“Why are you, as a Mormon, helping on The Chosen?” This is the question Rabbi Jason Sobel posed to me as I sat across from him and Dallas Jenkins, the director of THE CHOSEN, in the hotel lobby in Jerusalem.
I am a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (we don’t use “Mormon” anymore). And I have devoted the last 3 years of my life to helping an Evangelical, Dallas Jenkins, create his vision of the hit TV Series, THE CHOSEN. I have no control over the content of the show. And I don’t want any control.
This isn’t just a question I have gotten from Rabbi Sobel, but many members of my own faith community, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or “Mormons” as our critics want everyone to label us), have challenged me and my brother (who is also a Latter-day Saint) with similar questions. Here are just a few things we have heard about THE CHOSEN from our Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters:
- “I won’t watch a show about Jesus Christ that doesn’t come from [our] Church.”
- “How can you let an Evangelical have full control of the story? Evangelicals hate us.”
- “I am worried that the Evangelicals will twist the scriptures to meet their view of the Bible.”
Dallas has received similar questions and addresses them beautifully in this video.
There are significant differences in doctrine between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals.
We have differing beliefs regarding the Trinity, or Godhead.
Evangelicals believe in the Bible like we do, but not our other scriptures like The Book of Mormon.
We have 12 Apostles and Prophets whom we believe receive modern revelation for the world, Evangelicals do not.
Many Evangelicals see our doctrinal differences as enough to even make the claim we believe in a “different Jesus”.
So why am I helping an Evangelical on THE CHOSEN?
I was introduced to Dallas Jenkins through his now-famous short film “The Shepherd”. It was a dry, hot August afternoon in 2017 when I received an email from VidAngel’s head of public relations, Matthew Faraci.
The email subject read only: “short film”. The body of the email was void of text, just a Vimeo link. Nineteen minutes later I was blinking away tears as I watched the credits roll on my old MacBook.
Over the next few hours, a flood of crazy ideas poured into my mind. Novel ideas that no film production had used before, ever. Without even having met Dallas, God had already inspired the basic path to raise the money we needed to turn this short film into a high budget TV series.
The next day I told my co-founder and brother, Neal, about The Shepherd. He dismissed it immediately, “shows about Jesus Christ are for churches to produce, not VidAngel.”
“Just watch it,” I responded.
Nineteen minutes later he pulled off his headphones and said “This is why we made VidAngel.”
Three years later we have received hundreds of messages and letters from people upset that “Mormons” are part of this world-changing project. Likewise, we receive lots of skepticism from Latter-day Saints deeply concerned that we have given full creative control to Evangelicals, who they think hate us.
To both Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals I reply: if Jesus can call his ancient apostles from a range of backgrounds including an apostate tax collector on the one hand to stubborn, illiterate fisherman on the other, why can’t he call Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, and even Latter-day Saints to the creation of a TV series about his life and ministry?
And if you’re still skeptical, I say the same thing I told my brother three years ago: “Just watch it”.
This is why we made VidAngel.
I will probably see a thousand more messages from people telling me I am a “cultist” and that I believe in a “different Jesus”. I will certainly have many more Latter-day Saints refuse to trust the show because the message is controlled by Evangelicals.
But one thing can be certain, they can’t diminish MY relationship with Jesus. He has redeemed me. And it won’t take away MY love for Him or THE CHOSEN. Hate or love, I am offering the gifts God has given me to help THE CHOSEN reach a billion people worldwide.
THE CHOSEN’s central image is a school of fish. Interestingly, Rabbi Sobel also once compared the series to a net, one that could gather all kinds of people (Matthew 13:25). In addition, John 10:16 states, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” God is going to “gather all kinds of fish.”
A Fulfillment of Prophecy
Finally, a unique quick thought from a Latter-day Saint perspective: I believe THE CHOSEN may well be, in small part, the fulfillment of a little-recognized Book of Mormon prophecy. Let me explain.
Eighteen years ago as a missionary in Cork, Ireland, I was studying the Book of Mormon when 1 Nephi 14:14 jumped off the page with intensity. Since then, I have studied this scripture so much that the page is falling out. I believe this verse prepared me to meet Dallas Jenkins.
NOTE: This is my view on this and it shouldn’t be interpreted as official doctrine.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” 1 Nephi 14:14.
This verse was written by a Jewish man named Nephi who fled Jerusalem just before Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege in 589 BC.
Nephi and his father both had stunningly prophetic visions. In the vision Nephi sees the events that transpire — from Jesus Christ’s birth, to the death of the apostles, to the discovery of the new world, to the American Revolution, and finally touching on our day.
When Nephi sees today, he sees two contending churches: 1) “the church of the Devil”, consisting of all the people who fight against Jesus. 2) “the church of the Lamb” which isn’t specific to any organized religion, but instead the broader group of believers from around the world.
In the last days, the church of the Devil gathers globally to fight against the Lamb. But in verse 14 we see the “power of the Lamb of God” descend onto TWO GROUPS of believers as they unite in the “power of God in great glory”.
GROUP ONE: “The saints of the church of the Lamb”. Again, this does NOT appear to be talking about “Latter-day Saints”, BUT instead ALL BELIEVERS that defend the Lamb, and I believe Evangelicals fit this group exceptionally well.
GROUP TWO: “And upon the covenant people of the Lord…” In April, Russell M. Nelson (the current leader and prophet of my faith), referenced group two in this way:
We live in the day that “our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation.”1 We have front-row seats to witness live what the prophet Nephi saw only in vision, that “the power of the Lamb of God” would descend “upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”
You, my brothers and sisters, are among those men, women, and children whom Nephi saw. Think of that!
I believe that eighteen years ago, God pressed 1 Nephi 14:14 on my heart and mind to prepare me to be open to embracing THE CHOSEN without reservation or control.
Ever since watching the short film The Shepherd, I’ve felt the confirming peace of the Spirit that this is where God wants me right now, united in a global effort to bring this show to the world.