Defending the Faith: Defending the Faith: John Whitmer's testimony endures

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  • Florwood American Fork, UT
    March 20, 2014 8:42 a.m.

    Just one clarification, William Smith was not one of the eight witnesses, so would not have been talking about a witness experience.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    June 9, 2011 4:25 p.m.

    @SamBaUSA: First, the idea of "warm feelings" only begins to explain what an encounter with the Holy Ghost is like. You clearly have not fully understood what people were trying to explain to you.

    Second, the suggestion that Latter-day Saints are fanatics who would fly airplanes into buildings and kill virgins might suggest that you do not know any Latter-day Saints; but, since you live in Sandy, Utah, you not only know them, you are consciously misrepresenting them and their convictions.

    Third, you do not appear to know or understand Muslims and their beliefs very well. Have you read the Koran? Have you interviewed many Muslims? How do you qualify to represent statements of "hundreds of millions of the world's Muslims"? I have read the Koran, and I have interviewed a number of Muslims. Personally, I accept much of the book as being inspired (with the notable exception of its teachings on Jesus), and there is no conflict between what Muslims "know" to be true and what Latter-day Saints "know." There are differences in faith, practices and beliefs (notably the Holy Ghost, which precludes their receiving a "witness" like ours), but we have much commonality.

  • SamBaUSA Sandy, UT
    June 9, 2011 11:23 a.m.

    Johnnylingo, I like your post and appreciate where you are coming from and do not doubt your sincerity.

    But may I suggest you consider this simple statement:

    Warm feelings are not evidence.

    Believing so flies planes into buildings, places bombs in city squares, cast virgins into volcanoes, and kept slavery alive into the end of the 19th century. Hundreds of millions of the world's Muslims have a "witness" of the Koran and Mohammed's teachings. Are their "feelings' less valid than yours?

  • johnnylingo62 Gray, TN
    June 7, 2011 12:34 p.m.

    One more comment: I don't hang my hat on the testimony of the 3 or 8 witnesses, or the 12million current members of the church of jesus christ of latter-day saints, or even the prophets witness to me. I have obtained my own personal witness of the truthfulness of the record of the Book Of Mormon. This is the only witness anybody needs and the only reason why anybody would join this "peculiar" church.
    The beauty is that anyone, no matter who they are, can obtain their own personal witness direct from God. It's simple: read, ponder and pray. If you are humble and sincere and have faith that God can answer you, you will receive your personal witness... then you do not have to rely on anyone else's "vision", you will have your own. May God Bless...

  • johnnylingo62 Gray, TN
    June 7, 2011 12:24 p.m.

    @Joggle: you may want to check out how well Korihor faired when he wanted his own personal "sign". Read Alma 30 it's a great chapter in the BOM (Book of Mormon)
    Alma 30:43 "And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a asign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words." Gotta read the rest...

    So, I suppose since Joggle didn't meet Peter James or John or Jesus or Elijah or Abraham, etc. then all these visions and testimonies are probably wrong too, cuz they were even earlier in history and their words have been translated so many times into so many different languages, and they were kinda of "fanatical" in spiritual things that they should not be believed.... is that Joggle's reasoning and logic "Except I see it for myself, it cannot be true"? Must be a pretty small world and you would be very busy trying to see and know everything that has ever transpired on the earth... Just sayin'...

  • SamBaUSA Sandy, UT
    June 6, 2011 9:00 a.m.

    I suggest all interested parties acquiant themselves with the chapter on the witnesses in Grant Palmer's "Insider's View of Mormon Origins."

    These men were hyper religious enthusiasts who never met a vision they couldn't get behind and support whole heartedly. After leaving the LDS church, many went on to support other supernatural causes with the exact same vigor. They never denied their testimonies of these subsequent non-LDS experiences either. They simply cannot be trusted because they were spiritual/supernatural junkies. We don't like to admit it, but Joseph's claims attracted the nuttier side of New England society. Just familiarize yoursevles with the reports of spiritual the hijinks Joseph had to try and squash when he arrived in Kirtland. Those first few conferences of the Church in Kirtland were bizarre and frenzied occassions because his new converts were spiritual extremists.

    In the end, I can't assign credibility to men who, even in their own times, were fringe personalities. Imagine 200 years from now people applauding the fact the Brian David Mitchell never denied his visions or experiences and holding that fact up as something to honor or regard as "evidence" of their faith.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    June 5, 2011 5:51 p.m.

    @Bill in Nebraska

    There's one major stumbling block that nobody ever seems to acknowledge because they assume most people accept angels as being real and possible. First of all I would never believe anybody who says they were directly contacted by God in the first place without extraordinary evidence. I also wouldn't believe anybody who says they communicated with and saw an angel either. I also wouldn't take the word of people from era 1830 as being true either. I don't know those people! Why should I believe any of them? The only way I would believe any of it would to observe it myself and even then I would question my own observation and seek objective, unbiased confirmation. Furthermore, I have read enough Mormon history from both sides to see that regardless of how one interprets the events and testimony, there is ample historical evidence the witnesses shared a subjective, visionary mindset that makes their witness improbable, questionable, and untrustworthy. You and the Church can ignore, justify, and twist the evidence all you want but the fact remains....extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The evidence fails to support Mormon claims, in my opinion.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    June 5, 2011 4:55 p.m.

    Bill, Im surprised you would quote Dr. Klaus Baer.

    As an Egyptologist, Baer concluded that the Book of Abraham scroll was in fact known as the Book of Breathings that could be dated 2,000 years after Abraham. Instead of being what Joseph smith claimed, it was a series of instructions and magic spells to be recited by the spirit of a corpse after burial, in order to teach itself to "breathe," and thus prepare for its existence in the afterlife.

    Here is a better quote from Dr. Baer:

    " studying the document that Joseph Smith considered to be a "roll" which "contained the writings of Abrahamthe Egyptologist interprets it differently, relying on a considerable body of parallel data, research, and knowledge that has accumulated over the past 146 years."

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    June 5, 2011 2:06 p.m.

    To Joggle: The opposite is true about the testimony of the eleven witnesses. All you have to do is to read the Ensign and even Church History and you will find that all aspects of the witnesses is given, including some of their so called contradictory answers. One that seems to be contradictory is the difference between spiritual eyes and natural eyes. Only the critics fail to understand that there really is no difference. They just want to think one is a vision which would be a dream or something when in reality they were present standing in a spot when the angel of the Lord came upon them. The angel was Moroni, the keeper of the plates, and showed them first to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. Also, present was the Prophet Joseph Smith. No contradiction.

    When Martin Harris saw it he was present with the Prophet Joseph Smith so again no contradiction.
    The eight witnesses were shown the plates by Joseph Smith, not Moroni. No voice or confirmation was given to them. This is why the Three Witnesses is so crucial because they saw the plates and heard God the Father declare unto them the truth.

  • Joggle Clearfield, UT
    June 5, 2011 12:38 p.m.

    For some people, testimony is enough to alleviate their doubts. But is it truly a solid foundation for faith in the LDS Church? In every period of history there are those individuals who tend to be credulous and suggestible. Such people desire to be a part of the fantastic or supernatural, and their very desire leaves them vulnerable to deception or manipulation. Tales of spirit apparitions, buried treasure and the ability to see things with "spiritual eyes" that cannot be confirmed with the physical senses, were "reality" for those who lived through them. Experiences perceived with "second sight" were taken seriously and held as undeniable fact. But should testimony of this nature be presented as undeniable empirical evidence?
    A careful investigation reveals there are a number of historical details which raise questions about the objectivity and credibility of the witnesses. The historical facts highlight another thread of Mormon history that has been misrepresented by LDS Church leaders. The witnesses' testimonies as a whole are presented as objective, solid, and irrefutable, but upon close examination are seen to be subjective, ambiguous and, at times, contradictory. The traditional portrayal of a tightly woven story of Mormon origins is being unraveled by historical_Mormon_evidence_itself.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    June 4, 2011 6:15 p.m.

    @ Donn: There were eleven witnesses of the plates besides Joseph Smith, not just three. There were further witnesses of objects that resembled the plates but were hidden. In order for the Book of Mormon to have been a result of a conspiracy, each one of theme would have had to recant their claims that they saw or hefted the plates (and in the case of the three you speak of, they saw also an angel, heard the voice of God, and saw other artifacts).

    There was no compelling reason for any of these witnesses to continue to participate in a conspiracy regarding the plates, since all of them were at some time offended by, excommunicated from, or left the Church.

    It amazes me that people demand logic, but argue in the face of the only logical conclusion here: the Book of Mormon is an ancient document, translated from metal plates (gold or gold alloy), with divine help and approval.

  • donn layton, UT
    June 3, 2011 6:39 p.m.

    Truth said,reported stories and claims are not evidence, there is no sworn testmony to those things.

    Joseph Smith,we have waded through an ocean of tribulation and mean abuse, practiced upon us by the ill bred and the ignorant, such as Hinkle, Corrill, Phelps, Avard, Reed Peck, Cleminson, and various others, who are so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society, and whose eyes are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin. 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. Marsh and another, whose hearts are full of corruption, whose cloak of hypocrisy was not sufficient to shield them or to hold them up in the hour of trouble (History of the Church, 3:232)

    The three Book of Mormon witnesses ,The question is: Were they reliable witnesses.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    June 3, 2011 5:47 p.m.

    RE: Mormoncowboy | 12:44 p.m

    Read the article,

    David whitmer CLEARLY says without condition, without qualification, he physically saw the plates and physically handle them,

    and signed and testified to that fact.

    whether he saw additional things spiritually that apparently also occured.

    later reported stories and claims are not evidence, there is no sworn testmony to those things.

  • johnnylingo62 Gray, TN
    June 3, 2011 3:34 p.m.

    Spiritual Eyes and Supernatural Power, have any of the critics commenting here ever experienced a "supernatural power"? If an angel stood before you and presented a "golden book" for you to see and touch, would you say that a "supernatural power" showed me these things (since an angel would not be considered "ordinary power")?
    If this was a spiritual experience, meaning the witnesses' spirits were touched to their core and they felt "more than ordinary", then could not their "eyes" behold in a spiritual sense and take in much more and with more emotion and substance than what their natural eyes ALSO beheld? I would think that only this kind of SPIRITUAL experience would last and sustain these witnesses for their entire lives and they could not "doubt" what they saw and felt. Hence, NONE of them recanted that they are witnesses to the Book of Mormon Plates. Critics may try to belittle their testimony by clouding the vocabulary, or say they contradict, but they never DENIED what they saw. The critics' arguments cannot change what the witnesses say they saw and never denied. It's not that complicated.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    June 3, 2011 12:13 p.m.

    Z2010: How about this?

    "The late Klaus Baer, a non-LDS Egyptologist from the University of Chicago, claimed that Facsimile 1 and 3 are unusual and it would be erroneous to claim that dozens of similar examples could be found. Fascimile 3, he went on to note, is not a judgment scene (as often claimed by critics) and it might prove difficult to find an exact parallel."

    It must also be noted that only 13% of what Joseph Smith had exists today. Again it erroneous of critics to suggest what they are suggesting. Other scholars dispute what some have stated per the quote above, both LDS and non-LDS.

    "We are told that papyri were in beautiful condition when Joseph Smith got them, and that one of them when unrolled on the floor extended through two rooms of the Mansion House." As noted earlier, nothing of this sort exists today. We have parts and pieces of information but not the entire collection. Anyone who puts such a claim is totally erroneous.

    There are eyewitness accounts that suggest some things that we don't have today. So again what you have is based totally on one OPINION, not fact.

  • donn layton, UT
    June 3, 2011 8:19 a.m.

    Allen: An Address to All Believers in The Book of Mormon.(David) Whitmer wrote, Now, in 1849 the Lord saw fit to manifest unto John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself nearly all the errors in doctrine into which we had been led by the heads of the old [LDS] church. We were shown that the Book of Doctrine and Covenants contained many doctrines of error, and that it must be laid aside. They were led out of their errors, and are upon record to this effect, rejecting the Book of Doctrine and Covenants In another 1887 publication, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Whitmer wrote, If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by His own voice from the heavens, and told me to separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness.

  • elchupacabras Idaho Falls, ID
    June 3, 2011 4:45 a.m.

    Interesting that Joseph Strang also had engraved plates and 11 witnesses. Why doesn't Daniel ("The Horse is really a Tapir") Peterson accept their testimony?

  • Z2010 Brigham City, UT
    June 3, 2011 12:10 a.m.

    To Bill in NB: No reason to speculate on what does not exist, the papyri that exists and is in LDS church possession has been examined and determined by all well regarded non-LDS Egyptologists that Joseph's translation of the three facsimiles are completely wrong according to modern day understanding of Egyptology. MormonThink is a good source to inform you a little better since you think "everyone" is in agreement with you.

    Now back to the article, interesting John Whitmer quote, "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 he handled the plates, did he handle them while in a visionary state of mind, or in his imagination?

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    June 2, 2011 6:16 p.m.

    To Z2010: I like how you take something then make a suposition that is not only contradictory to what everyone knows but what is inconsistent with most critics. What we do know is that eyewitnesses to the scolls stated that some of the scrolls were 8-10 feet long. No where are there any of the current scrolls even close to that. Also, the so called burial scrolls and the fascimile that Joseph Smith has shown has been shown to be unique to many of the burial scrolls that have been found. Does this in and of itself make the Book of Abraham wrong. No, on the contrary what Joseph Smith has translated has been proven to be ancient astrology of the Eygptians at the time Abraham was alive. Therefore, some LDS Scholars as well as Non-LDS Scholars have both stated that what he has translated is CORRECT. Therefore, it can also be said that the Book of Abraham is a translation of a scroll WE DO NOT HAVE today. Someone once stated we have some prints and a manuscript but again not the scroll where the translation came from.

    So again your summation is wrong.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    June 2, 2011 2:16 p.m.

    "The witnesses themselves never offered cogent explanations," says Mormoncowboy. "All we can say is that their statements are very confusing, abstract, and seemingly contradictory."

    This statement could not be further from the truth.

    Their statements are clear, concrete, and impressively consistent over the course of several decades.

    Moreover, on another point, Richard Anderson has effectively dealt with the "spiritual eyes" canard in an article entitled "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses," available on-line at the Maxwell Institute's website.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    June 2, 2011 1:18 p.m.

    Joseph Smith was obiously a smart politician; he knew if he ask a bunch of his friends to write in their own words their experience and testimony that he would not get what he wanted. Therefore, he presented them with a prepared statement where all they had to do was to sign. Once they signed they were pretty much commited to defend their action or lose face.

  • Z2010 Brigham City, UT
    June 2, 2011 12:56 p.m.

    Why would God not be consistent with the golden plates and other written histories?

    The most logical reason I think the golden plates disappeared is that they were not what they were claimed to be. Much like the scrolls that were claimed to be the source of the Book of Abraham, and we now know for fact are something much different.

  • Allen Salt Lake valley, UT
    June 2, 2011 12:48 p.m.

    I thought I'd use my last post for this conversation to comment on Mormoncowboy's statement that "So, as it stands - when comparing statements - the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses cannot be used to represent the words or perspective of a single signer."

    Mormoncowboy, in making that statement, you seem to be implying that the eleven witnesses didn't agree with the statements they just signed. Do you have any historical evidence to support that implication? Do you have historical evidence that the statements were written by one person and the eleven witnesses merely signed them?

    I don't have any historical evidence that indicates the statements were written by the witnesses rather than by Joseph Smith, but I haven't studied the issue enough to have an objective opinion about it. To me, it doesn't make any difference whether the statements were written by the witnesses or by Joseph Smith. I assume that when they signed the statements, the witnesses agreed with the statements, and by signing their names to the documents, the witnesses were saying to the world, "This is what I saw."

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    June 2, 2011 12:44 p.m.

    "David Whitmer in particular, stated that he saw the plates with his own eyes"

    sorry, correction; ...stated that he saw the plates his spiritual eyes.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    June 2, 2011 12:40 p.m.

    Again, Allen - the three witnesses never made the statement that is contained in The Book of Mormon - they merely signed it. True, that does not render the documents completely ineffectual - but it does mean that you cannot parse out words or intent from that statement to try and clarify each mans perspective on the experience. If you want to try and understand their individual perspectives you must wholly turn to the "unofficial" statements each man made on their own. In many cases, David Whitmer in particular, stated that he saw the plates with his own eyes. In his final interview on the matter, the journalist that interviewed him walked away more confused about the event after their discussion. Nobody can say what exactly what was meant by "spiritual eyes" as the witnesses themselves never offered cogent explanations. All we can say is that their statements are very confusing, abstract, and seemingly contradictory.

  • Allen Salt Lake valley, UT
    June 2, 2011 12:21 p.m.


    Concerning the statements that the three witnesses used their spiritual eyes.

    What did the three witnesses mean when they spoke of spiritual eyes? You seem to believe they were saying they saw the plates in vision. LDS usually interpret the word "vision" to refer to seeing God or his messengers, and that definition certainly applies to their statement that is bound with the BoM. I'm sorry but I don't understand your point about the three witnesses using their spiritual eyes. It seems to me that all visions are with "spiritual eyes" because the person sees things not normally seen.

    To LDS, visions are real. Call it a vision or what ever you want to name it, but the three witnesses testified they saw an angel, heard the voice of God, and saw the plates and characters engraved on the plates. Their statement is primary evidence. I don't know when their statement about spiritual eyes was given, but it it was years after their statement that is bound with the BoM, their statement would be secondary evidence.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    June 2, 2011 12:14 p.m.

    While we're comparing dates, we should also note of at least equal importance is the nature of the various "statements". The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses was NOT a statement made by William, John, or any of the other witnesses. Rather, it was a pre-written document that each man merely signed. To understand what their individual unique perspectives on the matter were, individual statement made (even years later) should be given preference over the joint statement each man signed.

    To me a great indictment against the witnesses is the nature of their "testimonies". It is neither a testimony in a spiritual sense, nor a legal sense, given that none of the witnesses wrote those documents. At best it is an affidavit - and not a good one, since the witness merely signed Joseph Smith's statement as to what happened. It would have made more sense for there to be a total of eleven individual statements each more or less testifying of the same thing. So, as it stands - when comparing statements - the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses cannot be used to represent the words or perspective of a single signer.

  • KC Mormon Edgerton, KS
    June 2, 2011 12:09 p.m.

    As to the three witnesses they NEVER denied thatthey actualy saw and heard what they calimed yes they did say that "spiritual eyes" were involved however as they saw an angle and heard God it would be both physical and visionary. One can not see an angel without being in the spirit, that does not mean that they do not physicaly see as well. Each of the threewho used the "SPIRITUAL EYES" term also made this point clear. Here for example are just a tast of what Whittmer said "I saw with these eyes" and "Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time"

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 2, 2011 11:56 a.m.

    Yarrlydarb wrote:

    What causes you to doubt that William Smith was a liar? You hardly have any evidence of that.

    My respones is I doubt that he was a liar with the same reasoning that you probably doubt that Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, Martin Harris etc. were liars. I assume that based on the information that I have. We all do that, we come to conclusions based on the facts, statements, and witness accounts that we have. Are they all reliable? Probably not, but you can't say in one breath that William could be a liar, but Joseph, Martin, Etc. were not liars. We simply don't know. We all have out opinions on it. I may be wrong, but that is the conclusion that I have come to. At best, the 8 and 3 witnesses thought Joseph was a prophet, but later felt he had gone astray. There is no other logical explanation, at least in my mind. That most of the 8 witnesses and all of the 3 witnesses were excommunicated or left the church is a glaring fact in my view. Others obviously feel different and that is ok.

  • KC Mormon Edgerton, KS
    June 2, 2011 11:43 a.m.

    First Williams statement does not require a small 1 year time frame. Joseph had the plates from Sept 1836 to some point in 1829 with a small time periode were he lost the plates. Also he tried to get the plates in 1823 but was denied the plates because of his own thoughts of wealth rather than the works of God. William and other family members repeatedly saw the plates covered durring the 3 years Joseph had the plates. William is simply taking the three year time frame and condencing it into a couple of sentences. It is also possiable that William is speaking of the three years before Joseph recieved the plates. It could be said that Joseph lost them durring that time because he was denied having them after being told to get them. It can also be said that he suffered durring that time. Either way Williams statment does not deny his fathers claim of having seen the plates uncovered.

  • Doctor Tucson, AZ
    June 2, 2011 11:00 a.m.

    I think the point about the witnesses is that if they left the church/were excommunicated and did not return, it indicates they felt J. Smith was a fallen prophet. So at best, using the witnesses as your source, J. Smith was given plates to translate but fell away from God's purpose because of a desire for power, wealth, and women. If B. Young continued these traditions then the LDS church of Salt Lake followed a false prophet. Not good in my estimation.

  • So. Cal Reader Escondido, CA
    June 2, 2011 10:39 a.m.

    What a fascinating article! Re: skeptic. An apt name, indeed! I enjoyed this article quit a bit. Thank you for the background! There's also an in-depth Feb 1989 Ensign article about the Whitmers. I am very satisfied with the fact that although none of the Whitmers returned to the church (for various reasons), NONE of them every recounted what they saw and/or held and "knew to be true." That is sufficient for me!

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 2, 2011 10:35 a.m.

    Allen and Kc mormon - you make good points and a valid arguement. I still do not buy completly that theory. Clearly, William's statement was made after Joseph had lost the 116 pages in 1828 because he says

    '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."

    The witnesses statement was made in 1829, so that gives a small 1 year window in which William could have witnessed the plates (by handling them and lifting them).

    If the statement was made after the witness statements then there is a problem.

    The other issue is that your arguement is that Martin, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery did actually handle the plates - but there are several statements from them stating that the plates were seen only in vision, or by their "spiritual eyes."

    So which one is it? These are primary sources, stating that they only saw them with their spiritual eyes. So my question is that why couldn't they see a real object with their normal eyes, without a vision?

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    June 2, 2011 10:04 a.m.

    It seems Mr. Petersen is always working at white washing the issues with incomplete, or one sided stories. Wouldn't it be more worthy to tell the whole story and seek the truth of the matter. The more white wash the more things look suspicious and fake.

  • Allen Salt Lake valley, UT
    June 2, 2011 10:00 a.m.

    Another factor that should be considered is the quality of the statement made by William Smith. His statement was published in 1894. The statement of the eight witnesses was made prior to the publishing of the BoM in 1830. That means over 60 years passed before William Smith's statement was published. In other words, even though William handled the plates while they were covered, 60 years passed before his statement was published, and this means his 1894 statement is a secondary evidence about the BoM. People tend to think of William's statement as a primary evidence, but it isn't. Secondary evidences have value, but not as much value as primary evidences. Instead of assuming that William's statement overruled the primary evidence of the statement of the eight witnesses, it is much more reasonable to reverse the relationship and to recognize that the primary evidence of the eight witnesses is more important than the secondary evidence of William Smith's statement.

    Even better, is to look for ways that the two statements could be in harmony rather than in conflict, as KC Mormon and I have done.

  • Allen Salt Lake valley, UT
    June 2, 2011 9:45 a.m.


    In their testimony, as recorded and compiled with the translation of the plates, the eight witnesses said they saw the plates and handled and hefted them. Yet, in the 1894 booklet published by the Church of Christ, William Smith said he handled and hefted the plates while they were covered and JS said he was forbidden by God to show the plates to anyone.

    To understand the two statements about the plates, we need to know the dates the statements were made. If the statement by William Smith was made before the eight witnesses made their statement, it would appear that (1) God forbid anyone from seeing the plates, and then later (2) God allowed the eight witnesses to see and handle the plates. Even if the statement by William was made after the eight witnesses made their statement, it would appear that God allowed the eight witnesses to see the plates and then afterwards forbid JS from showing the plates to others. I don't see any justification for the statement that the eight witnesses "only handled the plates while covered. Hardly being a witness, unless William Smith was a liar, which I doubt."

  • KC Mormon Edgerton, KS
    June 2, 2011 9:37 a.m.

    What William is saying is that up to the point were Joseph was told to show them to the eight witnesses all who had seen them had seen them in that same state. That does not mean that after Joseph was instructed to show them to the eight that they did not see them and handle them just as they said in their testimonies of the plates.

  • yarrlydarb Ogden, UT
    June 2, 2011 9:20 a.m.


    What causes you to doubt that William Smith was a liar?

    You hardly have any evidence of that.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 2, 2011 9:07 a.m.

    One of the more telling accounts is that of Josephs brother William:

    "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." (Zion's Ensign, p. 6, January 13, 1894).

    When William was asked if he wanted to remove the cloth . he 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, cited in Church of Christ broadside.)

    So even though Joseph's father and Samuel were 2 of the 8 witnesses, it appears as if they only handled the plates while covered. Hardly being a witness, unless William Smith was a liar, which I doubt.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 2, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    There is one problem to John Whitmer's account. In his signed testimony he claims to have handled the plates. On another occasion he states

    "I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. ...they were shown to me by a supernatural power"

    Now why would he have to be shown the plates by a "supernatural power" if they were actual physical plates? That makes no sense. Either he handled them in reality, or was shown them in a vision and he didn't actually handle them but thought he did in the vision.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    June 2, 2011 8:59 a.m.

    Admittedly, I know very little about John Whitmer, though I understood that the eight witnesses viewed the plates on two seperate occassions - and that this story seems a little inconsistent with the vagaries offered by some of the other statements.

    Still, of all the arguments about the validity of the witnesses testimonies - to date, this is the most compelling story. Far more than any of the three witnesses.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    June 2, 2011 8:48 a.m.

    For me, the witnesses are the strongest (non-spiritual) evidence for the Book of Mormon. I know the criticisms of the witnesses. I do wish that they included individuals who were not either related to one another or connected to the BofM process. Some completely objective, non-Mormon signatures would undoubtedly strengthen the makeup of the group.

    But, the criticism that some witnesses left the Church is mitigated by their non-denials. I suspect one could have made some decent money to say something like, "the Book of Mormon was a deception. I was in on it and I ask for your forgiveness." Some of these men didn't just leave the church for trivial reasons. They had some major theological and behavioral issues with Joseph Smith and that provided a real opportunity to deny their testimonies and really weaken the church.

    Daniel Peterson - I believe there is a huge need for apologists to take a very transparent look at the translation process. The record indicates that the majority of the translation process did not even involve the plates but rather the stone and hat process. That is a gaping hole in LDS art and correlated material.

  • New Yorker Pleasant Grove, UT
    June 2, 2011 8:29 a.m.

    I, for one, appreciate Dan Peterson's contributions here. He synthesizes and presents a lot of material that I haven't had the time to get to.