The titled page of the the Book of Mormon reads:
The Testimony Of Three 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, & to the Son, & to the Holy Ghost, which is One God. Amen.’ Signed: Oliver Cowdery & David Whitmer & Martin Harris
And Also The Testimony Of Eight 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.
Signed: Christian Whitmer & Hiram Page & Jacob Whitmer & Joseph Smith, Sen. Peter Whitmer, Jun. & Hyrum Smith & John Whitmer & Samuel H. Smith
Who got the vision?
John Whitmer (David’s brother), one of the eight witnesses, wrote the following in his own history of the church, which later, of course, was crossed out: “God knowing all things prepared a man whom he visited by an angel of God and showed him where there were some ancient record hid . . . whose name is James J. Strang . . . and Strang Reigns in the place of Smith the author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon” (John Whitmer’s History, p.23).
Points to consider concerning of the so-called Three Witnesses
Most of the Three (including the eight) were blood related. In fact, all of the Eight were members of either the family of Joseph Smith Jr. or the family of David Whitmer’s father.
The Three Witnesses all of questionable character.
Commenting on the Three Witnesses, founder of the Mormon religion Joseph Smith said in 1838, “Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdry, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them” (History of the Church, vol. 3, p. 232).
Also, consider this: All three *witnesses* were eventually excommunicated from the Mormon church.
Even after his testimony regarding the Book of Mormon, he was known for wavering as to what church to join! Over his whole life he changed his affiliation over 13 times.
He stated: “Testimony of three witnesses: We Cheerfully certify . . . The Lord has made it known to me that David Witmer is the man. David was then called forward, and Joseph and his counselors laid hands upon him, and ordained him to his station, to succeed him . . . He will be prophet, seer, Revelator and Translator before God.” Signed Martin Harris, Leonard Rich, Calvin Beebe (emphasis added).
>This however, never happened, for Brigham young became Smith’s successor.
The Mormon Church saw him as “became partially deranged . . . flying from one thing to another” (Millennial Star, vol. 8, p.124).
The Mormon paper, Millennial Star, reported that the Mormons said of Martin Harris and a few other men “a lying deceptive spirit attend them . . . they are of their father, the devil. . . . The very countenance of Harris will show to every spiritual-minded person who sees him, that the wrath of God is upon him” (Millennial Star, vol. 8, pp. 124-28).
Commenting on Harris’s wavering character and unstableness, the Mormon church says of him:
One of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, yielded to the spirit and temptation of the devil a number of years ago—turned against Joseph Smith and became his bitter enemy. He was filled with the rage and madness of a demon. One day he would be one thing, and another day another thing. He soon became partially deranged or shattered, as many believed, flying from one thing to another…. In one of his fits of monomania, he went and joined the “Shakers” or followers of Anna Lee. . . . but since Strang has made his entry … Martin leaves the “Shakers,” whom he knows to be right . . . and joins Strang. . . . We understand that he is appointed a mission to this country,… if the Saints wish to know what the Lord hath said to him they may turn to … the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and the person there called a “wicked man” is no other than Martin Harris … Elder Wheelock will remember that evil men, like Harris, out of the evil treasure of their hearts bring forth evil things. . . .
Just as our paper was going to press, we learned that Martin Harris, about whom we have written in another article, had landed in Liverpool,… there was a strangeness about him, and about one or two who came with him … A lying deceptive spirit attends them, and has from the beginning…. they know that they are of their father, the devil, who was a liar from the beginning, and abode not in the truth (Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star, vol. 8, pp.124-28).
Years after he alleged that he “witnessed as to the Book of Mormon plates, Whitmer said, 1887:
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. . . . ” (Address to All Believers in Christ, p. 27, 1887).
Of course, no matter how clear the evidence is, LDS apologists still have no problem denying this. For several views have been promulgated. Example, struggling to somehow defend Whitmer’s statement, one LDS writer said:
He only mentioned the undefined voice at Far West once, in this last writing to fellow believers– but he had repeatedly testified of an audible voice authenticating the Book of Mormon. Those with him in 1830 in the New York grove certified that they had also heard God’s voice then, but neither Oliver Cowdery nor John Whitmer, both of whom left Far West with David at this time, say anything about the heavenly command of 1838. Whatever came to David Whitmer, the later experience fails to contradict his earlier divine command to testify of the ancient record. David Whitmer could have received true spiritual comfort because of the unjust methods that his former associates were using against him; or he may have only felt that God spoke to him because of the powerful indignation that swelled up in his soul; or if he gave way to the spirit of anger and retaliation, he invited Satan to inspire him and deceive him. For instance, once in later life he was tempted to lead, thereby dictating several revelations that he later considered false. The Far West “voice” might fall into this category (Richard L. Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (SLC: Deseret Book Co., 1981, pp. 163-64).
Note the theories, (“Whitmer could have . . . or he may. . . . “). The historical fact is, Whitmer denied the Book of Mormon and was excommunicated by the Mormon Church–later claiming that he only saw the Book of Mormon plates wit the eye of
Further, Whitmer later started his own church.
SAME AS Whitmer: He was excommunicated from the Mormon Church and joined the Methodist church.
In 1841, the Mormons published a poem which said: “Or Book of Mormon not his word, because denied by Oliver” (Seasons and Times, 2:482)
The Mormon church accused Cowdery of “adultery” and claimed he had joined “a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs”.However, Cowdery returned to the Mormon Church before his death, but note that David Whitmer claimed that Cowdery died believing that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and that his revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants must be rejected:
I did not say that Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer had not endorsed the Doctrine and Covenants in 1836. They did endorse it in 1836; I stated that they “came out of their errors (discarded the Doctrine and Covenants), repented of them, and died believing as I do to-day,” and I have the proof to verify my statement. If any one chooses to doubt my word, let them come to my home in Richmond and be satisfied. In the winter of 1848, after Oliver Cowdery had been baptized at Council Bluffs, he came back to Richmond to live. . . . 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 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 (An Address to Believers in The Book of Mormon, 1887, pp.1-2).
As seem above, Joseph Smith listed Cowdery as among those, “too mean to mention” Further, Cowdery died claiming that the book of Doctrines & Covenants must be abandoned.
For the Mormons admitted in 1846:
One day he [Martin Harris] would be one thing, and another day another. He soon became deranged or shattered, as many believed, flying from one thing to another, as if reason and common sense were thrown off their balance. In one of his fits of monomania, he went and joined the ‘Shakers’ or followers of Anne Lee. He tarried with them a year or two, or perhaps longer… but since Strang has made his entry into the apostate ranks, and hoisted his standard for the rebellious to flock too, Martin leaves the ‘Shakers,’ whom he knows to be right, and has known it for many years, as he said, and joins Strang in gathering out the tares of the field. ( Millennial Star, vol. 8, November 15, 1846, p. 124.)
LDS Apostle George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency had stated,
[Cowdery] transgressed the law of God; he committed adultery; the Spirit of God withdrew from him, and he, the second elder in the Church, was excommunicated from the Church. (Juvenile Instructor, 1885, p. 360)
Despite these facts, LDS Apostle John A. Widtsoe does not agrees with their founder. Despite clear instability on these witnesses and certainly fertile imaginations, Apostle John A. Widtsoe states The Book of Mormon plates were seen and handled, at different times, by eleven competent men, of independent minds and spotless reputations, who published a formal statement of their experience. (Joseph Smith, Seeker After Truth, 338).
A Holy, Sacred and Divine Roll and Book; From the Lord God of Heaven, to the Inhabitants of Earth
As Jerald and Sandra Tanner, in their book, The Changing World of Mormonism point out:
It would appear that same of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon would follow almost anyone who had a peep stone or claimed to have been visited by an angel. Take, for instance, their willingness to believe in the claims of the deceiver James J. Strang who claimed to translate ancient plates with the Urim and Thummim. The reader will remember that Martin Harris even served on a mission for the Strangites. This was not the only time that Harris endorsed a religion which claimed to have a sacred book given directly by the Lord.
As we have already shown, in the Millennial Star the Mormons admitted that Martin Harris joined the Shakers: “In one of his fits of monomania, he went and joined the ‘Shakers’ or followers of Anne Lee.” The Shakers felt that “Christ has made his second appearance on earth, in a chosen female known by the name of Ann Lee, and acknowledged by us as our Blessed Mother in the work of redemption” (Sacred Roll and Book, p.358). The Shakers, of course, did not believe the Book of Mormon, but they had a book entitled A Holy, Sacred and Divine Roll and Book; From the Lord God of Heaven, to the Inhabitants of Earth. More than sixty individuals gave testimony to the Sacred Roll and Book, which was published in 1843. Although not all of them mention angels appearing, some of them tell of many angels visiting them—one woman told of eight different visions.
On page 304 of this book, we find the testimony of eight witnesses:
We, the undersigned, hereby testify, that we saw the holy Angel standing upon the house-top, as mentioned in the foregoing declaration, holding the Roll and Book.
Caty De Witt.
Laura Ann Jacobs.
Sarah Maria Lewis.
Sarah Ann Spencer.
Joseph Smith only had three witnesses who claimed to see an angel. The Shakers, however, had a large number of witnesses who claimed they saw angels and the Roll and Book. There are over a hundred pages of testimony from “Living Witnesses.” The evidence seems to show that Martin Harris accepted the Sacred Roll and Book as a divine revelation. Clark Braden stated: “Harris declared repeatedly that he had as much evidence for a Shaker book he had as for the Book of Mormon” (The Braden and Kelly Debate, p.173).
There is a Mormon source which indicates that Martin Harris claimed to have a greater testimony to the Shakers than to the Book of Mormon. In a thesis written at Brigham Young University, Wayne Cutler Gunnell stated that on December 31, 1844, “Phineas H. Young [Brigham Young’s brother] and other leaders of the Kirtland organization” wrote a letter to Brigham Young in which they stated: “There are in this place all kinds of teaching; Martin Harris is a firm believer in Shakerism, says his testimony is greater than it was of the Book of Mormon” (“Martin Harris—Witness and Benefactor to the Book of Mormon,” 1955, p.52) (Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism, chap. 5, pp. 106-07).
There is much more that can be said about the unreliability of the Three (and the Eight) Witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates. However, even if all eleven Witnesses affirmed that they really saw and even handled the Book of Mormon plates it does biblically validate the Mormon faith: The Mormon faith rejects Jesus Christ.
As seen, the LDS faith affirms
1. the existence of many Gods (polytheism).
2. God was a mere man on another planet before becoming God.
3. that God had to become God at a point in time (thus denying that God always existed as God).
4. that God the Father and Mary had *sexual intercourse* to procreate the physical body of Jesus Christ.
5. that God was married to His own spirit daughter, Mary.
6. that Jesus Christ is not the eternal God (i.e., denying that He always existed as God).
7. that eternal life (true salvation) is acquired by meritorious works.
8. that *black skin* (Indians, Africans, etc.) is a mark from God indicating that they are or were (depending on what LDS Prophet you read) cursed by God for their evil acts in their first estate in heaven (as *spirit children* before coming to earth).
Thus, it is not the major discrepancies and inconstancies that plague the history and origin of the Book of Mormon, nor is it the insurmountable problems with the Book of Mormon (internally and externally), but it is the God that the Mormons embrace that condemns them:
But the LORD is the true God;
He is the living God and the everlasting King
At His wrath the earth quakes,
And the nations cannot endure His indignation.
Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens” (Jer. 10:10-11)