received an email from a Mormon that stated, “Try as
you might, you cannot refute the testimonies of the three
and eight witnesses found in every copy of the Book of
Mormon. They saw what they saw and bore witness of it,
and nothing you write to the contrary can alter the
truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, of the testimonies of
its witnesses, and of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus
Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
Indeed, much weight is given to the testimony of the
three and eight witnesses, which preface every Book of
Mormon. Another Mormon wrote to us saying, “I am amazed that
not one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon ever
denied his testimony of seeing the gold plates and the angel
this input, let’s examine the testimony of the three and
I’m not a
lawyer, but I do have experience in a courtroom setting,
providing factual witness testimony and expert witness
answer the arguments given above, we shall examine the
substance of the witnesses’ testimony, the credibility of
the witnesses, and the relevance of their testimony.
In this scenario, the reader will be the jury.
The question before us is whether these eleven
witnesses support the argument that the Book of Mormon is
let’s turn to the substance of their testimony.
The testimony of the three witnesses is as follows:
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, their
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 seen the engravings which are upon the
plates; and they have been shown 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 marvelous 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.” [emphasis added]
three witnesses above gave testimony that they saw the
golden plates from which Joseph Smith allegedly translated
the Book of Mormon. It is important to note, however, that they did not
physically see these plates in a literal sense.
Rather, they claim an angel showed them the plates.
Elsewhere, these three witnesses describe how Smith
translated the plates, while they were on a table, covered
with a cloth. While
it would have been easy for Smith to remove the cloth, and
allow these men to literally behold the plates, this did not
had to rely on a spiritual vision of the plates for their
I suggesting that angels do not exist?
Not at all! However,
since this angel gave them a spiritual glance at what would
become “another gospel” (as mentioned in Galations
1:6-9), we must then keep in mind the words of 2 Corinthians
11:14, which says, “And no wonder, for Satan himself
masquerades as an angel of light.”
Galatians 1:8 says, “But even if we or an angel
from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we
preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
Does this warning not strike you as particularly
relevant to the circumstances described by the three
Harris, and Whitmer testified that they saw a vision of this
new gospel presented to them by an angel, “by the power of
God, and not of man.”
These Bible verses do not mean that the three
witnesses did not receive some kind of angelic vision of the
plates, but they would give us pause, indicating that the
angel in question might just be Satan working undercover.
we move on to the issue of witness credibility, let us take
a look at the testimony of the eight witnesses:
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.”
WHITMER HIRAM PAGE
JOSEPH SMITH, SEN
WHITMER, JUN HYRUM SMITH
SAMUEL H. SMITH
you notice anything familiar about the surnames of the
of them are Whitmers – directly related to David Whitmer,
one of the three witnesses.
Actually, a fifth is related to the Whitmer family,
as Hiram Page is the husband of David Whitmer’s sister.
Of the remaining three, one is Joseph Smith’s
father, and the other two are Joseph’s brothers.
This isn’t exactly a variety of witnesses, and is
actually quite nepotistic!
However, as this goes to the credibility of the
witnesses, as opposed to the substance of their testimony,
let me digress. Some
Mormons would understandably point out that the eight
witnesses gave a more specific testimony of the plates, and
did not say they only saw them in a vision.
That much is true, to be sure.
However, let me introduce into evidence some
statements that some of the eight witnesses made after this
only three of the eight witnesses made separate
statements that they actually handled the plates.
They were Joseph Smith’s brothers, along with John
another Smith that was not among the witnesses, also
claims to have handled the plates.
Joseph’s brother William Smith said, "I did
not see them 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." (Zion's Ensign, p. 6, January 13, 1894.)
of the jury, this witness claims that Joseph Smith forbade
anyone from seeing the bare plates that they were lifting.
Without uncovering the plates, how can the witnesses
conclusively testify that what they were lifting were gold
plates as opposed to another heavy metal, such as lead?
Whitmer doesn’t help the testimony either, when he said to
Theodore Turley in 1839, "I now say, I handled those
plates; there were fine engravings on both sides…they were
shown to me by a supernatural power" (History of the
Church, Vol. 3, p. 307).
If John Whitmer had physically seen the plates with
his own eyes, why would he need a supernatural power to see
of course, he saw them through the same spiritual eye
described by the three witnesses.
Therefore, while the eight witnesses testify to
seeing the plates and handling them, the question as to
whether this was a literal or a spiritual occurrence is, as
provided the testimony of the witnesses, it is now incumbent
upon us to examine the credibility of the witnesses.
Are these witnesses believable, or do they have
conflicts of interest that might taint their testimony?
How did their other statements and actions buttress
or compromise their testimony.
let’s cover the three witnesses: Martin Harris, Oliver
Cowdery, and David Whitmer.
A contemporary of Martin Harris said, "There
can't anybody say a word against Martin Harris. Martin was a
good citizen ...a man that would do just as he agreed with
you. But, he was a great man for seeing spooks."
[emphasis added] - Lorenzo Sauders, one who claimed
to know the Harris family well. (Ronald W. Walker,
"Martin Harris: Mormonism's Early Convert," Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 19 (Winter 1986):
34-35). John H.
Gilbert, who participated in printing the Book of Mormon,
said, “Martin was something of a prophet: — He
frequently said that Jackson would be the last president
that we would have; and that all persons who did not embrace
Mormonism in two years would be stricken off the face of the
earth.: He said that Palmyra was to be the New Jerusalem,
and that her streets were to be paved with gold.”
(Wilford C. Wood, Joseph Smith Begins His Work,
Vol. 1, 1958, introduction. This is a photomechanical
reprint of the first edition  of the Book of Mormon.
It also contains biographical and historical information
relating to the Book of Mormon.)
Martin Harris was also unstable in his religious
beliefs, as evidenced by the following: “One day he
[Martin Harris] would be one thing, and another day another.
He soon became 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... 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. ( Millennial
Star, vol. 8, November 15, 1846, p. 124.)
Apparently, Joseph Smith was himself not too taken
with his witnesses, as he wrote, “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.” (History of the Church, vol. 3:232).
Finally, Harris seems to have a conflict of interest.
J.H. Beadle wrote, “Martin Harris was a credulous
farmer who lived near the Smiths.
He had imbibed the notion, so common in the religious
excitement of that period, that ‘the last days were at
hand,’ and mortgaged his farm for three thousand dollars,
to pay for printing the first edition of the book [of
continued with the Mormons till his means were exhausted,
and, having quarreled with Joe Smith, in Missouri, returned
to his old residence in New York.” (Life in Utah; or,
The Mysteries and Crimes of Mormonism, J.H. Beadle,
1870, p.26). Mortgaging
his farm? Is
this the action of a true believer, or that of an investor?
I’m anxious to get to David Whitmer, we should take a
moment to say a couple of things about Oliver Cowdery.
First, the previously stated rebuke of Joseph Smith
should not be quickly forgotten.
Second, as we have already mentioned nepotism among
the witnesses, I would be remiss if I did not present that
Cowdery and Joseph Smith were third cousins.
Cowdery, like Smith, was prolific in his occultic use
of a divining rod. RLDS
historian Richard P. Howard writes, “For
example, the 'divining rod' was used effectively by one
Nathanael Wood in Rutland County, Vermont, in 1801. Wood,
Winchell, William Cowdery, Jr., and his son Oliver Cowdery,
all had some knowledge of and associations with the various
uses, both secular and sacred, of the forked witch hazel
rod. Winchell and others used such a rod in seeking buried
treasure;...when Joseph Smith met Oliver Cowdery in April
1829, he found a man peculiarly adept in the use of the
forked rod...” (Howard 1969, 211-214)
I submit to you that all of the historians agree that
Cowdery had an intense interest in the supernatural,
particularly in visions and folk magic.
J.H. Beadle said, “Oliver Cowdery was at that time
a sort of wandering schoolmaster, rather noted as an elegant
assisted in translating the inscriptions on the plates,
continued an active Saint for many years, and was finally
expelled from the Church in Missouri, ‘for lying,
counterfeiting and immorality.’
He led a rambling life for many years, and died a
short time since a miserable drunkard.” (Beadle 1870,
we get to the issue of David Whitmer, let me briefly give
attention to the matter of the eight witnesses. As we said before, the eight witnesses were closely related,
and their testimony is placed in conflict by statements made
later. Due to
limited space, we’ll let those issues stand regarding
one time, it was alleged that David Whitmer later recanted
his testimony regarding the Book of Mormon. Let us say that this is not true. However, Mormons should be careful when they hold up the
testimony of David Whitmer, as Whitmer also called Joseph
Smith a fallen prophet, and condemned the Mormon Church in
strong terms. Whitmer
was not a Mormon, as he did not follow Brigham Young.
In his 1887, An Address to All Believers in Christ,
Whitmer notes three main sects that believe in the Book of
Church of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints, and The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints. Of
those, Whitmer belonged to the first – The Church of
Christ. In his Address,
Whitmer ferociously condemns polygamy as being contrary to
both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and also wrote, “We
do not indorse the teachings of any so-called Mormons or
Latter Day Saints, which are in conflict with the gospel of
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as taught in the New
Testament and the Book of Mormon. They have departed in a
great measure from the faith of the CHURCH OF CHRIST as it
was first established, by heeding revelations given through
Joseph Smith, who, after being called of God to translate
his sacred word--the Book of Mormon--drifted into many
errors and gave many revelations to introduce doctrines,
ordinances and offices in the church, which are in conflict
with Christ's teachings.”
While this does not count toward the credibility
of David Whitmer, it does present an interesting dilemma.
Mormons count Whitmer among the witnesses to the Book
of Mormon, and consequently grant him credibility as a
Whitmer was quite critical of Joseph Smith (a sentiment that
was mutual), and openly condemned Mormon beliefs.
Therefore, are we to accept his testimony regarding
the Book of Mormon, but assume he lost his credibility
we accept him as a credible witness, and conclude that
Mormonism is wrong? Or
should we discount the credibility of his testimony – including
his testimony regarding the Book of Mormon?
arguments have been made regarding the issue of witness
this point, you the jury have the information to decide how
much weight you wish to give their testimony.
Now, let’s examine how relevant their testimony is
to the question of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
whether the witnesses saw actual plates, or only had visions
of the plates, it is apparent that the plates where not
necessary in the translation of the Book of Mormon.
In Whitmer’s address, he describes the translation
will now give you a description of the manner in which the
Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the
seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat,
drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light;
and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A
piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and
on that appeared the writing. One character at a time
would appear, and under it was the interpretation in
English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to
Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it
was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if
it was correct, then it would disappear, and another
character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the
Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of
God, and not by any power of man.”
by the accounts of the witnesses, the plates remained
covered during the translation.
The Book of Mormon came about because Joseph Smith
stuck a rock in his hat, followed it with his face, and
spoke the translation for Cowdery to write down. How does the existence of plates fit into this scenario?
It does not.
as David Whitmer rightly pointed out, there is precious
little Mormon doctrine within the Book of Mormon.
Most Mormon doctrine is found in the Doctrine and
Covenants and in the revelation of LDS prophets.
Polygamy was a commandment in the D&C, but is
openly condemned in the Book of Mormon.
The doctrine of eternal progression is refuted in the
Book of Mormon. LDS
doctrines on the nature of God, Jesus Christ, and the
destiny of man, are not found in the Book of Mormon.
Even temple endowments are not spoken of in the Book
of Mormon. It
could easily be argued that the Book of Mormon itself is
irrelevant to LDS doctrine.
if Mormons don’t use the Book of Mormon for doctrine, do
they use it for history?
So much has been written on the fallacy of Book of
Mormon history, that space does not permit its inclusion
here. The fact
that the Book of Mormon describes things in the Americas
that we know did not exist at the time is well documented.
The fact that the Lamanites (American Indians) were
not of Jewish descent is also well documented.
Some Mormons claimed that the Smithsonian Institute
used the Book of Mormon as a guide to Central and South
American archaeology, but this has been openly refuted by
the Smithsonian itself.
In fact, the Smithsonian stated, “The Book of
Mormon is a religious document and not a scientific
Biblical archaeology is a large and exciting field, wherein
the Bible is used as a guide to the past, the Book of Mormon
does not share that distinction.
scholars understand that the Book of Mormon is not
historically accurate, and have been treated harshly by LDS
anthropologist Thomas W. Murphy set out to test a key
principle of his Mormon faith with the latest technology.
His DNA studies revealed that the early American Indians
(both in North and South America) came from Asia, as opposed
to the Middle East, as the Book of Mormon contends. He
faced a church disciplinary committee, and was expected to
be excommunicated. Mormon
Egyptologist Ed Ashment was under ecclesiastical
investigation and expects to be excommunicated for
publishing articles that assert church founder Joseph Smith
fabricated key LDS texts he said were translations of
ancient scriptures. David
Wright, a professor of Hebrew studies and the Bible at
Brandeis University, was excommunicated in April 1994 for
articles asserting the Book of Mormon was a 19th-century
creation of church founder Joseph Smith.
Why don’t more LDS scholars stand up and state the
truth about the Book of Mormon?
After the way the LDS Church treated the scholars
mentioned above, I would say a sense of fear and
self-preservation keeps them in check.
and Gentlemen of the jury, the case has been presented.
Have the eleven witnesses given objective,
Has their testimony convinced you of the truthfulness
of the Book of Mormon?
I assert that the Book of Mormon is “another
gospel” given by an angel, as spoken of in Galatians
kind of angel would give another gospel?
None other than Satan, who the Bible tells us will
masquerade as an angel of light to lead people away from the
Smith was a false prophet.
The Book of Mormon is a false gospel.
And we must make every effort to show Mormons that
the true gospel of Jesus Christ still stands.
It is time to abandon the evil doctrines that say we
are gods in infancy who must earn our salvation, and return
to the truth of the gospel that says we are completely
unworthy, but the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to
cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
We cannot afford to rest our case while there are
still people in this world that do not know the truth.