I pre-recorded my remarks to the 2020 FairMormon conference. On Friday afternoon, when my talk went up, I was sitting at home. (We’re trying to be very careful about the COVID-19 virus, not least out of concern for a father-on-law in his 94th year, a 90+-year-old woman that my wife regularly visits, and a good friend who is fighting a serious cancer.). Unless compelled by strong reasons, though, I probably won’t pre-record such a lecture again; I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the result.
At the end, I received several questions from either the small in-person audience or the (we hope) larger virtual audience. Technical difficulties prevented me from answering them on Friday, but I think that I’ll answer them here:
Why did you choose such handsome men to play the roles of prominent Church figures? You’re making those of us not in farmer’s shape look bad to our wives.
Obviously, I was trying to remake them in my own image.
On a more serious note, what do you think of 2 Nephi 27:14 as an implication that anyone, in addition to the 3 & 8 Witnesses, can be a Book of Mormon witness?
I absolutely believe it. There were, in fact, several unofficial or informal witnesses to the Book of Mormon already in the late 1820s (e.g., Lucy Harris, Lucy Mack Smith, Emma Smith, Katharine Smith, William Smith, Josiah Stowell, and Mary Whitmer The Witnesses film project will call attention to them. (My FairMormon presentation also treated them; at some point — I don’t know when — a video of that presentation will be generally available, along with its written text. And a companion presentation, for BYU Education Week, will apparently go up online in October or thereabouts.)
Will the newly premiered trailer, video clip, and key art be available after the conference to share online?
Unfortunately no. Not yet. These were provisional items. Among other things, the sound and the color still need smoothing out. And we may make some other changes. They’ll be available eventually, though.
What was the casting process like? Did you personally participate in selecting the actors?
We used a professional casting agency. And, because we filmed in Massachusetts, Ontario, and western New York, as well as in Utah, a substantial proportion of the actors (e.g., “David Whitmer” [old and young] and Oliver Cowdery) and the extras were not Latter-day Saints. My wife and I, as the film’s executive producers, were involved in the final choices of the actors for the major parts after our core film team had narrowed the field down.
Do you have any plans to do more to amplify the voices of the women witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates?
Yes. This is a high priority for me. (It’s reflected, to some degree, in my 2020 FairMormon remarks and certainly in my FairMormon remarks last year: ““Idle Tales”? The Witness of Women.”
Who you think is the most underrated witness of the gold plates?
I might propose Martin Harris for that honor. He’s often dismissed as something of a credulous fool, but he was, in fact, quite methodically inquisitive. He carefully interviewed the Smith family, for example, before he became involved with the Book of Mormon. And he famously tested Joseph’s ability to translate, at one point, by substituting another rock for the seer stone that Joseph had been using.
I also like John Whitmer’s minimalist testimony, at his worst and most angry time right after his excommunication, when he declined to declare the translation true (as one of the Eight Witnesses, he had seen no angel and heard no divine voice certifying its correctness) but still testified that he had seen, hefted, turned, and examined the plates.
And then there’s Emma Smith’s matter-of-fact statement about feeling the edge of the various plates and the rings that bound them together, and hearing the metallic sound of the top plate scraping against the one below it.
Oh what the heck. I really like all of the witnesses. Each is unique, and each is very persuasive.