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Why I, as a Latter-day Saint, am Helping Evangelicals Create the Hit TV Series THE CHOSEN

Why I, as a Latter-day Saint, am Helping Evangelicals Create the Hit TV Series THE CHOSEN

“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.

Why?

the chosen

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.

Evangelicals believe in salvation ONLY by the grace of Jesus Christ like we do, BUT they do not believe in ancient temple covenants, eternal marriage, or exaltation the way we do… the list goes on.

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 tv series

Jesus during the wedding at Cana in episode 5 of The Chosen

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!

the chosen

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.

 

 
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William

Monday 9th of May 2022

I am an Evangelical Christian and have been my entire life. I was with you through this whole article, up until you started quoting from the Book of Mormon and talking about Nephi in a historical sense as a Jewish man. The book of Nephi was not written by Nephi... it was written by Joseph Smith, as was the entire Book of Mormon. I'm not sure if you've ever heard of "No Man Knows My History" by Fawn M. Brodie - I'm sure it has been written off by LDS as blasphemy or whatever... But, there is no evidence whatsoever in the history of the world that shows the Book of Mormon as inerrant scripture or anything close to what the Bible is. The Book of Mormon has been changed and rewritten so many times since Joseph Smith made it up that it boggles my mind that anyone could believe in it - just do a little bit of your own research and you will see. The evidence to support the accuracy of the True Scripture, the Bible, the Holy Word of God is insurmountable. People like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel and others who set out to prove the Bible as false end up becoming believers because of the evidence throughout history that the Bible and the resurrection of Christ is Truth. I don't hate, and have never hated, Mormons - I just feel sad for them that they are so deceived into thinking that your church is just another denomination of Christianity - it is not. My hope and prayer is that through being involved with The Chosen you will come to know the Truth.

Marissa Harris

Sunday 15th of May 2022

@William,

I think if you were to read the Book of Mormon and and truly understand what we as the church of of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe your opinion would change. The Israelites had to just look at the serpent to live, they just needed simple faith. There are evidences, all you need to do is do more searching. All my studies in this religion have done nothing but bring me closer to Jesus Christ, the rest we learn in simply in support of that. Becoming more like our savior.

Joey

Saturday 30th of April 2022

Thank you for sharing this article. I think the Chosen really has created a huge opportunity for all Christians to participate and express their love for Christ from one another and even learn to exchange and share their beliefs both different and similar. I’m gonna be honest, when I first heard of the show, I did struggle a bit with feelings of distrust. I was afraid that it would only represent the viewpoint and feelings of a single church and veer away from the gospel that’s taught from the scriptures. When I later found out that it was produced by VidAngel I was relieved but I realized that was kind of wrong. I shouldn’t just throw off something about Jesus in the first place just because I thought it was probably made by some baptist church or something. Now please understand, I do not hate other Christians and I am not opposed to attending or exploring other church celebrations and meetings with my friends and sharing our beliefs and Faith in Christ. I actually love that. However, living as Latter Day Saint in a country where so many seem either indifferent or completely opposed to my faith or even me just briefly expressing my beliefs is hard and it has created a serious distrust with many people outside of my faith. It’s hard to open up when many people suddenly treat you either like some poor grown up child, or some sort of freak. Sometimes I really felt what most Latter Day Saints feel when they say that everybody hates us. I feel like this show has helped me learn to open up a bit more. I feel like this show should also teach us that we all have a lot more in common than not. I felt the same spirit from this show that I feel when I study the scriptures and learn about the Lord’s gospel, and it was made by an Evangelist. I’m not here to say which church is right or not. Our beliefs and our conversion is between ourselves and God and nobody else. However, I would like to encourage all Christians to please stop arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong and instead rejoice and serve and love together as Jesus Christ wanted. That is what true Christians do and that is what true christianity is about. Furthermore, I’d like to encourage us to not exclude people of other faiths from our fellowship. Christ taught us to love everyone and to be kind to everyone. So please don’t alienate or exclude people just because they don’t believe in Christ. Everyone is a child of God and everyone has the ability to hear the spirit. Love them, be their friend, help them, share with them, invite them. You can give people opportunities to feel the spirit and learn about Christ without giving them a lecture or constantly trying to make them see what you see. Just love them and share the things that you love. They may not understand but they can feel the spirit and if they listen and follow God’s voice, they’ll find Jesus Christ. If they don’t, then that’s their choice. It’s not your fault and the Lord will give them other opportunities to feel the Spirit. I realize I’ve said a lot and taken up a lot of space. Lol. Sorry everyone. I just want to say thank you to Jeffrey Harmon and Dallas Jenkins. What you guys are doing is amazing and I hope you will be able to continue producing the Chosen series.

Coleen Goree

Saturday 30th of April 2022

I love "The Chosen" in part because it creates conversation between me and my family. For example; I tell them I don't think John the baptist would ever not know his place. It seems as though he doesn't take council from the Lord but instead gives council to Christ.

Praise HaShem

Tuesday 19th of April 2022

There is one comment Mr. Jenkins made that has me concerned: "I also have a hesitation toward scenes that are overtly supernatural in nature because I feel like the audience is watching them just to analyze how we did it.” UMMMM, the whole concept of a divine Savior is supernatural Mr. Jenkins. Please don't limit yourself and others to this Reality.

Joan F Williamson

Thursday 10th of March 2022

I wish to add my amen to the many kind remarks.. you are doing a great work and you cannot come down to delay the work. "For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. " And as the Lord himself said "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples---that you have love one to another. " Go for the billion!