Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Mountain of the Lord: Film dramatizes struggle of saints to build temple

Published: Saturday, March 20, 1993

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A new Church film, "The Mountain of the Lord," dramatizes the toil of the early saints as they struggled and sacrificed for 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple.

The 75-minute film, to be premiered between sessions of general conference on Saturday, April 3, was produced in commemoration of the centennial of the temple, which was dedicated April 6, 1893.The film will be shown at 12:30 p.m. MST, over the Church's satellite network, in some 3,000 meetinghouses in the United States and Canada, and in meetinghouses in other areas including Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and West Indies. It will also be seen at noon on KSL-TV. The movie will be telecast only in English.

A videocassette of the film will be released at a later date, and will be available to stakes, wards and branches for meetinghouse libraries. Copies of the video may be purchased at Church distribution centers.

"All of us who have seen this film are pleased with it," said President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency. "It is a moving and informative story of the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. We are confident it will be appreciated by Latter-day Saints throughout the world."

Under the direction of the First Presidency, the film was sponsored by the Temple Department and produced by the Audiovisual Department. Elder Dean L. Larsen and Elder James M. Paramore of the Presidency of the Seventy are executive directors of the Temple Department and Audiovisual Department, respectively.

"The Temple Department was assigned the sponsorship of this film, which was produced to coincide with the centennial commemoration of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple," said Elder Larsen.

"In addition to the special showing of the film at April general conference, it is anticipated that it will have application to the curriculum of the Church, supplementing lessons that deal with Church history and temple work. It will also be available for use in Church visitors centers," he added.

One of the main messages of the film, said Elder Paramore, is that the early saints didn't sacrifice and toil for 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple for its beauty and magnificence. Rather, they did so for the ordinances performed therein that bless generations - past, present and future.

He said the purposes of temples are explained in the film in a "subtle, wonderful, warm way that help us to understand the importance of eternal covenants and ordinances."

For example, in a scene portraying the death of Phoebe Woodruff, the wife of President Wilford Woodruff, on Nov. 9, 1885, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve kneels beside his wife. Gently, he kisses her hand and bids her farewell.

The film then moves forward to April 1893 as the 86-year-old prophet relates events of his wife's death to an eastern newspaper reporter, who is covering the dedication of the newly completed Salt Lake Temple.

The reporter, who has been reading of the death of Sister Woodruff from a journal of the prophet, looks uncomfortable and says, "This seems a very personal matter, President."

President Woodruff responds, "You have come nearly 3,000 miles to write the story of the Salt Lake Temple. If the truth be known, this is the story of the temple. The reason why we build them," which reason he then explains to be eternal families. The prophet also explains vicarious work for the dead.

The story is told through the eyes of President Woodruff, who was present when the site for the temple was selected by President Brigham Young in 1847, and when the temple was dedicated more than 40 years later.

The first scene takes place on July 28, 1847, with the first pioneer company in the Salt Lake Valley camped on what later became known as City Creek. Weary travelers are portrayed with their wagons, carriages, horses, mules and oxen. Moments later, Brigham Young, still weak from illness, leads members of the Quorum of the Twelve to a spot north of the encampment where he leans on his cane and announces: "Brethren, here we will build the Temple of our God!"

As the group continues walking, Elder Woodruff marks the spot with a stick.

The film gives glimpses of events before the exodus West, but mainly focuses on the history of the building of the temple.

Church leaders are depicted during the film guiding the building of the sacred edifice, and there are also many stories of members sacrificing their time and talents - and sometimes risking their lives during construction - for the temple. In one scene, a stonecutter loses his arm after an accident with explosives during construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. President Brigham Young believed the railroad was necessary to speed up construction of the temple.

This film was a major undertaking in the history of Church film production. The Historical Department worked closely with the script and reviewed it. The writers consulted the journals of Wilford Woodruff and went over them carefully.

It was also discovered that eastern newspapers took a great interest in the dedication. Thus, after accounts of media visits to Salt Lake City during that time period were researched, the character of a newspaper reporter was created from a composite of many reporters. That became the story frame - Wilford Woodruff telling the story directly from his journals to a reporter.

A cast and crew of 150 were used for the production, with about 1,000 extras. The film was shot in various locations including the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah, and in Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City, where the granite was cut for the temple. In addition, many scenes of Temple Square included shots taken in September 1992 when Main Street, east of the temple, was closed for more than a day so film crews could work. Dirt was spread in the street to depict scenes from the late 1800s, with the temple in the background.

Michael Audley, the non-LDS actor who portrayed President Woodruff, told in a Church News interview about his experience of portraying the prophet. He said he prepared by praying for guidance and reading extensively about the life of President Woodruff. He also met with a great-great-granddaughter of the president, Crystal Woodruff Perry, who lives in Provo, Utah, to discuss family stories of the prophet.

Non-members need to see this film, he said. "It's something that will enlighten people as to what the Mormons went through to sustain their faith and build their temple, and as to what their faith and religion really are."

Elder Paramore encouraged members to bring families, non-member loved ones and friends to meetinghouses to watch conference proceedings and view the satellite broadcast. "We hope that non-members would want to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ, because this film can trigger in them some of the fondest hopes they have of relationships that are eternal."

Elder Gary J. Coleman of the Seventy, an assistant executive director in the Audiovisual Department, said the film carries a "message of hope, of the purpose of life, of resolving why we're here and what we need to do while here upon the earth."