Defending the Faith: The Book of Mormon witnesses and the 'problems' of eyewitness testimony


Return To Article
  • Calebc01 Payson, UT
    June 9, 2014 7:13 p.m.

    "Most researchers who study the bigfoot subject will point to the abundance of witnesses as the factor they found most compelling about the mystery when first becoming acquainted with it. Over the course of time, bigfoot researchers meet enough eyewitnesses to realize there are indeed many, many eyewitness across the continent who are indeed very credible. Often there are multiple witnesses to a given sighting or encounter...."

    - Animal Planet, on the evidence for Bigfoot

  • Dante Salt Lake City, UT
    May 29, 2014 4:11 p.m.

    There would appear to be nothing given us by God that is free from criticism or doubt. Most of the world goes so far as to question the existence of God. Perhaps God is content to let the world doubt His reality. But they who exert faith and sincere, heartfelt prayer usually come away with a faithful belief in God's reality. The same appears to be true for God's gifts.

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    May 28, 2014 5:58 a.m.

    Erick2014: sounds like you put way too much faith in your version of science. Evidently you forgot to read the end of my last post. You don't think science, with all it's certainty, has been wrong. Ever? Eyes wide open here.

  • Erick2014 provo, UT
    May 27, 2014 11:47 a.m.

    Science doesn't speak in the language of faith, it speaks in the language of confidence and certainty and it expresses those things in levels of degrees. Mormonism does not rely on a faith that can be demonstrated, instead it claims a faith that can be individually (not publicly) experienced. The tests of Mormonism, Moroni 10:3-5, cannot be put on display. The degree to which these are "proven" is not based on some kind of comparable standard, but entirely hinges on the individuals threshold of acceptance. Additionally, faith is only a motivator to the degree that a person is vested in the hope of their faith. Even so, a person can be motivated by faith in a false concepts, so why God would be so excited a motivating people under conditions of uncertainty is beyond me. Sounds like the Mormon God is just an exhalted Michael Scott.

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    May 27, 2014 9:19 a.m.

    Erick2014: Faith vs Confidence? I don't think so. "scientific principle of confidence" Now you are making stuff up -- there is no such scientific principle.

    MormonCowboy. Got it. However, Mormonism does not rely on "blind" faith but faith that can be demonstrated and "proven" from experience. Read Alma.

    Faith is a virtue God wants us to develop because it is the first thing that motivates us, religiously or scientifically. Faith leads to confidence.

    For review. From the University of Illinois:

    As this is a science class, it would be beneficial to start out with a discussion on just what is "science." Science is a methodical process which seeks to determine the secrets of the natural world by using the scientific method.

    It is impossible to prove something to be true (this dips deeply into philosophy, but Truth is an ever-elusive principle.) One can create a theory with an overwhelming amount of support, but one valid piece of contrary evidence can strike it down. As such, science and scientific theories are an ever-evolving as new ideas and technologies allow us to create and test hypotheses in new and exciting ways.

    May 25, 2014 10:02 p.m.

    I appreciate the witnesses who saw the plates and never wavered in their witness of them.

    I also know that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on the earth, and a person will get closer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book. I've read and studied it dozens of times. I'm sure it is historical, but that isn't its primary purpose and isn't where it's relevance lies. What is important is that it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Showing some folks golden plates doesn't prove it's true, it's just another evidence among many. The real proof comes from prayerful study, adherence to the principles it teaches, and the accompanying witness from the Spirit of God as to its truth.

  • Clifton Palmer McLendon Gilmer, TX
    May 25, 2014 7:34 p.m.


    You didn't answer my question.

  • WoManKnowsMyHistory Jonesboro, AR
    May 25, 2014 3:22 p.m.

    @ GoingTo100: “If The Lord had left the plates for everyone to see, it would have weakened his work. ...”

    LDS history tells a different story.

    When Joseph Smith possessed empirically verifiable artifacts, he enthusiastically showed them to Mormons and non-Mormons alike.

    Joseph, for example, regularly displayed his 1835 acquisition of Egyptian mummies and papyri. Joseph said he dictated the Book of Abraham from papyrus fragments in this collection.

    In 1843, Joseph exhibited six plates supposedly excavated in Kinderhook, IL and facilitated publication of facsimiles by the _Times and Seasons_. Joseph told William Clayton that the plates contained the writings of a descendant of Ham via Pharaoh (turned out the Kinderhook record was a crude hoax).

    Not so with the Book of Mormon gold plates. Joseph showed them to a select few only, largely with familial connections. All of these folks shared a magical worldview foreign to most modern sensibilities—their otherworldly witness cannot be divorced from this context.

    And unlike Joseph’s other empirically verifiable artifacts, the gold plates *behaved magically*, such as moving from place to place without human assistance. This alone should give considerable pause as to the *empirical value* and *explanatory power* of the witnesses’ testimonies.

  • ThinksIThink SEATTLE, WA
    May 25, 2014 3:20 p.m.

    Does it matter how many people saw the golden plates? They're gone now. I don't know where.

    I do know that the Book of Mormon doesn't make any sense. I've read it. It's not historical. It's full of falsehoods. Showing some folks golden plates doesn't make up for making up the Book of Mormon.

  • greatbam22 andrews afb, MD
    May 24, 2014 9:52 p.m.

    @ Sharrona

    Say what you will but we believe in Jesus Christ.

    It is obvious that you have a different understanding of his mission and purpose than we do.

    I will quote from your version of the scriptures.

    3:7 "Certainly the sovereign Lord does nothing without first revealing his plan to his servants the prophets."

    God has called prophets in the last days as he did in times of old.

    Joseph Smith was one of these prophets. Some of the things he was called to bring forth was more scripture and to restore Christ's Church back to the earth.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    May 24, 2014 3:26 p.m.

    RE: Erick2014, By faith we understand that the worlds =(time/aions Grk )were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible(Hebrew 11:3)

    Creation ex-nihilo is supported by the evidence of the Big Bang. The Big Bang shows that the universe had a beginning. There was a one time a specific point where all things were born and put into motion. If it had a beginning that means in had to have a “beginner”.(John 1:1)

    RE: Clifton Palmer McLendon, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word(Jesus) was God (John 1:1 NET) Verse 14,..the Word(Jesus) became flesh. God becomes Man not Man becomes God.

    “….(Jesus) existed in the *form (morphe) of God did not regard equality with Godas something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form (morphe) of a slave, by looking like other men ,and by sharing in human nature. Phil 2:6-7 (NET)

    The Greek term translated *form(morphe) meaning of this word is that Christ was truly God. Verse 7,hrist was Truly man. Theanthropic/Jesus

  • Clifton Palmer McLendon Gilmer, TX
    May 24, 2014 12:44 p.m.

    layton, UT

    “If you don't have the right Jesus ...”

    My Jesus was born in Bethlehem just over 2000 years ago, the son of God the Eternal Father and a virgin named Mary. He was reared at Nazareth by His mother and her husband, a carpenter named Joseph who was of the Tribe of Judah. When my Jesus was about thirty years old, He asked His cousin John (son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and also of the Tribe of Judah) to baptize Him in the Jordan River. After some demur, John did. My Jesus went about healing the sick and raising the dead. When He was about thirty-three, He was crucified on Passover Friday and His corpse placed in a borrowed tomb. Sometime between Saturday sundown and Sunday sunup, He resurrected.

    How does my Jesus differ from yours?

  • WayneDe MONROVIA, CA
    May 24, 2014 11:44 a.m.

    It seems to me some critics confuse that there are two separate sets of formal witnesses. Of the three witness, Martin Harris indeed wrote of seeing with spiritual eyes. Perhaps one could reasonably conclude the David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery did likewise at that time. The eight witness are different. They clearly saw and handled the plates in a physical manner and not in a vision. Thus we have two sets of men to witness the spiritual and physical realities.

    Of course, it is more important that we have a spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon that comes from studying it, living its teachings, and hearing and/or feeling the Holy Ghost testify of it. Millions have and continue to do so.

  • GoingTo100 Gilbert, AZ
    May 24, 2014 7:46 a.m.

    If The Lord had left the plates for everyone to see, it would have weakened his work. Know one would have to gain a testimony by studying it out and seeking answers from God. Faith would be diminished or non-existent. There would be no power in the work. God knew what he was doing when he limited the witnesses and took back the plates.

  • Erick2014 provo, UT
    May 24, 2014 7:39 a.m.

    As a final thought, the notion of confidence in science, which you associated with faith, couldn't be more off. Religious Faith is tied more to hope where confidence is tied directly to error (dare I say, "doubt"). Take Ether 12:4-7 - Faith is again tied to hope and is a precedent to evidence. Also take the LDS Bible Dictionary's definition of Faith -

    "All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results."

    So, faith presumes correct knowledge...which is entirely contrary to the scientific principle of confidence. Confidence presumes error and seeks to identify and measure the parameters of error so as to reduce uncertainty. Both seek to get to the truth, but confidence does so by embracing the probability of error whereas religious faith shuts it eyes to the possibility and arrogantly asserts righteousness and certainty (just as boldly as it arrogantly asserts its humility as well, I might add). So, in short, you can strain over semantics and pretend like religious faith and confidence are on the same playing field, but the truth is they couldn't be farther apart.

  • Erick2014 provo, UT
    May 24, 2014 7:29 a.m.

    Continuing -

    How does one apply the kind of faith in the sunrise to a faith in the witnesses testimony? Do we have any consistent and reasonably verifiable precedents? Is there the days/weeks/months/years immediately before tomorrows sunrise that we can refer to develop an estimation of confidence in the witnesses testimony? Of course not! There is of course preceding and also unverified mythology, but all that does is extend the unprecedented expectation of your faith. Since you like Paul you should know that he didn't marry up his definition of faith with the scientific concept of confidence, but instead tied it more appropriately to the need for hope. Now, if you want to hope that the witnesses statement are true, and by extension that the Mormon restoration is "real", then be my guest. I can think of a lot better things to hope for than that, but do as you will. Just don't conflate it with the idea of reasonable expectation or confidence.

  • Erick2014 provo, UT
    May 23, 2014 8:51 p.m.

    rw123 - The rising sun is an old faith argument just like the light switch. However, it isn't comparable. We have faith in the rising sun because we also have experience with it directly. We all witness and act within the day night cycle, we experience a consistency of it, and therefore we expect that cycle to continue. If you want to call that faith then I won't argue the semantics. The paycheck follows the same logic. A person goes to work according to their employment contract. The employer then pays that person according to the same contract. This happens enough times then the employee develops a level of confidence in expecting the continuance of the paycheck along the same terms. Again, if you want to call that faith then fine.

    Religious faith however is of a different kind. Ether 12:6 is a great scripture on this, but it substantiates that the principle of faith is different from the scientific principle of confidence. Confidence is based on experience, observable cause and effect, and probabilities of error. Religious faith is to believe in things we have not seen, can't even observe, and therefore cannot prove.

  • njpray Polson, MT
    May 23, 2014 7:10 p.m.

    Oh really? of Herriman........ditto to your statements. I am always fascinated with responses of individuals who have a little knowledge and then twist that to their way of thinking. Thanks for your response.

  • rw123 Sandy, UT
    May 23, 2014 3:50 p.m.


    . . . continued from previous post . . .

    It just so happens that many of us have that same kind of belief that Jesus Christ was resurrected, that He lives, that there is a prophet on the earth, and that His Gospel is true. That if we live it, we will be blessed. We have experienced the spiritual evidence mentioned by Paul (Hebrews 11:1) that leads us to believe in things not seen which are true (see Alma 32:21).

    Or to turn it 180 degrees, if we only acted on those things that we had 100% proof/knowledge, we would be pretty weak and slothful. We wouldn’t act on very much. Scientists act on faith all the time. They get an idea and have enough faith/belief in it that they try it out. They don’t know it for sure until they try it.

  • rw123 Sandy, UT
    May 23, 2014 3:47 p.m.


    Faith is crucial as a moving force in life, not just in religious terms. Take for instance, we have faith the sun will rise tomorrow. Else why go to sleep at night in expectation of the sun rising so we can go about the duties of the next day. I submit it is an act of faith that the sun will rise.

    Some hitherto unknown scientific phenomena could destroy the earth, or the sun, the galaxy, or the universe. An atomic war could figuratively keep the sun from coming up. We just act as though none of these things are going to happen. That's faith. We believe those things won't happen, and by and large, we'd be right.

    Another example, we have faith our employer will send us our paycheck on payday. Else why work?

    That's faith. A lot of things are not sure, or eat least our knowledge of them is not 100 per cent, but we act on them anyway. I know my examples are simplistic, but faith is simple, we believe in something that is not seen that is true. And if we act on them, we become more sure.

  • rw123 Sandy, UT
    May 23, 2014 3:12 p.m.


  • Moontan Roanoke, VA
    May 23, 2014 12:11 p.m.

    @Craig Clark ... Mark Twain's admission to having had a really warped memory hardly impugns the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, but it does indeed shed some light on the following quote.

    “Veneration of Mark Twain is one of the roots of our current intellectual stalemate.”
    ― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    May 23, 2014 11:43 a.m.


    I would agree with your first point. The greater evidence would be for the resurrected Christ to manifest himself. It is in fact very strange that God would expect the whole world to believe the report of his resurrection on the say so of some "witnesses" who can not even be interviewed. Yes, the resurrection demands more evidence.

    The question is why does God want "faith". Who is really asking why this would be a necessary virtue? That's the whole point. Faith is a convenient requirement of the buyer from the seller. It places responsibility on the buyer for the product while making the seller completely unaccountable. Once you understand this then understanding why faith is such a central tenet of many religions is suddenly answered.

  • Big 'D' San Mateo, CA
    May 23, 2014 10:37 a.m.

    @The Wraith

    Thanks for responding constructively. I lumped you into a collective swath of people posting false allegations without being familiar with the subject's basic elements. Not everything I said applied to you. And when I say the basic elements, I admit they are basic to me after a lifetime of familiarity, and I have no idea what your background is. But it still appears that you've not done the simplest thing required to comment intelligently on this subject: read the Book of Mormon's witness statements. It sounds as if you think all 11 witnesses had the same testimony, and that 3 of them later hedged and said "well, actually, eh, maybe it was my spiritual eyes that saw that stuff".

    The Three Witnesses always claimed, from the beginning, that theirs was a divine manifestation. Their statement is separate from that of the Eight Witnesses. Recollections that the vision occurred after their spiritual eyes were opened is no different than Paul saying of his vision, "Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell."

    In no way (on this topic) is the Church portraying anything different than the historical reality of the witnesses and their statements.

  • Roger N. Union City, CA
    May 23, 2014 9:55 a.m.

    Regarding the claim that the witnesses didn't actually sign their testimony in the Book of Mormon, David Whitmer in 1881 publicly asserted that his testimony as it was printed in the Book of Mormon was valid.

    Whitmer: "That 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 adhered to that testimony.— And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do now again affirm the truth of all my statement[s], as then made and published." (David Whitmer, responding to John Murphy, "David Whitmer Proclamation, 19 March 1881," quoted in Early Mormon Documents 5:69)

  • rw123 Sandy, UT
    May 23, 2014 9:55 a.m.

    Regardless of your proposed rules of evidence or testimony, the fact is that these men put their name, reputation, and comfort at risk by saying they saw and handled the plates. They were men of good reputation. However it was done precisely, their words stand up pretty well as witnesses to the honest person or observer.

    Personally, I am grateful for the Lord's law of witnesses. It further solidifies my and others' testimonies that men or repute also saw the plates and were willing to say so. "By the mouth of two or three witnesses." I'm not saying it is the sum of my testimony. But it is one part that the Lord has graciously provided.

  • AerilusMaximus Berryville, VA
    May 23, 2014 9:28 a.m.

    @ DocHolliday

    "Just because alcohol consumption was very wide during that day doesn't mean that people knew it was bad for them."

    Wow....nice job trying to minimize it. Individual consumption was MUCH greater than what we drink today!

    Of course it means that they didn't know it was bad for them. If the majority of Doctors at the time are extolling it as it being ok and only 1 person is saying otherwise who is the populous going to believe?

    Trying to compare our day vs. the 1830's is a stretch. If you go into for a physical in todays world a doctor specifically asks you if you drink alcohol and smoke. This probably was not the case back in the 1830's.

    "If that is the case, the word of wisdom was no revelation. God would know he was a few years late in revealing such 'advanced' medical information."

    Could it be he didn't give it as revelation or commandment because the people we not ready to receive it? What happened on Mount Sinai when Moses saw the people worshiping a golden idol?

    Never heard of the phrase "line upon line?"

  • MoreMan San Diego, CA
    May 23, 2014 9:25 a.m.

    Once again... you are all arguing semantics. If you want something real, to touch, read, see, and feel.... start with the Nauvoo Expositor and work your way out from there. These were the Prophet's true contemporaries/members/disaffected followers and they had the means to expose the truth as they knew it. I'll stick with things that actually exist. The fact that Joseph and the rest of the "true Church" has spent so much of their and your time defending it ought to be obvious.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 23, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    "When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened."
    - from Mark Twain's Autobiography

    You invest yourself in statements you make. Your reputation and self-respect are placed on the line in standing on things you said, some in haste, some in earnest, some as brash declarations you didn’t think through when caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment. Over time, your memory plays tricks on you for the preservation of your own self-approval.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    May 23, 2014 9:00 a.m.

    RE: The Testimony of the Three witnesses: "And honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is ‘one God”. (BofM, Introduction). Yet,
    “… To us, speaking in the proper finite sense, these three are the only gods we worship." Mormon Doctrine, p. 576-577

    But,(Mt 28:19 NIV). “…, baptizing them in *the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    The name(not names), as in the Lord's Prayer ("Hallowed be thy name"), is the expression of the divine Being, it is equivalent to his person. When one is baptized into the name of the Trinity, He recognizes and depends upon God the Father as his Creator; receives Jesus Christ as his only Mediator and Redeemer, and confesses the Holy Spirit as his Sanctifier and Comforter.

    RE: Clifton Palmer McLendon, The Holy Spirit Bears witness of Jesus and that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit (John 15:26). Jesus will send the Holy Spirit. If you don't have the right Jesus you can't have the true Holy Spirit, and your testimony is invalid.

    E.g.., The LORD(YHWH)is our God(Elohiym)the(LORD) is one! (Deut 6:4).

  • DocHolliday reno, NV
    May 23, 2014 8:58 a.m.

    greatbam22, BJ-HP

    Nice try. Just because alcohol consumption was very wide during that day doesn't mean that people knew it was bad for them. People smoke and drink and eat bad food now, despite all of the evidence and correlation with health problems. Information doesn't lead people to make good decisions, necessarily. Furthermore, the book was printed in 1806. So even if you want people to believe that the word of wisdom was way ahead of its time (it wasn't, clearly) this book proves that at the very least, some people already had knowledge of the damaging effects of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and tea. If that is the case, the word of wisdom was no revelation. God would know he was a few years late in revealing such 'advanced' medical information.

    Gordon B. Hinckley 2005 ensign "In no conceivable way could it have come of the dietary literature of the time nor from the mind of the man who announced it."

    Apparently president Hinckley also didn't do his research on the subject, as the information was available for at least 30 years before the word of wisdom.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    May 23, 2014 8:31 a.m.

    In the case of three more witnesses to spectacular events, I'm curious if Peterson would "attempt to dismiss them by citing the fallibility of eyewitnesses and the unreliability of human memory."

    In the spring and summer of 1916, three children were herding sheep near their home village in Portugal when they claim an angel appeared to them on three separate occasions and taught them prayers and how to make sacrifices.

    Upon further appearances to the children, a lady "brighter than the sun" asked the children to do penance, acts of reparation, and make personal sacrifices to save sinners. The lady also confided to them three secrets, now known as the Three Secrets of Fátima.

    On separate visitations, the children reported that the Virgin Mary appeared to them and one of the children claimed Mary and Jesus visited her periodically throughout her life and delivered messages to give to the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.

    I'm even more curious about whether the three BoM witnesses should be given more credibility than the three child witnesses. As with the three BoM witnesses, "all of them [the three children] told the same story until they died."

  • Deliriousdd Benicia, CA
    May 23, 2014 8:21 a.m.

    The other component, which of course would not uphold in a court of law, is the Spirit which these witnesses felt. The scriptures teach us that the Spirit can bring all things to our remembrance, so that would have aided them in their testimony. But no one should become converted solely because of their witness. Each of us can gain our own witness that their experience was real. Great topic!

  • FT1/SS Virginia Beach, VA
    May 23, 2014 7:27 a.m.

    All three of their death bed confessions put an explanation point on their BOM testimonies. David Whitmer's non-member family, and so-called friends tried to get him to repute, and he refused. Oliver Cowdery caught up to the Saints on the trail, and bore his testimony with a re-baptism. Personally, I could care less of the negative comments of others, their are too many who have, and will accept it.

  • maclouie Falconer, NY
    May 23, 2014 6:54 a.m.


    The greatest witness against the resurrection is the absurdity that God would call witnesses, only to then take His resurrected Son away and leave the witnesses as the final evidence. If a "witness" mattered at all to God's great plan, then why not leave the more obvious witness, the resurrected and immortal Christ, Himself?

    Some of us get it, and some of us don't. That is one of the Gifts of the Spirit.

    "Joseph Smith should have learned from the Bible and built his miracles out of events like the parting of the red sea and not artifacts like the Gold Plates. Events pass and artifacts should remain, and Joseph stepped into it with this one."

    Well, I certainly don't understand this line of thinking. An angel showing the plates is an event, just like the witnesses at the "event" at the Kirtland Temple. Evidence of the Red Sea parting is nonexistent. Wow! I am so confused.

  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    May 23, 2014 2:10 a.m.

    It is important to remember that the Book of Mormon is not being offered to the world for the world's judgement. It is instead being offered as a test of each person's desire for the truth of the events and doctrines about God and Jesus Christ that are taught in its pages. Along with the content of the book itself, the testimony of the twelve men who bore their testimony of seeing the original ancient book, including Joseph Smith who was with both the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, is sufficient evidence for those who see the message of the Book of Mormon as desirable. For those who don't like its message, a thousand eye witnesses would never be enough. The most important witness is Moroni, the last contributor and editor, who bears his own testimony at its conclusion, and promises that he will be a witness against us at the Savior's judgment bar if we reject message.

  • kellyd Kaysville, UT
    May 23, 2014 1:30 a.m.

    In 1875, Martin Harris said "Yes, I did see the plates on which the Book of Mormon was written; I did see the angel; I did hear the voice of God."

    Oliver Cowdery said, "Before God and man I dare not deny what I have said, and what my testimony contains and as written and printed on the front page of the Book of Mormon. … I saw the angel and heard his voice; how can I deny it? It happened in the daytime when the sun was shining bright in the firmament; not in the night when I was asleep."

    And in 1881, David Whitmer wrote, "To the end, therefore, that he may understand me now if he did not then, and that the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once for all to make this public statement: That 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."

  • smitxxx Salt Lake City, UT
    May 22, 2014 11:59 p.m.

    Doc Holliday, Brahmabull and all of the detractors of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon: if your mind is closed on the subject, nobody will prove to your satisfaction that the Book of Mormon is true or that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. I guess we'll have to wait for the "Big Movie." In the meantime, even though the plates are not here (though I doubt it would make a bit of difference to you), the Book of Mormon is. To many of us, the proof is in the book. The more I read from really smart people about the Book of Mormon, the more I read the book itself, the more implausible it is to me that the book could have been a fabrication. The only possible explanation that makes sense is that Joseph translated it by the gift and power of God, just as he says.

    Anyone who wants to read a comprehensive summary of the 8 witnesses' statements concerning what they saw should google an article by Richard Lloyd Anderson available on the internet. One will find that the witnesses' later statements completely support the testimony written in the Book of Mormon.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    May 22, 2014 10:36 p.m.

    The greatest witness against the plates is the absurdity that God would call witnesses, only to then take the plates away and leave the witnesses as the final evidence. If a "witness" mattered at all to God's great plan, then why not leave the more obvious witness, the plates themselves? Now, the anticipated response is because God wants us all to have faith, right? Well, all but eleven of us that is, right? Why is God so infatuated with a faith of this kind? No, the greatest testimony against the plates is not the supposed credibility of those who saw, touched, and hefted...but the lack of anything more that the rest of us can see, touch, and heft. In other words, its not just the witnesses as individual people that is suspicious and absurd, but the whole premise of providing eyewitness testimony of something so unusual. Joseph Smith should have learned from the Bible and built his miracles out of events like the parting of the red sea and not artifacts like the Gold Plates. Events pass and artifacts should remain, and Joseph stepped into it with this one.

  • greatbam22 andrews afb, MD
    May 22, 2014 9:36 p.m.

    @ DocHolliday

    "There was plenty of people who knew these principles long before Joseph "claimed" they were of god."

    Really? Were they taking polls back then too?

    "It was clearly common knowledge of the day, not a revelation."

    Because you found it in one book that makes it common knowledge?

    I just found this on a website that negates a lot of what you just said regarding the common knowledge of the harms of alcohol and tobacco.

    "Our colonial economy was fueled by tobacco and rum. People in the 17th century also chewed tobacco because they believed it had medicinal benefits. This view came from observing Native Americans who used tobacco topically to treat maladies ranging from toothaches, to rheumatism, to wounds and to even the common cold!

    "Alcohol was a cheap and plentiful dietary staple and served as currency. Physicians endorsed distilled spirits to strengthen the heart, ward off fever, nourish the body, cheer the soul and prolong life."

    "By 1830, the annual per capita consumption of distilled spirits was five gallons approximately five times the amount people consume today."

  • Old Poet Salt Lake City, UT
    May 22, 2014 7:48 p.m.

    The Three Witnesses and eight other men signed carefully written text very soon after their witness experiences. Mary Whitmer saw the golden plates. Lucy Harris (the wife of Martin Harris), according to Lucy Mack Smith saw the angel and the plates. Do not forget Richard Anderson’s Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses; Rhett S. James's writings and historical drama (still produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) about Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew (1983, 1993); his articles on in the Mormon Heritage Magazine Vol. 2, No. 2; and twenty years of text in the Martin Harris Pageant Programs, which cited other textual evidences for the Book of Mormon. James was strong, persistent, and correct about showing Mark Hofmann's White Salamander Letter as fake. Oliver Cowdery: the book by Stanley R Gunn, Oliver Cowdery ought not be forgotten. David Whitmer: remember Lyndon W. Cook's work. Edward Stevenson Journal is critical for details regarding Martin Harris, as are accounts of William Pilkington and dozens of others who heard Martin Harris when he was brought to Utah at Brigham Young's instruction by Edward Stevenson.

  • Clifton Palmer McLendon Gilmer, TX
    May 22, 2014 6:34 p.m.

    There was once a little boy (5) who relished chili con carne, but for some reason thought enchiladas tasted like baby-formula.

    His mother told him one day that supper would consist of enchiladas, so -- with all the tact of his years -- he informed her that he would have none of them, and why.

    She assured him that, far from tasting like baby-formula, enchiladas tasted like chili.

    He was less than convinced, but decided to taste enchiladas that evening, and -- if they tasted anything like baby-formula -- to throw the tantrum of all tantrums.

    He discovered that enchiladas tasted very much like chili, and nothing like baby-formula.

    In order to make that discovery, he had to bite the enchilada.

    Moroni 10:3-5 tells how to bite the Book of Mormon enchilada. Those who have done so have made a discovery. Those who refuse to do so have not -- they are still in the same position the little boy was in at the start of that day.

    (I was the little boy in the story.)

  • bj-hp Maryville, MO
    May 22, 2014 6:33 p.m.

    Doc Holiday: Your comments are misleading. It wasn't until the 1960's that a link to tobacco use was tied to lung cancer and other illnesses. Though it was suspected many even from 1806 as you try to point out used and actually were addicted to it. This wasn't even explained until the 1960's. Your comments are misleading and totally wrong. All one has to do is look and see that what this man stated was way beyond anything anyone ever stated. Many times a prophet is given knowledge that isn't well known by all but by a few. Did Joseph Smith know about? Highly doubtful and it is a safe bet many people in and around Palmyra New York or even in New England ever heard of this person. your posting is totally irrelevant to the subject at hand.

    Just as Brahmabull's comment on the Gold Plates being taken again by Moroni is irrelevant. It makes logical since that the Lord would not allow anyone else an attempt to undo what he had allowed to happen. That is why Joseph never retranslated the 116 pages. Perfect logic.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    May 22, 2014 6:22 p.m.

    @Big D

    I have to take issue with your post, although part of the problem stems from my own post. I did say "the witnesses" claimed to see the plates with only their spiritual eyes when I should have said, a few of them later said that - so that's on me. However, you state that is a fact as well, so I'm hardly "ignorant" of the basic facts as you say. I also never once said anything about the plates being covered by cloth as you claim. I would also argue that my post was not an attack. I pointed out nothing in my post that you did not concur with in your own.

    In addition this doesn't answer my largest complaint, which is: The picture painted by the statements in the front of the BofM and by the LDS Church does not match that given to us in the actual historical record, which I find disingenuous. I then said this presents an issue for skeptics while members consider them to be a silly complaint - once again you agree with this in your post. So how am I ignorant?

  • DocHolliday reno, NV
    May 22, 2014 4:44 p.m.


    "In no one view, is it possible to contemplate the creature man in a more absurd and ridiculous light; than in his attachment to tobacco. The oil of tobacco is of so active and virulent a nature, that a few drops of it have proven fatal. This plant is possessed of narcotic properties, by which it produces, in those who first begin to smoke it, giddiness, cold sweats, vomiting, purging"

    ".It is therefore, recommended to all in hot seasons and climates, to abstain from much animal food..."

    It is striking to not not only was this book published in 1806, well before the word of wisdom, but it was also printed in New York, which means Joseph Smith may have had access to the information, and most likely did based on the strikingly similar phrases like "hot drinks", "abstain from much animal food in hot seasons."

    This book was written by a doctor, no revelation needed because they were smart enough to know the affects of this stuff already. It was clearly common knowledge of the day, not a revelation.

    Joseph also had a revelation that he should sell the copyright to the Bom.

  • DocHolliday reno, NV
    May 22, 2014 4:40 p.m.


    I am sorry, but you have said something that is completely false. Here it is:

    "One example is the Word of Wisdom(WoW). When no scientific evidence existed to support his such claims! That is plenty prophetic and pretty good proof in and of itself."

    that is false. There was plenty of people who knew these principles long before Joseph "claimed" they were of god.

    The following statements come from the book "MEANS OF PRESERVING HEALTH, AND PREVENTING DISEASES", Dr. Shadrach Ricketson, Printed by Collins, Perkins, and Co, New York, 1806

    "[Concerning distilled spirits] their frequent and excessive use is not only unnecessary, but highly injurious; and has destroyed thousands; perhaps more than either pestilence, famine, or the sword. I need not, therefore, take much pains to show their evil consequences, either in a medical, political, moral, or religious point of view"

    "Avoid, likewise, the excessive use of HOT DRINKS, such as coffee, chocolate, and tea, particularly the last, in which the inhabitants of this country indulge more than any other beverage"

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 22, 2014 4:34 p.m.

    John Simpson

    "....there can be no mistaking, based on longer-form account that Oliver prepared for the Messenger & Advocate in 1834, that Oliver was fully and enthusiastically sure that he had seen angels and that the Book of Mormon came about through miraculous means...."

    Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that the Book of Mormon did indeed come about through miraculous means involving heavenly messengers. Why would there be any need for a signed statement of eyewitnesses to the physical reality of the plates?

  • Big 'D' San Mateo, CA
    May 22, 2014 4:33 p.m.

    It is telling that Brahmabull, Wraith, JoeBlow, and DocHolliday— after displaying their ignorance of the most basic details of the subject under debate— not one of them replies saying "Oh, my mistake. Sorry about that. Thanks for informing me." Instead, the unfounded attacks just continue on. They show no desire to actually learn anything— only to attack.

    Fact: Only 3 of the 11 witnesses claimed to see the plates through divine manifestation.
    Fact: 8 of the 11 witnesses claimed to see and physically handle the uncovered plates, turn the leaves, examine the engravings. There was no prayer for divine experience, no angel, no vision, no voice of God. Just a tangible experience with a solid object. William Smith was not one of the 11 witnesses.
    Fact: None of the 11 witnesses ever denied their testimonies, despite many of them leaving the church.

    You can decide they were all frauds, but please stop recycling false notions that the witnesses' experiences were either "spiritual eyes only" or veiled by a cloth.

    If you're really committed to convincing people the Book of Mormon is not authentic, there are greener fields out there. The witnesses and their testimonies are a solid argument in favor of authenticity.

  • bj-hp Maryville, MO
    May 22, 2014 4:33 p.m.

    Everyone can dismiss what the three witnesses stated and the eight. However, the most compelling is that none, even when they were disavowed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ever denied their testimony as it is written in the front of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery who was present during 90% of the translation of the Book of Mormon could have easily put an end to the Church by denying everything right off the bat after he was excommunicated from the body of the Church. Yet, he would a few months before his death in a small gathering of Saints preparing to head west to the Salt Lake Valley again testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. David Whitmer when give information that he had denounced the Book of Mormon took out an ad in the Richmond Newspaper again disavowing the words attributed to him as rubbish basically and again testified of its truth. Martin Harris would on his deathbed once more testify of the truthfulness of the Book Of Mormon. Each of the surviving members of the eight witnesses would also testify again of its truth.

  • John Simpson ARLINGTON, VA
    May 22, 2014 4:03 p.m.

    Craig Clark -- You raise an interesting point about the statements of the witnesses having been "prepared for their signatures." Well, of course you are correct that SOMEONE drafted the statements that they signed, because there were only two statements; one for the eight witnesses and a different one for the three witnesses. I haven't researched this, but suspect that Oliver Cowdery authored both statements. The language of the statements is simply too polished to have been the work of Joseph Smith. In contrast, Oliver Cowdery was highly literate, as shown by his statement appended to the "Joseph Smith 1" history in the Pearl of Great Price. You can dismiss the statement signed by the three witnesses if you want, but there can be no mistaking, based on longer-form account that Oliver prepared for the Messenger & Advocate in 1834, that Oliver was fully and enthusiastically sure that he had seen angels and that the Book of Mormon came about through miraculous means.

  • Oh Really? HERRIMAN, UT
    May 22, 2014 3:21 p.m.

    sandy, ut
    Oh Really?

    "He could have been protected at carthage jail, he could have been free from any attack from anybody if that were true." He was martyred, as was Jesus, as a dying witness of his work.

    "If you believe it despite all of these things, more power to you."

    Exactly the result of my faith in Christ and his Gospel as restored through Joseph Smith: More happiness, more peace, more love, and more power in my life.

  • AerilusMaximus Berryville, VA
    May 22, 2014 3:02 p.m.

    @JoeBlow @Brahmabull

    Well that is the question. Were they covered or were they not covered?

    If they were covered why would they witness of it's color? If they were covered why would they witness of them at all?

    "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;"

    @Free Agency

    There are plenty of proofs of faith. Tithing is one example. Look it up in Malachi.

    There is plenty of proof that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

    One example is the Word of Wisdom(WoW). When no scientific evidence existed to support his such claims! That is plenty prophetic and pretty good proof in and of itself.

  • gcrobmd GADSDEN, AL
    May 22, 2014 3:02 p.m.

    It adds credibility to the witnesses that three of them had a miraculous event of which they testified,while eight had nothing of the miraculous---just matter of fact, objective, gold-appearing plates which they handled and of which they testified. The spiritual world was witnessed, as well as the physical artifact. If Joseph was hypnotizing, or whatever, the three, how did he do it to the eight?, all in broad daylight.

    This is also a witness of the restoration. The miraculous and the physical reality of Jesus the Christ and resurrection 2000 years ago is witnessed by the miraculous and the phsyical reality of the golden plates today. Charles Dickens poopooed "angels in the age of railways," but the witnesses and all who follow, including me and anyone who is willing to put in the effort to seriously ask God,can know that Christ and the resurrection is real.

  • LDSareChristians Anchorage, AK
    May 22, 2014 2:21 p.m.

    Free Agency posted:
    I have nothing to "defend" in my faith, since my faith works for me. The irony is that should I try to convince others that my faith is "true," it's invariably because I'm starting to have doubts about it myself.

    I think you are mistaken. I share the gospel, because I know it will bless and edify someone's life.

  • DocHolliday reno, NV
    May 22, 2014 2:10 p.m.


    You make all of these claims, and you cannot even provide a source. That does not help your argument. So the three witnesses had to be shown the plates by an angel, even though Joseph already had the plates sitting in his home... but the 8 witnesses were allowed to see them in reality, but not with an angel present.... The story keeps getting more and more believable. Add to that the fact that they were always covered and others couldn't view them and you have just that... a story.

  • Frank Staheli Santaquin, ut
    May 22, 2014 2:08 p.m.

    Daniel Peterson, keep up the good work. Your article is well written, and it speaks to many of the problems that those critical of the LDS Church can't seem to realize are problems with their arguments. Many of the comments here are angry rehashes of mistruths and misunderstandings that the mistellers and misunderstanders don't care to get right.

    Do you know how I know you are an effective ambassador for the LDS Church? By the amount of "hate mail" you get. ;-)

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    May 22, 2014 1:47 p.m.

    The Church of Jesus Christ (WHQ: Monongahela, Pennsylvania) is the only restored gospel church that correctly interprets the entire Book of Mormon.

  • MacKayJones PROVO, UT
    May 22, 2014 1:07 p.m.

    So to be clear, William says that they (the family) saw and handled the plates through the cloth--but only when Joseph first brought them home. He is not talking about the later experience of the three and eight witnesses.

    Thus Brahama is using an account (from a believer) who did handle the plates but was not one of the eight official witnesses to argue that the three and eight witnesses did not see the plates. Why the attempt to mislead?

    The eight witnesses were: Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith. (Note that William is not listed).

  • smitxxx Salt Lake City, UT
    May 22, 2014 12:58 p.m.

    Brahmabull and others are incorrect on a number of points, which some brief research will verify.

    John Whitmer and others of the 8 witnesses verified that they saw and handled the plates in a natural, physical event, not a "spiritual" event. Some persons felt the plates covered by a cloth on earlier occasions (such as William Smith), but it is clear that when the 8 were asked to be witnesses, they all viewed and handled the plates in an uncovered state.

    John Whitmer told a non-Mormon interviewer in 1878 before he died that he handled the plates which he believed from their weight and appearance were gold, He turned the leaves and saw engravings on both sides, lifted them (he said that they weighed about 60 pounds), explained the binding (a D ring with the straight line toward the plates). Responding to a specific question as to whether they were covered with a cloth, he said they were not. Joseph Smith, not an angel, showed the plates to the 8 witnesses. All of these statements agree precisely with the written testimony in the Book of Mormon, and none ever denied it.

  • MacKayJones PROVO, UT
    May 22, 2014 12:53 p.m.

    Brahmabull has been mislead. William Smith was NOT one of the eight witnesses. William DID say: When the plates were brought in they were wrapped up in a tow frock. My father then put them into a pillow case. Father said, "What, Joseph, can we not see them?" "No. I was disobedient the first time, but I intend to be faithful this time; for I was forbidden to show them until they are translated, but you can feel them." We handled them and could tell what they were. They were not quite as large as this Bible. Could tell whether they were round or square. Could raise the leaves this way (raising a few leaves of the Bible before him). One could easily tell that they were not a stone, hewn out to deceive, or even a block of wood. Being a mixture of gold and copper, they were much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood. Later, Josephs's father and Hyrum and Samuel were allowed to see and handle the plates (absent the frock).

  • JonathanPDX Portland, Oregon
    May 22, 2014 12:38 p.m.

    As with all things faith-based, the arguments of men will never prove or disprove the veracity of the testimony (if you wish to call it that) of the Three Witnesses.

    Just as in proving the Book of Mormon to be true, one must study and search for the truth, and after all that he has done to learn the truth, make a decision, then humbly ask God, the Eternal Father if it is true.

    If people spent as much time talking to their Heavenly Father as they do arguing over this or that, the world would be a much better place.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    May 22, 2014 12:22 p.m.

    Oh Really?

    Funny... I thought that only a select few could look at the plates. Joseph Smith is quotes as saying that anybody who looked at them, that wasn't invited by god to do so would perish. Not only is that a foolish thing to believe (that god would kill somebody for looking at a physical object made of metal), but begs the question of if that were true, why wouldn't have Joseph allowed his enemies to look at them? He could have been protected at carthage jail, he could have been free from any attack from anybody if that were true. Of course, it wasn't true because the plates didn't exist.

    It also makes no sense that the plates would be dragged back up to heaven, but other holy works (the book of Abram papyri) would be left on earth for people to see. The whole story doesn't add up. If you believe it despite all of these things, more power to you.

  • Cameron Ford Kaysville, UT
    May 22, 2014 12:15 p.m.

    @ Craig Clark
    True, there are 80,000 missionaries out there, but they approach it mostly from a point of faith and testimony (which they should because that is ultimately the only way to really know). However, we need more voices proclaiming the position that there are defensible, rational, scholarly reasons for their faith. At least as believable from a scholarly point of view as the critics positions. That way there is room for the seed of faith to grow.

    It seems that many skeptics (and some people of faith) want people of faith to completely cede the ground of scholarly and scientific evidence to the skeptics... i.e. "We will let you say you believe because you have faith; because that is subjective and we can discount that. But don't you dare use the tools of scholarly research and science! You are much to biased to be trusted to use sophisticated tools such as that!" As if scholarly research and science are not just as subjective for both believers AND skeptics. To see my full reasoning, google: "Cameron Ford Book of Mormon Evidences".

  • Cameron Ford Kaysville, UT
    May 22, 2014 11:54 a.m.

    Rather than taking at face value the varied statements just thrown out there by all of the "experts" on this comment thread, if you really want to understand please read the thorough and extremely well documented book on the witnesses: Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses : By Richard Lloyd Anderson

  • Oh Really? HERRIMAN, UT
    May 22, 2014 11:33 a.m.

    That is a nice quote, Brahmabull, from a different time when Joseph's entire family was shown the plates I suspect, since it is a time when Joseph's whole family had that experience, while the "Eight Witnesses" were shown the plates, together and with others not present -- including William and the "others of the family" mentioned in your quote.

  • JediMormon Omaha, NE
    May 22, 2014 11:26 a.m.

    Re: Testimony of the three witnesses: Whether or not the three witnesses actually wrote their testimonies, or merely signed a pre-formatted statement is a non-issue. The signatures prove that they agreed with the statement.

  • Free Agency Salt Lake City, UT
    May 22, 2014 11:22 a.m.

    @Cameron Ford,

    I have nothing to "defend" in my faith, since my faith works for me. The irony is that should I try to convince others that my faith is "true," it's invariably because I'm starting to have doubts about it myself. The truth of it for me lies in my own application of it, and the resultant experiences in my own life. When I truly live my faith, I have no need for "conviction" of it.

    Should anyone ask me how I've been able to live such a fulfilled and nourishing life, I'm always happy to share. But I only do so when I'm asked, and I'm equally agreeable to someone's taking it or leaving it. The number of adherents has never made a case for truth to me.

    Since you quoted an author, I'll return the favor by recommending Carl Jung's "The Undiscovered Self." He speaks brilliantly (at least to me) about the spiritual experience within one's self versus that handed to us from an outside source.

  • activ2004 Clearfield, UT
    May 22, 2014 11:10 a.m.

    X+3=7 (x=12). NOT!

    God is no respecter of person’s therefore His truth is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Amos 3 [1-7] He has always, and will always speak through his chosen and ordained Prophets. Joseph Smith, prophet of the restoration and successors.

    X+3=7 (x=4). This cannot be debated away because of the passage of time the language or university it was learned or the cognitive dissonance because of political, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, apathetic philosophy, or atheism, after all why would the atheist’s be arguing anything in light of the fact they don’t believe in anything anyway, just saying.

    The men who saw and held the gold plates, in spite of the reputations, weaknesses of evil agendas are in fact testifying to this day of the ‘Truth’ of what they saw.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 22, 2014 10:50 a.m.

    Cameron Ford,

    "....If defenders allow skeptics to own the stage and say nothing to refute, then most rational people will assume the silence means the skeptics are correct...."

    There’s not much danger of silence or ceding the stage to skeptics as long as the Church has 80,000 full time missionaries going door to door proselytizing.

  • Carl G Chicago, IL
    May 22, 2014 10:48 a.m.

    A great resource, a thoughtful read, on this topic is "Leap of Faith" (2009) by Bob Bennett.
    His dispassionate review of both skeptic and believer points of view, and his openness about his own view, stands out in the public discussion. And is very readable.

  • ? SLC, UT
    May 22, 2014 10:46 a.m.

    Didn't David Whitmer years later publish a proclamation affirming his testimony as a witness for the Book of Mormon? He addressed the topic of seeing with the "spiritual" vs "natural" eyes. To this statement he tells us he is 82 years old and this statement was dictated by J.J. Snyder and then signed by himself. How is this much different than when doing a group testimony and then signed by the participants? Isn't this a similar process with what happened with the Declaration of Independence? It was written by one individual or composed by a handful of individuals and then signed by several other people later.

  • Cameron Ford Kaysville, UT
    May 22, 2014 10:28 a.m.

    @ Free Agency
    "Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish. (Austin Farrer on C. S. Lewis.)"

    I wholeheartedly agree with Austin Farrer's statement. If defenders allow skeptics to own the stage and say nothing to refute, then most rational people will assume the silence means the skeptics are correct. For many prospective believers there needs to be some hope that it is true before they will plant the seed of faith. And for those whose faith is just sprouting, the choking thorns have to be kept at bay for the seed to fully blossom. God bless Dr. Peterson and those like him for helping keep the thorns at bay.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    May 22, 2014 9:56 a.m.

    Oh Really?

    no, they didn't.

    The statement of the witnesses at the front of the Book of Mormon makes it sound like they were all together, looking at and touching the plates. That was not the case.

    William Smith confirmed this

    "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."

    So yes the technically handles the plates - while they were covered up. That is strange, don't you think?

  • Oh Really? HERRIMAN, UT
    May 22, 2014 9:43 a.m.

    The Eight Witnesses were given a physical experience -- shown the plates by Joseph and hefting them in their hands. The Three Witnesses were shown the plates by an angel, which is evidence of the divine nature of the work of translation:

    "we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record ... 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. "

  • DonO Draper, UT
    May 22, 2014 9:40 a.m.

    Very interesting article and even more interesting comments. IMO, neither really matters. The bottom line for me is whether or not an individual him/herself...in and of him/herself... believes in or adheres to any religious or "spiritual" doctrine or event. While the experience, opinion or "witness" of another person may be somewhat helpful, in the final analysis it will not convince anyone of either truth or boondoggle in things related to religion.

  • Oh Really? HERRIMAN, UT
    May 22, 2014 9:39 a.m.

    The 8 witnesses physically held the plates in their hands:

    "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;"

    "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."

  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    May 22, 2014 9:34 a.m.

    The most impressive thing about the Book of Mormon witnesses is that even though several (if not most) of them were ultimately excommunicated from the Church, none of them ever denied what they had seen. It seems to me that, if they really were all part of some sort of elaborate conspiracy by Joseph Smith to fabricate the basis for a new religion (for what purpose no one can really explain, since the Church brought little profit and much hardship to those who were responsible for establishing it), once they had parted ways with Joseph they would have admitted that the whole thing was a hoax and gone on to restore their respectability in the eyes of the public. But this is not what happened—as much as Joseph himself may have fallen out of their favor, they refused to insult God by denying the revelation they had received. That, in conjunction with the consistency of their statements, says it all.

    May 22, 2014 9:33 a.m.

    "my thoughts are not your thoughts" Isaiah 55:8. Read the whole chapter. There is much in it to learn about this question.
    Certainly, the Lord could prove the existence of the plates by allowing them to be shown to more witnesses. But he didn't. Certainly, the Lord could show he exists by a personal visit to all of us instead of working through prophets. But he doesn't.
    The central question is: why are we in this mortal life to begin with? Chance? To prove ourselves? Non-believers cannot prove the first without extrapolating conclusions into the far distant past from facts discovered by scientific research in the last few centuries. Archaeological and age of the earth data aside, no one has a time machine that allows for direct, empirical experience in bygone eras. Believers cannot prove the second; we use subjective evidences to enhance our faith. It all comes down to what we’re willing to accept as truth. That leaves the door open for faith on all fronts.

  • Daughter of God slc, UT
    May 22, 2014 9:31 a.m.

    If they don't believe in the Book of Mormon, then why are they trying to disprove it?

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    May 22, 2014 9:15 a.m.

    All the pseudo-intellectual wrangling over the plausibility of the witnesses credibility is a smoke screen against what I would call practical logic. It's this simple. Even if you could make the witnesses account plausible, the fact is no one would accept the standard of evidence provided by the witnesses if the basis of argument was to support an ordinary claim. It follows then that they aren't even playing in the same ball park as what would be required to provide any practical support for the extraordinary claim about Angels and the Gold Plates.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    May 22, 2014 9:04 a.m.

    First things first - the "witnesses" never actually gave their "testimonies". What they did was collectively sign a single affidavit that had been prepared for them. The various statements made by the witnesses after the event, including David Whitmers an Address to All Believers in Christ, are enough to raise questions about the consistency. Secondly, the conditions of the "witnesses" experience just doesn't pass the gut test. Granted, this isn't a logically rigorous critique...but it's still enough to raise reasonable suspicion.

    1) Why not three individually written statements?
    2) Spiritual sight - creates ambiguity. Why was this required?
    3) Plates held under cloth? What was this all about? In other words, the actual conditions and circumstances of the witness experience - particularly for the 8 - aren't even very clear. What did they see exactly, what were the experiences? The testimony's don't offer any real detail - "let it be known that the plates exist because we sort of touched them and saw them one day".
    4) Why only eleven mostly related witnesses? Why was God so bent on this seemingly parlor-trick-esque method of "testimony?

    There is more than enough reason to be suspicious.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    May 22, 2014 8:55 a.m.

    Not to mention the absence of the plates. I think that is just a little bit too convenient for me to reconcile.

  • SparkyVA Winchester, VA
    May 22, 2014 8:49 a.m.

    I my youth while studying the Church, I read a lot about spiritualism. Joseph Smith commented that such things can happen, but they are not of God, rather of individuals trying to reach back through the vale with their own motives. What struck me was that for such a spiritualism experience you needed darkness, and coolness. Houdini proved many but not all to be frauds. His own message from beyond the grave given in code for authentication was simply "believe". My point is that God's appearance above the brightness of the noon day sun, was no parlor trick. Likewise, many have said they have had a revelation from God. None have presented anything like unto the Book of Mormon and it's witnesses. We have something very unique and very powerful. Judaism grew out of a miraculous exodus from the world's most powerful tyrant, Christianity from the miracle of the resurrection, and the Latter-Day Saints from the miracle of the Book of Mormon. These religions endure where the others fade.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    May 22, 2014 8:43 a.m.

    The most problematic part of the testimony of the witnesses for me has been that they did not see the plates, they only saw them in vision. It has never made sense. Joseph Smith supposedly had the plates already sitting in his home. Instead of showing them to the witnesses like anybody would show a physical item to somebody else, he took them out to a field to pray to be able to see them in vision. This is the single most damaging piece of evidence against the witnesses. Why in the world would they need to go out into a field to pray to see the plates? Answer: they wouldn't. The statement in front of the book of mormon makes it seem like Joseph gathered them all, brought out the plates, let them touch and handle them. But that was not the case. You would not need a spiritual vision to view real, physical, metal plates. Furthermore, why would the plates always be covered during translation? Even when it was one of the 3 witnesses (who already saw the plates) translating for him, he still had them covered... Rather odd.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    May 22, 2014 8:34 a.m.

    "....in the cases of Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, with several other artifacts, as well as with an angel and the voice of God — were first told, and first reduced to writing, shortly after the encounters took place...."

    Had there been much of a time elapse between witnessing and attesting, the ‘witnesses’ might never have signed a statement, one that was very likely already prepared for their signatures. Time for reflection allows a man to think twice. I don’t make much of the fact that they never denied their testimonies. It’s not easy for a man who prizes the respect of his fellow man to have to confess that he had the wool pulled over his eyes.

  • Free Agency Salt Lake City, UT
    May 22, 2014 8:04 a.m.

    It always amazes me how "people of faith" (of whatever religion) keep trying to prove that their faith is true. The fact is, faith *can't* be proven--that's why it's called faith. If you could prove it, it wouldn't be faith, but fact.

    We all have faith in something; it gives us an orientation toward life. And the faith of many of us sustains us through the ups and downs of life. Additionally, at least in my case (I'm spiritual but not religious), the more I have faith in something, the more it "comes true" in my experiences.

    But I never try to prove that it's factually true. I couldn't, even if I tried, since it's "supernatural." But I don't even want to try. I know the difference between faith and facts, and both are equally valuable to me.

    In short, I don't try to have my cake and eat it: convince myself (and others) that my faith is "true," yet still call it my faith. My faith is far too valuable to me to ever risk losing it by proving it's true, and thus losing it as faith.

  • activ2004 Clearfield, UT
    May 22, 2014 7:59 a.m.

    One sentence X is said to be a logical consequence of a set K of sentences, if and only if, in virtue of logic alone, it is impossible for all the sentences in the set to be true without X being true as well.

    The "logical consequence" of the Prophet Joseph Smith's First Vision (and the witnesses testimony of the Book of Mormon) is 'all' the fruits that have been produced as a result. Without doubt, the most logical consequence is the opposition-always the majority, that has sprouted by purposeful and flagrant ignorance of trying to debate away the reality of X-The First Vision/the witnesses testimony of the Book of Mormon, and God's promise James 1:3-5, verse 8 is also a compelling thought.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    May 22, 2014 7:54 a.m.

    This article doesn't address that actual problems with the witnesses. Yes eye witness testimony is notoriously problematic but I don't think that has much impact on the BofM witnesses. The real issue is that the statement the witnesses signed was not written by them and more importantly that the witnesses would later say they saw the plates through a "second sight" or with "spiritual eyes".

    The witness statements are one more example of how the Church paints a picture to it's members that these witnesses had an experience where they literally and physically held and saw the plates. That's what the statements say however. Yet the Church also does it's best to suppress all the statements the witnesses left behind where they make clear their viewing of the plates was through a spiritual prism and not a rational, real world experience.

    Apologists will no doubt scoff at the issues I have presented here but for people like who have a skeptical, rational worldview this is a serious issue. This article doesn't address any of these points and they are far more troublesome than the ones it does address.

  • Rocky1782 Sandy, UT
    May 22, 2014 7:50 a.m.

    As with any person who sees or believes they witnessed something great, these men could have also embellished slightly for 'drama'. I don't discount them. I once, honest this did happen, saw a flying saucer and I once spoke to a deceased friend. Whether anyone believes me or not I don't care. I also do not see the need to prove what is in my heart and mind, to anyone.

  • Rocky1782 Sandy, UT
    May 22, 2014 7:48 a.m.

    I believe your article reacts and speaks more of a member of the LDS faith who seems to be defending the reputation of the faith. I am not comparing you to Beck, Hannity or Limbaugh, however as they do, you seemt o be speaking to a select few. Those who share you ideas. It is almost like when the Church suggested the DNA of Native Americans did not line up with the DNA of the Jewish linage because DNA changes ofr the decades or centuries.I have heard of the eyewitness problems but I have never heard it referred to in the witness testemonies you are soeaking about. Therefore I would think that the average person who heard the stories, and who were not LDS, would either just say, "I don't believe this' or "each to his own".

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    May 22, 2014 7:44 a.m.

    Mr Peterson,

    Certainly one would have to admit that in a court of law, the cross examination of virtually all of these witnesses would, at a minimum, cast reasonable doubt as to their credibility. This is not to say that their stories would be unconditionally refuted, but that many said and/or did things which would cast some doubt on the credibility of their "testimony".

    Couple of examples

    "spiritual eyes" vs natural eyes
    How many actually saw and touched physical plates that were not covered? Why would there be a need to cover plates in cloth

  • LittleStream Carson City, NV
    May 22, 2014 7:25 a.m.

    The witness statements of these three men are quite different than the "eye witness" testimony given at trial. First the witness statement was made very close to the time the event happened. So memory wasn't faded. Second, we tend to remember differently if we were under tramatic stress than if we are just seeing something, feeling it and with people we know and trust. It's sort of hard to imagine that you handled gold plates if you did not. In addition, these witnesses had already seen the ridicule and torment that Joseph Smith had been through. They didn't have to be witnesses. Oh, but yes they did, God wanted them to be. Many times the people God has called have had to endure skeptics, nay sayers and Satan. This won't stop until Satan is bound. Put yourself in their place, why would you say this under these circumstances if it were not true? I love this church because the teachings are so clear and simple.

  • ohiowhit New Albany, OH
    May 22, 2014 7:24 a.m.

    I was just reading their testimonies this past weekend. It impresses me that, first of all, reputation was much more valuable then than it is now. They were putting their reputations on the line saying they actually saw and hefted the plates. And second, they gained nothing for doing that, and certainly knew their names would be added to the scorned, mocked and persecuted.

    Imagine the Book of Mormon really is a hoax... it's actually an interesting meditation to wrap your head around... and then try to reason why those witnesses would have added their names to the hoax. Money? No. A joke to laugh about later? No. A prank on Joseph? Turns out no. They knew their names would go down in history as personal witnesses of a scorned book. "Scholars" can try to dismiss their testimonies, but there is nothing scholarly in that reasoning.