17 Miracles Cinematographer Encourages Capturing Lives in Journals

Contributed By Paul Nauta, Church News contributor

  • 12 September 2014

T. C. Christensen encouraged members to do a better job of capturing and writing down events of their lives for their posterity.

Article Highlights

  • T. C. Christensen is a well-known Mormon cinematographer, most known for his work in the movies 17 Miracles, Testaments, and The Work and the Glory.
  • Christensen encouraged everyone to capture the events of their lives for future generations and to be better prepared to serve others when calls or opportunities come.
  • Ephraim K. Hanks, the main character in 17 Miracles, delivered mail for the Pony Express for 10 years through rough terrain and conditions.

“Great things happen when opportunity meets preparation. … Try it. Do the Lord’s bidding, and you will do the great things the Lord needs you to do, small and large.” —T. C. Christensen, cinematographer

“In making movies, research is everything,” said T. C. Christensen in his keynote address to a large audience of family history enthusiasts at the 2014 BYU Family History Conference in Provo, Utah. “It gives me the necessary background to depict the characters the production is portraying,” said Christensen, a well-known Mormon cinematographer, most known for his inspirational work in the movies 17 Miracles, Testaments, and The Work and the Glory.

Christensen illustrated how important it is to document our lives—regardless of how mundane we think we are. He explained how the delightful true character of Albert, in his movie 17 Miracles, would have remained totally unknown today had it not been for a few key events.

One, Albert wandered off the path of the pioneer handcart company nearly 160 years ago and took refuge under a log to protect himself from a pack of ravenous wolves until he was rescued. Two, because of his misadventure that day, a number of faithful pioneers wrote about it in their trail journals. In one account, this otherwise nondescript, tiny, misfit passenger was described as “the most deformed person people ever saw.”

Christensen explained that because of Albert and his misadventure on the trail, we learn about many other individuals who were part of a handicapped group of misfits trying to gather with the Saints in what would be today’s Utah. “We don’t know anything else about them other than from the few quips the few people who wrote a few things down along the way and later shared the stories with their posterity,” remarked Christensen.

He encouraged everyone to do a better job of capturing the events of their lives for future generations and to be better prepared to serve others when such calls or opportunities come.

He shared things he learned and impressions about Ephraim K. Hanks, a real pioneer in the untamed American West, and he applied those things to our lives today. Ephraim Hanks is a main character of Christensen’s hit movie 17 Miracles. Hanks was ready to drop what he was doing and leave immediately when the call went out from Brigham Young in the fall of 1856 to help locate and assist the Willie handcart company, a struggling, beat, and tattered group of pioneers who were far overdue for arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Wintry conditions had already settled in the Rocky Mountains and across the plains to the east, and Church leaders were beginning to fear the worst.

Ephraim K. Hanks lived his life so that when the Lord called him, he was ready to go.

Christensen said, “Ephraim Hanks spent 10 years delivering mail from the Territory of Utah to St. Louis, Missouri, for the Pony Express. He did it all year long and through the roughest conditions. He knew the terrain, and he knew how to survive it.” He had the gift of healing and was known to ride his horse hundreds of miles to administer medical blessings upon request. Ephraim Hanks was ready to go at a moment’s notice. He lived his life so that when the Lord called or needed him, he was ready to go.

“Great things happen when opportunity meets preparation,” concluded Christensen. “Maybe our preparation will come from learning about or being inspired by knowing our ancestors. Try it. Do the Lord’s bidding, and you will do the great things the Lord needs you to do, small and large.”