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

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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14 Comments

  • Love this series. We have watched most episodes two or three times. The more I watch, the more I insite I gain. We have been able to watch it with family members who are not our religion and everyone loved it.

  • Thank you. Without this article I might have continued to dismiss The Chosen. Rethink that. Mmmmm

  • I am currently serving a Senior Mission and in December I noticed one of our elders “liked” The Chosen on FB. I started curiously watching and by episode 3 seeing Jesus and the children–I was hooked! I have shared it with all that I know, purchased DVDs for my grandchildren back home, paid it forward many times and even purchased merchandise. The spirit has witnessed to me many times the powerful messages of truth found in the realistic and beautiful Bible portrayals of this amazing show and its ability to invite all who will watch to come closer to Christ. Thank you to those who so carefully, artistically and faithfully use their talents in its production to bless so many throughout this ever troubled world.

  • Louene, it sounds like you have caught the “bug” like many of us have! Once you see it, you want to share it. I am waiting for 50 DVD’s to come in the mail so I can give them to friends and family who are less inclined to watch through the app or on a smart TV. Thank you for spreading the word!

  • Feel the same way. Loved it. If there is anything virtuous lovely or of good report, we seek after these things.

  • My husband and I love the series and have watched all 8 episodes 4 or 5 times. I love the portrayal of Jesus. I love that he is also a man, who grew up with other kids, and music and dancing. I love thinking about him like this. It draws me closer to him. Plus, I really love how Jonathan wants to be better and more Christ like in his own life. I’ve loved watching the interviews and behind the scenes shots. All of it makes me happy and I want to be more like a Jesus. I think Heavenly Father is delighted with it.

  • I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I think that during the Pandemic, this series couldn’t have come along at a better time. I absolutely love how they portrayed every single character. Everything that is good in the world comes from God. This series is certainly something good.

  • This series is wonderful. And, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ… I support it financially (a little bit, due to my $ circumstances) and wholeheartedly.

    The way it brings stories and characters to life is impressive.
    And, I love that the organizers and script writers openly encourage viewers to go back to the original scriptures for further insights and knowledge.

    We should support good things.
    We (I) waste enough time on meaningless and not so good things.

    Please support The Chosen so season 2 can be completed!

  • Our family absolutely LOVED watching The Chosen! I admit I was a little nervous to let my kids watch something that might confuse them if it had incorrect doctrine but it didn’t take long for me to call them in, rewind and start all over with us all gathered around. We binge watched it just before Easter. What a beautiful show. I loved how it gave the apostles personalities and of course we all loved Jesus in the show. We can’t wait for the 2nd part to come out! My kids ask all the time if it’s out yet. The Chosen is absolutely an inspired production! The music, the acting, the story… bring your box of tissues and be prepared to fall in love!

  • I LOVE The Chosen, I am LDS and every single one of my LDS friends LOVES this show and recommends it to everyone! I haven’t heard one critical or negative comment from another LDS person or seen anything on the show that i disagree with concerning doctrine. We are all Christians, whether others acknowledge that or not makes no difference! I will be donating to this amazing cause too!!

  • What good is the bread without the leven? We need to be a part of the mix to make it whole. Go forth and fill that role.

  • You misinterpret Nephi. You should know better. The official doctrine of the church is that the two groups are th “Church of the Lamb of God” which is The Church of Jesus Christ of latter day Saints, and the church of the devil, which is ALL OTHER CHURCHES, GROUPS, etc. You praise evangelicals, yet they do not believe in the true Godhead at all. They do not have an understanding of the atonement, therefore they do not understand the mission of Christ. One of the things you do is to take away some of the holiness and power of Christ. Even in the flesh he was still the great Messiah, the God of the Old Testament, the creator of this world And other worlds without number etc., etc. By Coming to earth he did not give up his Godhood.None of this should be taken away by someone who thinks they can portray his life in an appropriate way.

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“Why are you, as a Mormon, helping on The Chosen?” This is the question Rabbi Jason Sobel posed to me as I sat across...
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