People around the world now have a new way to learn about Joseph Smith, the founder and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A film called Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration is now available online, marking the first time the Church has shared a full-length film on the Internet.
A similar film has been shown since 2005 in Salt Lake City and 19 Church visitors’ sites around the world. Now the film is available to everyone on MormonChannel.org/Joseph and YouTube and has been revised to be more easily understood by a wider audience.
Ron Munns, who produced the original film, said, “The first Joseph Smith film was excellent and was well received by many. However, some parts were not easily understood if you did not already know the story.
Everyone comes to the film with different backgrounds and knowledge, and we wanted to make sure that every person who sees the film walks away with a better understanding of the Prophet Joseph and what he did.”
The film will also help people better understand Latter-day Saint belief in modern prophets, the purpose of temples, and the eternal nature of family relationships. There is also additional context around historical events such as the First Vision — when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith when he was 14 years old.
“Our hope is that people who aren’t familiar with the story will come away with an increased understanding of the role Joseph Smith played in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ,” John Garbett, who produced the new movie, said.
Garbett said this focus on Joseph’s prophetic role prompted many of the changes. For example, a scene showing a leg operation Joseph had as a young boy was removed because it was less essential to the purpose of the film.
“There is less focus on Joseph the man and more focus on Joseph the prophet. It’s the same story, just with a different emphasis,” Garbett said. “There are some things in the old version that people might miss, but there are things in the new version that people will be thrilled to see.”
Those who have seen the film will notice that the revised version has a new narrator: an actress representing Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s mother.
“We chose this device to tell the story because Lucy Mack Smith was an eyewitness to everything that happened,” Garbett said. “This is a mother talking about her son in her own words.”
The revised version is five minutes shorter than the original, and about 40 percent of the movie is new. Footage from the first version was re-edited to fit the revised storyline, and Garbett and his team also shot some new scenes. Regardless of where the footage came from, the crew took great care to ensure that every moment of the film has the same look and feel.
“Someone who sees the movie will not be able to tell what was shot then and what was shot now,” Garbett said.
David Nielson, managing director of the Church’s Media Services Department, said he is thrilled that the movie will now be available online.
“The beauty of having the new Joseph film available on the Internet is that you can see it at home at a time that is convenient for you,” Nielson said. “Even if you have seen the previous version, don’t miss the opportunity to see the new one. It will help enhance your understanding of the life and mission of Joseph Smith.”
Munns too is excited to have the film seen by a wider audience.
“This is a version that can be easily shared by Church members with their friends not of our faith,” he said.
The full-length version of Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration can be seen on MormonChannel.org/Joseph and YouTube. It can also be seen in the Legacy Theater at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City and at some Church visitors' centers.
In addition, a free download of the movie is available at MormonChannel.org/Joseph in a 300k or 100k MP4 version. Because of the download option, there are no plans to make the revised film available on DVD. Currently, the film is only in English but may expand to additional languages in the future.