When Jack Jenkins heard President Ezra Taft Benson's challenge concerning the Book of Mormon at general conference in October 1988, he knew exactly what he needed to do.
"I have a vision," the prophet said in his general conference address, "of artists putting into film, drama, literature, music, and paintings great themes and great characters from the Book of Mormon."Jenkins, first counselor in the Marysville Washington Stake mission presidency, began writing a play based on the account of the prophet Abinadi. With the support of stake leaders and the work of composer Carolyn Southworth, a script and musical score were completed and presented in four performances on Easter weekend, March 23-25.
Three months later, Pres. Jenkins is still seeing the fruits of his efforts as five of the people who were introduced to the Book of Mormon through the musical, "Abinadi," have been taught the gospel and baptized.
"This week I just gave two more copies of the Book of Mormon to people who attended the musical," Pres. Jenkins said June 29.
In writing the play, his intent was to entertain and inspire both members and non-members of the Church. The play did just that.
The Marysville and Everett, Wash., stakes performed the musical four times. In all, about 300 non-members and 736 members of the Church attended the performances. Many requested tapes of the music; others asked for copies of the Book of Mormon. One cast member was baptized between performances.
"I saw a change in the lives of the people involved in the production," Pres. Jenkins said. "We had several less-active members and non-members who took part."
After the production, many cast members shared inspiring stories that occurred as a result of the musical. For example, three days before opening night, two members of the cast followed a prompting to go to a certain store to buy paint for the backdrop of the scenes of Alma baptizing at the waters of Mormon.
While at the store, the two cast members were discussing their situation when a lady, Carolean Travis, approached them and offered her artistic talents. Carolean, a non-member, came away from the experience spiritually uplifted.