Creating a Witness to the Witnesses

Creating a Witness to the Witnesses July 17, 2018


Fairbank's portrait sculptures of Three Witnesses
A monument to the Three Witnesses, sculpted by Dr. Avard Fairbanks
(Wikimedia Commons)


With several others, I spent most of yesterday filming interviews with Susan Easton Black and Terryl Givens for an ambitious project that we are undertaking in conjunction with the Interpreter Foundation.  (We already recorded two days of interviews with Richard Lloyd Anderson several months ago.)  I’m grateful to Drs. Easton Black and Givens for their willingness to give of their time for this effort, and for the generosity of kind friends who made their new and beautiful home available to us as a site for the filming.  Dr. Easton Black, by the way, is within just days of finishing a significant book manuscript on Martin Harris.


The focus will be on the witnesses to the Book of Mormon — including not just all eleven of the official witnesses but several important “unofficial” witnesses, as well.


In connection with this initiative and at my request, Professors Thomas G. Alexander, James B. Allen, Richard Lloyd Anderson, and Richard L. Bushman have provided the following endorsements of the importance of the Book of Mormon witnesses.  Soon, they will probably be part of an initial fundraising brochure:


Imagine the publication and distribution of the Book of Mormon without the testimony of the witnesses.  If there were none, Joseph Smith would have had to reply on his own word that he translated the plates.  Many, perhaps most, people would probably have rejected the word of an uneducated farm boy.  Joseph had enough difficulty even with the witnesses convincing others of the truthfulness of his story.  Other people including the eight witnesses saw the plates, but only the three witnesses saw them in the possession of the heavenly messenger who delivered them to Joseph.   The Lord asked them to testify to the truthfulness of Joseph’s ministry, which they did.  Most important, during their lifetimes all three witnesses left the church.  Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris returned to the fold, but David Whitmer remained in Richmond, Missouri, estranged from Mormonism throughout the remainder of his life.  Nevertheless, in spite of rumors to the contrary, all three continued to insist on the truth of their witness.

Thomas G. Alexander, Ph.D., Lemuel Hardison Redd, Jr., Professor Emeritus of Western History, Brigham Young University; former president of the Mormon History Association


The testimonies of the three witnesses is the closest we come to rational evidence for Mormon belief.  Three men attest to a sensory encounter with the gold plates and a divine being.  In an age of skepticism, when all religious belief is under attack, their statement becomes more relevant every day.

Richard L. Bushman, Ph.D., Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University; former Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University; former president of the Mormon History Association


The testimonies of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon make Joseph Smith’s account much harder to dismiss than it would otherwise be.  Plainly, since others announced that they, too, had seen and “hefted” and heard, this means that, whatever else it was, Joseph’s account must reflect more than merely private imagination or simple personal dishonesty.  If the witnesses are judged to be reliable men of good character, their declarations pose a serious challenge to anyone who considers the claims of the Restoration.

James B. Allen, Ph.D., Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Professor Emeritus of Western History, Brigham Young University; former Assistant Church Historian, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; former president of the Mormon History Association


Thousands of authorized copies  of the Book of Mormon have reprinted the signed experience of the eleven Book or Mormon witnesses, Three who described that an angel held and turned the individual plates of an ancient New World Bible and Eight who narrated how they were given an ordinary experience of “hefting” the record and examining the carefully crafted characters on it. About 200 reported interviews with  these eleven are collected, which report the constant affirmation of these witnesses of seeing and lifting this historic, prophetic record, with its independent account of Christ visiting America.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, J.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University


We’re just at the beginning of raising funds for this ambitious film project, and the amount required is substantial (though not absurdly so).  If there is anybody out there who would be interested in helping us, I would be more than happy to provide further details about the effort, its purposes, its financial needs, and its character.  I can be reached at  And, of course, the Interpreter Foundation itself happily accepts donations; without them, we could not function:


Donating to the Interpreter Foundation



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