As Mormon Christians, we sometimes think we don’t need to see what other Christians are preaching, or even appreciate the values they have to offer on the religious front. I remember, as a young girl, hearing and feeling somewhat uncomfortable, when someone bore their testimony about a sermon they heard that very morning from Robert Shuller’s Crystal Cathedral. Now, as an adult, I hope I’m more open minded and accepting of other religions’ attempts at righteous declaration, because we are all fighting for the same cause in our own ways.
Because we are all believers in the Bible, and Jesus Christ, we might enjoy the efforts made by Roma Downey, and her husband Mark Burnett, with their new series “A.D. The Bible Continues.” This is a 12-part series, which started last Easter Sunday, 8 pm (MDT) on NBC.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gotten behind this series to support this worthy effort. A Mormon Newsroom article quotes Downey as saying, “I think people are hungry for hope, and what a better source to go back to than scripture.” After the General Conference sessions, KSL aired it’s own special on the series, “Finding Faith in Prime Time.”
Interestingly enough, last year the History Channel aired “The Bible,” also from Downey and Burnett, all across the country. In a ratings poll, Utah came in 50th out of 50 in the number of people watching the movie. So, the question is why did Utah come in dead last when it really is a mostly Christian state? Some have concluded that Mormons prefer to view religious shows made only by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
There are many faithful Christians all over the world, and many of them know the Bible much better than the average Mormon. Eric Huntsman, who is the coordinator of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Brigham Young University, hopes that “people understand Christianity better whether they are Christians themselves or as part of the secular wider society. I think what A.D. is going to do is it’s [going to] spark interest in the Bible, but then folks are [going to] want to go deeper and learn more.” That is clearly the hope of Downey and Burnett, as should also be the hope of each one of us who believe in this book of scripture.
In a Deseret News article, Camille Fronk Olson, chairwoman of the ancient scripture department at BYU said, “I can feel that same spirit of God in their attempt to portray something that has definitely touched their lives. This is (done) by believers, and you can feel that.”
As sponsors of this series, NBC began advertising several months ago on their website a promotional video. In several months time they had about 800,000 views. NBC needed help in making as big an impact as they hoped, so they decided to hire Deseret Digital Media, a Utah company and owner of KSL.com, whose mission statement is “To be trusted voices of light and truth, reaching hundreds of millions of people worldwide.” After advertising the series on their websites for just one week, they reached over three million views.
KSL’s Dave McCann went to Morocco to see some of the filming of the series. Pedro Lloyd Gardiner, who plays Matthew, the disciple, showed McCann around the set and explained how the series starts just before Christ’s death and continues into the lives of the disciples left behind. There is meant to be a personal and real touch to the series. As Mark Burnett says, “It’s the ultimate reality television.”
A.D. The Bible covers the first ten chapters of Acts. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, a professor of Church History and doctrine at BYU says, “[these chapters] are instructive and talk about how a church begins, its steps, half-steps, missteps and its misunderstandings, which reflects our own church history.”
The series has been written, directed, and produced by faithful people not out to glamorize, such as some recent blockbuster big screen movies, but rather to invite a spirit of wholesome entertainment that encourages people to go to the Bible themselves and read the stories and find Jesus Christ in its pages. After watching each episode of the series, parents might want to gather their children around and talk about what they viewed, read the original stories in the scriptures, and discuss how accurately they were portrayed, and what the stories mean to us today. Parents have an opportunity to share their feelings and testimonies.
Both The Bible and the motion picture, Son of God, also done by Downey and Burnett, are available on DVD, as well as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
Where Hollywood is often touted as an evil bed of immorality, it is refreshing to see efforts of genuine wholesome entertainment coming out from its programming. Downey and Burnett are to be thanked and supported for their efforts.