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'Story of Joseph Smith' will air on Sept. 26

A two-hour historical documentary on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith — narrated by screen legend Gregory Peck — will air Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. (MST) over KBYU/Channel 11.

"American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith," produced and directed by Lee Groberg, who also produced "Trail of Hope: The Story of the Mormon Trail" in 1997 for the Public Broadcasting System, chronicles the life of the Prophet, from his birth in Vermont through the rising up of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to his death at the hands of a mob in 1844. Providing current expert observations and opinions are various Church leaders, including President Gordon B. Hinckley and professors from throughout the United States.

The documentary utilizes first-hand accounts of 19th century Americans, taken from journals, letters and newspapers; as well as photographs, sketches and paintings; and re-creations of select events to tell the story of "one of the country's mostly hotly debated religious figures."

"American Prophet," written by documentary screenwriter Heidi Swinton, begins with scenes of historical buildings in Nauvoo, Ill., as the voice of a woman relates a June 1844 journal account of a warm afternoon when an eerie feeling seemed to come over the city and its inhabitants. Dogs barked and howled as never before, she recounted. Soon, word spread that the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were murdered in Carthage Jail. Gregory Peck then narrates the moments of the martyrdom from the record of Willard Richards, the one unharmed survivor of the attack by a mob of 200 men, their faces painted black. The screen actor also recounts the rejoicing of the enemies of the Church over Joseph Smith's death.

The viewer is then taken on a journey through Joseph Smith's life as the production examines why the Prophet was so successful in his endeavors to build a church, so loved by his followers, so driven to fight for religious freedom and so hated by his enemies.

Providing the voices of Joseph Smith and his wife, Emma, are Mark Peckham and Megan Follows (known for "Anne of Green Gables"). Music for the production is by the Emmy and Pearl Award-winning team of Merrill Jenson and Sam Cardon. The film was made possible by a grant from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

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