This video defends the Book of Mormon witnesses and shows how the Lord set up multiple cross-checks and backup evidences to make it very challenging for critics to dismiss the weight of their evidence.
So on this video we’re going to talk about the Book of Mormon witnesses and what critics say about them. I think this is one of the most powerful parts of the Restoration, but yet critics still try and tackle or criticize their experiences, some statements. So I want to go through and talk about this in the video. Two other videos that I’ve referenced, David Whitmer: An Irrefutable Witness, and then How Could They Have All Lied, which was a much broader thing than just the Book of Mormon witnesses. But we have about 200 statements from the witnesses: 70 from David Whitmer, 50 from Martin Harris, about 30 from Oliver Cowdery, around 42 from the eight witnesses. So that’s close to 200 statements. We have less than 10 statements that are used by critics that are out there, and none of them are firsthand statements. They are always a second-hand type of a statement.
So think about this. This is a ratio of 19 to 1. So how would you if you were a judge and you had 20 people, 19 people saying one thing, 1 saying the other, and the one that’s saying the other is not a direct statement from the witnesses. It’s a second-hand statement, so it’s very, very interesting. But we’re going to tackle why those statements are used by critics and why they don’t amount to a hill of beans, I think. And the evidence is so powerful on the other side that it’s a tough one for critics. So let’s start with just the statements themselves, the witnesses in the Book of Mormon: the testimony of the three, the testimony of the eight. It’s very interesting, the differences between the two. I feel like God really knew what He was doing when He set this up with these two different experiences, and then the informal witnesses as also a backup to two criticisms, and I’m going to talk about that especially in a minute.
But if you look at the testimony of the three witnesses is very focused on the interaction with heaven, with God, with angels. It says here, the grace of God. It says, “… they’ve been translated by the gift and power of God for His voice”, this is the voice of God, “hath declared it unto us and an angel of God came down from heaven, and the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it.” Often we think of with the three, with an angel, but they also hear the voice of the Lord as well in this experience and testify. And then I’ve highlighted their names. The highlight means that they left the Church and I think that God knew the future. He knew these individuals and thought this would be some of the most powerful witnesses in a sense, because they didn’t deny their testimony after they left the Church.
Now two of them came back. That’s what the underlying is, Oliver and Martin, but David never did for 50 years. That’s why I did a special video just on him, which is fascinating there. He ended up being the mayor of this town. Very respectable, honorable man. Okay. Testimony of the eight witnesses. Now look at this. This is a very tangible experience, very physical. “He’s shown unto us the plates … we did handle with our hands … saw the engravings thereon …we’ve seen and hefted and know of a surety that the said Smith”, notice this kind of legalese or cold language, t”the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.” So it’s a kind of legalese, very formal statement and very tangible physical evidence base and again, three people here, Jacob Whitmer, John Whitmer, Hiram Page. You’re going to hear comments from all three of them here in the video.
Powerful. All left the Church at one point. In fact, they stayed out of the Church to death but never denied their testimonies to the end. Very powerful there. Now, so you got these two different, two very contrasting witnesses there. Now, some critics will actually say that the statement of the eight doesn’t list time and place or actually the three either. It is a little unfortunate that we don’t have more detail there because we have it. David Whitmer was very specific on some of the details and then Lucy Mack Smith on the eight. But the point was to really testify of the experience itself there. Also, some critics will even say, well we don’t have an original of this, which we don’t because it was destroyed. As part of the original manuscript was put into the cornerstone of the Nauvoo house.
Joseph put it there to probably preserved for posterity. It was found in 1882 and Emma’s second husband Lewis Bidamon was remodeling the home. That’s when he found it, and only 28% of the original manuscript survived. We have the printer’s manuscript that was in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting, and that’s where we have the witnesses’ testimony on there. But the three witnesses was at the end of the transcript, their statements that were signed by them and that was destroyed through the water damage, but look at what the witnesses said. So go off of what they said post-statements, and I’m going to go through many of those here. Also, this was interesting. Larry Morris spoke at the FairMormon Conference in 2019. And this actually is going to be a bedrock for future studies, A Documentary History of the Book of Mormon.
This just came out in February 2019. He spoke at the FairMormon Conference and he talked about the powerful nature of the testimony of the eight specifically being such a tangible document. And then he talked about also meeting source criticism or the giving credence to a very authentic statement. Three criteria here: firsthand document, two, produced near the time of the event in question, and three, signed by multiple witnesses. Okay. Now another criticism people bring up is the weight of the plates. Some will say, well, wait a minute. If it was solid gold and the description of the dimensions that were given, that would be about 200 pounds there. So they criticized because witnesses would typically give the range of 40 to 60 pounds. A single number was often used of closer to 60 pounds.
This was a great piece that Roy Doxey did in the December 86 Ensign. He says, “This estimate doesn’t allow for unevenness of leaves wrinkled by hammering and from airspace between each leaf. Joseph only said that the plates had the appearance of gold, not necessarily pure gold completely. Some have speculated the metal is probably Tumbaga”, and that was the name given by Spaniards. They found this alloy gold copper used in ancient Mesoamerica could be casted, hammered, engraved, etc. “… treated with a simple acid like citric acid to dissolve the copper on the surface, leaving a shiny layer of 23-karat gold on top of a harder, more durable copper-gold alloy sheet. This process was widely used by the pre-Colombian cultures of central America to make religious objects. Tumbaga plates of the dimensions Joseph Smith described would weigh between 53 and 86 pounds.”
So perfect for the description of the Book of Mormon weight. So very interesting. And a side note, there was actually a mummy found in 2006 in northern Peru. It was a lady and she was wrapped and it had around her a bunch of thin sheets of this copper-gold alloy they said was similar to this Tumbaga and then was later found in Mesoamerica. But the dating of this mummy was 450 A.D. So right at the end of the Book of Mormon times. It was interesting. National Geographic did a piece on that. Okay. So let’s move on to what some critics will say as well. “Joseph hypnotized the three witnesses, particularly because of their experience with the supernatural vision there, and had some way to hallucinate hypnotize them.” I will actually say hypnotism, as we understand it today, had not really been published or studied the way it is now, but it definitely was around in certain facets for a long time.
And Joseph would have seen this in the revivals and how some of the fiery preachers would make people fall down. So critics will point some of this out. And often it was even labeled as juggling. So here’s Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris. This is a firsthand, so very credible and it’s within six months and it’s two of the three witnesses. So it’s written response to the question about whether juggling or trickery or conjuring could’ve been involved. Quote,”It was a clear, open, beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, who ascended, descended, I suppose, out of the midst of heaven. Now, if this is human juggling, judge ye.” So I thought that was great. Very powerful.
Now here’s the other witness, David Whitmer. So the third witness talking about the same kind of thing as he’s being interviewed by Joseph Smith the third, and there’s a presence there, a Colonel Giles who is trying to address this hallucination aspect or mental disturbances. This is Joseph Smith the third recording this, “Rather suggestively, Colonel Giles asked if it might not have been possible that he, Mr. Whitmer, had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance or hallucination, which had deceived them in to thinking he saw the personage, the angel, the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the sword of Laban. How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer rose and drew himself up to his full height, a little over six feet and said, in solemn and impressive tones, ‘No, sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak.'”
Also, note the number of different things that he mentions that were in the vision. It wasn’t just the plates. He mentioned there the Urim and Thummin, the sword of Laban. We know from other accounts that there was the breastplate, the Liahona and the brass plates now there. So that would have been one heck of a hallucination. And he would’ve had to do this twice if you recall, because Martin Harris, they weren’t having the experience first. Martin Harris went off on his own to be separate, and he ended up having the same vision as the two had with Joseph and he had it with Joseph. But Joseph would have had to create this exact same experience as they testified together of it. So, quite fascinating. All right.
Now, if you look at this, this was another great letter to share from David Whitmer responding to a question about spiritual versus naturalized. This was a letter written to him by Anthony Metcalf on this topic. And Anthony says that, look at that top paragraph there he says, “Replying to my communication, from which I copy verbatim, as follows.” So this is first person from David Whitmer. He says, and this was in 1887, “In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel who declared to us their witness that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we have the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us as it is at any time. Martin Harris, you say, called it being in vision. We read in the scriptures, Cornelius saw, in a vision, an angel of God. Daniel saw an angel in a vision.”
Also in other places it states they saw an angel in the spirit. A bright light enveloped us where we were that filled at noon day and their in a vision or in spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon.” They literally were trying to use biblical language to try and explain what they had experienced, this physical and spiritual vision experience. So I love what Dan Peterson said in the FairMormon Conference in 2006 about who would know more of what is artificial: us today or these people living back then that were in this physical world much more than we are. So this is what he shared. “Attempts are made to discredit the witnesses by portraying them as alienated from empirical reality and as having merely imagined the plates of the Book of Mormon or seen them in a subjective hallucination.”
“I’ve commented elsewhere on how bizarre it is to me that the witnesses, a group of early 19th-century farmers who spent their lives rising at sunrise, pulling up stumps, clearing rocks, plowing fields, sowing seeds, carefully nurturing crops, raising livestock, milking cows, digging wells, building cabins, raising barns, harvesting their own food, bartering in an often cashless economy for what they could not produce themselves, wearing clothes made from plant fibers and skins, anxiously watching the seasons, and walking or riding animals out under the weather until they retired to their beds shortly after sunset in a world lit only by fire are being portrayed as estranged from everyday empirical reality by who? By people whose lives, like mine, consist to a large extent of staring at computer and television screens in artificially air-conditioned, and artificially lit homes and offices, clothed in synthetic fibers, commuting between the two and enclosed in air-conditioned mechanical vehicles while they listen to the radio, chat on their cell phones, and fiddle with their iPods– all of whose inner workings are largely mysterious to them– who buy their prepackaged food (with little or no regard for the time or the season) by means of plastic cards and electronic financial transfers from artificially-illuminated and air-conditioned supermarkets enmeshed in international distribution networks of which they know virtually nothing, the rhythms of whose daily lives are largely unaffected by the rising and setting of the sun.” I had to share that in this specific video. I though that was such a powerful way to say it. Now what about the plates themselves? The physical plates. So powerful, the witnesses of this tangible physical evidence.
So today critics just say, well Joseph must have somehow made these up, these plates. But think about this. This could not have been done in a corner. Joseph didn’t have the resources, the money. It would have had to have been this custom design metal factory in a sense. It wouldn’t have come out. The engravings, the meticulous nature of that. But here’s the one I would love to say though, is the physical nature of some other items that would have had to have been produced that would be extremely challenging: the breastplate and the Urim and Thummin and the spectacles. And the witness of those I want to share as Lucy Mack Smith, his mother. And this gets to the informal witnesses. If you’ll look at this page right here, and this I think is beautiful in the thought of a backup to criticisms of the three and the eight. Lucy’s a backup for the eight. Mary’s a backup for the three.
And I’ll explain why here in a second. So look at these 15. These are 15 informal witnesses that had interactions with the plates of some kind. They hefted them, they felt them through the tablecloth, etc., and gave comments about it. But Lucy specifically saw and felt the breast plate and the spectacles, and then Mary Whitmer is a very special one to back up the criticisms of the three. So if you go to the eight, let me share this from Lucy Mack Smith. She said that she had examined the Urim and Thummin and “found that it consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows which were connected with each other in much the same way as old fashioned spectacles.” Now, she described the breast plate. “It was wrapped in a thin muslin handkerchief, so thin that I could see the glistening metal, and ascertain its proportions without any difficulty.
It was concave on one side and convex on the other and extended from the neck downwards as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material for the purpose of fastening it to the breast, two of which ran back to go over the shoulders and the other two were designed to fasten to the hips. They were just the width of two of my fingers, for I measured them and they had holes in the ends of them to be convenient and fastening.” So very specific description. So I think it’s an interesting aspect of these first witnesses, the first witness to the birth of Christ to His mother, Mary, was given by the angel. The first witness of the Resurrection was to another Mary, Mary Magdalene.
The first witness of the Book of Mormon plates was to a Mary as well, Mary Whitmer. I think that’s a really fascinating aspect, and think about this. This is tough for critics. Where was Joseph Smith? He was not even around. He didn’t even know this was happening. So if he’s creating this hallucination and figured out some way to do this, he’s not around when this is happening and this angel comes to visit Mary. Now, I’d like to share this version that was actually just published in 2014 in the Interpreter. Royal Skousen received this from Carl Cox. It was part of their family history and it’s a lesser known account. It had a couple of interesting details that I thought it would just be kind of fun to share.
He says, “David Whitmer had invited Joseph and Oliver to live in his father’s home while translating the Book of Mormon. When Oliver’s hand and Joseph’s eyes grew tired, they went to the woods for a rest. There they often skated rocks on a pond. Mary Whitmer with five grown sons and a husband to care for besides visitors, often grew tired. She thought they might just as well carry her a bucket of water or chop a bit of wood as to skate rocks on a pond. She was about to order them out of her home.” Interesting detail we haven’t known before. “One morning just at daybreak, she came out of her cow stable with two full buckets of milk in her hands, when a short, heavy-set, gray haired man carrying a package met her and said, ‘My name is Moroni. You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do. The Lord has given me permission to show you the record’, turning the golden leaves one by one.”
And it’s interesting. Her grandson actually says, John C. Whitmer in his account that we’re more familiar with, he says, “The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates and where he went, she could not tell.” Very interesting. And also it may have been even more critical than we realized for Moroni to come as she was about to order them out of her home. So interesting little detail. Also his look, it’s interesting, it’s not how you picture Moroni probably. May have been to calm her fright, which the other account does say she was quite fearful when she saw this man. But anyway, fascinating aspects. Now let’s talk about some of the statements that critics will bring up. And after all the evidence I just went through, you almost don’t need to even go here. These are all second and third hand, never firsthand comments. But let’s go there, because these are used by critics here.
Now this first one here was during the bitter apostasy, after the Kirtland Safety Society failure. And that’s a great video I would suggest to watch of when a lot of this stuff happened here. But this statement here was from Thomas Bullock recording what Theodore Turley said, that John Whitmer said. So this is third hand, and it was written six years later after this confrontation there. So, Whitmer asked, this is John Whitmer, “‘Do you hint at me?’ Turley replied, ‘if the cap fits you wear it. All I know is that you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith.’ Whitmer replied, ‘I now say I handled those plates. There were fine engravings on both sides. I handled them.’ And he described how they were hung, ‘and they were shown to me by a supernatural power. I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.'”
Now his saying that it was shown to him by a supernatural power critics hammer on that and say there’s our evidence. The eight witnesses didn’t actually see physical, tangible plates. It was some kind of vision. And now Larry Morris spoke in the FairMormon Conference just in 2019 and he talked about this actually, this specific event. He said, “This is an uncorroborated account and is also third hand, since it is Bullock reporting what Turley said about what John Whitmer said. So we’re not certain that it is what Whitmer said. Nevertheless, if he did say that, the question of what he meant by supernatural power is up for debate. Critics have concluded that this ‘added’ detail of how Whitmer ‘saw’ it indicates that the eight probably did not observe or feel the actual artifact.”
“I believe it’s possible and even probable that when he, Whitmer, said that when the plates had been shown to him by a supernatural power, he was reaffirming his conviction that God had directed the creation and preservation of the plates, as well as the translation of the Book of Mormon.” I’m going to share in a minute how he was a scribe for part of the Book of Mormon. He may have been alluding to that, but Morris goes on to say, “It is interesting that when Turley challenged Whitmer in the midst of these apostates, Whitmer …”, now he was an apostate at the moment, at that time too, “… not only affirmed that he had handled and seen the plates, he confirmed his belief that the Lord played a crucial role in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. We can’t know for certain what Whitmer meant, because he had no chance to ever comment on this, but to me that uncertainty itself shows that concluding that the eight probably did not observe or feel the actual artifact goes beyond the evidence.”
“Bullock’s third hand notes lack the historia graphical authority to overrule both the testimonies of the witnesses themselves and the second hand accounts of those that talk directly to them.” Now here the firsthand account from John Whitmer, given in March of 1836. “I desire to testify to all that I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the Book of Mormon was translated, and that I have handled these plates and know of a surety that Joseph Smith Jr. has translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God.” Now listen, this is a first person account after being out of the Church for decades, 1876. Keep this firsthand account in mind by the way, as I share a few more things going forward. He says, “I have never heard that any one of the three or eight witnesses ever denied the testimony that they have born of the book as published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon. There are only two of the witnesses to that book now living, to wit. David Whitmer, one of the three and John Whitmer, one of the eight.”
“Our names have gone forth to all nations, tongues, and people as a divine revelation from God. And it will bring to pass the designs of God according to the declaration therein contained.” I think it’s fascinating too. He’s saying this being out of the Church for decades. So now here’s the one clarification, maybe what he meant by supernatural. Look at this from a letter written by Myron Bond seven months after an interaction with John Whitmer. He said, “Old father Whitmer told me last winter, with tears in his eyes, that he knew as well as he knew he had an existence that Joseph translated the ancient writing which was upon the plates, which he saw and handled, and which, as one of the scribes, he helped to copy, as the words fell from Joseph’s lips by supernatural or almighty power.” So quite interesting.
And lastly, this is an interview. Really, this is the last interview with John Whitmer. I’m not going to read that. You can pause if you want to see the whole thing, but it’s about very physical, tangible experience. I will the last one. He says, “Did you see them covered with a cloth? No. He handed them uncovered into our hands and we turned the leaves sufficiently to satisfy us.” So very good, okay. Now I want to share one that’s just ridiculous that this was even quoted, but it’s even today still quoted by critics here because they’re appealing a plea or argument to authority by this because it was the governor of Illinois, Thomas Ford. And he basically says this story with zero source. It’s just a rumor going around, but he just says this and so it’s still quoted today.
There’s no corroboration that any of this is, especially from the witnesses themselves that this is true, but he says, “He, Joseph Smith, set them to continual prayer….” these are the eight witnesses, “… and other spiritual exercises to acquire this lively faith by means of which the hidden things of God could be spiritually discerned. And, at last, when he could delay them no longer, he assembled them in a room …” now Lucy says it was a grove near their house, “… and produced a box which he had contained a precious treasure. The lid was opened. The witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty. They said, ‘Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates.’ The prophet answered them, ‘Oh ye of little faith. How long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation? Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven.'”
“The disciples dropped to their knees and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness. At the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates. I leave it to philosophers to determine whether the fumes have an enthusiastic and fanatical imagination are thus capable of blinding the mind and deceiving the senses by so absurd a delusion.” It’s just insane. This will even be quoted today, but okay. Reverend John Clark’s recollection of an unnamed attorney’s alleged recollection of an alleged statement from Martin Harris. So again, it’s kind of crazy stuff that this even gets quoted, but this is talking about the “I have faith” that Martin Harris talked about.
“A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly, ‘Did you see those plates?’ Harris replied, he did. ‘Did you see the plates, and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes? Harris replied, ‘Yes, I saw them with my eyes. They were shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.’ ‘But did you see them with your natural, your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this.’ Harris replied, ‘Why I did not see them as I do that pencil case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith. I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me, though at the time they were covered.'” Which by the way, that’s confusing. The person recording this is third hand, but talking about when he held the plates during the translation process at times, but also the eye of faith.
That was in D&C 17 that they would see it by the eye of faith. And that was again, another way of talking about spiritual vision aspect of this there. Now here’s the one that’s used the most and this is another case where Martin’s two experiences are combined together. This is the one that’s used by critics the most, and it’s a letter from one apostate to another apostate, essentially describing this experience with Martin Harris that led him out of the Church essentially on here. And so he first says, “When I came to hear …”, now this is Stephen Burnett. He says, “When I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only envisioned or imagination, neither Oliver nor David …” Now, let’s stop for a minute. So first of all, Martin never talked like that. He never said “or imagination”. This is Burnett adding this in.
And Martin before and many statements after never talked about anything like this. It was never an imagination, but always in vision or the eye of faith, the spiritual eyes, that kind of thing, but they didn’t imagine this there. Then he goes on to say, this is what critics have also pointed to heavily is “that the eight witnesses never saw them and hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way…” to him, Burnett. “In my view, our foundation was sapped and the entire superstructure fell in a heap of ruins. I therefore three weeks since in the stone chapel renounced the Book of Mormon. After we were done speaking …”, this was in the second meeting.
“Martin Harris arose and said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon, for he knew it was true. He said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them, only as he saw a city through a mountain and said that he never should have told them that the testimony of the eight was false if it had not been picked out of him, but should have let it pass as it was.” So about the tablecloth, this was when Martin was trying to discuss about when he was helping Joseph in the translation process, and so he’s kind of mingling these two experiences together in one kind of statement here, but Martin was sharing that to really point out the physicality of the plates that the eight did have a physical experience with these plates.
Now let me show you how this is explained very well by Richard Lloyd Anderson. As I mentioned I think when I did David Whitmer, this Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, Richard Lloyd Anderson. He just passed away recently, but this is the seminal work on this. It’s fascinating here. But he spoke at several different conferences. But this was a piece in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies and he explained this, I thought quite well. Here’s what he said: “Martin Harris stood and said that he ‘had hefted the plates repeatedly.’ This clearly countered the dissenters’ visionary theory [of the eight], which shows that the physical reality of the plates was Harris’s theme in the second meeting. He had actually held them with only a tablecloth over them in this context. Harris was not talking of his testimony of seeing the angel and plates, but speaking of other times when he knew the plates were under a tablecloth or a handkerchief, probably the experience that he and Emma shared during the 1828 translation.”
On reflection, Harris said that he ‘never should have told the testimony of the eight witnesses was false, if it had not been picked out of him, but should have let it pass as it was.'” That was the quote says, “The context is Harris straightening out Burnett by adding his own testimony that there were physical plates. If we compensate for Burnett’s loaded language, Harris’s retraction was essentially this: he never would have agreed that the eight witnesses saw the plates through spiritual sight if he had not been confused by leading questions, but would’ve let their written testimony speak for itself.” And who is Martin, by the way, to speak for the eight? Back to Anderson. “The real question is whether Burnett quoted Harris accurately in the first place. The answer is that Burnett continued to believe in a visionary experience for the eight witnesses, even after Harris said he had given the wrong impression on that issue.”
“Since Harris insisted he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box, he disagreed with Burnett’s spiritualizing of the eight witnesses’ experience. Burnett’s report of Harris’s quoting them is not only compound hearsay but hearsay rejected by its author, Martin Harris.” Okay, let’s take a look at this quote here from Harris in 1853. This is after being out of the Church for quite some time. He says, “I was the right-hand man of Joseph Smith and I know that he was a prophet of God. I know the Book of Mormon is true. Then smiting his fists on the table he said, ‘and you know that I know that it is true. I know that the plates have been translated by the gift and power of God, for His voice declared it unto us, therefore I know of a surety that work is true.'”
And then some other subsequent statements from Martin Harris to William Glenn here recorded Harris saying, “Gentleman, do you see that hand? Are you sure you see it? Are your eyes playing a trick or something? No. Well, as sure as you see my hand, so sure did I see the angel and the plates.” Harris told Robert Aveson, “It is not a mere belief, but is a matter of knowledge. I saw the plates and the inscriptions thereon. I saw the angel and he showed them unto me.” Now this last quote is going to be on his death bed. And I love this one part of this that talks about how he could be a rich man. And think about all of the witnesses that left the Church that could have become very wealthy, very rich men if they had denied their testimony, essentially.
So on his death bed responding to George Godfrey’s suggestion, he may have been deceived. He says, “The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I’ve seen and I have heard what I’ve heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been willing to perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear, I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true.” Now one little sidebar. The Strangites, James Strang was a break-off group during the secession crisis after the martyrdom, and he even got some prominent families to go with him in the Church. And there was a confusing letter about his appointment 10 days before the martyrdom, but it was really just to be a stake president in Wisconsin.
Page two, which we now know is a forgery, not Joseph Smith’s writing, that he was to leave the Church. So, but here’s what critics will point out is that he proves witnesses and records, metal records that were buried. And so for this made Joseph’s ability to produce witnesses neither surprising nor persuasive. Well, there’s some key differences. One is there are no angelic visions, no angels showing anything. Many of the witnesses later reputed their testimonies. One of the most damning ones was one of the witnesses later said that they helped Strang to make the plates and buried them. And then look at the fruits. There actually are 500 members still today of that branch, break off, a small, break-off group.
So anyway. Now finish with the last couple of quotes from some of the others that left the Church. Hiram Page, and if you notice, almost all of the statements I’ve been trying to share are from those that had left the Church. Hiram Page in 1847 after leaving the Church for some time, “As to the Book of Mormon, it would be doing injustice to myself, and to the work of God of the last days, to say that I could know a thing to be true in 1830, and know the same thing to be false in 1847.” And his son quoted him as, “I knew my father to be true and faithful to his testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon until the very last. Whenever he had an opportunity to bear his testimony to this effect, he would always do so, and seemed to rejoice exceedingly in having been privileged to see the plates.”
Then Jacob Whitmer, we have very little there, but we do have this quote from his son, “My father, Jacob Whitmer, was always faithful and true to his testimony to the Book of Mormon, and confirmed it on his death bed.” And then I love this from Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses book. He says here, “After quoting the published statements of the three and eight witnesses in describing the experience of the latter group, Lucy Smith relates, ‘The ensuing evening, we held a meeting in which all the witnesses bore testimony to the facts as stated above'”, of their statements in the Book of Mormon. And I love this. A lot of people aren’t aware of this meeting. He says, “Two years later …”, this would have been 1831, ” … in the period of dynamic preaching of the early leaders, a conference was held near Cleveland, Ohio, remembered by Luke Johnson as follows:”
“‘At this conference, the 11 witnesses to the Book of Mormon with uplifted hands …'” So just picture this.Testifying like under oath, “… up lifted hands bore their solemn testimony to the truth of that book, as did also the prophet Joseph.'” So whenever you hear any criticisms, I want you to just picture it. I love that picture in my mind of all 11 witnesses with their hands raised to the square. Now I want to finish with Richard Lloyd Anderson’s closing comments at the FairMormon Conference when he spoke in 2004. Like I said, he just died in August, 2018 and I’m just going to share the underlying parts here. You can pause and read this whole thing.
These are some sections I just loved out of his comments when he spoke. He says, “There is not one reliable record where they, the witnesses, denied their testimony. All three of the witnesses bore that testimony on their death beds. And so I would say these witnesses are capable, they’re perceptive, they’re intelligent enough to know whether they were the victims of deception. They were motivated to expose that there was a conspiracy. They did not. And I think the whole issue is an issue of speculation versus documentation.” And down at the bottom there, he says, “There is nothing that I have found that would make me feel a bit to the contrary intellectually or spiritually. I have looked for whatever contradictions– I made up my mind early if they were there, I’d find them. I haven’t found them.” Then he says, “I say that in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” And I do as well. I hope you enjoyed the video. Subscribe for more.
Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard Lloyd Anderson
A Documentary History of The Book of Mormon by Larry Morris
Tangible Restoration: Eye Witnesses of The Book of Mormon – Dan Peterson at 2006 Fairmormon Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V38js…
Book of Mormon Witnesses – Richard Lloyd Anderson at 2004 FairMormon Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooocd…
The Eight Witnesses – Larry Morris at 2019 FairMormon Conference (might only be a streaming purchase option for a period of time) https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.