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Review of Witnesses movie Part 4

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
June 24, 2021 6:49 pm

Review of Witnesses movie Part 4

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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June 24, 2021 6:49 pm

This week Bill and Eric go to the movies, taking a look at a Mormon-produced film titled Witnesses. Some things the film gets right, but other things leave the wrong impression. See whether or not the two from MRM give their thumbs up or down.

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The book Sharing the Good News with Mormons edited by Shawn McDowell and Mormonism Research Ministries Eric Johnson offers practical witnessing strategies by a number of Christian missionaries, scholars, and pastors. Sharing the Good News with Mormons is published by Harvest House and is available at your favorite online bookstore or order it directly from

If you're looking for practical strategies for getting the conversation started, be sure to check out Sharing the Good News with Mormons. Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism.

Did the three witnesses see tangible gold plates? Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM.

On June 4th, 2021, a new film was released by the Interpreter Foundation. It's a faith-promoting film that recounts the story of the three witnesses that are mentioned in every edition of the Book of Mormon. Their testimony is found at the front, in which these witnesses testified and declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven and he brought and laid before our eyes that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon. Of course, they're speaking of the gold plates that Joseph Smith claimed he received from the angel Moroni and eventually translated into what is known as the Book of Mormon. There is a very important scene, and it's repeated both at the beginning and at the end of the film, where these three witnesses, including Joseph Smith, are waiting for the presence of an angel to show them the gold plates.

This account is taken, I have to assume, right from the documentary History of the Church, volume 1, page 52 to 55. And on page 52, it says, and this is not all spelled out in the film, but I'm giving you the background of this, it says, And it goes on to say that it occurred to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and the aforementioned Martin Harris that they would have me inquire of the Lord to know if they might not obtain of him the privilege to be these three special witnesses. Finally, they became so very solicitous and urged me so much to inquire that at length I complied, and through the Urim and Thummim I obtained of the Lord for them the following. The Urim and Thummim, in this case, would be the spectacles that Joseph Smith found with the gold plates buried in a stone box that had a breastplate that fastened to these eyeglasses of some sort by which he could translate the Reformed Egyptian into English. And I want to reiterate, as we talked about earlier this week, that the Urim and Thummim are not shown in the movie that we're talking about.

We only see the seer stone. Well, what Joseph Smith gets through the Urim and Thummim, he goes on to point out, is really nothing more than Doctrine and Covenants section 17. Verse 2 of section 17 says, And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, them being the plates, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old. Now, Eric, when you read that in section 17, you have to ask yourself this question, and I've brought this up to many Latter-day Saints when I'm out on the streets with my replica set of gold plates. Why is it that D&C 17 tells these witnesses that it's by their faith they're going to obtain a view of the plates? And that by that faith which was had by the prophets of old, why would you need faith to see tangible gold plates?

And I've asked this of many Latter-day Saints. I say, did you have to have faith to see my replica plates? Well, no.

Well, why not? The reason why you don't need faith is because mine are real. They're real. You can see them. You can touch them.

You can handle them. They're real. Why would you need faith? Why would these three witnesses need faith to see something that's tangible?

That's always bothered me. But then eventually we come to the scene where the three witnesses are standing there with Joseph Smith, and this brings us up to page 54 in volume 1 of the history of the church. It says, It mentions specifically Mr. Whitmer's house.

That would be Peter Whitmer, the father of David Whitmer. Why are they leaving David Whitmer's house where the translation was going on to go out into the woods? It would seem to me that if the three men want to really see the gold plates, they should go back to the Whitmer farm and go into the cabin. And there's a replica cabin to this day. You can visit it and you can see the table.

At least this was the way it was set up when I visited there. There was a table with a curtain, and this is how Joseph Smith was doing the translation. Why are they leaving the Whitmer house to go out into the woods to go see the plates that you would assume would be back in the Whitmer house? I don't understand that.

It makes no sense to me. It seems like that would be a much more prudent way of seeing these plates. It continues on page 54. He accordingly withdrew from us and we knelt down again and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air of exceeding brightness, and behold, an angel stood before us. In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. Now let me stop you there, because I was hoping the film might show us how this may have looked to the three witnesses.

I was expecting perhaps, like in that scene in Star Wars when Princess Leia is shown bending down saying, Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope. Of course it's all fuzzy, looks like a hologram. And I was wondering, is that the way they're going to portray the angel and the plates? Is the angel going to look kind of fuzzy as a spirit being and the plates look very solid as the characters in that scene? But they don't show you the angel. They don't show you the plates in this film.

You have to just imagine what they might be seeing. And though I commend the filmmakers for, I guess, a bit of honesty regarding that, by not taking a side or not holding to a certain position, it didn't really answer my question. And yet, I know most Latter-day Saints believe that the plates were real and tangible, so they're just going to use their mind's eye to assume they're seeing real and tangible plates.

So that scene didn't really help me. But as this account goes on in page 55, after this angel appears and tells them that this translation is true, Joseph Smith says, I now left David and Oliver and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance, fervently engaged in prayer. He soon told me, however, that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord and earnestly requested me to join him in prayer, that he also might realize the same blessings which we had just received. We accordingly joined in prayer and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, and here's the kicker, folks, the same vision was open to our view, at least it was again open to me, and I once more beheld and heard the same things, whilst at the same moment Martin Harris cried out, apparently in an ecstasy of joy, quoting, Tis enough, tis enough, mine eyes have beheld, mine eyes have beheld, and jumping up he shouted, Hosanna, blessing God and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly. What did they encounter?

A vision. Maybe this is why the film doesn't show us. The angel doesn't show us the gold plates being held by the angel. How would the producers of the film have done that? Would it have been, as I said before, a more ethereal view of an angel, one that you could possibly see through? Would he have been a solid character standing there, holding solid plates?

I wish they would have given us some kind of a hint, but the producers of the film chose not to do that. We have to understand these three witnesses are vital to the story of the Book of Mormon. They're always being referenced by the missionaries who come to your door and say, well, these men are testifying to the truthfulness of this all. I do agree with you, Bill, I'm glad that they did not bring out any other way that these witnesses saw the plates, except through this vision, but it certainly takes away from the testimony of the three witnesses that you brought out on Monday.

I want to reread this again because I think this is important for most of us. We think that they literally saw the plates themselves. This is what they wrote in the beginning of the Book of Mormon. That we, through the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi and also of the Lamanites. It goes on and it says, we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates, and they have been shown unto us by the power of God and not of man. Well, how does that all come about? It goes on and says, we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon, and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that we beheld and bear record that these things are true.

I think you have brought out an excellent case here, Bill. How are we supposed to believe something that was not physically seen? They could have gone to the Whitmer home, they could have seen the plates. Joseph Smith could have shown them if they were real, but why doesn't Joseph Smith show them the real plates?

Because they're not real. And what's also interesting to me, Eric, is clearly it seems that this scene in the film, Witnesses, is taken from these pages that we have just read, and that is from page 52 to 55 of volume one of the documentary History of the Church. The word vision is not brought out in the film.

You're right. Yet the word vision is found on page 55. We accordingly joined in prayer and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was open to our view, at least it was again open to me. Now again, this is Joseph Smith speaking, and so when he says the same vision was open to our view, the same vision refers to what happened to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer earlier when Martin Harris had walked away. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-27 01:32:36 / 2023-09-27 01:37:39 / 5

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