In 2005, the Church released a “new” video telling the story of the First Vision, meant to replace the film from the 1970’s that has been seen thousands of times by anyone growing up in the Church at that time. If anyone hasn’t seen the two, here were my notes:
I think the best summary of the DVD is that it presents Joseph Smith’s family and situation as the Church wishes it had been. Or, as it would have been if they had lived as a good LDS family in Utah in the 1950’s. Or, as it would have been if produced by the Hallmark channel, or the guys who make Kodak film commercials. Take your pick.
I thought these were the most intersting points:
-No pre-vision visit from Satan. This has been left out of the first discussion for years, and now it doesn’t warrant a mention in the video.
-We don’t actually see the floating bodies of God and Jesus. It’s just a bright light in the trees. This is much more ambiguous; while the narration mentions the personages, the visual stamp isn’t quite as memorable.
-Joseph only mentions that when he asked God which Church to join, he was told to “join none of them”. But that’s it. No mention about abomidable creeds, corrupt professors (all of them), and near lips but far hearts.
-After the experience, Joseph calls to his mother from afar, as if he was going to excitedly tell her of his vision. Verse 20 of the Joseph Smith History has him giving less than full disclosure to his mother’s inquiries.
-We see a conversation Joseph has with the local minister. I couldn’t help but wonder how an LDS Bishop or Stake President would react if a 14 year old teacher revealed that God and Jesus had appeared, and told him the LDS Church was corrupt, and that his family should leave. I’m sure he’d get a very warm reception, up to and including a Disciplinary Court.
The story of the First Vision is a story of any rebel struggle against the status quo, and now that the Church is entrenched in its mindset and efforts of self-preservation, drastic “revelations” from outside the power structure would be just as unwelcome as they were in Joseph Smith’s day.
-And finally, we see Joseph in the process of translating the Book of Mormon. It shows Joseph sitting at a table, studying the plates without the aid of a Urim and Thummim or seer stone, while the scribe sits across from him taking it all down. Maybe if we wish hard enough, we can convince people that that was the way it really happened.
My wife and I both agree that the 1970’s First Vision film was superior, if only because it seemed much more sincere. And the low budget made it grittier and more realistic. And because it appears so old, we can tell our kids it’s actual footage from the early 1800’s.