Running with the golden plates

Running with the golden plates November 10, 2019


Paul Wuthrich carrying considerable weight
Joseph Smith, running through the woods and carrying the golden plates of the Book of Mormon under his arm while trying to evade local money diggers who want to wrestle the plates from him.
(Still photograph courtesy of James Jordan)


I spoke at a small “cottage meeting” on Saturday night, along with the Interpreter Foundation’s fundraiser, Ed Snow, and Mark Goodman, the director of the Foundation’s current Witnesses film project.  It was a real treat for me to see two brand new clips from the principal dramatic movie, which is now taking shape.  This was the first time that they’ve been shown.


The first depicted Joseph Smith, played by Paul Wuthrich, being chased by money diggers while he’s carrying the plates.


The second showed the first meeting of David Whitmer with Joseph, who has been working with Oliver Cowdery in Harmony, Pennsylvania, and who knows a great deal more about David’s travels of the previous two days from Fayette, New York, than he could possibly know by natural means.


Mark was very apologetic to the group before showing the two clips, saying that their color was off, that the music was too loud, and so forth, and that this was only preliminary work.  However, I have to say that I was quite pleased.


One aspect of the first clip that I like very much:


I’ve seen the criticism that the plates were too heavy, that Joseph Smith could not possibly have run through the woods carrying them.


Well.  There were two prop sets of plates at the disposal of the filmmakers.  One of them was quite light, for convenience.  The second was roughly the weight of the real historical plates themselves.  When our people were filming the scene in which young Joseph Smith runs through the woods while being pursued by money diggers who are intent on gaining possession of the Book of Mormon plates, they gave Paul Wuthrich the option of using the lighter prop.  After all, he would be running down the hill repeatedly, carrying the plates, jumping over rocks and logs, trying to avoid low branches.  He would be doing this over and over again, for different takes.  Repeating the effort so that filming could be done from a variety of angles.


He tested the lighter set of plates, and then chose to go with the heavier ones so that the scene would be more realistic.  Thus, again and again, he had to run down the hill carrying the plates, then climb up the hill once more, then run down the hill, then climb up the hill.


At the end of the day, the producer tells me, the actor was utterly exhausted.


But the fact remains that he did it.  Which proves that it can be done.


And Joseph Smith was a young man who spent his days doing heavy manual labor, who never rode in an automobile, who had a reputation for unusual physical strength.  If Paul Wuthrich could do it, Joseph could have done it, too.


Posted from Park City, Utah



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