Marching onward and upward

Marching onward and upward April 25, 2024


Filming the last major scene
Brigham Young (standing below with his back to the camera), Wilford Woodruff (atop the stagecoach), and Heber C. Kimball (at the front of the coach) get themselves into position for the opening scene of the forthcoming Interpreter film “Six Days in August.” A still photograph from the set by James Jordan.

Some of the actors and crew for the Interpreter Foundation production of Six Days in August are back in Tennessee this week, working on the opening scene of the movie (which, for various quite good reasons, will actually be the last scene to have been filmed).  It turns out that filming in the right foliage with oxen and a period-appropriate stagecoach is not quite as easy to pull off as some might imagine.

From Tennessee, our people will travel briefly to Ontario, Canada, to pick up some final footage before returning to Utah at the end of next week.  This thing is actually moving forward.  We will have concluded filming, and much of the editing is already done.  Now we turn to postproduction, which is quite time-consuming and expensive.  And we’re already involved in serious talks about distribution.

But we still need to raise substantial funds in order to complete the film and to get it out there to audiences.  Besides, we still intend to create a docudrama to accompany the theatrical release — and there are a number of very important interviews and other things that we need to do for that.  So, if you would like to help — small donations are welcome, as (of course) are larger contributions — please do consider giving to support Six Days in August.  Ways in which you can do so are outlined here.

Another look at the scene. With regard to cinema, it’s probably best for most people not to see the man behind the curtain or, to vary the metaphor, to see how the sausage is actually made. (Photo by James Jordan)

The website of the completely defunct Interpreter Foundation continues to be dead, as illustrated by the very recent posting of these three items:

Conference Talks: Mormon, Moses, and the Representation of Reality
(2021 Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses Conference), presented by Richard L. Bushman

Richard L. Bushman gave the keynote address at the 2021 Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses Conference on Friday, April 23, 2021.

“In this presentation, I will borrow a critical perspective from Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. The talk will analyze the representation of antiquity in two of Joseph Smith’s striking translations, The Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses. The two texts, produced within a few years of one another, created distinctive stages on which to dramatize the human-God relationship. The question will be: What can we learn from this comparison about God, prophets, and human destiny?”

All of the conference presentations were filmed, and both video and audio recordings of each presentation are available. Videos, audio recordings and transcripts are available at The videos are also available on the Interpreter Foundation YouTube channel at A YouTube playlist is available at

“Reality Checking the Entheogens Theory,” presented by Brian C. Hales

Six years ago, four authors (Robert Beckstead, Bryce Blankenagel, Cody Noconi, and Michael Winkelman) hypothesized that the visionary experiences of Joseph Smith and early Latter-day Saints resulted from ingesting (secretly or surreptitiously) toad secretions, magic mushrooms, peyote cacti, or other so-called entheogenic chemicals. They published their theory in 2019 in the online Journal of Psychedelic Studies as “The Entheogenic Origins of Mormonism: A Working Hypothesis.”

After I noted weaknesses in the article, Interpreter, A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship kindly allowed me to respond with “Visions, Mushrooms, Fungi, Cacti, and Toads: Joseph Smith’s Reported Use of Entheogens” (August 2020). I felt then and continue to believe the hypothesis of entheogen use has fatal flaws.

Regardless, advocates of the theory continue to promote it and in support of the idea, a “documentary” movie premieres this weekend.

Rather than update my 2020 article to accommodate the ongoing dialogue, I have created a 39-minute video, “The Entheogens Theory: REALITY CHECK,” that investigates three primary problems:

  1. No chemical substance (entheogen) consistently produces only positive hallucinations that are similar to early Latter-day Saint visionary reports. All produce some bad trips, but most psychotropic effects are considered non-religious by drug users.
  2. Joseph Smith would have encountered essentially insurmountable obstacles trying to acquire and surreptitiously administer hallucinogens to skeptical Church members without detection. Early Latter-day Saints were not that gullible.
  3. No direct historical evidence exists describing Joseph Smith, at any time during his life, learning about, seeking, preparing, storing, supplying, ingesting, or possessing expertise with specific herbs or any substances that might be called entheogens.

Hugh Nibley Observed: “Nibley and Folklore,” presented by William A. Wilson

“I’m a little bit surprised to be here tonight because I probably know less about Hugh Nibley than anyone in this lecture series. I’ve had limited contact with him. I’ve always known about him. I’ve admired his work. I really liked his priesthood manual years ago, and I had an office, when I was chair or head of the BYU Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, just down the hall from his. We passed each other now and then and would nod. But that was about the extent of our acquaintance.”

Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article originally appeared in Hugh Nibley Observed, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Shirley S. Ricks, and Stephen T. Whitlock. For more information, go to

Sundown on the coast of Oregon
Sunset on the Oregon coast (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

I liked this tribute in the Deseret News:  “Perspective: Scholar, author, wife and mother Melissa Inouye dies at age 44: Inouye leaves behind a husband and 4 children — and a world blessed with her love, her light, her wit and her grace”

Remnants of planetary crust disintegrating under the tidal forces around a cool white dwarf. Material in the disc becomes vaporised close to the central star and flows onto the white dwarf atmosphere. (Credit: University of Warwick/Mark Garlick.)  Appeals to these rocks and gases are unlikely to elicit much sympathy.

Finally:  It seems painfully obvious that the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™ will never be exhausted.  On the contrary, it is continuously renewed by fresh horrors such as these:

“Service project connects Utahns with girls in need in Ghana: Draper 5th Ward provides reusable sanitary products for Guide Educational Foundation in Ghana”

“Equipment Donation to Malaysia’s Sibu Hospital Brings Improved Care to Fast Growing Region: Collaboration with Rotary Club of Bintulu Central Aims to Improve Patient Care and Staff Welfare”

How long, O pitiless and indifferent cosmos, will we be required to put up with such evils?



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