Good summary at the Conflict of Justice blog: Was Martin Harris A Superstitious, Gullible, And Unreliable Witness?
Martin Harris left the Church in 1837 during the Kirtland Bank Crisis. A financial panic that affected the entire country, not just Kirtland, Ohio.
After Martin left he affiliated with many sects from the Quakers to break-off LDS factions. But never did he renounce his faith in the Book of Mormon. Nor did he deny his testimony as a witness to the angel, the Liahona, Golden Plates, Brass Plates, and several other objects on the table in 1829.
For a time, Martin Harris associated with Gladden Bishop. Bishop claimed to have the authority to lead the Church after Joseph’s death. Eventually, many of his followers abandoned Bishop in the 1850s and led by Granville Hedrick formed The Church of Christ (Temple Lot).
Before Joseph’s death, Bishop made all kinds of claims without evidence. Bishop never got witnesses to support his claims to have received the Liahona, the lost 116 pages, the golden plates, the breastplate of Moroni, etc.
During Martin Harris’ many years away from the Church, Martin affiliated with more than one LDS- related group — even ones with leaders making incredible claims — but never himself denied his own testimony.
Consider reading this account by Susan Easton Black on Martin’s long absence from the Church.
A few interesting paragraphs:
David Dille had known Martin in the 1830s. Dille was called to serve a mission to England in 1852. On his way to England, Dille visited Martin Harris in Kirtland. David recorded the following:
“Although Martin was in bed at the time and had resolved not to “admit anyone into his room for three days,” he allowed his old acquaintance to enter. “His good wife introduced me to him, he received me very coldly but told me to take a seat,” recalled Dille. “I obeyed.” After a few moments, Martin inquired, “How are they getting along at Salt Lake?” Dille answered, “Fine, delightfull.” Dille’s response was not satisfactory to Martin.
He came to the point: “How are they getting along with polygamy?” Dille said, “Them that was in it was very comfortable.” Martin pressed him for a better answer: “How do you reconcile polygamy with the doctrine taught by one of the old prophets?” Dille replied, “Mr. Harris, if necessary take what you call polygamy to fulfill that prophecy. . . . There is more females born into the world than there is males and besides the many thousands of young men slain in battle, leaving the ladies without a mate.” After reflecting upon his answer, Martin said, “It is so but I never thought of it in that light before.” He then interrupted their conversation to ask Caroline to bring him breakfast before again turning to Elder Dille.
“I have not eaten anything for three days but the old spirit of Mormonism has cured me,” he claimed. Martin then entreated the missionary, “You must stay with me all day.” Having made other plans, Dille told Martin that he would be visiting “Bro. Whiting that afternoon.” And then Martin invited him to “stay till noon and we will get you a good dinner and I will go with you.” Dille replied, “You can’t go, you are sick.”
At this, Martin sprang out of bed and began to put on his clothes while saying, “sick, no, you have brought the old spirit of Mormonism here and it has cured me.” After dinner, both men called upon Brother Whiting. It was in the Whiting home that Martin spoke at length of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon:
Do I not know that the Book of Mormon is true? Did I not hear the voice of God out of heaven declaring that it was truth and correctly translated? Yes[,] I did[,] and you know I did for I see you have the spirit of it. . . .
I know that the plates have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice declared it unto us. . . . And as many of the plates as Joseph Smith translated I handled with my hands, plate after plate. Martin then estimated the dimensions of the plates: “I should think they were so long [demonstrating with his hands], or about eight inches, and about so thick, or about four inches; and each of the plates was thicker than the thickest tin.”
Dille asked him if he “ever lost 3,000 dollars by the publishing of the Book of Mormon.” Martin replied, “I never lost one cent. Mr. Smith . . . paid me all that I advanced, and more too.”
So, Martin harbored issues about polygamy and Brigham Young, but the still believed in the Book of Mormon.
Elder Colburn, like Elder Dille before him, had known Martin years before. Colburn had been baptized in 1833 and had marched with Martin in Zion’s Camp in 1834. It seemed natural for him to search out an old friend. Colburn had a “lengthy interview” with Martin.
He sent news of their discussion to Elder Erastus Snow, editor of the St. Louis Luminary. Excerpts of his interview were printed in the Luminary:
“At first [Martin Harris] was down on polygamy, but before we left he informed me that he never should say a word against it. He confessed that he had lost confidence in Joseph Smith, consequently, his mind became darkened, and he was left to himself; he tried the Shakers, but that would not do, then tried Gladden Bishop, but no satisfaction; [he] had concluded he would wait until the Saints returned to Jackson Co., and then he would repair there.
He gave us a history of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; his going to New York and presenting the characters to Professor Anthon, etc.; concluded before we left that “Brigham was Governor,” and that the authorities were there, and that he should go there as soon as he could get away. Yet once again, Martin did not make good on his promise. He refused to leave his beloved Kirtland.”
Martin was in his 70s when he helped his much-younger wife (40) move to Iowa. Caroline Young Harris was a niece of Brigham Young. After moving his family, Martin soon returned to Kirtland. A few years after living in Iowa, Caroline moved to Utah. After years of living alone, Caroline Harris remarried.
Another account of Martin and William Smith attempting to start a new church in Kirtland:
Elder Beese reported to Pres. Young’s office that “Martin Harris had reorganized the Church in this place with 6 members. Appointed Wm. Smith their Leader Prophet Seer & Revelator. In [a] few days Harris drove Wm. Smith out of the place & damned him to Hell.” William’s aspirations for presidency were short-lived at the hands of a disgruntled Martin Harris.
A relative of Martin’s visited him at the end of his mission to England:
Elder Homer introduced himself to Martin “as a brother-in-law of Martin Harris, Jr.,—as he [Martin Jr.] had married my eldest sister—and as an Elder of the Church who was returning from a foreign mission.”
Martin snapped, “One of those Brighamite ‘Mormons,’ are you?” He then “railed impatiently against Utah and the founder of the ‘Mormon’ commonwealth.” To Homer, “Martin Harris seemed to be obsessed. He would not understand that there stood before him a man who knew his wife [Caroline] and children, who had followed the Church to Utah.”
After a time, Martin asked, “You want to see the Temple, do you?” Elder Homer nodded. “I’ll get the key,” said Martin. According to Homer, Martin now “radiated with interest.” He led Homer and his cousin into the Kirtland Temple and “through the rooms of the Temple and explained how they were used. He pointed out the place of the School of the Prophets. He showed us where the Temple curtain had at one time hung. He related thrilling experiences in connection with the history of the sacred building.”
While speaking of the neglected state of the temple, Martin again railed “against the Utah ‘Mormons’” and said that a “gross injustice had been done to him. He should have been chosen President of the Church.” It was then that Martin seemed “somewhat exhausted.”
While they were resting, Homer asked, “Is it not true that you were once very prominent in the Church, that you gave liberally of your means, and that you were active in the performance of your duties?” Martin replied, “That is very true.” He mused, “Things were alright then. I was honored while the people were here, but now that I am old and poor it is all different.”
Homer reported that when questioned about his belief in the Book of Mormon, “the shabby, emaciated little man before us was transformed as he stood with hand outstretched toward the sun of heaven.” “Young man,” answered Martin Harris with impressiveness, “Do I believe it! Do you see the sun shining! Just as surely as the sun is shining on us and gives us light, and the [moon] and stars give us light by night, just as surely as the breath of life sustains us, so surely do I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, chosen of God to open the last dispensation of the fulness of times; so surely do I know that the Book of Mormon was divinely translated. I saw the plates; I saw the Angel; I heard the voice of God. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.
I might as well doubt my own existence as to doubt the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon or the divine calling of Joseph Smith.” To Homer, “it was a sublime moment. It was a wonderful testimony.” Indeed, “it was the real Martin Harris whose burning testimony no power on earth could quench.” Homer claimed that hearing him testify was “the most thrilling moment” of his life.
It was then that Martin turned to Elder Homer and asked, “Who are you?” Homer explained for the second time his relationship. “So my son Martin married your sister,” repeated the old man, shaking his hand. “You know my family then?” “Yes,” he replied, “Wouldn’t you like to see your family again?”
Martin admitted that he would “like to see Caroline and the children” but lamented that his impoverished circumstances prevented such a visit. “That need not stand in the way,” Homer said. “President Young would be only too glad to furnish means to convey you to Utah.” The mere mention of Brigham Young angered Martin. “Don’t talk Brigham Young,” he warned. Martin then declared, “He would not do anything that was right.” Homer suggested that Martin “send him a message by me.”
Martin refused. Yet he did admit, “I should like to see my family.” Homer entreated him again to convey a message to President Young. Martin replied, You call on Brigham Young. Tell him about our visit. Tell him that Martin Harris is an old, old man, living on charity with his relatives. Tell him I should like to visit Utah, my family, my children—I would be glad to accept help from the Church, but I want no personal favors.
Read the rest through the link above.
image above: A general view, facing south, of the west side of the Palmyra hill, near the summit. This is the general area where Moroni buried the plates. Large flat-faced rocks, like those shown in the foreground, are common on the hill.
Two geologists published this on the topic in the Interpreter: The Geology of Moroni’s Box: the Setting and Resources of Palmyra.
They discuss the stones available in the region around Joseph’s home. They also identified the needed components of cement that was used to hold the stones together for 1400 years.
Listen to the entire podcast here:
Abstract: The story of Joseph Smith retrieving gold plates from a stone box on a hillside in upstate New York and translating them into the foundational text of the Restoration is well known among Latter-day Saints. While countless retellings have examined these events in considerable detail, very few have explored the geological aspects involved in this story. In particular, none have discussed in detail the geological materials that would have been required by the Nephite prophet Moroni ca. ad 421 to construct a sealed container able to protect the gold plates from the elements and from premature discovery for some fourteen centuries. This paper reports the outcomes from a field investigation into what resources would have been available to Moroni in the Palmyra area. It was conducted by the authors in New York state in October 2017.
Two significant hills near the Smith farm:
Note the many drumlins in Upstate NY and their north-to-south orientations:
In the Palmyra area, most of the drumlins consist of a mix of stratified or layered gravels and sands. However, near the Palmyra hill is one today named Miners Hill, which is an exception: it is predominately formed of clay — something that might well have played an important role in the making of Moroni’s stone box.
Joseph described the box:
Joseph Smith described the box and its location: “On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth. …
The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them.”
Oliver Cowdery’s description:
Oliver goes on to describe the relative dimensions of the box, including the fact that it “was sufficiently large to admit a breast-plate, such as was used by the ancients to defend the chest, etc. from the arrows and weapons of their enemy.
From the bottom of the box, or from the breast-plate, arose three small pillars composed of the same description of cement used on the edges; and upon these three pillars was placed the record of the children of Joseph.” For the purposes of this study, however, our focus will remain on the nature of the construction materials: stones and cement.
This image below demonstrates what the box may have looked like and uses Oliver’s account to describe the box:
The Book of Mormon shares that the Nephites knew how to use cement:
became exceedingly expert in the working of cement; therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell … And thus they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement. (Helaman 3:7, 11)
Moroni thus grew up within a culture in which making cement using the abundant limestone of the region was already a common skill or technology.
Interesting note about clay, a required ingredient in cement:
As clay is almost unknown in the Palmyra area, the clay that Moroni needed was the most challenging ingredient for us to locate. As noted earlier, however, some 3 km (~2 miles) due north of the Palmyra hill is a smaller drumlin called Miner’s Hill.
Perhaps uniquely in the area, this hill consists almost entirely of fine clay. According to the current land [Page 248]owner, who allowed the New York Highway Department to mine it, it is the only location in the area that serves as a source of clay.
Additional details of the box and location on the hill in this article: Hill Cumorah.
What ever happened to the box?
Two surviving accounts are our sources for this likely outcome. The first was General Authority (First Council of the Seventy) Edward Stevenson (d. 1897) who published an account in 1893 about interviewing an “old man” living near the hill:
Questioning him closely he stated that he had seen some good-sized flat stones that had rolled down and lay near the bottom of the hill. This had occurred after the contents of the box had been removed and these stones were doubtless the ones that formerly composed the box. I felt a strong desire to see these ancient relics and told him I would be much pleased to have him inform me where they were to be found. He stated that they had long since been taken away.
The other is a report in which David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had stated:
Three times [David Whitmer] has been at the Hill Cumorah and seen the casket that contained the tablets and seerstone. Eventually the casket has been washed down to the foot of the hill, but it was to be seen when he last visited the historic place.
Read more about David’s account here.
Read this Primary lesson that details the many ways the plates were hidden — decayed part of a tree, in a knapsack, under a fireplace, in a shed, in a barrel of beans — after getting into Joseph’s possession.
The Maxwell Institute looked at a related topic in 2004: Cumorah’s Cave.
Yesterday I shared a post about the 11+ witnesses. It didn’t take long and an LDS critic commented that the witnesses saw the visions via “second sight.” And they only saw with their “spiritual eyes”.
This blogger at Conflict of Justice provides extensive quotes and background on this topic: Did the Book of Mormon Witnesses See The Gold Plates Only in Their Minds?
The short answer is no. The long answer will take lots of reading. The witnesses are on record countless times, testifying of a physical experience.
I had heard of second sight before yesterday, but hadn’t taken the time to evaluate in detail what second sight was. Previously, critics would argue that Joseph hypnotized the witnesses. That it appears has fallen out of favor as a hypothesis. Hypnosis fails as an explanation because the data show this is not possible or at least very, very, very, very, very, very unlikely to have happened.
So, critics move to the next possibility: second sight. The only problem is that second sight — unlike hypnosis — has never been known to have happened.
To better understand second sight I Googled and reviewed several sites’ definitions. In every case, the word was referring to knowing something in advance. The word had nothing to do with hallucination or hypnosis. Instead, it was someone — not multiple at once — who could see the future.
Definitions of second sight:
Google: the supposed ability to perceive future or distant events; clairvoyance.
I thought I’d look up clairvoyance to better understand what this second site synonym was.
Google: noun: clairvoyance
- the supposed faculty of perceiving things or events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact.
- “she stared at the card as if she could contact its writer by clairvoyance”
examples of second sight in a sentence: the fairy world was believed to be visible to people blessed with second sight
Joseph Smith showed 8 witnesses metal plates. An angel showed metal plates and multiple objects on a table to 3 witnesses. No fairies were around. Joseph saw some future events and prophesied, but lived in the natural world. Not the fairy world. Second sight doesn’t occur. Prophets have lived.
From Sixth Sense Reader: a term denoting the opposite of its apparent significance, meaning in reality the seeing, in vision, of events before they occur. “Foresight” expresses the meaning of second sight, which perhaps was originally so called because normal vision was regarded as coming first, while supernormal vision is a secondary thing, confined to certain individuals (ibid).
This word, second sight, is so little used look what is in the next dictionary:
Urban Dictionary: second sight
TOP DEFINITION an underated action game that has an amazing plot, but is a little too short.
From Very Well Health: Second Sight Changes in Vision:
“Second sight” refers to a temporary change in vision during early cataract development. Before vision deteriorates, vision, especially close-up reading vision, improves significantly. Some patients report very clear near vision without the use of reading glasses. Near vision refers to vision for objects 2 feet or closer to the viewer.
These changes occur because the proteins and other compounds that make up the lens begin to change structure. This, in turn, changes the way light refracts through the lens, causing a temporary improvement in near vision.
I copied/pasted from the Wikipedia below (after ESP image below). Interestingly, this topic is nested under Paranormal. In my view, for critics to cling to these (completely unsupported) superstitious explanations demonstrates they have greater superstition than Joseph ever did.
First paragraph is descriptive of what second sight is. The second paragraph points out that second sight doesn’t occur.
Second sight is a form of extrasensory perception, the supposed power to perceive things that are not present to the senses, whereby a person perceives information, in the form of a vision, about future events before they happen (precognition), or about things or events at remote locations (remote viewing).
There is no scientific evidence that second sight exists. Reports of second sight are known only from anecdotal evidence given after the fact.
Read that? This — second sight — has never been documented; yet LDS critics present this to uninformed readers as the explanation for Joseph’s visions. Very poor scholarship.
LDS critics usually posit that they follow evidence, and that has led them to their current positions. Is that true in this case? What of the 200+ accounts the witnesses left? They clearly and repeatedly claimed to have seen a vision, but with their natural eyes. They saw the plates just as they see a tree (pointing to a tree), etc.
Wikipedia discusses the history of second sight. The entire Wikipedia article on the topic is only 7 paragraphs long.
Second sight may have originally been so called because normal vision was regarded as coming first, while supernormal vision is a secondary thing, confined to certain individuals. An da shealladh or “the two sights,” meaning “the sight of the seer”, is the way Gaels refer to “second sight”, the involuntary ability of seeing the future or distant events. There are many Gaelic words for the various aspects of second sight, but an da shealladh is the one mostly recognized by non-Gaelic speakers, even though, strictly speaking, it does not really mean second sight, but rather “two sights”.[a]
So, did Joseph involuntarily see future events? The witnesses, too? Did they see the plates in the field during the day, as they claimed? Or were they at the Whitmer home and all together involuntarily see the objects, as if they were in the field?
So, was Joseph a seer? But an involuntary one? Joseph typically got answers to questions via revelation. His revelations weren’t involuntary. His revelations came after much study and pondering.
This explanation — second sight — has no basis in fact or history (only in mythology) and wasn’t what the Book of Mormon witnesses consistently held to.
I searched YouTube for videos on the topic and found zero. Nobody has produced one because it’s never occurred. There are a bazillion videos on every topic imaginable, but none for second sight (except for movies and video game reviews).
Kwaku shares good evidence:
Another great podcast:
In this episode of the LDS Perspectives Podcast, Laura Harris Hales interviews scholar Nicholas (Nick) J. Frederick about New Testament intertextuality in the Book of Mormon.
As an undergraduate classics major at BYU, Frederick became interested in studying Book of Mormon intertextuality. He wanted to discuss with other scholars what he was finding but encountered resistance from those who thought he was attacking the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Further frustration came as he realized that the few resources on the topic were primarily written by critics of the Book of Mormon arguing against historicity. Their research was overreaching and didn’t address how these New Testament elements were functioning within the text.
Frederick, who has since written a dissertation, book, and articles on the topic, hopes to expand the discussion of the New Testament elements in the Book of Mormon beyond that of simply whether they speak to historicity. That the New Testament can be found in the Book of Mormon is undeniable, but some might struggle with the notion of the New Testament as an antecedent text. Frederick suggests that we negotiate this roadblock by untethering the gold plates from the 19th century English document that we call the Book of Mormon because they are “two different texts that are related through translation.” Moving past the issue of why these passages are in the Book of Mormon to how the Book of Mormon affirms, comments on, corrects, and reimagines the New Testament is an important and fascinating discussion.
Unfortunately identifying common phrases isn’t as simple as it would seem. Sometimes there are direct quotations, such as from the Sermon on the Mount in 3 Nephi—though even there Frederick discusses the fascinating influence of John’s gospel on quotations from Matthew. But the presence of the New Testament is often subtle. He explains that the Book of Mormon will “carefully weave these New Testament passages into the larger text,” so the interdependence does not readily stand out to the casual reader. The Book of Mormon seems to masterfully deconstruct and reconstruct New Testament concepts and phrases for its own purposes.
In an attempt to broaden the discussion, Frederick proposes a methodology for determining the probability of intertextuality, which goes beyond simply identifying common phrases. He adds four additional criteria to solidify connections. Through multiple examples, Dr. Frederick shows us how intertextual studies can enrich our study of the Book of Mormon.
About Our Guest: Nicholas J. Frederick served a mission in Brussels, Belgium, then attended BYU where he received his BA in classics and his MA in comparative studies. He then attended Claremont Graduate University, where he completed a PhD in the history of Christianity with an emphasis in Mormon studies, after which he returned to work at BYU. His research focuses primarily on the intertextual relationship between the text of the Bible and Mormon scripture. He enjoys teaching courses on the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, particularly the writings of Paul and the Book of Revelation.
Critics suggest that Joseph Smith hypnotized or in some other way (2nd sight is often offered) influenced the witnesses. That is, in their view the 11+ witnesses never saw the Golden Plates. Instead, critics suggest Joseph either hypnotized or convinced them they saw something that they really never did. The video below is interesting.
These people in the video below appear to be in a hypnotic state. However, could these people have seen Golden Plates — while in a hypnotic sleep — and reported about it?
Most people are not susceptible to hypnosis. Only about 5-10% are highly susceptible. The witnesses were not hypnotized. Lots of evidence demonstrates otherwise.
From the video introduction:
“Most people think hypnosis is some kind of trick. Religion calls it sinful.
Science has questioned its very existence. Hypnotist, Laughologist and acclaimed Filmmaker Albert Nerenberg, asks: What happens if you run a series of standard hypnotic inductions on a large crowd such as the audience at TEDXQueens.
Is hypnosis fake? Let’s find out. The results are stunning. This comical presentation may finally provide a street science explanation for how hypnosis actually works.”
Can hypnosis make me do something against my will?
Absolutely not! If you have ever seen a stage hypnotist, he or she appears to make people do strange things while hypnotized. Stage hypnosis, however, is entertainment and showmanship is a major factor. The truth is that participating subjects are volunteers who desire to be part of the show. A hypnotist cannot make anyone act in a way that is contrary to the person’s own values, beliefs or moral standards.
What if I don’t wake up?
No one has ever been stuck in a terminal state of hypnosis. It simply cannot happen. Although hypnosis may resemble sleep, it is a completely different state, psychologically and physically. If the hypnotist left the room, the subject would eventually either fall asleep or break the hypnotic state naturally. In fact, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
From the fun-loving, light-hearted 3 Mormons:
Jeff at Latter-day Saints Q & A shares his insights:
I’ll take a moment to debunk common comparisons with Bigfoot.
Critics frequently compare LDS witnesses to those who claim to see the virgin Mary (or Bigfoot or still others). Similar? Not more than superficially.
Do 3 or even 8 people see Mary or Bigfoot simultaneously? Hear Mary’s voice together? Videotape Bigfoot in daylight hours? See a table full of Catholic relics, shown to the 3 one by one? Then hear God command them to testify?
No. From my experience, Bigfoot and Mary witnesses are similar: no lasting evidence. And testimonies almost always wilt under cross-examination or sustained questioning.
These elements are what provide such strong support for the Book of Mormon witnesses, the 3 and the 8. Ditto for the testimony of 8 witnesses.
Testimony of the 3 Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
Testimony of the 8 Witnesses
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.
Peter Whitmer, Jun.
Joseph Smith, Sen.
Samuel H. Smith
Keith Erekson shares his thoughts:
Brett McDonald at LDS Truth Claims YouTube channel created these videos relative to the witnesses. Brett has done his homework.
Brian Hales debunks the anti-Mormon claims against the Book of Mormon witnesses.
Did the witnesses leave the church? Yes. Deny their testimony? No.
More insights from Jeff:
From Saints Unscripted:
Critics claim that Joseph and the Church changed their stories till they got to some satisfactory point. Not true.
Matthew Brown’s 2006 FAIR lecture:
A critic just posted a wildly out-of-context and false statement in an online discussion. An accusation is simple to make, but often takes much time to research and refute. Here’s what the critic stated:
They claimed to see the plates in a visionary state. Some held them through a pillow, etc. They didn’t claim to actually physically hold them.
Here’s my response after doing lots of looking around:
I’ll read from you link (he referenced a critical source, which I’ve seen before). Do you ever quote the 3 or 8 witnesses themselves? They didn’t change their stories. Why use other sources? Should I listen to you or go to your detractors or others to understand your side of the story?
Below is a link to quotes from William Smith (JS’s younger brother) the critics often use to claim that the Book of Mormon witnesses only saw the plates through a frock. The issue here is that it’s a fact William Smith never saw the plates. That is because he wasn’t one of the 3 or 8 witnesses. Instead, William only held the plates while they were covered in a frock — soon after Joseph brought the plates down from the hill.
So, William wasn’t lying. He simply reported the truth: he held them covered (within a frock) during the first few months they were in Joseph’s possession in Palmyra (1827). But he wasn’t speaking for the experience of others. He wasn’t speaking for the 3 and 8 witnesses.
Indeed, William’s testimony was very limited. He was not one of the 3 witnesses who saw the angel along with plates (golden and brass), Liahona, Sword of Laban, etc. in 1829. And he was not present when the Golden Plates were openly displayed for the 8 witnesses who then lifted and inspect these plates. Also in 1829.So, context matters.
A few minutes later I posted this (after doing a quick search for “plates pillow” on FAIR Mormon):
Just found the source for your reference to the pillow. These quotes come from interviews with William Smith in the 1880s and 1890s. William never says that his father & brothers never saw the plates. Your earlier statements are factually incorrect. You and those at Mormon Think take William’s quote out of context. Far out of context.
Immediately after securing the plates (Sept of 1827) and entering the Smith home, father Smith put the plates (already wrapped in a frock) inside a pillow. The goal was to further hide them. They weren’t allowed to see the plates at this time. Nobody was. No debate there. This was September of 1827. The witnesses saw the plates in 1829. Two different years, Ken. Very poor scholarship on your part & for those at Mormon Think.
Referring to what occurred after the work of translation (in 1829), William says:
“He then showed the plates to my father and my brothers Hyrum and Samuel, who were witnesses to the truth of the book which was translated from them. I was permitted to lift them as they laid in a pillow-case; but not to see them, as it was contrary to the commands he had received.”
The list of 8 witnesses. Note that William is not on the list.
- Hiram Page.
- Hyrum Smith.
- Joseph Smith Sr.
- Samuel H. Smith.
- Christian Whitmer.
- Jacob Whitmer.
- John Whitmer.
- Peter Whitmer Jr.
Indeed, this same William whom you quote out of context, clearly reports that his father & 2 brothers were shown the plates by Joseph.
Summary: A frequent claim is that a Book of Mormon witnesses said that he only handled the plates while they were covered in a “tow frock.” However, this report is from William Smith, one of Joseph’s brothers who was not a Book of Mormon witness. In fact, William insisted in the same statement that he was convinced Joseph was not lying about the plates. William also dismissed the Spalding hypothesis as nonsense.
Read more about William Smith here: http://ldsmag.com/joseph-smiths-challenging-brother/
And here: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/william-b-smith
The wonderful 3 Mormons:
BMC Studios and Stephen Smoot:
Jeff Lindsay shares this recent report of OT scripture on silver:
Latter-day Saints Q & A shares this:
Richard Bushman’s 2010 Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF) presentation is entitled “The Gold Plates in Mormon Culture and Thought.”
Bushman also authored the widely-read biography of Joseph Smith, “Rough Stone Rolling”. Bushman likely knows Joseph Smith better than any other living human — from an entire career of meticulous research — and is a faithful Latter-day Saint.
Another video about metals and golden plates in MesoAmerica. Daniel Johnson shares about metal plates in the Old and New World:
The LDS Church made a pamphlet — Gold Plates Used Anciently — in 1963. You can read the pamphlet here. The pamphlets shows many photographs & lists the dozens of metal plates found throughout the world.
Brother Read Putnam wrote this article for the Improvement Era in 1966: “Were the Golden Plates made of Tumbaga?” Read it here.