The Interpreter Foundation’s Witnesses film premieres tomorrow night — Wednesday, 2 June 2021 — at the Larry H. Miller Megaplex at Thanksgiving Point, in Lehi, Utah. Thereafter, it will have its real opening weekend at various theaters nationally, commencing officially on Friday, 4 June. In some locations, though — and in conformity to what is apparently Hollywood convention — it will actually open at 7 PM or so on Thursday, 3 June.
Many of the seats for the Wednesday night premiere at Thanksgiving Point have already been allocated to members of the crew and to those who contributed substantially to the expense of creating Witnesses, as well as to certain dignitaries and representatives of the media. However, we’ve also been able to open seats up for members of the general public. We’ve been very gratified at the response to that opening, but many are unaware of it and seats still remain.
If you would like to attend a screening on Wednesday night in Lehi — in a sense, a “sneak preview” during which the principal stars of Witnesses will be present and mingling with audiences in the theater — instructions for obtaining tickets to the premiere are given here:
In this context, here’s something that I just noticed — and that jumped out at me — while I was reading Steven Harper’s Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants: A Guided Tour Through Modern Revelations in preparation for last Sunday night’s Interpreter Radio Show. It’s Sidney Rigdon, testifying in a conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April 1844, and, I suspect, thinking of (perhaps among other things) the magnificent vision that he had experienced in company with the Prophet Joseph Smith and that is now recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 76. Although not a witness to the Book of Mormon, he also was a witness:
I know God. I have gazed upon the glory of God, the throne, the visions, and glories of God.
Regarding Sidney Rigdon’s declaration, contemporary historian Steven Harper writes:
Two eyewitnesses repeatedly declare what they saw, heard, and understood. . . . Such testimony can be rejected, but not discredited. It is powerful evidence.
In this context, an article that I published in the Deseret News back on 24 February 2011 seems apropros:
One of the striking things about the revelations of Joseph Smith is that many of them were shared with others. Although not unknown in the history of religions — the appearance of the risen Savior to the early apostles and 500 of the first Christian disciples is a significant exception — this isn’t typical. Isaiah’s and Ezekiel’s visions were shared with nobody else, the Buddha’s enlightenment was very personal and Muhammad’s revelatory experiences were his alone.
By contrast, after the First Vision and Moroni’s initial visits, a surprisingly large number of Joseph’s crucial revelations were received in company with other people.
There were, of course, the Three Witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and David Whitmer) who saw the plates and the angel (and the Urim and Thummim, the breastplate, the Liahona, the sword of Laban and other related objects) and heard the Lord’s voice with Joseph Smith. And, although their encounter with the plates was, in its way, rather prosaic, the Eight Witnesses, too, illustrate the kind of shared experience that grounds the rise of Mormonism.
In fact, the fundamental difference between the experiences of the Three and the Eight is instructive.
There is nothing to suggest that Joseph Smith or anybody involved with him was a metallurgist or blacksmith. None had the expertise to forge a large number of metallic plates with “curious” engravings on them, let alone all those other artifacts. And nothing indicates that Joseph or his associates had the financial wherewithal to purchase enough gold to make such plates in the first place. Still, it’s just barely conceivable that somebody could have constructed stage props in order to dupe those eight farmer-witnesses.
But mere props wouldn’t account for the angel, the supernatural glory and the divine voice that accompanied the experience of the Three Witnesses.
The vision of the Three Witnesses, in its turn, could be dismissed as pure hallucination brought on by religious fanaticism or even, as one rather zany critic has suggested, by the administration of herbal drugs.
But hallucination can’t account for the non-visionary, matter-of-fact realism of the Eight Witnesses’ examination — and “hefting” — of the plates in broad daylight.
Two fundamentally different explanations are required to account for the experiences of the two sets of witnesses, and this greatly multiplies the difficulties facing those who are eager to brush their testimonies aside. Eleven men, as well as several others who had their own experiences with the plates and the other Nephite artifacts, testified until their deaths that Joseph had the plates.
How to account for this? Perhaps all of the Book of Mormon witnesses were insane. But their later lives declare otherwise. Perhaps they were all co-conspirators. But their subsequent lives, which have been meticulously investigated, reveal men of consistent integrity, good character and sound reputation.
When John the Baptist conferred the Aaronic Priesthood upon Joseph Smith, he also conferred it upon Oliver Cowdery at the same time. Similarly, Oliver and Joseph received the Melchizedek Priesthood together under the hands of the ancient apostles Peter, James and John.
When the design of the Kirtland Temple was revealed, that little-known but quite spectacular revelation came to the entire First Presidency of the church (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams) as they met together.
Oliver Cowdery was kneeling with Joseph Smith in the newly dedicated Kirtland Temple when the Savior appeared to them to accept the building and when, immediately thereafter, Moses and Elijah and Elias revealed additional keys of the priesthood.
Sidney Rigdon witnessed the revelation of the three degrees of glory (Doctrine and Covenants 76) with Joseph Smith at the John Johnson home in Hiram, Ohio. Further, as many as 12 other men may have been in the room at the same time. One of them, Philo Dibble, later said that, although he himself did not see the vision, he “saw the glory and felt the power” and that he and the others listened as Joseph and Sidney described what they were seeing.
The character of Joseph Smith is essential to the claims of the restoration. But he was not alone. The New Testament speaks of establishing facts through testimonies, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” In this, as in innumerable other respects, the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accords with scripture.
You’ll note the subtitle of our new Witnesses of the Book of Mormon website: “The world was not left with Joseph Smith’s testimony alone.”
Meanwhile, the Interpreter Foundation isn’t focused solely on its film efforts. For example, these two new items went up on the Interpreter website just today:
The Interpreter Radio Roundtable for Come, Follow Me Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 24, “That Which Cometh from Above Is Sacred,” on D&C 63, featured Neal Rappleye, Jasmin Rappleye, and Hales Swift. Shorn of any commercial interruptions, the roundtable was extracted from the 2 May 2021 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show. The complete show may be heard at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreter-radio-show-may-2-2021/. However, the Interpreter Radio Show can also be heard live on Sunday evenings from 7 to 9 PM (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640. Or, alternatively, you can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com.
Another generous contribution from Jonn Claybaugh: