Jackson VanDerkwerken’s life was turned upside down when he was cast as Nephi in the upcoming Book of Mormon videos. Jackson is from New York but has spent the last two summers in the deserts of Goshen, Utah, to participate in the filming of the new Book of Mormon videos.

Nephi Actor Jackson VanDerwerkenIn May, Jackson received his mission call. He said, “I was shaking when I was opening the letter because I was so anxious and excited,” VanDerwerken said. “When I flipped over the letter and I saw what was there, the realization hit me that this was going to tell me where I’m going to spend the next two years of my life. … It is what I was praying for. I was hoping for a mission that would allow me to serve others in the best way I could serve them, and it confirmed that to me when I was reading it. I knew it was the right place.”

He was called to the Brazil Sao Paulo East Mission and leaves on September 5, 2018.  The first installment of the Book of Mormons videos are scheduled to be released September 2018.  The Nephi actor will already be on his mission when the first group of videos are released. The first installment will be the first of 6 and covers 1 Nephi chapters 1-18.

Jackson has said that filming these videos has helped him prepare for a mission.  The experience required him to be away from his family.  Serving a two-year mission requires the missionary to be away from home and allows them to only be able to communicate with their family once a week through email, and Skype home twice a year. He said that filming requires long days so he will be prepared for the long hours of a mission.  But the thing he says has helped him the most is it has helped him develop a positive attitude despite the hard circumstances.

Nephi Actor on Set

Sam Petersen as Lemuel, Jackson VanDerwerken as Nephi, Mace Sorensen as Laman, and Cooper Sutton as Sam, act in the Book of Mormon Visual Library at LDS Motion Picture Studios South Campus near Goshen on Friday, July 7, 2017.

“You can just go on forever when you have a positive attitude about it,” Jackson said. “Tiredness doesn’t matter. You don’t feel anxious about anything. You just are ready to do His will. When I go out into the mission field, that will be the same attitude I have. I’m going to strive to keep that positivity so that the experience will just be a two-year long movie shoot.”

Jackson’s mother, Angela VanDerwerken, has been very involved with the whole process. She said, “I think the Lord uses the young for his purposes. Joseph Smith was young and Nephi was young, Jackson is young. It is just a good example of being moldable and allowing the Lord to shape him into things He needs them to be. I think that is something that Jackson is really good at, just letting the Lord use him and being really flexible and willing to bend to His will. (Jackson) was just a skinny 16-year-old kid when he was cast. Physically and spiritually the Lord has molded him into who he needed to be, and I think as a missionary that’s going to happen again.”

Jackson has learned a lot from being able to portray Nephi in the videos and feels that he can relate to the prophet, especially in 2 Nephi chapter 4. He said, “What I’ve learned about Nephi is in the decisions he’s made. He had to trust in the Lord that that was the right thing to do.”

The Nephi actor is looking forward to being able to cut off his hair for the missionary standards.  He compares the hair, to wearing a muppet on his head, and is excited to have it short again for the next two years. Preparing for the videos helped Jackson be a missionary

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