If nobody believed in superstition it would be unable to hurt anyone

 

Witnesses to Book of Mormon Examined
www.mormonthink.com  
 
THE PLATES AND THE WITNESSES

Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Mormon founder, claimed to have had golden plates given to him by an angel. To back up this extraordinary claim, he had to have witnesses to silence people who thought that the plates never existed. He chose three witnesses who said they saw the plates as an angel turned the leaves for them to have a look. They testified also that Smith's miraculous translation of the plates was correct. Then he chose eight witnesses who said that they saw the plates close up. This testimony led to the foundation of the Church of Christ which later became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The translation is called the Book of Mormon.

The Mormons argue that Joseph Smith was too uneducated to produce the Book of Mormon. This despite the fact that he wrote revelations at the time he wrote the Book and the style matches the Book of Mormon. Plus he was close to Oliver Cowdery a schoolteacher who was one of the people who wrote the "translation" down for Smith.
 
2 Nephi 11:3 has God saying that by the word of three he will establish his word. This is contextually a prediction about the witnesses to the plates and correct translation of the Book of Mormon. In 2 Nephi 27:12 God says that nobody will see the book only three and he says they will see it by the power of God. This implies they will see in a vision. And then he says none other shall see it but a few. But the three are emphasised implying that their word will suffice. Ether 5 mentions only three.
 
There is evidence that the three witnesses who the Book of Mormon predicts will be sufficient and therefore outstanding witnesses did not see the vision of the plates at the same time. Not so impressive then after all! If the Mormons think it is impressive then do they know of something called self-induced hallucination?
 
THE EIGHT AND THE PLATES
 
Thomas Ford a former Governor of Illinois stated that the eight witnesses were persuaded that they saw the Plates in an empty box after hours of prayer and desperation to have a vision of the plates (page 37, Are the Mormon Scriptures Reliable?).

 

According to Ford the witnesses said they were "set to continual prayer and other spiritual exercises."   Then Smith "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 '.. The disciples dropped to their knees, and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates."

 

This testimony is supported by other evidence as we have seen. Ford was not a religious trickster and so he would not have known how Smith could get them to see a vision unless the story was true. Emma and William Smith stressed the tangibility of the plates (No Man Knows My History, page 80) but William was a notorious liar as were all the Smiths and Emma was no better when she married Joseph. She later joined the Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which was famous for arbitrarily picking what parts it liked out of the many revelations of Joseph Smith. Emma lied about Joseph when she said he was never a polygamist. Some believe that Oliver Cowdery was a blacksmith for a time (page 119-120, Comprehensive History of the Church) that he could have made a set of plates that looked like gold for Smith. But if that were so more people would have been shown the Plates.

It does no good to say that Ford was an anti-Mormon. That doesn’t make him automatically dishonest. You can’t dismiss every non-Mormon critic as an anti-Mormon liar.  Oliver Cowdery lied in 1835 that Smith was acquitted of defrauding people with money digging claims and Mormons don't want to know so what business have they attacking Ford?
 
Mormons say the witnesses would not admit that they initially saw an empty box. They think Ford made this detail up. The witnesses would admit if they had seen an empty box. All they cared about was that eventually their eyes were opened to see the Plates. And Ford’s writing does not refute the occurrence of a vision so it can be tallied with the testimony of the eight.
 
Mormons say the testimony of the eight was written before Ford wrote and so has greater authority. It does not for Ford’s version is more believable. It explains the visions.

John Whitmer gave witness that the plates were seen by four witnesses at one time and then the other four later (Deseret Evening News, 6th August, 1878). That means that if the first four agreed to say they saw the plates the other two groups would probably do the same thinking that the others saw something. John also said, according to History of the Church, that they were shown to him by a supernatural power. You don’t need power from Heaven to see physical plates.

According to a letter by Stephen Burnett of 1838 Martin Harris stated in public that he never saw the plates except with his imagination and that David Whitmer and Cowdery were the same and that the eight witnesses saw no plates either but were coerced to sign the testimony. This letter was corroborated by an independent letter also from 1838, which records the same incident and was written by George A Smith. William Smith one of the eight witnesses stated that the plates were not seen bare but were covered and felt through the cloth (Zion’s Ensign, p. 6, January 13th, 1894). John H Gilbert who helped to print the Book of Mormon said that Harris said that God would kill all who did not accept Mormonism in two years and that Harris said he saw the plates with his spiritual eyes and not his natural eyes. The fact that Harris could see a future that never existed tells us that he must not be listened to.

The Book of Mormon speaks of tangible plates so there is something wrong if the witnesses saw visionary ones. Also when the witnesses took Smith’s word for it that the Book of Mormon was a real translation that shows they were unduly biased towards backing him up and that they did not mind supporting a false word of God. God would not want them trusted.

Hiram Page was one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon and he gave revelations using a stone like Smith who condemned his revelations as false. Mormons say, “There is a load of difference between Hiram Page seeing visions in a stone like a clairvoyant and him saying he saw and touched real Golden Plates. Page was inexperienced enough in religion to think that his visions were true.” It still shows that he was willing to excessively support his illusions and that he believed what he wanted to believe.

We must remember that if a friend tells us he saw a vision we must not assume that that this vision was supernatural if there was a possibility that he might have been abusing drugs. There was a drug widely available in Joseph Smith’s time and which all the housewives used as a miracle cure all on themselves and their children which mixed with alcohol could produce hallucinations. The drug was called Laudanum. Joseph Smith might have used this on his witnesses to manipulate them into seeing golden plates. Just like we can be very confused and disoriented after waking up in the middle of a dream so he could have taken advantage of the drug’s affects to make his victims falsely remember seeing the plates when they actually saw everything but plates. Also, it might have had a lot to do with his own visions. It could be that Smith seemed so sincere that he chose the witnesses he perceived were so persuaded that he was telling the truth about the plates that they felt it was only a small lie to say they saw the plates and they were happy to tell it for they believed there really were plates. There is no evidence that if the witnesses were lying it would have affected their consciences in a serious way. That would explain why they never admitted to seeing the plates.

The fact that the testimony of the three and the testimony of the eight is so short suggests that there was nothing from Heaven going on. What should have been done was for independent outsiders to interview each witness in turn alone immediately after whatever happened and get each witness to sign and approve the statement. There should be a statement for each of the visionaries. The eight for example might not have seen the same thing or perhaps one of them or more thought he saw the plates just for a split second. These important things would be lost in a short testimony such as the one we have in the Book of Mormon and they are so important. The two testimonies are actually of very little value. The Mormon Church will no doubt point to short testimonies that have been reliable but you can only tell that if there are other reasons for trusting the testimonies.

MORMON ANSWERS

The Mormon Church tries to prove on psychological grounds that the witnesses to the Book of Mormon must have been telling the truth. It does this by eliminating the lust for money, the fear of notoriety, the fear of the loss of power, the fear of embarrassment as motives for the witnesses not retracting their testimony. Christians perform the same conjuring trick with the facts in relation to showing the apostles really believed Jesus rose from the dead. The truth of the matter is that religion thrives on pipe-dreams. Humanism shows that we all believe many things just because we want them to be true. Another disability regarding psychological proofs is that they can be used to prove the story of anybody who claims to have had supernatural experiences and every religion has its mystics who contradict the mystics of every other cult. The Book of Mormon gives the most explicit approval for the doctrine of eternal damnation for unforgiven sinners which begins at death that was ever in a Christian book. It threatens anybody who rejects it as the word of God with this everlasting punishing (Mormon 8:17/3 Nephi 29). It says that anybody who believes in Christ and is open to the Holy Spirit will see that the Book is from God. It says that anybody who believes the Bible will believe the Book of Mormon (Mormon 7:9). There was great pressure put by the book itself on the witnesses to make themselves see visions of the plates and the angel saying the book was true.

The Mormon Church rejects the testimony of Harris seeing only with his spiritual eyes as irrelevant for it says he could have seen real plates in a vision. It is adamant that spiritual vision does not add up to seeing just in the imagination. They cite the episode when Harris was accused of having imagined the vision and when he said he saw the plates as sure as others could see his own hand. But all visionaries say what they have seen is as real as anything of this world.

Whitmer said that no man could see an angel except in the spiritual state and that was the kind of vision he had when he saw the angel with the plates. He said the vision was seen in the body too. Whitmer was lying for he knew from his Bible that when Abraham had a vision of three angels the angels looked so normal that he thought they were just men. Whitmer would have followed the thinking of the times that when Jesus appeared after his resurrection nobody needed to be in a spiritual state to see him.  What else did he lie about when he lied about the reason for seeing the plates in the vision when there was no need to see them that way?

The Book of Mormon itself justifies a low standard for judging that a vision is from God when it says that Lehi had a dream and accepts that that dream was a revelation (1 Nephi 8:2). When it does that how can you expect the witnesses not to believe that imagination and dreams about gold plates are real?
 
YOUNG AND THE DOUBTING WITNESSES
 
Brigham Young admitted in his Journal of Discourses, Vol 7, page 164, that some of the Book of Mormon witnesses doubted that they had seen the angel though they had handled the plates and talked with a few angels. This would mean two of the three first and main witnesses. The three witnesses alone were the important ones for only they claimed that the translation was correct and divinely inspired. The others only seen plates. Why should we believe the three when there have been times that more reliable people have reported visions and were not accused of being mean scoundrels by their own Church like the three were? The Catholic Church has had many visionaries with better credentials. Also, the Book of Mormon says that three witnesses are enough. Why then are three witnesses not enough when there are a number of visionaries of the plates and at least three of them doubt their experience and think it was not real?

Incredibly the Mormon Church uses the following answer to avoid the implications of what Brigham wrote. “Immediately after writing that some of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon who hefted the gold plates and spoke to an angel and doubted Brigham referred to the case of a young man in the quorum of the Twelve who had the same experience and apostatised afterwards like many others. Brigham did not accuse the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon or the eight other ones of doubting afterwards. He meant the other unofficial witnesses.”

But in fact when he wrote of the first group of witnesses doubting he did not say if they were the official ones whose witness appears in the Book of Mormon or not. This implies that they were for he would have been clear in case he would weaken their testimony. Weakening the testimony of these witnesses was not a big deal and especially when the people knew of people who had fallen away.  We know he meant the official witnesses for he next mentions the young man of the Twelve Quorum and others like him thus demarking them from the witnesses that went before in his text. Another reason the Mormon Church puts forward for saying that Brigham did not mean the official witnesses was that there is no evidence that any of them doubted. But they would have been careful who they told their doubts to and perhaps Brigham knew they doubted. Some of them had other supernatural experiences that they doubted so why not their experiences with Smith? For example, Hiram Page doubted his visions for they were not in accord with Smith’s. There is psychological evidence that they had to have doubted.

What the Mormon Church likes to forget is that if hundreds who had visions of the plates doubted afterwards they are giving testimony to the doubtfulness of their claim or visions. Their testimony is as good as that of the original eleven official witnesses. Brigham accepts the visions as all being real. But if they doubted that is evidence that they believed they had reason to doubt and that those who remained faithful were too blind to see they should doubt. The point is, there is no logic in saying the eleven witnesses must be reliable when they did not doubt when there are other witnesses who did doubt for that is no better than the eleven doubting. The fact that many Mormons can and do claim visions of the plates need not disturb us for the Shakers and other sects have reported visions that verify some alleged new scripture. The Hindu mystics regularly have visions of their guru appearing to them as a god.

 

STEPHEN BURNETT

“…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 “Br. Johnson,” April 15, 1838, in Joseph Smith Letter Book, p. 2

 

FRED ANSON

 

Anson feels that Smith did not want his claims to be convincing for he went an odd way about getting witness testimony.  I think that Smith had to make do with what he got.

 

One problem is that he was unable to provide people he had no close relationship with.

 

There were no sceptics who converted as a result of seeing the plates or any visions. 

 

Martin Harris had a financial reason for wanting others to believe in the Book of Mormon as he funded it at huge cost.

 

None of them wrote their own testimony.

 

None of them go into detail or seem enthusiastic about what happened.

 

Nobody checked their stories to see if they matched.

 

The witnesses were credulous - they already believed much superstitious rubbish such as using divination to locate lost treasure.

 

The main three witnesses some years later left Smith for a seeress who said a stone showed her the future (Lucy Smith: Biographical Sketches, pp. 211-213).

 

Hypnosis covers causing a person to FEEL that something has happened even if they have no clear memory of it.  The feeling creates the "memories".  “An individual’s ability to experience suggested alterations in physiology, sensations, emotions, thoughts, or behavior during hypnosis” (American Psychological Association, 2014) is how to sum up what is meant by hypnotic suggestibility.  Smith hypnotised them or manipulated them to hypnotise themselves.
 
Conclusion
 
The three and the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon give us no confidence as to the existence of the golden plates or the truth of the Book of Mormon.
 
BOOKS CONSULTED
 
A GATHERING OF SAINTS, Robert Lindsay, Corgi, London, 1990
 
A MARVELLOUS WORK AND A WONDER, LeGrand Richards, Deseret Books, Utah, 1976
 
AN ADDRESS TO ALL BELIEVERS IN CHRIST, David Whitmer, Board of Publications of The Church of Christ with the Elijah Message, Lacy Road, Independence, Missouri
 
ARE THE MORMON SCRIPTURES RELIABLE? Harry L Ropp, IVP, Illinois, 1987
 
ASK YOUR BISHOP, Ira T Ransom, 317 W 7th South, Brigham City, UT 84302
 
CHANGES IN JOSEPH SMITH’S HISTORY, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1965
 
CHANGING OF THE REVELATIONS, Apostle Daniel McGregor, Church of Christ, Independence, Missouri
 
GOD’S WORD FINAL INFALLIBLE AND FOREVER, Floyd C McElveen, Gospel Truth Ministries, Grand Rapids, 1985
 
CONCISE GUIDE TO TODAY’S RELIGIONS, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1983
 
HOW TO ANSWER A MORMON, Robert A Morey, Bethany House Publishers, Minnesota, 1983
 
JOSEPH SMITH AND MONEY DIGGING, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1970
 
JOSEPH SMITH’S BAINBRIDGE NY COURT TRIALS, Wesley P Walters, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Salt Lake City, 1977
 
LARSON’S BOOK OF CULTS, Bob Larson, Tyndale, Wheaton, Illinois, 1988
 
MORMONISM SHADOW OR REALITY? Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1972
 
MORMONISM, AA Hoekema, Paternoster Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978
 
MORMONISM, MAGIC AND MASONRY, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1988
 
MORMONISM, MAMA AND ME, Thelma Geer, Calvary Missionary Press, Arizona, 1983
 
MORMONISM, THE PROPHET, THE BOOK AND THE CULT, Peter Bartley, Veritas, Dublin, 1989
 
NEW LIGHT ON MORMON ORIGINS, Rev Wesley P Walters, Utah Christian Tract Society, 1967
 
NO MAN KNOWS MY HISTORY, Fawn M Brodie, Vintage, New York, 1995
 
SOME MODERN FAITHS, Maurice C Burrell and J Stafford Wright, IVP, Leics, 1988
 
THE BOOK OF COMMANDMENTS, Church of Christ, Temple Lot, Independence, Missouri, 1995
 
THE BOOK OF MORMON, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deseret Enterprises Ltd, Manchester, UK, 1972
 
THE CASE AGAINST MORMONISM, VOL 2, Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1968
 
THE FACTS OF MORMONISM ARE STRANGER THAN FICTION, Charles Crane and J Edward Decker, Christian Information Outreach, Kent, 1982
 
THE HUMAN ORIGIN OF THE BOOK OF MORMON, Wesley P Walters, Ex-Mormons for Jesus, Florida 1979
 
WHY THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WAS ESTABLISHED ANEW IN 1929?, Church of Christ with the Elijah Message, Independence, Missouri

 
THE WEB

THE BOOK OF MORMON WITNESSES
www.exmormon.org/file9.htm
Excellent refutation of the claims of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon
 
BOOK OF MORMON QUESTIONS
www.lds-mormon.com/bookofmormonquestions.shtml

MORMONISM UNVAILED: MORE EVIDENCE THAT IT IS TRUE. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
 www.carm.org/lds/unveiled_defended.htm

THE ABRIDGEMENT OF D&C 137
 www.saintsalive./com/mormonism/falseprophetjs/htm

THE BOOK OF MORMON: ONE TOO MANY M’S Stephen Van Eck
 www.infidels.org/library/modern/stephen_eck/toomany.html
 
EGYPTIAN CHARACTERS
www.mormonstudies.com/seer2.htm
This shows that when Smith translated the book of Abraham he invented hieroglyphics where there was a piece missing from the papyri. The characters Smith added make no sense to translators. Yet he translated these imaginary hieroglyphics! His mother and close associate David Whitmer spoke of Joseph copying characters of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon before he translated and that like the Book of Abraham Smith often produced two lines in the manuscript with the translation of a single character which shows that the whole Book of Mormon thing was a hoax.
 
MORMON FARMS
www.xmission.com~country/reason/farms_1.htm
by Jerald and Sandra Tanner. Gathers evidence that indicates that it was possible that Smith was insane and had manic depression.
 
DR CHARLES ANTHON RE AUTHENTICITY OF WRITING SAMPLES ALLEGEDLY COPIED FROM THE GOLDEN PLATES
www.mormonism-web.com/anthon.htm

INTERVIEW OF MARTIN HARRIS
www.xmission.com/~research/about/docum4.htm

COMMENTS ON THE BOOK OF MORMON WITNESSES: A RESPONSE TO JERALD AND SANDRA TANNER
www.mormons.org/response/bom/witnesses_Roper.htm
A ridiculous rebuttal that has been taken into account for this book and refuted.

FACTS ON THE BOOK OF MORMON WITNESSES, PART 1
 
www.irr.org/mit/bomwit1.html
Excellent refutation of the reliability of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon
 
THE STOLEN MANUSCRIPT
www.utlm.org/onlineresources/bom_early_problems/goldenbible_stolenmanuscript.htm

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