I watched the Joseph Smith movie last week. I was given the DVD on a recent trip I took to Navuoo, IL. This is the same movie released in Utah around the time of the LDS Church general conference. Overall I was disappointed in its content. I was going to post the notes I took while watching it, but I quickly discovered that would make a very long post. Instead I’ll list a few critiques of the film.
In the beginning, and throughout the film, it is stated that a belief in Jesus and a belief in Joseph are mutually exclusive. This is silly. Do we have to choose between Moses and Christ? LDS followers claim that Joseph is nothing more (or less) than a prophet. They do not and never will claim him to be equal to Christ. Since Joseph himself wanted LDS members to follow Christ’s teachings it doesn’t make sense to say, “It’s him or Christ”. This is not one of my major problems with the film, it is just repeated so often that I felt I should mention it.
The second problem with the film is that they repeatedly take scripture out of context. They use the … to dissect LDS and Biblical scripture, remove what they like and then place it in a context that suits them. This really hurts their credibility with the very audience they claim to be reaching out to. Several times I was shocked at the scriptures they quoted and the interpretation they gave. I thought, “Wow, 30 years in the LDS Church, five years of institute classes and I missed that?”. When I opened my LDS scriptures and looked up the reference I was surprised to see what they had done. I hadn’t missed anything; it was just taken out of context. What I don’t understand is why they would even bother to try this trick. It is too easy for LDS members to check and creates distrust of your whole message.
The third problem is that they use several faulty historical “facts” to show what a corrupt person Joseph Smith was. An example of this is the Jupiter talisman supposedly found on Joseph Smith’s body when he was murdered. The historical evidence for this is so thin that only the most bias commentator would use it to show Smith’s corrupt character. I suppose if someone had never heard of the Jupiter talisman and did not bother to do any fact checking then they might be swayed by it. However, once again this made me question how much of what I was watching was truthful.
Fourth, they hold LDS scripture to a standard they are not willing to hold the Bible to. The film talks about the lack of archeological evidence. This is despite the fact that there is no archeological proof that there was ever an exodus from Egypt as the Bible tells (For the record, I do believe there was an exodus). How can you feel comfortable arguing on such grounds when your own professed beliefs don’t hold up under such scrutiny? Especially if you believe that the events in Exodus happened only 3500 years before the Book of Mormon. I have heard non-LDS Christians say that given enough time there will be proof. Well, that’s what LDS members say about the Book of Mormon.
Lastly, the music was placed to manipulate. It’s curious that in the video they say we should not trust our feelings to find truth, but throughout the whole film music is used to create feelings of fear, suspicion, and paranoia. Whenever there was someone favorable to their point of view the music was light and spiritual. Contrasting this was the eerie horror film music played in the background whenever the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith was talked about. This was a clear attempt to manipulate the audience.
They do make some relevant arguments against the Book of Mormon. One of these is the current lack of DNA evidence. This has defenses that are logical and possible, but still too weak (in my limited view) to be convincing. Another is the Book of Abraham, the fact that the original papyri were found and the translation does not correlate with the LDS scriptures. This too has defenses that are logical, but again too weak to be fully convincing. There were a few other references made to statements by Joseph Smith that were troubling, but given the above I remain skeptical and will need to look them up for myself.
If I recommend this video at all it would be so those that view it can see how non-LDS Christians, hostile to LDS doctrine, can misrepresent, twist and distort fact for their own gain. I know that sounds harsh, I just don’t know how else to say it. Surely LDS and non-LDS Christians can differ in how we view Christ’s gospel without resorting to the above tactics. As a person that is struggling with some aspects of history and doctrine in the LDS Church I found this video only made me a defender of the LDS Church rather than an ally of non-believers. I think it will have the same effect on many others that view it.
I know this is a very short post and probably doesn’t address many of the details I bring up. If you have an interest to know exactly what scriptures I believe were taken out of context, what historical facts were skewed etc. just ask and I can address those in a post.