Bigfoot vs. the 11 Book of Mormon Witnesses

Before we get to the Bigfoot discussion consider watching this video.  The video summarizes the background of the witnesses and the approach our critics often take:

 

A few years ago in an online forum a few of us were discussion the Book of Mormon.  To support our positions I mentioned the 11 witnesses. Someone replied that belief in Bigfoot (& associated claims) had as much reliability as the Book of Mormon witnesses.

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I asked him a few questions, poking him gently about his assertion. I’ll list some of my questions below:

– Has Bigfoot ever been seen by more than 1 guy at a time?

I’d believe 2-3 or 8 simultaneous witnesses much more than 1.

– Did the Bigfoot sighting and associated claims last the test of time?

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David Whitmer (image above) lived 60 years after seeing plates, other objects, and angel that day in 1829. All 11 witnesses suffered economically, socially, politically, and in other ways; yet, didn’t deny their claims.

This link shares information of Martin Harris’ consistent testimony throughout his life.

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– Did the Bigfoot claimant crack under cross-examination and provide repeated, consistent statements?

The 11 witnesses provided over 200 personal statements & interviews, each time confirming the same details.  LDS and non-LDS interviewers applied lots of pressure and prodded the witnesses, testing them from every possible perspective.

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– What were the circumstances of the Bigfoot sighting?  And was the testimony consistent?

I encouraged the fellow in the discussion to please find a Bigfoot sighting with 2 or more witnesses.  Each reported Bigfoot sighting tends to go like this:  one guy is alone in the forest near dusk.  Neither he nor we can see what is out there.  His gray, blurry, and shadow-filled video is typically far from conclusive.

In contrast, the 11 witnesses to the Book of Mormon were reporting what they saw in broad day light.  Their corroborating testimonies never wavered.

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Further evidence, Joseph excommunicated nearly all the 11 witnesses at some point. Had this been a hoax or conspiracy — with so many of these men mad at him on 1 or many occasions — these witnesses would have turned on him. If it had been a grand hoax or elaborate scheme these men would have told the world of their great fraud.

Human nature would have ended this conspiracy, had it been one.  More than one of the witnesses at one point or another said Joseph was fallen or at least mistaken.  Several left the Church angry and disappointed.  Others among the witnesses had major disagreements with each other and Joseph. But none of them denied holding the plates (the 8 witnesses), seeing the angel (the 3 witnesses), etc.

– Did anyone touch Bigfoot during a sighting?

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The 8 witnesses held the plates. They flipped through the metal pages. The 3 witnesses saw the angel turning the pages of the plates. Most Bigfoot sightings see the elusive furry creature from great distances.  And the camera images — no surprise!  — are always very fuzzy.

– How credible are folks claiming to have seen Bigfoot?

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Martin was a highly successful farmer and public servant. David Whitmer was a successful business owner and mayor of Richmond, MO. Oliver Cowdery was a respected attorney.

Conclusion: it much, much easier to believe in the 11 witnesses than in those claiming to see Bigfoot.

P.S.  If Joseph Smith had been a fraud, why would he have forced himself to produce lots of ancient artifacts on 2 separate occasions?   3 guys see angel holding plates with lots of stuff on a nearby table.   A few days later, 8 guys hold what you’ve long been claiming to have translated — the Gold Plates.  He didn’t have to show all this stuff.

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P.P.S.  There’s absolutely no evidence Joseph understood how to smelt and form metal plates.  Nor was he a hypnotist — something else critics claim he likely was involved in…

 

Brian Hales debunks Dan Vogel and the CES Letter’s claims against the Book of Mormon witnesses:

Part II:

LDS critics often ignore the 200+ accounts given by LDS sources.  That is bad scholarship.  Would you like it if someone ignored all your personal claims, which are supported by others, and talked over you?  Telling you what you really experienced?  This is exactly what LDS critics often do.

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To rely more on testimony from LDS critics, especially excommunicated Stephen Burnett (often cited by critics), and downplay the LDS witnesses themselves would create legal problems for an attorney in court.

A judge wouldn’t appreciate an attorney withholding exonerating information if — as in the case of the 3 witnesses — the witnesses were credible and their accounts were intentionally suppressed.  Such an attorney would be sanctioned in court.

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Remember the Duke lacrosse trial?  The DA was disbarred and prosecuted for burying exonerating information about the athletes.

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Judge-imposed sanctions are penalties placed upon a party who is found in violation of the rules of court procedure. These penalties often take the form of fines, including paying for opposing attorney’s fees, or the dismissal of the legal claim.

 

Brett McDonald discusses the strength of the Book of Mormon witnesses  below:

Tangible Restoration: Eye Witnesses to Gold Plates

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3 Witnesses:  saw and heard an angel.  The angel held the Gold Plates, flipped through the pages, called David by name, and testified.  The three witnesses, additionally, observed a table on which rested many ancient artifacts:  Gold Plates, Brass Plates, other plates, Liahona, Sword of Laban, and interpreters (seer stones).  These 3 witnesses were David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris.

 

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8 witnesses:  saw, held, and hefted the Gold Plates; flipped through the metal pages; and noted the engravings on the pages.   The plates were set on a stump. The eight men reported the sealed portion and the three D-shaped rings.  The eight saw the plates 1-2 days after the 3 witnesses saw the angel and objects.  These eight were Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel Smith.

 

Richard L. Anderson (Harvard Law graduate & Berkeley PhD) is a leading authority on the Book of Mormon witnesses.  As an attorney, he understood the value of witnesses.  During Richard’s study of these witnesses, he collected documents with over 200 positive and affirming statements from the 11 witnesses.

The three witnesses:  30 interviews or reports of contact w/ Oliver Cowdery, minimum of 70 with David Whitmer, and about 50 with Martin Harris.  The eight witnesses shared up to 60 reports, affirming their experiences holding and evaluating the Gold Plates.

In contrast, a very small number of records critical to the witnesses’ testimony exist (8 to 10 total).   8-10 vs. 200.   So, around 5% of the total records relative to the witnesses argue that the witnesses made it all up.  Anderson shows how these critics — 1 named Stephen Burnett was recently excommunicated and hostile to the Church — take the witnesses’ stories out of context, misreport, and otherwise claim the witnesses were not credible.  Richard discusses the topic  and critics below.

 

More anecdotes by Richard Anderson:

 

Richard Anderson wrote a wonderful book on this topic (red book below) that you can find here.

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Dan Peterson is a professor at BYU and long-time defender of the LDS Church.  I enjoy Dan’s style and share his 2006 presentation below:

Brian Hales debunks Dan Vogel and the CES Letter’s claims critical to the Book of Mormon Witnesses:

 

Witnesses — why they’re essential & a focus on Martin Harris…

This talk was given in April 1999.  You can find the talk here and watch below.

Ample opportunities presented themselves for each of the 3 witnesses to deny or deviate from their public testimonies.  They never did.  1837 brought the Kirtland bank problems.  Martin was excommunicated at this time.  He was rebaptized in 1842.  Martin stayed in Kirtland till 1870, looking after the Kirtland Temple.  In 1870 he moved to Utah at the age of 87.

There is hope for each of us, even if we’ve strayed from a favored position.

FYI:  Dallin H. Oaks is a descendant of Martin Harris’ older brother, Emer Harris.  Harris is Elder Oaks’ middle name.  Elder Oaks provides personal insight into the life of Martin Harris.

Truth Restored: Godhead Clarified

Elder Oaks was awesome yesterday.  A few of my thoughts below:

John 17:3:    “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

What Christians believed in Joseph’s day and for centuries before was not true:  that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were an incomprehensible, unknowable mystery.  According to Elder Oaks, “We believe that the truth about the nature of God and our relationship to him is knowable and is key to everything else in our doctrine.”

Paul references the three members of the Godhead below:

2 Corinthians 13:14:   “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”

 

3 separate and distinct beings in the Godhead:

  • God the Father:  Creator and Ruler of the Universe;  Father of our spirits; Author of Plan of Salvation
  • God the Son:  First Begotten in the Spirit and the only Begotten in the Flesh;  Redeemer and Mediator;  He saved us from death by Resurrection and from sin by the Atonement; Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel speaks to and through prophets; God of the whole Earth
  • God the Testator or Witness:  Holy Ghost;  Comforter;  Personage of Spirit; Agent of Personal Revelation; Mission is to testify of the Father and the Son; Guides into all truth

So what, you ask?!

Please contemplate what Joseph restored.  With these truths restored and a clear plan of salvation we have the ultimate road map.  We know who we are, who we can become, we know who makes it all possible, and we know whom and why we worship.

Martin Tanner discusses the Godhead:

 

Very Important Event: Jesus’ Resurrection

Some believe that Jesus’ resurrection was not literal.  Some even believe Jesus never lived.

Truth comes to us in 2 forms: from faith (trust based in experience, in this case spiritual) and reason.  Virtually all New Testament scholars — both religious and atheist — are as sure of Jesus’ life as they are that Alexander the Great lived.  So, when someone says Jesus is a legendary figure, such as Robin Hood or Sir Lancelot you now know better.

So, not only did Jesus live, but he also rose from the dead.  I found this video by Gary Habermas (wonderfully tough Evangelical Christian) to be awesome.  Gary shows that by accepting only parts of the New Testaments that even the skeptical scholars trust as historical, one can still demonstrate that Jesus rose the 3rd day.  In addition, one can be sure that the New Testament (despite what some critics say) is trustworthy and authoritative.

You may want to watch this video a few times.  I had to do so to fully understand what Gary was talking about.

So, what does this have to do with the LDS Church?  Well, if we don’t have a resurrected Jesus of Nazareth, we don’t need a Joseph Smith to restore His Gospel after an apostasy.  You probably already believe this event.  I simply don’t think it hurts to understand more scholarship to reinforce your beliefs!  After all, more and more folks neither believe in a literal Jesus nor a bodily resurrection.

Dallin H. Oaks: The Only True and Living Church

Why do we claim to belong to the true church?

Elder Oaks shares 3 reasons:

  •  The fulness of the Gospel was restored.
  •  The power of the Priesthood was restored.
  •  We have a restored testimony of Jesus Christ, his true nature, and purposes.

Let us share this message with great humility.  As Elder Oaks says,

“Sometimes we do this in a way that gives great offense to people who belong to other churches or who subscribe to other philosophies. But God has not taught us anything that should cause us to feel superior to other people.

Certainly all churches and philosophies have elements of truth in them, some more than others. Certainly God loves all of His children. And certainly His gospel plan is for all of His children, all according to His own timetable.”

Click here to read complete talk.

 

We believe the priesthood and associated keys were restored to Joseph Smith.  However, unique truths and perspectives are found in every faith and people on earth.  No one organization has a monopoly on goodness or truth.