The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is taking its call to build a “New Jerusalem” seriously by building a Jerusalem movie set in Goshen.
Located 56 miles south of Salt Lake City, a three-acre replica of ancient Jerusalem is nearing completion. Construction started in November 2010. Filming has already begun on the set, as 55 different stories of the New Testament are currently being shot.
“The purpose of the set is to film the scriptural pieces,” said David Monsen, director of Studio and Events at the LDS Motion Pictures Studio. “Before the set was built, we shot a few on site as well as various other places. For economical and logistical reasons, it made sense for us to film these scenes locally.”
The films shot at the Jerusalem Motion Picture Set will benefit the Church Educational System, the Sunday School program, missionary efforts, visitors’ center exhibits and various other projects. In addition to remaking older New Testament church films, the Church is also creating some new pieces for its collection.
“A lot of New Testament stories have never been shot, such as the Parable of the Sower, so we’re creating a comprehensive collection of all New Testament pieces,” Monsen said.
The crew spent months searching for the perfect location for the set. They finally came across Goshen, which was perfect, Monsen said.
“The farm property [in Goshen] is amazing,” Monsen said. “Every bit of the landscape just fits remarkably with the stories we’re telling. For example, there’s a creek that runs through it that we use as the River Jordan and the desert landscape resembles Judea.”
A crew of about 75 have endured nine months of extreme weather to bring an authentic look to the set, according to a Church news release.
Detailed research has gone into the replication. The crew used photographs of the architecture of Jerusalem to carve and shape, by hand, blocks of Styrofoam, turning them into realistic stone walls, arches and columns. Plywood walls are covered with stucco that mimics ancient plaster and its erosion from age.
“So much research went into building the set,” said Chantel Procter, an employee at the LDS Motion Picture Studio. “From the set dressing to the wardrobe to each little block of set, everything had to look exactly how it would have back then.”
The projects resulting from the set, which was dedicated by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, will help all people better understand and appreciate the life of Jesus Christ, according to a Church news release.
“We follow the teachings of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Lynn G. Robbins, Church general authority and executive director of the Media Services Department, in a news release. “One of the main purposes for constructing the Jerusalem Motion Picture Set is to help the world better understand the life and ministry of the Savior Jesus Christ.”
The set is built to last more than 20 years and is not open to the public during filming.