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BYU releases "Journey of Faith" documentary

Traces Book of Mormon journey along Arabia's Incense Trail

Brigham Young University and Timpanogos Entertainment announce the release of "Journey of Faith," a documentary that traces the journey Lehi and Sariah's party undertook from Jerusalem to the New World around 600 B.C.

The documentary will be screened Tuesday through Friday, Aug. 16-19, at 5:50 p.m. in the Joseph Smith Building auditorium as part of the annual Campus Education Week at BYU. A DVD of the production will be available for purchase at the BYU Bookstore that week.

The story of the departure of Lehi's party is recorded in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, an ancient religious text used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lehi first left Jerusalem with his wife Sariah and their four sons around 600 B.C. After several years in the desert and having joined with others from Jerusalem, the group made its way to the sea. While in route, the party suffered from dissentions, conflicts and hunger. "Journey of Faith" tells this fascinating story.

"The film is set against the spectacular backdrop of Arabia," said S. Kent Brown, executive producer and academic director of the film. "It makes the story of Lehi and Sariah believable. Whether we are talking about the challenges inside the family or about the territory in which they passed, it places these experiences in a real setting."

"Journey of Faith" was filmed on location in the Middle East along the Incense Trail, which is believed to be the route Lehi's party took to get to the sea. About 2,400 miles long, the Incense Trail follows the Red Sea through what is now Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

"It brings people inside the trek across the ancient trail," said Brown.

Notable Latter-day Saint scholars, including Truman G. Madsen, Virginia Pearce, Daniel C. Peterson and Noel B. Reynolds, explain to viewers the dynamics and nature of travel across the desert, the means the party would have used as it crossed Arabia, locations the party would likely have gone and the challenges Lehi's group faced along the way.

After years of research on Lehi's journey, filming was set to begin in the Republic of Yemen in 2000. This small Middle Eastern country is located in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered on the north by Saudi Arabia and on the south by the Indian Ocean.

However, on the day the film crew prepared to leave for Yemen, word came that the USS Cole in the Port of Arden was bombed by terrorists. This halted production for a year.

Determined to continue the film, Brown, along with Peter Johnson, the producer and director of the film, obtained clearances and approvals from the various governments, and the film crew flew to Yemen a year later in September of 2001.

A week into their filming, the crew was deep into the Arabian desert filming at the famed palace of the Queen of Sheba. That evening, when they arrived at their hotel, they watched live the terrorist bombings in America. With the world in an uproar, they cut their filming short and returned home, said Brown.

It took three years for conditions to stabilize enough for them to take the crew back to the Middle East and complete the filming.

"We gained a first-hand appreciation for the difficulties Lehi's family encountered on their journey as we faced these overwhelming and unexpected obstacles in our own filmmaking journey across the same lands," said Johnson.

"In the end," added Brown, "we were able to accomplish what we set out to do."

Additional screenings of "Journey of Faith" are planned for the near future, as well as a wider distribution of the DVD.

The film is a joint production between The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at BYU and Timpanogos Entertainment. Music is by Arlen Card and Nicholas J. Gasdik, editing is by Adam Lisonbee and the director of photography is Brian Wilcox.

Writer: David Johnston

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