“Witnesses”

“Witnesses” February 6, 2019

 

Whitmer log home, recreated
The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon had their experience near the Peter Whitmer log home, in the Finger Lakes district of New York.   (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

I’m thrilled to announce that the website for Witnesses, the film project on which we’ve been working, is now up.  I invite you to take a look at it:

 

Witnesses

 

I need to explain something, though:

 

The current “sizzle reel,” as film people call it, is a temporary placeholder.  That is, it isn’t yet really a “trailer,” strictly speaking.  The interviews that are featured represent some of the material that we have recently developed for this project.  The dramatic scenes and the music, though, are borrowed from an earlier film created essentially by this same crew.  We wanted to provide some sense of the level of quality that can be expected.  We haven’t yet done the casting for this specific film project, which will be a docudrama or, as we’ve been calling it, a “dramatic documentary.”  And we haven’t yet done the “distant filming” on locations in the East and the Midwest.  If all goes well, and if the funding is in place to take this step — I think that we’re there, or very nearly there — we intend to do that late this spring or in the early summer.  We want to beat the crowds, but we want the leaves to be fully out.

 

To say that I’m very excited about this project is a considerable understatement.

 

***

 

In connection with this initiative and at my request, Professors Thomas G. Alexander, James B. Allen, and Richard L. Bushman, along with the late Professor Richard Lloyd Anderson, provided the following endorsements of the importance of the Book of Mormon witnesses:

 

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

 

 

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