The Bible is revered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church). It is an essential part of their canon of scripture, and Latter-day Saints regularly read, study, and teach from the Bible.
So it should come as no surprise that while The History Channel’s blockbuster miniseries, “The Bible,” is grabbing millions of viewers, The Church of Jesus Christ continues to quietly film and release short videos based on the New Testament story of the life of Jesus Christ.
“There is a huge difference between what people are seeing on The History Channel—a sweeping 10-hour docudrama that encompasses both Old and New Testaments—and what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is doing with “‘The Life of Christ Bible Videos.’”
Bill Elliott, director of media resources and programs for the LDS Church’s Priesthood Department, said the short videos are scenes or “small, simple stories from the Bible that focus on the words of Christ and the scriptural narrative as accurately and precisely as we can.” At the end of each scene, a scriptural reference is shown. Elliott said that it’s an invitation: “If you liked the video, go read the book.” “We want to encourage people to read the scriptures.”
The videos are filmed on the Jerusalem set at the Church’s LDS Motion Picture Studio South Campus in Goshen, Utah. The production crew will soon begin their third year of filming. “New scenes are released and added to the collection every two weeks.” They have expanded the “original scope of the project to include several scenes based on the New Testament ministries of the apostles Peter and Paul.
Every day the production crew has a prayer on the set before they start shooting.
“We are praying and asking for the Spirit of the Lord to guide us in everything we do, from shooting to editing to mixing the sound. Everyone is so focused on doing this right, and making sure that we are accurately reflecting the Savior,” Elliott said. “It’s a privilege and an honor to do this.”
The videos are accessible through the LDS Church’s website (LDS.org), the Mormon Channel on YouTube, and through mobile apps. Currently 43 scenes are available for viewing, which is about half of the number Elliott said they will complete. Most scenes are about 3 to 5 minutes long. They are also available in several different languages.
“We’re creating a library of scenes from the Savior’s life that can be used in the Church in a wide variety of ways,” said Elliott. “Our objective is to make them as true and accurate as we possibly can, and of such excellent quality that they will be useful in the Church for a long time.”
The videos are not only for members of The Church of Jesus Christ (sometimes mistakenly called Mormons). “These videos were created for sharing,” Elliott said. “They’re for the world.” Elliott said that many viewers are sharing the videos through social networking, especially during Easter and Christmas.
Non–Latter-day Saints are viewing and using the videos. For example, Elliott mentioned a group from Texas that wanted to use the project’s “Good Samaritan” video “at a special event for people who provide services for homeless people there.” He predicts that many who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ are among the “more than 5 million video views documented thus far.”
“We see comments that say, ‘I needed this today,’ or, ‘I feel like I was led here.’ Regardless of their faith background, they seem to resonate with the spirit of the message of the life of Christ,” Elliott said. “There is power in these stories. They can make a difference in people’s lives.”
The Church of Jesus Christ has one intention for producing these Bible scenes: “We’re not promoting it or pushing to see how many views we can get, or competing with The History Channel,” Elliott said. “We’re just trying to create beautiful footage that will serve the needs of the Church and bring people closer to Christ.”
“That’s really our purpose: to share these Bible stories and touch lives.”
This article was written by Paula Hicken, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Paula Hicken was an editor with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2000 to 2013. She earned her BA degree in English from Brigham Young University. She edited Insights, the Maxwell Institute newsletter, and was the production editor for Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (2nd ed.), Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, and was one of the copy editors for Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. She also helped manage the Maxwell Institute intellectual property and oversaw rights and permissions. She has published in the Ensign, the Liahona, the LDS Church News, and the FARMS Review.