The Work and the Glory: Pillar of Light

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The Work and the Glory: Pillar of Light is an epic LDS film based on the series of novels with the same name written by LDS general authority Gerald N. Lund. This film certainly has the potential for extending the series quite unlike The Book of Mormon movie. But with the amount of money put into the former (about $8 million--the most for any LDS film), we should expect nothing less.

This is a fictional story of the Steed family, and their interactions with the Smith family (the Steed family is purely fictional). The Steed family moved from Vermont to Palmyra, New York in 1826. They obviously moved in the fall due the colors of the leaves, but then the next thing we know they are busy clearing a field to farm since spring is imminent (it looks rather green though for spring to be imminent). They are neighbors with Martin Harris, who tells Ben Steed (Sam Hennings) to hire the additional help of Hyrum (Ryan Wood) and Joseph (Jonathan Scarfe) Smith in order to get it done in time.

The Smith boys have a bad reputation among the townsfolk for their tales of Joseph seeing angels and gold plates. When Ben finds out about this, he fires the Smiths. Ben tires to keep his family from following after them, but only his wayward oldest boy Josh (Eric Johnson [no, not the one of Mormonism Research Ministry]), who has recently left the home, is against the Smiths.

The story never reveals why the townsfolk, including Josh, are so sure that someone who would lie about angels would be believable when it comes to finding gold. The townsfolk find out about Joseph ordering and picking up a crate box of some sort and figure this must be for the gold that Joseph was going to get... that night. They follow Joseph and attempt to take the gold from him, since it's really not his gold; it is everyone's in New York since the early Spanish buried it in New York. OK. Smith gets away though, and carries the bag of "supposed" gold (we never see it--for us it is only seen through "the eyes of faith" as it were [for the debate as to whether the witnesses to the Book of Mormon really saw the plates with their natural eyes, click here]) as if he were carrying a small sack of potatoes, even swinging them over his shoulder. (For the problem of how heavy these plates had to have been, click here. The average moviegoer is not aware of this outstanding miracle being portrayed.)

Before this though, Joseph reveals the first vision story to Nathan Steed (Alexander Carroll), Josh's younger brother. Of course this is the standard account now given in the Pearl of Great Price. (For various and some earlier accounts of the first vision story as told by many LDS authorities, including Smith himself, click here.) Joseph says that Jesus told him that he was to "join none of them." What was really interesting to me here is that this is all that Jesus supposedly said concerning this matter. That's certainly not as hard to swallow as what is actually stated in LDS Scripture: "for they 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). Perhaps if Joseph would have told Nathan the whole story, he may have never joined the "restored" Church. (By the way, the same thing is omitted in the LDS film The Restoration.)

There is also the part where Martin Harris attempts to legitimize his funding of the Book of Mormon to Ben. The former shows the latter sketches of some characters from the Reformed Egyptian that were supposedly on the gold plates (cf. Mormon 9:32). Harris says that he took them to Columbia University, and verified them with Professor Charles Anthon, who supposedly and curiously said they were "Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic" (Joseph Smith--History 1:64). But the real story has the professor testifying that Harris was lying (click here). No Egyptologist knows what "Reformed Egyptian" is anyway.

Oh did I mention there was a love story? Actually, there is a very drawn out love triangle. At first there's a thing going on between Josh and Lydia McBride (Tiffany Dupont), but then later she's hooking up with Nathan. Josh goes the way of the Lamanites (his long dark beard gives him the appearance of "a skin blackness" [2 Nephi 5:21 and Alma 3:6ff.]), and he has to skip town due to some legal troubles. That's when Nathan really moves in on Lydia, but unfortunately for her, he goes the way of the Nephites and remains "white and delightsome" (2 Ne. 30:6 prior to 1981) or "pure and delightsome" (Ibid., in 1981 and thereafter). Lydia balks when she realizes that Nathan is totally committed to God... via Joseph Smith as His prophet. But fortunately, or unfortunately, she finally reads the Book of Mormon and becomes convinced of its truthfulness. Consequently, they can now live happily ever after.

Finally, for more reviews and information on The Work and the Glory: Pillar of Light, see here and here.

R. M. Sivulka
Salt Lake City, UT
November 24, 2004

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