The Life of Nephi (lost silent film; 1915)
The Life of Nephi is a silent film that is based on First Nephi in the Book of Mormon. The film premiered in theaters only in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 25th, 1915, with a running time of three reels. After its run in theaters, the film was never shown again, with only forty stills having since resurfaced.
In 1905, the first movie theater opened in Utah. This prompted many filmmakers, both professional and unprofessional, to make short films. Many of these early films were very basic in nature and pertained to Mormon life, as they would contain highlights from the General Conference and tours of historic Mormon sites in Utah. As films such as The Mountain Meadows Massacre, which focuses on the Church's darker past, started to premiere in theaters, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wanted to start focusing on more positive films that focused on topics such as The Book of Mormon.
As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints started to produce films that focused on the positive aspects of the church, the next step was to start making films about The Book of Mormon. William A. Morton was chosen to write and produce a film based off of First Nephi. The Church was unable to pay Morton for the film, so he took production into his own hands by hiring Anton J. T. Sorensen and William J. Burn to help with the film. The Life of Nephi was filmed entirely in the outskirts of Salt Lake City. As was common practice in the silent film era, many unprofessional actors were used during the filming. The Life of Nephi was released on October 25th, 1915.
The Life of Nephi was shown in 1915, but was never shown after. As is common with many silent films of that time, many of the films that were made would end up corroded due to multiple issues, with poor storage being a major factor. Forty stills from The Life of Nephi survive today and it is possible that more are still out there, as stills were found as recently as 2002.
- An article that talks about the early history of cinema in Utah. Retrieved 10 Aug '18
- An article from the BYU library that talks about some of the film. Retrieved 10 Aug '18