Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration
June 2006

“Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration,” Ensign, June 2006, 40–44

Joseph Smith:

Prophet of the Restoration

The world in general would not have noted the birth of a baby boy to a struggling farm family in rural Vermont on December 23, 1805. The event was little noticed on earth, but not so in the heavens. This birth had been long ago prophesied, even down to the name of the baby—Joseph (see 2 Ne. 3:15).

This obscure boy was only 14 when the heavens opened to him in a vision of God the Father and His Son, and young Joseph later learned that his name “should be had for good and evil among all nations” (JS—H 1:33).

Today his name lives for good in the hearts of millions. His story is told in a new movie, Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration. These scenes are taken from that film, which is now being shown in many Church visitors’ centers around the world.

Producing Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration

How do you tell in 68 minutes the story of someone whose accomplishments were larger than life? In this case, with long-range planning, intense preparation, prayer—and the kind of help that film production companies ordinarily do not get. Those involved in filming Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration can attest that there was help with the project beyond what they could have accomplished on their own—help, for example, with casting lead actors and with two perfect days for scheduled filming in the middle of a run of bad weather.

The result is a film that depicts the Prophet Joseph Smith as a man with human qualities but with extraordinary ability to respond to divine direction and to lead others according to that direction.

Production of the film required careful coordination and planning. For example:

  • Filming took place over several months in Nauvoo; Upstate New York; the historic Upper Canada Village near Ottawa; Lincoln’s New Salem Village near Springfield, Illinois; the Mississippi River; Manchester, England; and the Church’s Motion Picture Studio near Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

  • The film has a principal cast of about 40 individuals. A crew of more than 100 took part in the production, and some scenes included up to 300 local actors as extras. In addition, many locals were hired to help with makeup, hairdressing, and so on, for on-location shooting.

  • Wardrobes were extensively researched to create costumes authentic to the early 1800s.

  • The film was produced under the direction of the First Presidency and through the Church’s Audiovisual Department. It premiered on December 17, 2005, one week before the 200th anniversary of Joseph Smith’s birth, in the Legacy Theater of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square.

Photography by Matthew Reier, except as noted; background © Comstock

Young Joseph being comforted by his father before painful surgery (above); carried on the back of his older brother Alvin (right); receiving direction during the appearance of Moroni in his room (opposite page); studying the Bible (inset, opposite page).

The film shows the Prophet Joseph’s contemplative, spiritual side (left; photograph by Christina Smith) as well as key events in his life.

Courting his wife Emma (inset, above left); rejoicing with Emma after the birth of their child (above); rebuking prison guards for their foul talk (left); retrieving the golden plates from the Hill Cumorah (lower left); suffering in Liberty Jail (below; photograph by John Luke).

Photograph of filmstrip © Ultimate Symbol

Behind-the-scenes work for the production included extensive support from the film crew, makeup artists, and hairdressers (left and below right); spreading snow for a winter scene in Nauvoo (right); and creation of a cramped jail cell on a studio stage (below).