As he was completing the Book of Mormon, Joseph
showed the golden plates to eight other witnesses.
Who were these men? Were they trust worthy?
Did they ever deny their testimonies?
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
While one could argue that the original eight witnesses signed what was on the Original Manuscript and not what was on the Printer's Manuscript [pictured here], there is no evidence that such a document ever existed.
The church says that, "Of the nearly 500 pages placed in the Nauvoo House cornerstone, portions of 232 pages survive. The Church now possesses most of those fragments and leaves. Others are in private hands. Their owners graciously allowed those pieces to be photographed and included in this volume."
I'd be curious to know if that original witnesses statement survived and if the handwriting belongs to Oliver Cowdery.
...when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundation was sapped & the entire superstructure fell in heap of ruins, I therefore three week since in the Stone Chapel...renounced the Book of Mormon...after we were done speaking M. Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city throught [sic] a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of—–— [him/me?] but should have let it passed as it was...
-Letter from Stephen Burnett to "Bro. Johnson," April 15, 1838, in Joseph Smith Letter Book, p. 2
In his book, A History of Illinois, from Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847, Thomas Ford gives some details concerning the Mormon Church.
And the prophet was not without his witnesses. Oliver Cowdney, Martin Harris, and Daniel Whiteman, solemnly certifiy " that we have seen the plates which contain the records; that they were 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 declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven and brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates and tho engravings thereon."
Eight other witnesses certify that "Joseph Smith, the translator, had shown them the plates spoken of, which had the appearance of gold; and as many of fie plates as the said Smith had translated, they did handle with their hands, and they also saw the engravings thereon, all of which had the appearance of andent work and cunous workmanship."
The most probable account of these certificates is, that the witnesses were in the conspiracy, aiding the imposture; but I have been informed by men who were once in the confidence of the prophet, that he privately gave a different account of the matter. It is related that the prophet's early followers were anxious to see the plates; the prophet had always given out that they could not be seen by the carnal eye, but must be spiritually discerned; that the power to see them depended upon faith, and was the gift of God, to be obtained by fasting, prayer, mortification of the flesh, and exercises of the spirit; that so soon as he could see the evidences of a strong and lively faith in any of his followers, they should be gratified in their holy curiosity.
He set them to continual prayer, and other spiritual exercises, to acquire this lively faith by means of which the hidden things of God could be spiritually discerned; and at last, when he could delay them no longer, he assembled them in a room, and produced a box, which he said contained the precious treasure. The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty, they said, "Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates." The prophet answered them, "O ye of little faith! how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation. Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven." The disciples dropped to their knees, and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fenatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates. I leave it to philosophers to determine whether the fumes of an enthusiastic and fanatical imagination are thus capable of blinding the mind and deeeiV' ing tie senses by so absurd a delusion.
One of my tik toks, going over the story of Governor Ford and the Eight Witnesses.
We are now ready for the eight witnesses. Their testimony is worthless. They testify they saw and handled certain plates that Joe showed them. That the plates had on them characters of ancient workmanship, and were of ancient and curious workmanship. That they saw as many plates as Smith had translated. How did they know that he had translated the plates before them? How did they know that Joe had translated any plates? That the plates had been given to him by an angel? That the Book of Mormon was a translation o f the plates before them, or of any plates? The only thing they could testify was that Joe had showed them certain plates. All the rest they could not know, and lied when they said they did know. Another fatal objection to the testimony of both the three witnesses, and of the eight, is they are all of the gang of low, villainous followers of Smith, and Interested in the fraud. The thirteen are as follows: Imposter Joe, author of the fraud; old Joe, his father, a notorious drunkard, liar and thief; Hiram Smith, his brother, afterwards a leader in Mormonism; S. H. Smith, another; old [Mr]. Whitmer, David Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, brother-in-law of the Whitmers, Martin Harris, old Mrs. Whitmer and Emma Smith, Joe's wife. Six Whitmers, one member of the family, four Smiths, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris.
The Church likes to boast that none of the witnesses ever denied their testimonies. Concerning the eight witnesses, this isn't much of a boast. Five of the witnesses died during or just after Joseph Smith's lifetime, two of them were excommunicated, and one of them left the church.
Christian Whitmer, died in 1835
Jacob Whitmer, excommunicated in 1838
Peter Whitmer, Jr., died in 1836
John Whitmer, excommunicated in 1838
Hiram Page, left the Church in 1838
Joseph Smith, Sr., died a patriarch in 1840
Hyrum Smith, died alongside the Prophet in 1844
Samuel H. Smith, died one month after his brother, the Prophet, in 1844
John Whitmer was excommunicated on March 10, 1838. There had been problems with the Kirtland Safety Society Bank. There was leadership struggles and the entire Whitmer family was excommunicated. Upon his excommunication, John Whitmer refused to give the chruch the documents and recors he had worked on as a Church historian.
Not much is known about Jacob Whitmer's excommunication. It could easily have been due to the Kirtland Safety Society Bank as with the rest of the family. It is known that he lived in Missouri, joined the Church of Christ with his brother, and passed away in 1856 still affirming his testimony of the golden plates.
Hiram Page left the church when the Whitmers were all excommunicated. Records show that on September 6, 1847, William E. McLellin baptized Page, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Jacob Whitmer into his newly formed Church of Christ (or the Whitmerites). McLellin had hoped that David would lead the church. Page was ordained a high priest in that church and participated in the ordination of others. Page died on his farm in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, still affirming his testimony of the Book of Mormon.
If each of these men had joined another church which gave them immediate positions of power and which rested on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon -why on earth would they deny their testimonies of the Book of Mormon?
© Copyright. All rights reserved.