The publicity campaign for the Interpreter Foundation’s Witnesses dramatic film is now underway. Pandemic willing, we anticipate a theatrical premiere for the film in the summer of 2021.
We’re currently focusing our attention on the two-part, two-hour documentary — currently titled Undaunted: The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses — that we hope to have ready by the time of the Witnesses premiere and as an accompaniment to it. Witnesses will concentrate on the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon — who are shown, from left to right, in the movie poster above: Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, with Joseph Smith on the right hand side. Undaunted will expand the project’s focus to include the Eight Witnesses and the informal or unofficial witnesses, as well.
With the expert camera, lighting, and sound support of Mark Goodman, James Jordan, and Russell Richins, I’ll be conducting three additional interviews on Monday afternoon, probably extending into the evening.
If you go to witnessesfilm.com, you can now view the new Witnesses movie trailer. There is also a button that will allow you to download the official Witnesses movie poster. Please feel free to do so, and to share it on social media. We are trying to create a grassroots publicity campaign for this effort. Note also a button marked Bring Witnesses to Your City. If you click on it, you will discover that we’re inviting you to help us to get this film onto as many screens in as many places as we can — both along the so-called “Mormon corridor” and, if and to the extent possible, beyond it. If you sign up, Purdie Distribution, which is highly experienced in such matters, will assist. They know how to do this; the “work load” for those who sign up, if it can even be called that, will I think be minimal. However, in order to persuade theater owners to allot valuable movie screens to Witnesses, they need to have confidence that there is enough local interest that there will be ticket sales. They simply need to be assured that there is. (And then, of course, we want you all to go see it!)
In connection with this initiative and at my request back when our project was initially being launched, Professors Thomas G. Alexander, James B. Allen, Richard Lloyd Anderson, and Richard L. Bushman provided the following endorsements of the importance of the Book of Mormon witnesses. They are still important and worthy of reflection:
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 of 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
We’re just at the beginning of our publicity campaign for this ambitious film project, and there is much to be done. I hope that at least some of you will be interested in helping us.
And please be assured that — whatever my most unreasonable and implacable anonymous critics are likely to say (and they’re absolutely guaranteed to have plenty of negative and accusatory things to say) — I’m not trying to press you into service in order to line my own pockets. I will not profit so much as a dime from this project, neither directly or indirectly, whether it bombs financially or turns a modest profit or turns into the greatest movie blockbuster of all time. In fact, if Witnesses and its attendant projects do even reasonably well, monetarily speaking, we hope to plow those funds right back into further filmmaking. This is a powerful medium, and we hope to reach hearts and minds — and souls — by means of it.