The drama of Martin Harris and the publication of the Book of Mormon reaffirms principles of freedom protected under the U.S. Constitution, according to the creator of the Martin Harris pageant, "The Man Who Knew."
Capacity audiences witnessed the pageant again this year - it's 10th season - Aug. 14-15 and 18-22.Each year the pageant has been staged in an outdoor amphitheater in Clarkston, adjacent to the grave of the man renowned as one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon.
"In the annals of American history that record the struggle for freedom of the press and freedom of speech, Joseph Smith's publication of the Book of Mormon ranks as an important victory of human rights and highest principle over oppression and censorship," said Rhett S. James, author of the pageant.
"The setting for the drama is the epic struggle of Joseph Smith, Martin Harris and others to publish the Book of Mormon. Martin Harris, committed to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, resists enormous pressure from family, townspeople, and all. Harris defends the young prophet Joseph Smith from persecutors, assists in payment of Joseph's debts and finances the publication of the Book of Mormon."
Since it premiered in 1983, the pageant has grown in popularity. Admission is free, but tickets are required. This year, all 17,500 tickets were distributed during the eight-day period between last April 7 and 15, Brother James said.
Ticket orders came from nine states, with Indiana being the farthest away, he added.
Stake and full-time missionaries distributed 1,400 tickets to people who were not Church members.
Thousands also ordered tickets to attend lectures before the pageant on the life of Jesus Christ, delivered in the Clarkston Ward meetinghouse, and on the life of Martin Harris, delivered in the amphitheater where the pageant was staged.
Artist and author Bill L. Hall presented "The Witness Series" lecture featuring paintings, sculptures and writings about the people who testify that Jesus of Nazareth is the anointed Messiah. Brother James presented the lecture on Martin Harris.
Brother James said more than 1,000 Church members donated time and labor to build the pageant set, reconstruct costumes for the 100 actors and perform other tasks.
The title "The Man Who Knew" is taken from Martin Harris' testimony given frequently that he knew of the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, having been shown by an angel of God the plates from which it was translated. Though he became disaffected with Church leaders for a time, he never recanted his testimony. He eventually joined the main body of the Church in Utah and settled in Cache County, where he died July 10, 1875.
William Harrison Homer, present at the death of Martin Harris, reported his dying testimony thusly: "Yes, I did see the plates on which the Book of Mormon was written. I did see the angel. I did hear the voice of God, and I do know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God, holding the keys of the holy priesthood."