Just in case you missed that giant orange “I’m a Mormon” widget, or failed to notice the ludicrous amount of links on my blog to lds.org (See? There’s another one…), you should probably know I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the real one, not the fake one whose leader made the FBI’s 10 Most-Wanted List.
This movie wasn’t primarily created for Mormons like me. It was created to help other people understand both Joseph Smith and the history of the Church. I love learning about other religions, so I hope you do, too.
OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: This film is about Joseph Smith the prophet, not Joseph Smith the serial bank robber or Joseph Smith the family-focused dentist who appears to have a monopoly on oral health in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Today is April 6, an important day in the history of this Church for many reasons, not the least of which is that the formal restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ took place on April 6, 1830.
To understand why this is so significant, we have to back up a little to Biblical times. Back then, God called prophets like Elijah and Moses to teach God’s children His truths, and keep them from being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”
Each of these prophets were ordained with authority from God referred to as the priesthood — ministerial degrees from religious institutions never have and never will give anyone the right to speak on behalf of God. Prophets and apostles have always been called of God and ordained by the laying on of hands.
When Jesus Christ Himself came to the earth and organized His church, He called 12 apostles, ordained them with the power and authority of the priesthood, and sent them forth to preach and heal and speak on His behalf.
After the death and resurrection of Christ, His apostles continued to do His work, but after much persecution—the kind of persecution endured by so many prophets before them—they were eventually killed, and the priesthood authority was no longer on the earth.
This ushered in what we call the Great Apostasy, prophesied of by many, including Amos, who described this period as a famine of truth.
This famine lasted for centuries. The doctrines once taught by Christ and His apostles were distorted or lost, and only through the sacrifices of a few great men like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale did the words of Christ and His prophets survive at all.
Fast forward to the 1800s, and the spiritual confusion had become so bad that everybody and their dog was starting a church (something we’re not too unfamiliar with today). This is what Joseph Smith was talking about when he described his frustration with religion:
“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”
Isn’t that what everybody wants to know? Truth is truth, and if one church says doctrine x is good, and the other says doctrine x is bad, both churches cannot be led by one God. There must be a standard of truth, and that standard is revealed by one holding God’s priesthood authority. It was the same in Peter, James, and John’s day, and it’s the same now.
As you’ll see in this film, Joseph Smith had a miraculous experience, and was called by God as a prophet and given the priesthood held by prophets before him. This was not just another church because Joseph was not just another preacher on the corner.
Unsurprisingly, most people didn’t believe him. Said Joseph:
“Though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true…I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.”
Now I could elaborate on examples of Joseph’s persecution, such as the night of March 24, 1832, when he was dragged out of bed by a mob who beat him, choked him, stripped him naked, pulled out patches of his hair, and then smeared his body with tar and feathers after failing to force a vile of nitric acid down his throat.
Even today you can find vicious words and twisted “facts” about Joseph all over the internet, but the real fact is, Joseph Smith was a good man. He was more than a good man. He was a prophet and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ — the same Jesus Christ who taught how to distinguish true prophets from false ones when He said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
So if you watch this movie, and decide you want to know for yourself, study the fruits of Joseph Smith — his teachings and the Church he organized. Church leaders are holding the semiannual General Conference today, so you can easily watch or read a talk to see what’s really going on.
Then, like Joseph, you are free to ask God for yourself. If you want to know the truth, simply ask the Source of all truth. I’m going to gamble and guess you won’t see a vision, but sincere seekers of truth always receive an answer through the Comforter or Spirit of Truth.
Prayer is the only real way to verify truth.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5