Still Moving Forward with the “Witnesses” Project

Still Moving Forward with the “Witnesses” Project September 30, 2020


Jordan's image of Zuccola
Michael Zuccola as the young David Whitmer in the forthcoming Interpreter Foundation theatrical film, “Witnesses.”    (Still photograph by James Jordan)


My wife and I have just returned from a private showing of the latest director’s cut of the Interpreter Foundation’s Witnesses theatrical film, at the home of its producer.  The director and the other principal member of the project’s cinematographic inner circle were also there.


I was very pleased.  Plainly the film has profited from the discussions and comments that followed its prior screenings.  Some things have been cut, some things have been added, and, overall, I think the narrative flow is much improved.  (Telling a story that involves four principal protagonists over the space of more than half a century is a complex undertaking and a challenge.)


A few small things remain to be done with respect to the theatrical movie before it goes for color standardization and sound sweetening — a brief but significant bit of additional filming will actually occur tomorrow (Thursday), for a scene that we’re adding — but we are now beginning to turn our serious attention to the next phase of the overall effort, the documentary.  Things are really beginning to take gratifying shape.




Speaking of David Whitmer:


A friend of my wife’s passed on to me a chapter from Edward L. Hart, Mormon in Motion: The Life and Journals of James H. Hart (1825-1906) in England, France, and America (Windsor Books, 1978).  Included in the chapter is James Hart’s description of his two interviews in Richmond, Missouri — on 21 August 1883 and 10 March 1884 — with David Whitmer, who was, by this point, the last surviving witness to the golden plates of the Book of Mormon.


Edward L. Hart (1916-2008), who was educated at the University of Utah and the University of Michigan before earning a D.Phil. in 1950 as a war-delayed Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, was a poet and writer who taught for many years in the Department of English at Brigham Young University.  I knew him only slightly in person, but many Latter-day Saints will be familiar with the hymn “Our Savior’s Love,” for which he wrote the text that Crawford Gates set to music.  Somehow, until Professor Hart mentioned it to me, I had managed not to notice the obvious fact that the three verses of “Our Savior’s Love” are very deliberately trinitarian — or, if that word puts you off, that they treat, in succession, all three members of the Godhead.


I like what Professor Hart has to say about his ancestor’s account of his visits with David Whitmer:


The reasons for the importance of James H. Hart’s interview with him are fourfold: first, James H. Hart was undeviatingly honest, as attested by every page of his journal; second, a keen and accurate observer, he took shorthand notes* at the time of the interview; third, he wrote up his notes into full accounts within a few days while memory was fresh; and forth, David Whitmer himself read the accounts and “fully endorsed [them] as a correct expression of his sentiments.”  (215-216)

* A handwritten note from my wife’s friend at the top of photocopied pages 216-217 reads: “I believe it was Taylor method.  His son Charles also did his journals in that shorthand.”


I’ll be sharing some items from James H. Hart over the next few days.



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