Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration
I watched Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration with three pals the other day at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City. We listened to the LDS gentleman tell us this is a very sacred movie and to please enjoy the sacredness of it. There were tissues placed for us as we quietly filed in. The house was full.
I've lived in Salt Lake for about six months now. I never skied before moving here, but I'm almost expert now. I love Utah. I've watched a number of LDS movies in that time, and I'm no longer surprised about what's left out. I'm just becoming acclimatized to the 9,400-foot level of skiing here and the fact that all LDS movies leave a lot out. Mel Gibson went over board in The Passion of Christ to get in all the details--Aramaic, chopping off of ears, blood, denial, passion, betrayal, death and victory. It's a fact--LDS moviemakers leave out key information.
Omission and commission are two ways to lie. For example, if I buy a car and am told it's brand new and it's 20 years old, that's lying through commission. If I buy a car over eBay, and when I go to start it I discover it does not have a motor, that's lying through omission. Both are lying. Neither is acceptable and both are prosecutable under law, on earth and in heaven.
I'm a historian, and a scholar. I study a lot, every day. I want to know about people, especially leaders. I especially want to know all about Joseph Smith. Who was Joseph Smith? I like leaders who expose their strengths and weaknesses. Oliver Cromwell's a good example. Loved by some, hated by many, few understand him, though there are libraries filled with books on him. He told the painter doing his portrait: "Paint what you see, warts and all." I like that. Give me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Not so with LDS movies. I catch a lot that's omitted. It's not noble, and it's not true. In Romans chapter 13 verse 10 I read: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." It's loving to tell me the whole truth and not omitting the warts. It's not loving to paint a portrait of what appears to be a perfect man when there is no perfect man except Jesus, and He is God.
So I sat there watching a doting, loving Joseph Smith with his dear wife Emma. Nice, I like that. But I wonder why I don't see the other wives--girlfriends (emphasis on the word "girl" in some cases) and undivorced women who married this "prophet of restoration." Joseph at first denied them as Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: "Joseph Smith... he and his brother Hyrum did practice the doctrine [of polygamy] in their lifetime, and until their death, not withstanding their seeming denials as published in the Times and Seasons" (Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record, 220). "Denials"? Nice word. This is kind of like the word "omissions". "Lies" would be an acceptable word to use as well.
Another motif in this film as well as others like Legacy and The Work and the Glory II is the unprovoked wrath and violence of the Christians upon LDS. Let me paint a metaphor if I may. Say in 100 years or so that German historians give their side of D-Day, Normandy, June 6, 1944. And let's say they begin their "history" of D-Day with this: "For no understandable reason, massive armies of the English and Americans stormed ashore brutalizing, ravaging, pillaging, and murdering innocent Germans and French living harmoniously together." This is the approach taken by both these LDS films. In Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, Protestants for no understandable reason ran amok, in mass hysteria brutalizing, ravaging, pillaging and murdering innocent Latter-day Saints.
I need to know why? I know that there are over 500 or so denominations of Christians and Jews in America, and in spite of the KKK, Jews poured into America (as most know, there are more Jews in America than in Israel). Why? Because the dominant Christian culture has always been tolerant to everyone. But then there's the LDS experience. What went wrong with the relations between the LDS and the Protestants? With over 500 denominations of Christians in America, there's been many a bitter dispute on doctrine among them. But why hasn't there been the constant friction and brutality as between the LDS and Protestants? In every LDS movie I have ever watched, I get no answer.
The answer is simple, and yet it's profound. Without excusing terrorism, in order to get an answer about the rage of the Protestants one must still understand what provoked them. The answer is Joseph Smith, prophet of restoration. Why did Illinois open its arms to the LDS during the Missouri-LDS wars, and then within only a few years kick out the whole crew? Here's the rub; here's the omission, the covering up of truth: Joseph Smith was doing things that irritated the local non-LDS population. What would it be? PMS: power, money and sex. Crimes of passion normally include one of the three, but from what I read (from LDS sources), Joseph Smith was entangled with all three. Yet there was none of this displayed in Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration.
Why leave out the PMS part? It's really simple: It's a battle. It's a battle between the Gods, the Books and the Prophets. And in this battle the Protestants are expected to show their dirty linen. Again, I insist, I want the truth. Please, show the Protestants acting nasty, ugly and brutish. But with the God, Book and Prophet of the LDS, too much is omitted to really understand that Joseph Smith was quite a bit less of a saint than Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration portrays. Please... show me the truth; show me the warts: taking men's wives, their property, the call by Sidney Rigdon on July 4, 1838 to exterminate the Missourians--strategically long before the Governor of Missouri responded to Rigdon's threats.
I just have one question for any LDS who reads this: Is Joseph Fielding Smith an anti-Mormon for what he wrote above? Am I an anti-Mormon for insisting on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? And sadly, as a Christian I know that Jesus taught that He is the truth, the life and the way; no man comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). That being so, then those in the LDS leadership who insist in covering up and hiding the truth, omitting the truth are really committing harm. But whom are they really harming? Not me. I'm saved by the perfect and finished work of Jesus. I have to wonder: with all the PMS of Joseph Smith and his disciples of today covering up for him as in this film, according to Jesus, how many of the LDS watching this movie shall never enter heaven?
I guess ya get what you bargain for. If you settle for half-truths or omitted truths, it might not be pleasant when it comes time to stand before the Supreme Judge of the Universe, Jesus, who warned us of false prophets in these last days. The Sermon on the Mount is three chapters long--Matthew chapters five, six and seven. It begins with blessings and ends with cursings. In chapter seven, Jesus tells the miracle prophets, faith healers and miracle workers:
21: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22: Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23: And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
"Depart from me" means not spending eternity with Jesus: hell.
But there's a twist to this PMS stuff. Hebrews 11 is a "hall of fame" of Old Testament saints in heaven above. Some of them suffered from PMS. So, am I being unfairly selective in this thought about Joseph Smith, prophet of restoration? In fact, how about King David, adulterer, murderer, power monger? He's in heaven, isn't he? He's a saint, isn't he? So why am I picking on Joseph Smith?
What really is there to commend Joseph Smith as being a prophet of God? If PMS is all there is, then what really is there to be said on his behalf? Is there any prophecy about Joseph Smith in either testament of the Bible? No, even though Joseph tried sticking a prophecy concerning himself in his Inspired Translation of Genesis 50 (no Hebrew manuscript affirms this). He just shows up one day and starts telling stories about talking to long dead Bible heroes and God, but there are no signposts along the way, no prophecy, or foretelling of this great man of God who would restore the gospel after 1,800 years.
Well, are there any miracles he performed? How about a sign--in fact, a lot of signs, miracles from God that Joseph Smith is who he says he is? Oops--none of these either, except folklore. I find no miracles like bona fide cases of raising the dead or restoring vision.
At least all the other PMS Bible characters pointed to the same God and Jesus. This is another omission by the film. The god and Jesus that Joseph Smith preached differ dramatically from the God and Jesus of the Bible (cf. Differences between Mormonism and Christianity). There's nothing to motivate me to depart from the Bible we have today and follow Joseph Smith.
So I'm left with a clever, professional, glib movie that leaves out the truth about Joseph Smith "warts and all." Sadly those who piously told us "this is a sacred movie" will hear the King of kings and the Lord of lords say to them, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." And at death nearly everyone in that beautiful theater who accept Joseph Smith as the prophet of restoration will follow these men, and instead of life, they'll gnash their teeth and weep because the LDS leadership prefers to omit the truth about Joseph Smith, alleged prophet of the restoration.
For more information on Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration, see here and here.
April 2, 2006
Steve is CEO of Courageous Christians United--the pre-eminent experts in the U.S. on conducting safe and meaningful First Amendment educational outreaches in front of mosques and locales in California. We work to make Romans 10:13ff. possible under the First Amendment. Steve is a former Marine officer who came up through the ranks and in Viet Nam was a team leader and interpreter in the Marine's Combined Action Program which excelled in dismantling the masters of Cell Organization, the Viet Cong. Steve has a BA with honors in Political Science from Cal State University Long Beach, has been married for 35 years, and has two grown children.