I anticipate that not less than a few of you will have seen the Interpreter Foundation’s 2021 dramatic movie, “Witnesses.” I actually hope so.
We created it as a way of constructing the story of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon extra acquainted to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, we hope, ultimately even to non-members. In my view, they symbolize a outstanding and really sturdy problem to any who want to dismiss the claims of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. They can’t merely be brushed apart as both conspirators or loopy individuals; their sincerity and sanity are nicely supported in plentiful historic documentation. And they—and the objectively bodily objects to which they bear document (to say nothing of their encounters with an angel and their listening to the voice of God) make it not possible to jot down Joseph Smith’s claims off as merely the product of psychological sickness or creativeness or easy mendacity.
“Witnesses” screened in theaters throughout the United States final yr, however many individuals who (I believe) would have loved it (and even perhaps benefited from it) didn’t have the chance to try this. And, regardless of our greatest efforts, a shocking quantity by no means a lot as heard of it. But all will not be misplaced! “Witnesses” is now out there each in DVD and Blu-ray codecs (from Deseret Book). It may also be streamed (by Deseret Video+ and Living Scriptures):
Happily, I additionally anticipate that “Witnesses” may have a fairly lengthy helpful life. But we by no means understood the theatrical movie to be the entire of the general Witnesses movie challenge. In reality, our authentic thought was to do a documentary or “docudrama”; the notion of a dramatic film got here later, recommended (if I recall accurately) by the Latter-day Saint filmmaker Mitch Davis, who ultimately offered us with its preliminary script. And that docudrama—which we’ve titled “Undaunted: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon” —is now completed:
“Undaunted” is split into two elements that, altogether, whole barely lower than 2.5 hours in size. It will seem in DVD kind on 24 May 2022, full with subtitles in Spanish, Portuguese, and French —after which, sooner or later thereafter that we haven’t but decided, it is going to be out there for streaming. We need it to succeed in the widest attainable viewers.
In a way, this new docudrama is a sequel to the dramatic film. But it’s additionally an growth and a commentary on that earlier movie. Our ambition was for “Witnesses” to convey the Three Witnesses—Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer—as soon as extra to the eye of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to extend member understanding and appreciation of them. Our hope was to refresh reminiscences and to kindle a dialog. And “Undaunted” is designed to additional that dialog and to tell it.
Even some members of the Church have puzzled whether or not the expertise of the Witnesses was merely subjective. Did they solely think about that they noticed the plates? Did they ever declare to have actually touched these plates or any of the opposite miraculous artifacts related to the discovering, translation, and dictation of the Book of Mormon? If they actually believed, why did virtually all of them go away the Church? Did any of them ever return? Were they only credulous, superstitious backwoods bumpkins?
The general “Witnesses” movie challenge seeks to offer a broad viewers with dependable solutions to these and different necessary questions.
How does ”Undaunted” differ from “Witnesses”? Unlike the dramatic movie that was proven in theaters, the brand new docudrama broadens our protection past simply the Three Witnesses. (Telling a posh story that extends over greater than ten years and that, together with Joseph Smith himself, centrally includes 4 protagonists was already a tough problem. We determined that we couldn’t make the narrative much more advanced, introducing much more characters.) “Undaunted” brings the story and the testimony of the Eight Witnesses in, as nicely. Moreover, past them, it introduces its viewers to a number of of the casual or unofficial witnesses of the very tangible objects concerned within the restoration of the Book of Mormon (for instance, Mary Musselman Whitmer, Josiah Stowell, and Lucy Mack Smith). Besides scenes drawn from the unique “Witnesses,” it additionally options new segments which were created particularly for the docudrama itself.
Another function of “Undaunted” is its inclusion of interviews and professional commentary, together with famous Latter-day Saint students akin to Richard Lyman Bushman, Susan Easton Black, Steven Harper, and Terryl Givens. It additionally options the outstanding non-member students John Turner, of Virginia’s George Mason University, and Ann Taves, a former president of the American Academy of Religion and a Distinguished Professor Emerita of Religious Studies on the University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition, a retired federal prosecutor and a retired federal decide supply their views on the significance of eyewitness testimony within the courtroom and, particularly, on the credibility of the Book of Mormon witnesses. Further, an skilled metallurgist and steel employee who has created facsimiles of the Book of Mormon plates for the Church—and who, actually, made the reproduction plates that have been utilized in “Witnesses”—describes the problem posed by any try to manufacture such plates as props for a fraud. (Spoiler: Joseph Smith virtually actually couldn’t have executed it.)
Were the eleven official witnesses of the Book of Mormon—twelve in the event you embody Joseph Smith himself—dependable? What in regards to the unofficial witnesses who interacted with the plates in numerous methods—together with quite a few girls? Were the plates really product of gold? How may witnesses actually see an angel and listen to the voice of God, but come to doubt His prophet?
An extra a part of the general Witnesses challenge that’s now coming to fruition has been the manufacturing of quick options that we’re calling “reels.” Ranging in size from between roughly eight minutes to maybe twelve or fifteen, in addition they embody interviews with students (akin to Gerrit Dirkmaat, Royal Skousen, and Jeffrey Mark Bradshaw), together with dramatized scenes taken from each the function movie, “Witnesses,” and the docudrama, “Undaunted.” The first of them went up already on 23 April 2022. And they may proceed to look every week—each Saturday, on-line and with out cost—for the subsequent 4 or 5 months or so. (Even shorter variations of them will seem on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.)
In the tip, there can be considerably greater than twenty of those quick options. They will deal with such particular matters as Sidney Rigdon, early Latter-day Saint plural marriage, the Spalding Manuscript as a generally proposed non-divine supply for the Book of Mormon, James Jesse Strang and his “Voree plates,” the Kirtland apostasy, what we will study from learning the earliest Book of Mormon manuscripts, and a cognitive scientist’s view of eyewitness testimony.
We hope to succeed in a large viewers with our “reels”—particularly, maybe, amongst youthful individuals—and we’re looking for your assist to take action. Please check out them your self. Then, in the event you assume it applicable, we ask you to share them with as many others as attainable:
Finally, an necessary part of the general “Witnesses” effort is an internet site, nonetheless rising, that’s dedicated to “Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.” Although it’s being created as a assist to the movie tasks, we see it as being independently worthwhile and necessary in and of itself (even to those that, by unhealthy luck or sheer wickedness) by no means see the movies:
The main proof for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, in fact, is the testimony of the Spirit. However, the Book of Mormon witnesses are uniquely necessary as the one “secular” proof straight given to us by the Lord himself. The Book of Mormon itself predicts them (e.g., at 2 Nephi 27:12 and Ether 5:2-4), they’re mentioned within the Doctrine and Covenants (e.g., at 17:1-7 and 20:10-11), and their solemn declarations have been featured in each version of the Book of Mormon, in each language wherein it’s been printed since 1830. The Lord plainly sees their testimony as important and necessary. So ought to we.
In order to keep away from attainable confusion, as a result of I actually don’t need anyone to get the improper thought on this topic, I really feel that I would like so as to add that I’m not utilizing this column to promote something that can profit me financially. That must be clearly understood. The Interpreter Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 charitable basis underneath the tax legal guidelines of the United States, and I earn nothing no matter from it. I additionally earn nothing from these movie tasks; whether or not they’re considered by 5 hundred individuals or 5 hundred million individuals will make completely no monetary distinction in any respect to me or to anyone else concerned. While I’m on the subject of funds, nevertheless, I ought to point out that we hope to generate sufficient of a monetary return—considerably within the method of the nineteenth-century Perpetual Emigration Fund or the up to date Perpetual Education Fund—that we’ll be capable of do extra filmmaking sooner or later.
In reality, we’ve already chosen and introduced our subsequent challenge, which we’re calling “Six Days in August.” You can find out about “Six Days in August” on the challenge’s new web site: https://sixdaysinaugust.com/. We would welcome your assist to make this challenge a actuality.