Investigating the Witnesses, Official and Unofficial, to the Book of Mormon

Investigating the Witnesses, Official and Unofficial, to the Book of Mormon August 23, 2018


Bryce's colorized Cowdery
Oliver Cowdery
For the background of this daguerreotype, colorized by Bryce Haymond, see
(The Interpreter Foundation)


Some wish to dismiss the testimonies of the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon on the basis of the fact that Martin Harris, for example — on perhaps two or three occasions — described seeing the plates and the angel and the other artifacts with “spiritual eyes.”  These skeptics assume, despite many other statements affirming the physical literality of the Witnesses’ experience, that this means that the Witnesses only “imagined” seeing the plates, the angel, the Liahona, and the rest, or that it was a hallucination or some such thing.


There’s much to be said against this view, and much that has been said.  But here are a couple of relevant pieces that I just encountered tonight, from the invaluable Robert Boylan of Ireland:


“‘Spiritual Eyes’ in pre-1830 literature”


“George Lamsa on People Seeing God with ‘Spiritual Eyes'”




While I’m thinking about the Witnesses, let me tell you something about the progress of the film that we’re doing on that subject, and alert you to our substantial financial needs for it — which are unavoidable even though we’re making every effort to keep the costs as low as we reasonably can:


We have, thus far, interviewed a number of scholars for the film, which — I hasten to add — will be a docudrama, and not merely a succession of talking heads.  Thus far, we have interviewed Susan Easton Black, Terryl Givens, the late Richard Lloyd Anderson (for which I’m very grateful!), Don Bradley, John Turner, Richard Bushman, Matthew Roper, and Ann Taves.  We intend to do a number of additional interviews, but we also intend to film reenactments on location.  Doing so, however, is seasonally sensitive.  That is, we want to film in the spring, the early summer, and/or the fall in places like Palmyra, not in the dead of winter.


But if we’re to get such filming underway this next spring, we need to have the funding in hand, or almost entirely in hand, by about the beginning of March 2019.  That’s a tall order, and we may well not pull it off in time.


If we don’t make that funding goal, completion of the film will be delayed until at least the equivalent time next year.


However, I feel passionately that this is an important film that will help — and interest — a number of people, and that there are people out there who need to see it as soon as we can possibly complete it.


(Beyond the full and complete movie that we’re working on, we also have it in mind to put the film up in shorter snippets online, as well as to post “film footage” that doesn’t ultimately fit the movie’s narrative arc but is still solid and helpful.  All of our finished work will be available for use in appropriate classes in the Church Education System, too.  We’re brainstorming a host of ideas for how to get the good materials that we’re capturing before the eyes of an audience that will enjoy and benefit from them.)


Quite earnestly:  If you are interested in helping us to complete this effort, please join us.  You can contact me via  I would be happy to discuss the project with you personally.  Or you can donate to the Interpreter Foundation via several methods described on its website:



If you wish to contribute specifically to the Witnesses project, please indicate your wish on any donation that you make.



Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment