Dear 100 Hour Board,
After watching the Joesph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration video on the Mormon Channel Youtube Channel, I realized that it was a different edit than the one I saw on a DVD when I was a missionary in 2012 for the first time.
In the one I saw, it ended with the death of Joseph Smith - shortly after the scene in Carthage. In the assassination scene, it played a version of "Praise to the Man" as bullets struck various objects, and didn't have any narrative dialogue until the window broke and Joseph (in first-person-view) looks up towards the heavens. The screen goes black, and Smith says "O Lord, my God", then a scene is shown with his profile superimposed above the Nauvoo temple, after which a montage plays of the highlights of his life accompanied by the Motab singing "Praise to the Man", and the movie ends with the last line of the song "millions shall know brother Joseph again".
I once heard that there were at least 3 different cuts of the film - each for different purposes.
Take your time with this question, but I'm curious to know: how many different edits of Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration are there, and what are the differences between each cut of the Joseph Smith movie?
Dear Swickety Swooty,
This is also something I noticed as a missionary. It kind of annoyed me, actually, because there were parts of the original that I really liked that were edited out of the YouTube/Mormon.org release.
As far as I can tell, there are only two different cuts of the film, not three. That's what this old Church News release says, anyway. It's possible the third film in question might actually be The Restoration, which uses the same actors but is actually a different production (it doesn't use footage from Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration, and vice versa).
The original release of JS:TPotR came out in 2005 and was shown in various visitors' centers around the world. In 2010, the Church released it on DVD as part of the Doctrine and Covenants Visual Resource DVDs. The newer release of the film came out in 2011 and was distributed through various online sources (apparently it was even on Netflix in late 2014, though I don't know if it's still available there).
Why did the re-release happen? Well, according to that news release I linked to earlier, the old version of the movie was good, but people unfamiliar with Joseph Smith's story (such as, say, investigators) found the movie a little hard to follow. Edits and reshoots were done in order to make the movie more accessible overall; the news release that 40% of the new version is new material.
With all of that in mind, what are the differences? Well, it's been a while since I've seen either cut of the movie. I'd re-watch them (or watch them side-by-side), but right now's a pretty busy time for me, so I don't think I can manage that right now. I know you said we should "take [our] time" with the question, but right now we're currently in a "get-all-the-overdues-out-of-the-inbox" drive, and so it doesn't seem prudent to hold this one over. So, I'm going to provide you with the differences I remember, and if you're not satisfied, feel free to ask a follow-up question after finals are done. Okay? Okay.
So, here are the differences I remember:
-In the original movie, the frame story is that of Mary, a recent convert from England, and her father. Mary has decided to travel to Nauvoo to meet Joseph. Her father doesn't approve of her change in religion, but also doesn't want Mary traveling by herself, so he accompanies her. On the last leg of their journey, Mary and her father are traveling on a steamboat. Mary convinces her father to read her collection of stories about Joseph Smith, and that's how the movie gets started.
In the new version, Lucy Mack Smith narrates and tells Joseph's story. In the end, it's revealed that she's speaking in a sacrament meeting or some other assembly of the saints in the Nauvoo temple before they begin their trek west.
-A scene in which a doctor performs surgery on Joseph's leg as a child is present in the original version but not the revised one.
-The new version contains a short story in which an attempt is made to extradite Joseph to Missouri but he is rescued by the Nauvoo Legion. Bearing his captors no ill will, he invites them to a social event at his house back in Nauvoo. None of this is present in the old version of the film.
-The old version spends more time on Joseph and Emma's courtship than the new one does.
-There are various subplots about Joseph's interactions with different Church members. Each of the people that watches him leave Nauvoo (starting here) is the focus of one of those subplots. All of these stories play out in the original version, but in the new release they're either cut back drastically or removed entirely from the film.
-As you noted, the original version ends with Joseph's death, juxtaposing an image of him looking heavenward with a shot of the Nauvoo temple. In the new version, we see Lucy Mack Smith at the sacrament meeting. After she finishes, Brigham Young says a few words and helps her to her seat. We then see scenes of the saints crossing the plains and then one aerial swoop of Temple Square while titles tell us about the growth of the Church.
In general, the news release says that the edits were made to make the movie more about Joseph the Prophet than about Joseph the man. I can understand why they did this, especially since the video was being used as a tool for reaching out to investigators. Still, I like the old one better, and I wish it was more accessible outside of those DVD's.