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Campus & Community

Bringing the scriptures to life

BYU–Hawaii students cast in the “Book of Mormon Videos” hope their offspring will have their faith increased by watching their performances

An actor in the Book of Mormon videos stands in costume looking like a native warrior under a tent.
Mongolina student, Bayartsogt Lkhagvajav, portrayed a member of Army of Lamanite in the filming of the new Book of Mormon videos done on Gunstock ranch just north of the BYU-Hawaii campus.
Photo by Gerome Mamaradlo Romer<br>

Being able to act in the new “Book of Mormon Videos” filmed on Oahu, said BYU-Hawaii students, strengthen their own testimonies. But beyond that, students said they are hoping when their children see them in the videos, their testimonies will increase too.

Sirawit (First) Kitwongpak, a junior majoring in accounting from Bangkok, Thailand, said he was one of the stripling warriors in the videos. Kitwongpak said one day he will tell his children he was in the videos and would show the videos to them to strengthen their faith and inspire them.

Bayartsogt Lkhagvajav, a senior from Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, majoring in human resources, said his family was happy when he told them about the project, especially his wife.

He said his wife told him, “Your kids will watch this in the future, and they will be happy. That is why you need to participate in this one, and I’ll take care of [our] two kids.” Lkhagvajav explained he feels his children’s faith in the gospel will increase when they eventually see the videos.

He added when he told his parents back in Mongolia he would be in the film, they were happy about it even though they were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lkhagvajav said, to his knowledge, he was the only Mongolian student who participated in the filming of the videos.

He said being part of the project was special because he has watched many of the previously filmed Book of Mormon videos, and he always wanted to be part of it. So when he found out about the project, he said he took the chance and applied for it. He was cast to be part of the Lamanite army.

The filming took place at Gunstock Ranch in Kahuku, just north of Laie, for four days from Aug. 24 to 27.

An actor in the Book of Mormon videos stand in costume as a Nephite young warrior on the set of the video production.
Sirawit (First) Kitwongpak plays the part of a stripling warrior in the Book of Mormon videos that were film on Oahu just before Fall Semester 2022 began on August.
Photo by Xyron Levi

Becoming stripling warriors

BYUH students were hired as background extras in the videos as Nephite stripling warriors or Lamanite fighters. Students were among those filmed in the sequences leading up to the stripling warriors battle scenes with the Lamanites as depicted in Alma 56.

Jace Elton, a junior from Vista, California, majoring in exercise science, said acting as a Nephite warrior made him realize the miracle of the stripling warriors in overcoming the Lamanite army. If it wasn’t for God’s intervention, the stripling warriors would’ve never survived, he added.

Elton shared he felt the Spirit while filming the scene of Helaman counting his sons and realizing they all survived the battle. Although there was fighting, he said this story is a sacred story and the actors helped bring it to life.

Elton add he felt every person who participated in the project had their relationship with the gospel strengthened. “It was cool to see so many people come together for a common belief and to be part of sharing in that.”

Aaron Merrill, a senior producer of the Book of Mormon Videos, said it is possible to feel the Spirit while filming battle scenes. He said he could see the sacrifices people made that allowed these stories to be brought to life for the videos. To see how the actors’ internalized Heavenly Father’s promise of protection and then how they acted in the scenes, he shared, helped him increase his love for the people who dedicated their lives to enact these stories.

Merrill said filming the videos has also strengthened his testimony of the Book of Mormon. The intricacies and complexity of the stories and how it all connects, he added, attests to the Book of Mormon being a true record.

A group of students portraying warriors in the Book of Mormon videos are in costume relaxing in chairs under a tent during a break from filming on Gunstock Ranch.
BYU-Hawaii student Jerius Julius Canlas Gutierrez, was a member of the Army of Antipus in the Book of Mormon videos that were filmed just north of Laie on Gunstock Ranch. International students were among those who were recruited to be in the video.

Photo by Jezreel Gabut

Conquering our Lamanites

Jerius Julius Canlas Gutierrez, a senior from Pasig City, Philippines, majoring in anthropology and TESOL, was also cast in the videos. He said the most spiritual scene for him was the end of the battle when none of the stripling warriors died.

He said during the scene, he was in the background sitting with a dead Lamanite while contemplating in his mind the scriptural reference of the story in the Book of Mormon.

“In my head, I was thinking that [stripling warriors] are [supposed to be] strong and the build of their bodies are bigger,” he commented, but that wasn’t what really happened.

Gutierrez, who was portrayed a member of the Nephite Army of Antipus, said it was crazy and unreal that the small stripling warriors would survive a fight against fearsome Lamanite warriors. Pondering on that moment, he shared, was meaningful for him because he was reminded, “You are bigger than your problems.”

He added, “If those stripling warriors were able to conquer their Lamanites, then I can conquer my Lamanites too.”

Acting alongside today’s stripling warriors

Kitwongpak said the highlight of filming for him was working with local teenagers who were also portraying stripling warriors. Being part of the videos reminded him of the Church song “Army of Helaman.” He said he saw how the teenagers portraying stripling warriors are the Church’s future missionaries.

Kitwongpak said, “One day, they are gonna be missionaries. It’s so cool to see the future of the Church.” He added it was also good to see the energy of the youngsters during the filming.

Another memorable experience of being part of the project was realizing how strong the real stripling warriors had to be, he commented. Being on the set, he said he experienced the difficulties of being dirty, spending long hours under the hot sun, being exposed to the humid air, and laying on the ground for some scenes.

When asked why he applied to be in the film, he said he loves making history. “As a human [being], I have been given lots of opportunities. Many people are scared of new opportunities and new chances to do new things,” he stated. He added being part of the project was a great blessing from God for him to learn new things.

Reliving history

Malcolm Timoteo, a junior graphic design major from Las Vegas, Nevada, said acting as a Lamanite felt like taking a step back in time. It felt real knowing what the Lamanites were going through and their intent to harm the stripling warriors, he added. “It was historical.”

The purpose of these videos is to bring the scriptures to life, Timoteo shared. “You can only visualize so much when you’re reading it.” He said he was happy to be part of bringing this story to life.

Timoteo said the make-up artists were impressed with the Church members and how well they were able to work with them. They realized members of the Church are just regular people like them, he added. “We, the members, have set a good standard and expectation for those who aren’t members.”