Although the Festival’s website hasn’t yet been amended to indicate it, a special closing panel discussion has now been added to the program of the nineteenth annual LDS Film Festival, which is being held throughout this week at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem, Utah:
The panel, which will begin at 5:00 PM and last an hour, will focus on the Interpreter Foundation’s forthcoming theatrical film, Witnesses, and on some of the supporting materials that will be created in connection with it. Participants on the panel will include Russell M. Richins, the film’s producer, and Mark Goodman, its director and editor. Also on the panel will be Daniel Peterson, the film’s jester. Moreover, a special surprise guest may also appear, if his schedule permits, and we’ll have at least one Important Announcement to make.
Although there is an admission fee for attending the Festival as a whole, admission to this particular panel will be at no charge. Anybody who is interested in attending will certainly be welcome.
In connection with the initial launch of this effort and at my request, Professors Thomas G. Alexander, James B. Allen, the late Richard Lloyd Anderson, and Richard L. Bushman 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 (1926-2018), J.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University