I get emails from LDS casting from time to time (in the vain hopes that anglo me could be useful in some depiction or other) and a recent request was sent out for men to portray characters in the Book of Mormon for some film or other they are producing. The description for almost everyone? “Fit and muscular”
Alma the Younger: Middle Aged to 65ish; Fit and muscular; Grizzled yet compassionate
Korihor: about 20-40 years old; very charismatic; fit and muscular; handsome
Nephihah: about 30-50 years old; Chief Judge; fit and muscular
Giddonah: High Priest; fit and muscular
Captain Moroni: about 20-40 years old; like Superman-very heroic; fit and muscular
Pahoran: about late 40’s; Large, fit and muscular; Bearded
Nephi (from 3rd Nephi): about 20-40 years old; faithful; fit and muscular; young with a dignified handsomeness
Now, this isn’t a complaint that I don’t fit into the mold of “fit and muscular”, but this did get me thinking. How is it, in all the depictions we have of the people in Book of Mormon times, that every one of them is a bodybuilder? Yes, I understand that Nephi describes himself as being large in stature, and everyone spent more time working outdoors, but is it really accurate to have everyone look like they never let their gym membership expire? I know of a number of people who do a lot of physical labor for their jobs that wouldn’t qualify as fit and muscular. Maybe it’s a bit like comic books. All superheroes have bulging muscles (or if female, ample bosoms) as a sort of “pinnacle of human-ness”. Maybe it makes it a good thing there aren’t more women depicted in the Book of Mormon.
I think it comes down to part of why I’m uncomfortable with re-creations of scriptural stories. You’re getting caught up in how something looked or what mannerisms someone might have had that you ignore the messages that are trying to be expressed in scripture. Not to mention the alternative lessons that can be learned from the same scriptural accounts. Do we lose something by making it all so extremely literal? Do we make Nephi, Ammon, and all the people in the Book of Mormon more than human by making them all “fit and muscular”?