Book of Mormon Witnesses
When I was a member of the Church I honestly never thought about checking up on the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. I grew up believing that I belonged to “the only true church on the face of the earth” and even though there were teachings about the Church I didn’t agree with, it never occurred to me they didn’t have physical proof for the Book of Mormon.
Growing up I went to primary, MIA, attended four years of Seminary, went to the overnight camps, faithfully participated in the Road-shows and performed the obligatory baptisms for the dead. Other than questions I sometime shot out to the Seminary teacher, bishop or my MIA leader, questioning the Book of Mormon never entered my brainwaves. They taught me that Smith translated them into English and that was that.
What I didn’t know is that there were no gold plates to visit as we have with the Dead Sea Scrolls or history books to read like we have for Israel and Egypt. Instead, I was taught to believe everything in faith. While I was aware the angel Moroni had taken the plates back to heaven, I sincerely believed other people had seen them and felt I could trust everyone involved in the early days of Mormonism. My brain never went past the thought of trusting the prophet Joseph Smith.
Paul tells us this in 2 Tim. 3:16; “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
As Christians we use the Bible as our guide and it’s the standard by which we hold all things to for comparison. With that in mind, we’ll be using the testimonies of the twelve apostles as the standard when looking at the testimonies of the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon.
Since we can’t see or hold any physical evidence from the Book of Mormon let’s take a look at those witnesses to determine their credibility shall we?
The testimonies of Jesus’ resurrection and His teachings proved to be truthful time and again. The only time these twelve men were in trouble was when they were arrested for being a follower of Jesus. Other than the charge of promoting Jesus’ name, their characters were reliable with no hidden stories of taking advantage of people in money or glass looking schemes. They were just your average ordinary working guys with an extraordinary story of hope. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the witnesses of the Book of Mormon.
There are two sets of witnesses to the Book of Mormon that are mentioned. They’re comprised of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses.
|Book of Mormon Witnesses|
|Three Witnesses||Eight Witnesses|
|Oliver Cowdery||Christian Whitmer|
|David Whitmer||Jacob Whitmer|
|Martin Harris||Peter Whitmer, Jr.|
|Joseph Smith, Sr.|
|Samuel H. Smith|
TESTIMONIES OF THE THREE WITNESSES
The three witnesses were comprised of Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. There are actually two stories (at a minimum) of what took place when the three witnesses first laid eyes on the golden plates of Mormonism. If you’re the typical Mormon like I was, you can read and believe the account given in the introduction of the Book of Mormon.
If on the other hand, you’d like more information, there’s the other story written by the pen of those same three witnesses you’d probably be interested in.
Contrary to what the Book of Mormon states, Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1:137-138 tells us the original three witnesses never held or saw the plates or transcripts in person.
Instead, a heavenly messenger revealed the plates to them through a revelation and/or vision while praying out in the wooded grove near Mr. Whitmer’s home. Remember, this is not what the Book of Mormon states in the introduction.
The story of how these men were chosen to be the original witnesses is noteworthy.
Sometime after the translation work of the plates was completed, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and David Whitmer all met at Whitmer’s home. While there, Martin Harris came to visit to find out how the translation process was going. While discussing the plates, they realized God had told them that three men would be able to see the plates (History of the Church 1:52-53).
Upon the realization there would be three witnesses, they all clamored around Smith like school aged boys on a Christmas morn wanting him to declare they were the three chosen by God.
During this whole scenario Smith received a revelation from God which is now Doctrine and Covenants 17. This revelation tells us Smith had received instructions from the Lord these three people would see the plates given to Joseph by Moroni. The catch was that they had to obey, Harris had to stop being willful and only then could they see the plates. The other catch in this revelation is that these men must believe or Joseph Smith would be destroyed.
God has never performed a work or miracle based upon man’s behavior. If this were true then Jesus never would’ve been crucified! If people would’ve behaved properly they wouldn’t have killed Him and if people would’ve behaved properly there would be no need for atonement.
Jesus went to the cross in spite of man’s acceptance of His gift to them. The atonement doesn’t lose its effectiveness because many will reject Him. He did it regardless of your answer and your faith. You and I will never have enough faith.
So the day after (some reports say it was a few days later) the revelation came from God. all went out to the woods to pray.
The four gentlemen (the three witnesses and Joseph Smith) had been praying for awhile and still hadn’t received any word from God. After some time had passed Martin Harris decided he was the reason God had not revealed anything to them so he got up to pray in a different area.
After another period of time had elapsed the group of three received a vision of the plates. Afterwards Joseph got up and went over to Harris to see if God had appeared to him as well.
Harris replied he hadn’t and begged Joseph to pray God would reveal these things to him so Joseph acquiesced and subsequently, they both received a vision of the engravings.
Further into this story other sources state that Harris went back three days later and while in a trance in the woods he saw a vision of the angel with the plates. – John H. Gilbert (Wilford C. Wood, Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 1, 1958, introduction).
Interestingly enough, Comprehensive History of the Church 1:88-89 admits that Joseph Smith is actually a psychic. Their words, not mine! This tidbit of information, located smack in the middle of the testimonies and characters of those involved should seriously be taken into account when determining their reliability.
So as we can now see, the witnesses did not see or handle the plates on their own. They had a vision (dream) of an angel appearing to them who in turn held some golden plates. That is what amounts to the vision of the three witnesses.
More problems arise when we take a look at the relationships of those involved. Most of the witnesses are related to each other. Example; Oliver Cowdery (3rd cousin of Smith), was married to the sister of the Whitmer brothers as was Hiram Page. Legally speaking, this is unacceptable. Every state has different Notary Laws, but none of them allow someone to notarize papers for blood relatives. Additionally, there is no date stamped on the witness’s page which invalidates their testimony.
Now with the short history lesson of the two versions of their stories behind us, let’s take a look at the subsequent events in these men’s lives.
The first 3 witnesses actually left the Church and were excommunicated. While two did come back to the Church, their mental stability must be taken into account. Also keep in mind that while the Church claims Cowdery (one of the two) came back in the fall of 1848 (Historical Record 5, pg. 201), there is contradictory evidence stating otherwise.
It’s interesting how the Church also accused Cowdery of starting another church later the same year with the apostate William McLellin (The Mormon Frontier, Diary of Hosea Stout, vol. 2, pg. 336). How could he have been an apostate and a very active member of the Church at the same time?
Also noteworthy are the numerous sermons given on the reliability of these men. Various leaders of the Church went out of their way to decimate their moral character and even went so far as to accuse Cowdery of the very things Smith himself was guilty of. By the time they were done ripping them apart no one had a very good opinion of the three.
These are the things an unsuspecting prospective convert of today won’t hear about when the missionary knocks on their door. And neither will you hear about it during a regular ol’ MIA or Young Men’s meeting. Not one time do I recall ever being taught the original witnesses denounced their testimonies, let alone Mormonism. Yet, the following statements were made by Smith and Young about the original witnesses:
History of the Church 3:232; “Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” – Joseph Smith, Liberty Jail, Missouri, Dec 16, 1838
Journal of Discourses 7:164; “Some of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterwards left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel.” – Brigham Young, Salt Lake City, June 5, 1859
Both had obviously become disenchanted with the original witnesses and called them one name after another, but notice how they’re not bad enough to use their names when trying to convince others of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
THE EIGHT WITNESSES
The story with the eight witnesses is quite different from that of the three witnesses. No angelic visitors made an appearance with brilliant heavenly light. No deep prayer asking God the Father to reveal and open the minds of these witnesses was offered up to God. Instead, Joseph Smith was the sole presenter of the golden plates to this group. And interestingly enough, no one but the eight ever saw the plates with their own eyes.
And then there’s the controversy that they didn’t even see the plates at all, but signed a statement against their own wishes stating they indeed had seen the plates.
Compare this with the resurrection of Jesus and the testimonies of the twelve apostles. Hundreds of people witnessed Jesus going into heaven. Hundreds. Not one, not just the twelve and not in some wooded area that was dark and secret. It happened out in the open for all to see. His resurrection wasn’t hidden in a “frock” like the mysterious plates were held and where no one actually saw it, but just assumed this is what happened.
And because you can’t get through one story concerning anything in Mormonism without controversy, we have the same M.O. with this one as well.
The Church promotes the story in paintings and writ of Smith showing the plates to the eight witnesses all at the same time. The flip side of this comes from a letter written to the editor of the Deseret News on August 6, 1878 by P. Wilhelm Poulson, M.D stating that Smith showed the plates to the remaining eight witnesses in two groups of four.
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism follows the story of Smith presenting the plates to the eight witnesses all at once (EM, pg. 214).
Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1:149; “FIDELITY OF THE EIGHT WITNESSES. Of these eight witnesses five of them, viz: Christian Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jun., Joseph Smith, Sen., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel Smith, all remained true throughout their lives, not only to their testimony, but faithful to the church also, and were honorable, upright men. While the three of the eight witnesses who left the church, or were excommunicated from it, viz: John Whitmer, Hirum Page, and Jacob Whitmer, not one of them ever denied the truth of his testimony; a circumstance of some weight in helping one to determine the value of the testimony to which, with those who remained faithful to the church, they subscribed their names when the Book of Mormon was first given to the world.”
Now as we take a look at the lives and outcomes of each witness ask yourself if it’s plausible these men would still hold their testimonies of the Book of Mormon and denounce Mormonism. Does that sound reasonable?
If these were stand up Christian men of the community why were they falling for the stories of an angel of light with another gospel? And why should we believe what Church says regarding their testimonies? Why would these guys denounce Mormonism and not the Book of Mormon?
David Whitmer said; “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon, if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints….“
If the twelve apostles had taken back their stories of what Jesus did (healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, raising Lazarus from the dead, etc.), could their story of the resurrection be reliable? Their credibility would fly out the window and wouldn’t have made it out of the first century!
3rd Cousin to Smith/ Brother-in-law to Whitmer brothers, married to Elizabeth Ann Whitmer.
Meets Joseph Smith around April 5-7, 1829
Helped with translation of plates
Excommunicated April 12, 1838
Mormons say he rejoined in 1849
Others say he became Methodist.
His funeral officiated by a Methodist minister.
Comprehensive History of the Church 1:434-437
Baptized June 1829
Excommunicated April 13, 1838
Baptized into Church of Christ Sept. 1847
Authored 1887 pamphlet “An Address to All Believers in Christ”
Elder’s Journal, vol. 1 (October 1837 – August 1838), No. 3, pg. 33
Comprehensive History of the Church 1:434-437
Baptized April 6, 1830
Ex-communicated December 1837
Belonged to more than thirteen denominations throughout his life. The Cambellites in Pennsylvania being one of them. Before he became a Mormon he belonged to at least five denominations and after his excommunication from the LDS Church he joined another eight. (“Martin Harris: Mormonism’s Early Convert,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 (Winter 1986):30-34.)
Re-baptized November 6, 1842
August 1846 becomes member of James Strang’s new church
January 1847 joins McLellin’s new Church of Christ
Testified against Mormon Church, calling them “Latter-day Devils” in interview w/ Joel Tiffany, “Tiffany’s Monthly”, pg. 50.
Elder’s Journal, vol. 1 (October 1837 – August 1838), Vol. 1, No. 4, pg. 59 reports he’s an evil man.
Died before family was excommunicated
Peter Whitmer, Jr.
Ordained in Jan. 1836 to high council to replace his brother Christian, who had died in Nov. 1835
Died before family was excommunicated
1838 left the church
Baptized into John Whitmer’s new church in December 1847
Excommunicated March 10, 1838
Formed new Church of Christ with McLellin in September 1847
Brother-in-law to Whitmer brothers, married to Catherine Whitmer
Left church when Whitmer’s were excommunicated in 1838
Became high priest in David Whitmer’s new church 9/1847
Joseph Smith, Sr.
Father of Joseph Smith, Jr
Brother of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Baptized in June 1829
Killed in Carthage jail w/ brother
Samuel H. Smith
Brother of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Baptized May 25, 1829
On Oliver Cowdery:
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were third cousins
Oliver Cowdery’s family attended the church that Ethan Smith pastored in Poultney, Vermont from 1821-1826 during which time Ethan Smith wrote and published his book View of the Hebrews. Cowdery met Joseph Smith on or near April 5-7, 1829.
Cowdery writes Bok of Mormon. In the Pearl of Great Price 1:67 Joseph Smith writes; “67 Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.”
Excommunicated from the Church on Friday, April 12, 1838 by a church court along with the Whitmers (his brothers-in-law), as well as Hiram Page and William Phelps. (Far West Records for the LDS Church for April 3, 1838)
History of the Church 1:109-110 Smith denounced Hiram Page for receiving revelations through a Seer Stone and denounces the Whitmers and Cowdery for believing Page:
“To our great grief, however, we soon found that Satan had been lying in wait to deceive, and seeking whom he might devour. Brother Hiram Page had in his possession a certain stone, by which he had obtained certain “revelations” concerning the upbuilding of Zion, the order of the Church, etc., all of which were entirely at variance with the order of God’s house, as laid down in the New Testament, as well as in our late revelations. As a conference meeting had been appointed for the 26thfn day of September, I thought it wisdom not to do much more than to converse with the brethren on the subject, until the conference should meet. Finding, however, that many, especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery, were believing much in the things set forth by this stone, we thought best to inquire of the Lord concerning so important a matter…”
Cowdery died in Excelsior Springs at the home of David Whitmer.
In a letter dated Jan. 21, 1838 to Warren Cowdery (Oliver’s brother), Cowdery wrote:
“When he [Joseph Smith] was there we had some conversation in which in every instance I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself.“ (See photograph in The Mormon Kingdom, vol. 1, page 27)
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg. 89; “Six of the original Twelve Apostles selected by Joseph Smith were excommunicated. The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon left the Church. Three of Joseph Smith’s counselors fell-one even helped plot his death.”
Mormon Doctrine, pg. 842; “These Three Witnesses later left the Church and became enemies of the Prophet, but throughout their entire lives each of them remained steadfast in bearing testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, in their latter years, returned to the Church and died in full fellowship.” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 222-228.)”
“During the career of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer’s bogus money business, it got abroad into the world that they were engaged in it. . . . We have evidence of a very strong character that you are at this very time engaged with a gang of counterfeiters, coiners, and blacklegs . . .” – Letter quoted in Senate Document 189, February 15, 1841, 27-28.
Elder’s Journal, vol. 1 (October 1837 – August 1838), No. 3, pg. 59; “One thing we have learned that there are negroes who wear white skins as well as those who wear black ones.”
“Other Church leaders in the Utah territory were also critical of Oliver Cowdery’s behavior. In 1878, speaking of polygamy, Joseph F. Smith denounced Oliver for “running before he was sent” and “taking liberties without license.
Of all the General Authorities, President George Q. Cannon’s criticisms against Oliver Cowdery were the sharpest. He wrote that Oliver “committed adultery,” adding that “the Spirit of God withdrew from him, and he, the second elder in the Church, was excommunicated from the Church.” And Oliver’s conduct “was a grievous sin and was doubtless the cause of his losing the Spirit of the Lord, and of being cut off from the Church.”…immediately preceding his being cut off, he severely criticized Joseph Smith for his involvement with Fanny Alger. Importantly, President Cannon never knew Cowdery, having immigrated to the United States from England in 1843, five years after Cowdery had left the Church. His knowledge of events in the early 1830s were secondhand at best.”
Times and Seasons, vol. 2 (November 1840 – October 1841): pg. 482. In 1841 the Church published a poem in Times and Seasons which in part said Cowdery did deny his testimony of the Book of Mormon;
“Or Book of Mormon not his word, Because denied, by Oliver?” which contradicts the statements of the Church saying that Cowdery never denied the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
An Address to All Believers in Christ written by David Whitmer firmly states that all 3 witnesses still believed the Book of Mormon to be true even though Smith fell into grievous errors and became a “stumbling block”.
Obviously the statements made in the book by Widtsoe listed below are not true. The Book of Mormon is clear w/ the 3 witnesses’ statements that they did NOT hold or touch the plates, yet here is another example of how lies are perpetuated through various Church writings. Also notice how Cowdery is suddenly looked up to as a man of honor:
Joseph Smith – Seeker after Truth, pg. 338; “…The Book of Mormon plates were seen and handled, at different times, by eleven competent men, of independent minds and spotless reputations, who published a formal statement of their experience. Oliver Cowdery, whose reputation for honesty has never been questioned, was with Joseph Smith when John the Baptist came to restore the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood…” – John A. Widtsoe
Ex-communication of Oliver Cowdery. His church trial included charges of being a liar, thief and beggar can be found at History of the Church 3:16.
On Martin Harris –
Harris reported three days after the group went into the woods to pray and saw a vision of an angel holding the golden plates, he also went back into the woods to pray and while there he fell into a trance and received another revelation. “While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates.” (Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast, n.d., microfilm copy, p. 70-71).”
D&C 10:1, 7; “…because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.…And for this cause I said that he is a wicked man, for he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been entrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift.”
Elder’s Journal, vol. 1 (October 1837 – August 1838), No. 3, pg. 59; “Granny Parrish had a few others who acted as lackeys, such as Martin Harris, Joseph Coe, Cyrus P. Smalling, etc., but they are so far beneath contempt that a notice of them would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make…But no sooner were they excluded from the fellowship of the Church and gave loose to all kind of abominations, swearing, lying, cheating, swindling, drinking with every species of debauchery, then the priests began to extol them to the heavens for their piety and virtue and made friends with them and called them the finest fellows in the world.”
In 1846 the Church reports on the instability of Martin Harris’ religious life…
“Sketches of Notorious Characters
One of the witnesses to the BoM, yielded to the spirit and temptation of the Devil a number of years ago – turned against Joseph Smith and became his bitter enemy. He was filled with the rage and madness of a demon. One day he would be one thing, and another day another thing. He soon became partially deranged or shattered, as many believed, flying from one thing to another, as if reason and common sense were thrown off their balance. In one of his fits of monomania, he went and joined the “Shakers” or followers of Anne Lee. He tarried with them a year or two, or perhaps longer, having had some flare up while among them; but since Strang has made his entry into the apostate ranks, and hoisted his standard for the rebellious to flock too, Martin leaves the “Shakers”, whom he knows to be right, and has known it for many years, as he said, and joins Strang in gathering out the tares of the field. We understand that he is appointed a mission to this country, but we do not feel to warn the Saints against him, for his own unbridled tongue will soon show out specimens of folly enough to give any person a true index to the character of the man; but if the Saints wish to know what the Lord hat said of him, they may turn to the 178th page of the Book of D&C, and the person there called a “wicked man” is no other than Martin Harris, and he owned to it then, but probably might not now. It is not the first time the Lord chose a wicked man as a witness, also on page 193, read the whole revelation given to him, and ask yourselves if the Lord ever talked in that way to a good man. Everyone can see that he must have been a wicked man, and the Lord said that that revelation was the last he should receive; and no wonder that a man without revelation should join Anne, Lee, Strang, or another other imposition or strong delusion, having rejected the truth.”
Poor Martin Harris just couldn’t catch a break with all the commentaries made about him by the Church’s official newspapers. While on a mission trip in England for the Strangites, the Mormon Church had this to say about him and those travelling with him in the Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star, Vol 8 pg. 128;
“Just as our paper was going to press, we learned that Martin Harris, about whom we had written in another article, had landed in Liverpool, and being afraid or ashamed of his profession as a Strangite, and we presume both, for we are confident we should be, he tells some of our brethren on whom he called, that he was of the same profession with themselves – that they had just come from America and wished to get acquainted with the Saints. But there was a strangeness about him, and about one or two who came with him, that gave them plainly to see that the frankness and honest simplicity of true hearted brethren were not with them.
A lying deceptive spirit attends them, and has from the beginning. They said they were of the same profession with our brethren, when they knew they lied. If they were of our profession, why not call at our office and get their papers endorsed? Because they know that they are of their father, the Devil, who was a liar from the beginning, and abode not in the truth. The very countenance of Harris will show to every spiritual-minded person who sees him, that the wrath of God is upon him”.
Harris was excommunicated in December 1837 along with 28 other men. He told Stephen Burnett (another Mormon) that neither he nor the other witnesses actually saw the plats but were persuaded to sign papers stating otherwise while under pressure.
Re-baptized in 1842.
On David Whitmer –
From a local paper, “The Reflector”, Palmyra, March 19, 1831, Volume II;
“There appears to be a great discrepancy, in the stories told by the famous three witnesses to the Gold Bible; and these pious reprobates, individually, frequently give different versions of the same transaction. In the first place, it was roundly asserted that the plates on which Mormon wrote his history, (in the reformed Egyptian language) were of gold, and hence its name; gentlemen in this vicinity were called on to estimate its value from its weight, (something more than 20 lbs) Smith and Harris gave out that no mortal save Jo could look upon it and live; and Harris declares, that when he acted as amanuenses, and wrote the translation, as Smith dictated, such was his fear of the Divine displeasure that a screen (sheet) was suspended between the prophet and himself.
Whitmar’s description of the Book of Mormon, differs entirely from that given by Harris; both of whom it would seem have been of late permitted, not only to see and handle it, but to examine its contents. Whitmar relates that he was led by Smith into an open field, on his father’s farm near Waterloo, when they found the book lying on the ground; Smith took it up and requested him to examine it, which he did for the space of half an hour or more, when he returned it to Smith who placed it in its former position, alledging that the book was in the custody of another, intimating that some Divine agent would have it in safe keeping.”
An Address to All Believers in Christ, pgs 27-28;
“If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to “separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, should it be done unto them.”
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg. 1566; “After Whitmer left the Church, he moved to Richmond, Missouri, and opened a livery stable, which he ran until 1888. A respected citizen in the community, he served on fair boards, was a member of the city council, and was elected mayor. Over his lifetime, hundreds of visitors inquired about and heard his testimony of the Book of Mormon. A year before his death Whitmer wrote a pamphlet, An Address to All Believers in Christ (1887), apparently to justify his separation from the Church. In the pamphlet, he again gave witness to the truth of the Book of Mormon, but claimed that Joseph Smith drifted into errors after completing the translation. Whitmer rejected many later developments in the Church, such as the offices of high priest and prophet, seer, and revelator; the Doctrine and Covenants; and the doctrines of gathering and of plural marriage. Shortly before his death, Whitmer repeated once more, for the Richmond Conservator, what he had written in the Address: “I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that Book, as one of the three witnesses. Those who know me best, well know that I have always adhered to that testimony.” He died in Richmond, Missouri, on January 25, 1888, bearing testimony again on his deathbed of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”
History of the Church 3:228; “God suffered such kind of beings to afflict Job—but it never entered into their hearts that Job would get out of it all. This poor man who professes to be much of a prophet, has no other dumb ass to ride but David Whitmer, to forbid his madness when he goes up to curse Israel; and this ass not being of the same kind as Balaam’s, therefore, the angel notwithstanding appeared unto him, yet he could not penetrate his understanding sufficiently, but that he prays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass!”
The Whitmer family and Hiram Page were excommunicated in 1838 during the Far West fiasco. He ended up buying a farm in Excelsior Springs when at a later date Oliver Cowdery came to visit and died at his home.
William McLellin, the Whitmers and Hiram Page formed a new church in 1847 called the Church of Christ.
Joseph Smith’s Witness –
Then there are the two different accounts from Joseph Smith when an angel visited him in the middle of the night;
1 – “The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him I was afraid, but the fear soon left me. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi. That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil…” – Times and Seasons, Vol. 3 (November 1841 – October 1842:pg. 753.
2 – “Moroni’s Message. When first I looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil…” – History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1:11-12.
So exactly who visited Smith that night? Was it Nephi or Moroni?
Additional testimonies from others in the Church at the time of the writing of the Book of Mormon:
“I did not see them [the plates] uncovered, but I handled them and hefted them while wrapped in a tow frock and judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds…. Father and my brother Samuel saw them as I did while in the frock. So did Hyrum and others of the family.’ When the interviewer asked if he didn’t want to remove the cloth and see the bare plates, William replied, ‘No, for father had just asked if he might not be permitted to do so, and Joseph, putting his hand on them said; ‘No, I am instructed not to show them to any one. If I do, I will transgress and lose them again.’ Besides, we did not care to have him break the commandment and suffer as he did before.” – William Smith, Joseph’s brother, Zion’s Ensign, January 13, 1894, p. 6.
Emma Smith said that she never saw the plates. She merely picked them up and moved them around with a piece of cloth that covered them at all times. You can read her account in her own words from Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” The Saints’ Herald, Oct. 1, 1879, 290.
Now can you just imagine any of the apostles doing anything like the incidents mentioned here? How credible would their testimonies be?
THE THREE WITNESSES
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: 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, his brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seeen [sic] the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shewn unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And 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, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvellous [sic] in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
THE EIGHT WITNESSES
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.