Film director T.C. Christensen spoke Thursday, Aug. 18, and Friday, Aug. 19, to a full house about his experiences of bringing our pioneer ancestors to life, particularly in the short film “Only a Stonecutter” and his new movie “17 Miracles.”
“Only a Stonecutter” is the story of John Rowe Moyle who was baptized the very night he was taught the gospel.
Brother Moyle became part of the Ellsworth Handcart Company and traveled across the plains to arrive in Utah in September 1856. It is recorded that his hands looked liked the hands of a bird. Brother Moyle settled in Alpine and was called to be a stonemason on the Salt Lake Temple. He would arise at 2 a.m. on Monday in order to arrive by walking at the temple by 8 a.m. Brother Moyle stayed with his son and daughter-in-law during the week and would then walk 22 miles to return home on the weekends. This schedule was repeated for almost 20 years.
During one return home, while milking a cow, Brother Moyle was kicked in the leg, which had to be amputated just below the knee. Brother Moyle made a peg leg and started to walk around the house and eventually the farm. One morning he was preparing his pack to leave the house and his wife asked him where he was going.
“It is my calling and callings are seldom convenient,” Brother Moyle states in the film, then he leaves to walk the 22 miles to the temple
He was not some great ecclesiastical leader,” Brother Christensen said. “He was just a guy. He was you and [me] but he was a man who stuck to his guns.”
Although Brother Moyle never saw the temple completed, his work “Holiness to the Lord” can be seen on the walls of the Salt Lake Temple today.
Brother Christensen also spoke of his new movie “17 Miracles,” which follows the story of Levi Savage and his journey with the Willie Handcart Company. Brother Christensen showed several clips and talked about the miracles that the Lord provided.
He recalled the story of the Mellor family and what he called “miracle of the pie.” Mrs. Mellor had given up and would not go on. The company could not wait so the family continued to walk while daughter Louisa tried to talk her mother into continuing. Louisa said a prayer and asked God to help them. When she finished her prayer she walked back to her mother. Along the way Louisa noticed a pie in the road.
Brother Christensen explained that in England a pie is potatoes and possibly meat and vegetables. That would have been comfort food for them. He called it a sustaining miracle.
“This miracle does not get them out but it allows them to know that the Lord is with them,” Brother Christensen said. “The Lord is in their lives. And after that they can think back on that and know they are not alone.”
He said that people often ask him why the Lord allowed the pioneers to suffer. Why weren’t they given manna? Why didn’t He change the weather?
“Will anyone that is a descendant of the Willie, Martin, Hodges’s companies or the rescuers stand up?” Brother Christian asked the class members at BYU Education Week. About one fourth of the class stood up.
“There was something that happened within those people that drove testimony into their hearts,” he said. “They were able to pass that on to their children and their descendants.”