The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

By June 1829 Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer had verbalized a desire to be the special three witnesses alluded to in the Book of Mormon.

D&C 17 records a revelation affirming their roles as witnesses and was given to Joseph Smith through a seer stone he apparently found while digging a well in 1822.

As witnesses, the three were very different. Martin Harris was zealous, impetuous, and even a bit eccentric. Oliver Cowdery was an intellectual. And David Whitmer was regarded as clear-thinking, down-to-earth, and honest.

David Whitmer was, perhaps, the strongest witness because he lived so long, never wavered in his testimony of the vision, and gave several newspaper interviews that give us additional details regarding the experience. David reported seeing several plates, the sword of Laban, the Liahona, and the Urim and Thummim.

Joseph Smith was understandably relieved to have others to testify of the existence of the plates. Larry Morris concludes that the experience of the Three Witnesses was both an empirical and spiritual experience.

Join Nick Galieti of LDS Perspectives Podcast as he interviews Larry Morris as part of the Revelations in Context podcast series.

8 thoughts on “The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

  1. I find it interesting that the Lord provided for two very different types of witness experiences with the Three and Eight Witnesses. The first (the Three) had an angel appear and show them the plates, while the Eight saw the plates from Joseph. So even in the “type” of witness experience the Lord provide “two” different types of witnesses.

  2. Did anyone else see the plates? I partially remember a story about someone, maybe one of the Whitmers, who wanted to see the plates, and was visited by Moroni.

  3. Sorry, I should have waited until I listened to the whole thing, as they brought that up. 🙂

    After reading LDS apologetics online, it eventually dawned on me that critics of the church haven’t been able to explain away the witnesses.

    If the BoM had been a fraud, there were plenty of insiders and associates who had to have known. Not just his scribes, Emma, Martin, and Oliver, but Joseph’s parents and siblings too.

    None of those who were in a position to know the translation process, or “creation” process if it were made up, ever claimed it was a fraud, even after becoming disaffected from Joseph and the church.

    The only adherents who later declared Joseph a fraud came later, and were not insiders any time from the first vision to the time the BoM went to press. If I remember Meg’s “Reluctant Polygamist” correctly, all those former members who declared Joseph to be a fraud from the beginning (as opposed to the “fallen prophet” crowd) were involved in the Nauvoo adultery ring.

  4. Laura, I agree with a previous commenter that the intro music could be improved upon. In order to not have to get permission of a copyright holder and pay royalties, maybe use a piece of classical music performed and recorded specifically for your podcast by a family member or friend.

    A pipe organ (or electronic organ that sounds like a real pipe organ) would give it a serious and somewhat religious tone. But don’t use hymn tunes.

  5. Even many of those who attacked Joseph in Nauvoo wanted to claim that his initial teachings had been correct. The Nauvoo Expositor has some downright lovely things to say about the Book of Mormon and the early LDS revelations.

    Even William Smith, who beat Joseph up and called for his death in Missouri, testified that the plates were real (he felt them through the cloth).

    Modern critics of Mormonism make me tired. They are forever picking at little stuff and making it seem like there is no possible justification for whatever decades/centuries old event they are talking about at the moment.

  6. Last year I attended an event at BYU that featured Royal Skousen who has made valuable contributions to study of the Book of Mormon through his work ‘The Earliest Text’ as well as one of the historians working on the Joseph Smith papers project. Someone in the audience asked about Mary Whitmer’s viewing of the plates as recounted by one of her sons and we were provided with a reference that confirms the original story but adds additional information. It appears that Mary had grown weary of the work involved with additions to her already large household. She had begun to view Joseph as something of a slacker, particularly because of his habit of skipping stones when taking a break from translation. She thought he should look for something more useful to do. She had reached the point of demanding that the Smiths move out and relieve her of the burden of their care. That’s when the angel intervened and showed her the plates; changing her attitude. The account is in addition to the usual version and comes from the family of another of her sons. It gains support from the detail of the activity of skipping stones which was a favored relaxation activity for Joseph. Martin Harris substituted another stone that he found while he and Joseph were taking a break from translation by skipping stones. When Joseph returned to the task he exclaimed ‘It’s as dark as Egypt.’ At which point Martin confessed he had substituted a similar river stone. This last detail is interesting because it seems to indicate that the Seer Stone had particular properties, not just any oval stone would serve. I love the little stories that come forth as scholarship proceeds.

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