The Restoration is the latest installment of official LDS Church faith promoting films. The film is only about 20 minutes in length, and is extremely well done. The nature shots (wildlife and scenery) are quite aesthetically pleasing.
Basically, this is another rehash of Joseph Smith's first vision story. (This is the standard account that made it into LDS scripture, but for various and some earlier accounts of the first vision story as told by many LDS authorities, including Smith himself, click here.) For those unfamiliar with it, Smith as a fourteen-year-old boy was quite perplexed as to what denomination he should affiliate with. He decided to follow the advice of James 1:5, which states that God is always willing to give wisdom to those who ask. While praying in the nearby grove of trees, some dark evil power overtook Smith so that he could not speak. God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ finally released Smith and then appeared to him. The Son told him that the various denominations "were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof'" (Joseph Smith--History 1:19, Pearl of Great Price).
Seven years later, the angel Moroni visits Smith and allows him to unearth gold plates. It's from these gold plates that Smith, with the aid of two stones called the Urim and Thummim (also buried with the plates), translated the ancient characters on those plates. (David Whitmer, one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, testified how the translation process took place. He said Smith "would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light, and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English" [An Address to All Believers in Christ (1887), 12].) The translation became the English version of the Book of Mormon, which is a record of God's dealing with the people in the Western Hemisphere. Then three years after Smith received the plates, he restored (not reformed) the Christian Church that had been missing from the earth ever since not long after the death of the founding apostles.
The Restoration though only gives an incomplete and misleading account of these events. It does not show Smith's struggle with darkness. Further, The Restoration only has Smith saying that he should "join none of the sects," which is relatively innocuous compared to Christ's supposed condemnation of all other denominations. Finally, the film briefly shows Smith translating the plates with his finger on them without the aid of the Urim and Thummim. So basically, The Restoration is a slick version of the first vision story that is more palatable to modern sensitivities.
To order a copy of The Restoration, click here.
R. M. Sivulka
Salt Lake City, UT
November 28, 2004