding to fund the multiseason series about the life of Jesus Christ.
- Latter-day Saint leaders also authorized the filming of scenes for Season 2 of “The Chosen” at the church’s Jerusalem set near Goshen, Utah.
‘Statement of faith’ by ‘The Chosen’
Jenkins provided a “statement of faith” for the faith-based show that portrays the life of Jesus in a 2021 YouTube video.
“‘The Chosen’ is a narrative show, which means it’s not a documentary. It’s also not a church. It’s not a nonprofit ministry. It’s not formally connected to a denomination or faith tradition. And it’s absolutely not a replacement for scripture. It’s a show,” he said in the video. “However, that’s not to diminish the importance of getting things right. We have an obligation to take this seriously. We are talking about the son of God here.”
He also outlined four guiding principles — “the bedrock foundations” — of ‘The Chosen’s approach to the show.
- People of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs work on the show. Counting the cast, crew, marketing and distribution teams, there are more than 200 people involved with “The Chosen.” “As long as the content itself is faithful, we’re less demanding with those who help deliver it,” Jenkins said.
- The primary source for the show’s content is the New Testament gospels. “There is a lot of prayer involved,” Jenkins said. Once written, the script is reviewed by cultural consultants to ensure Biblical, historical and cultural accuracy.
- The show isn’t based on any religious tradition or particular faith perspective, it’s based on the stories in the gospels and history.
- There is no effort to please or seek the approval of one person, group or critics. “The only one I’m seeking the approval of is God,” Jenkins said. “You don’t have to agree with some of my decisions or some of the decisions of our team, but as a viewer, you should at least know that these decisions were taken very seriously.”
Jenkins concluded by saying the show needs to speak for itself.
Jenkins also recommended watching this YouTube video, “The controversial making of ‘The Chosen’ with Dallas Jenkins,” for additional context.
“The Chosen” has been filming its third season in Texas and will likely release new episodes later this year.