Pageant about Martin Harris draws on new-found research

The annual Church pageant, "Martin Harris, `The Man Who Knew' " is not only a theatrical event but recently has been the focal point for new-found knowledge about one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon.

Presented annually in an amphitheater near the grave of Martin Harris in the Clarkston Cemetery, the pageant this year began Aug. 15 and will have run 10 nights before the production ends: Aug. 15-16, 19-23, 26-28. Twenty-seven thousand tickets were distributed for the run. The 19,000 tickets made available Feb. 1 to the public were gone in four days. The remaining 8,000 were set aside for stake and full-time missionaries bringing non-LDS guests.Rhett S. James, author of the historical drama and a member of the pageant presidency, noted that in 1996, two new letters about Martin Harris' testimony were found. One letter, dated April 10, 1927, was written by William Pilkington. It's discovery was reported by the Church News last year in connection with pageant coverage.

A second letter by William Pilkington, dated Feb. 28, 1930, came to Brother James' attention during the 1996 pageant performance, and gives additional details regarding Joseph Smith's and Martin Harris' experiences confirming the promise in D&C 17 and also stating that Harris saw Moroni ascend into heaven at the end of the vision.

"William Pilkington was a young boy employed to assist Martin Harris while he lived with his son, Martin Harris Jr., in Smithfield and Clarkston, Utah, prior to his death in 1875," Brother James explained. "Martin Harris was concerned that his testimony of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and of having heard the voice of Heavenly Father, His son Jesus Christ, and of seeing and being instructed by the Angel Moroni not be forgotten. To ensure this, Martin Harris made persons who heard his witness promise they would repeat his testimony to the next generation. William Pilkington was one of dozens of persons who did so."

Brother James said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve told pageant Pres. Denzel Clark that when he was a boy in Cache Valley, Utah, he heard the testimony of William Pilkington, telling of his having heard the testimony of Martin Harris.

This is the 15th year for the pageant. More than 400,000 people have attended since 1983, Brother James said. He gives a lecture on the life of Martin Harris before each evening's performance and answers questions from the audience.

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