The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses

 

Christian Whitmer

Jacob Whitmer

Peter Whitmer Jr.

John Whitmer

Hiram Page

Joseph Smith Sr..

Hyrum Smith

Samuel H Smith

 

Testimony of Eight Witnesses (1829)

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.

Hostile newspaper: 

The plates from which Smith, the author translates his book are said to be in his possession. Ten persons say they have seen them and hefted them, three declare that an angel of God appeared to them and showed them to them, and told them that God had given Smith power to be able to read them, understand them, and translate them. The names of those persons are signed to the certificates in the book.[88]

Joseph Smith Sr.:

William Stafford claimed that the "elder Joseph would say that he had seen the plates and that he knew them to be gold; at other times he would say that they looked like gold; and other times he would say he had not seen the plates at all" (EMD III.A.13, WILLIAM STAFFORD STATEMENT, 8 DEC 1833, 240). Dan Vogel note: “But it is uncertain if this statement has direct bearing on Joseph Sr.'s testimony, or if his alleged denial of having seen the plates was given before or after his experience as one of the eight witnesses.”

Hyrum Smith:

Hyrum Smith reportedly stated during a visit to Sunbury, Ohio, in 1838:

. . .he had but too [two] hands and too [two] eyes[.] he said he had seene the plates with his eyes and handeled them with his hands and he saw a brest plate and he told how it wass maid[.] it wass fixed for the brest of a man with a holer [hollow or concave] stomak and too [two] pieces upon eatch side with a hole throu them to put in a string to tye <<it>> on but that wass not so good gold as the plates for that was pure[.] why i write this is because thay dis=put[e] [the] Book so much (Sally Parker to John Kempton, 26 August 1838, microfilm, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; a portion cited in R. L. Anderson 1981, 159).

In December 1839, Hyrum evidently referred to his testimony when he said "I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had borne testimony to" (Times and Seasons 1 [December 1839]: 23).

Joseph Fielding, Hyrum's brother-in-law by his second marriage, said in 1841: "My sister [Mary Fielding Smith] bears testimony that her husband has seen and handled the plates, &c." (Joseph Fielding to Parley P. Pratt, 20 June 1841, in Millennial Star 2 [1841]: 52).

Recalling a sermon Hyrum delivered in 1844, Angus Cannon said: "When I was but ten years of age, I heard the testimony of the Patriarch Hyrum Smith . . . to the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the appearance of the plates from which it was translated" (Salt Lake Stake Historical Record, 25 January 1888, cited in R. L. Anderson 1981, 146).

[W]ee wass talking about the Book of Mormon which he is one of the witnesses he said he had but too hands and too eyes he said he had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands.[111]

Another writer heard Hyrum "declare, in this city in public, that what is recorded about the plates, &c. &c. is God's solemn truth."[113]

Samuel Harrison Smith (1808-44):

In a late reminiscence, Daniel Tyler reported that in the spring of 1832 Samuel Smith said "he knew his brother Joseph had the plates, for the prophet had shown them to him, and he had handled them and seen the engravings thereon" (Tyler 1883, 23).

Hiram Page (1800-52).

In an 1847 statement, Page rejected the idea that he "could know a thing to be true in 1830, and know the same thing to be false in 1847."

He also denied that his mind had become "so treacherous that I had forgotten what I saw" (EMD VI.C.1, HIRAM PAGE TO WILLIAM MCLELLIN, 30 MAY 1847).

One of Page's sons told Andrew Jenson in 1888: "I knew my father to be true and faithful to his testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon until the very last. Whenever he had an opportunity to bear his testimony to this effect, he would always do so, and seemed to rejoice exceedingly in having been privileged to see the plates" (Historical Record 7 [1888]: 614).

Philander Page, son of Hiram Page, told George Edward Anderson in 1907 that his father "Never faltered in his testimony about the plates and the characters. Often related to Philander what they had seen and passed through" (Diary, 29, Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum, Salt Lake City, Utah, cited in Holzapfel, Cottle, and Stoddard 1995, 70).

John C. Whitmer, son of Jacob Whitmer, said in 1888: "I knew [Hiram Page] at all times and under all circumstances to be true to his testimony concerning the divinity of the Book of Mormon" (Deseret News, 17 September 1888, 2; rept. Saints' Herald 35 [13 October 1888]: 651).

Jacob Whitmer (1800-56):

Andrew Jenson, Edward Stevenson, and Joseph S. Black quoted John C. Whitmer, son of Jacob Whitmer, as stating: "My father, Jacob Whitmer, was always faithful and true to his testimony to the Book of Mormon, and confirmed it on his deathbed" (Deseret News, 17 September 1888, 2; rept. Saints' Herald 35 [13 October 1888]: 651).

John Whitmer (1802-87):

John Whitmer wrote in 1835:

It may not be amiss in this place, to give a statement to the world concerning the work of the Lord, as I have been a member of this church of Latter Day Saints from its beginning; to say that the book of Mormon is a revelation from God, I have no hesitancy; but with all confidence have signed my named to it as such; and I hope, that my patrons will indulge me in speaking freely on this subject, as I am about leaving the editorial department. Therefore I desire to testify to all that will come to the knowledge of this address; that I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the book of Mormon is translated, and that I have handled these plates, and know of a surety that Joseph Smith, jr. has translated the book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and in this thing the wisdom of the wise most assuredly has perished: therefore, know ye, O ye inhabitants of the earth, wherever this address may come, that I have in this thing freed my garments of your blood, whether you believe or disbelieve the statements of your unworthy friend and well-wisher.[101]

I conclude you have read the Book of Mormon, together with the testimonies <underline>that</underline> are thereto attached; in which testimonies you read my name subscribed as one of the Eight witnesses to said Book. That <underline>testimony was</underline>, is, and <underline>will</underline> be <underline>true</underline> henceforth and forever."[94]

"I have never heard that any one of the three, or eight witnesses ever denied the testimony that they have borne to the Book as published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon."[93]

"Mr. [John] Whitmer is considered a truthful, honest and law abiding citizen by this community, and consequently, his appointment [to preach] drew out a large audience. Mr. Whitmer stated that he had often handled the identical golden plates which Mr. Smith received from the angel...."[95]

Whitmer reportedly said to Theodore Turley in April 1839:

Gentlemen, I presume there are men here who have heard [John] Corrill say, that Mormonism was true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and inspired of God. I now call upon you, John Whitmer: you say Corrill is a moral and a good man; do you believe him when he says the Book of Mormon is true, or when he says it is not true? There are many things published that they say are true, and again turn around and say they are false.’ Whitmer asked, ‘Do you hint at me?’ Turley replied, ‘If the cap fits you, wear it; all I know is that you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith.’ Whitmer replied: ‘I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. I handled them;’ and he described how they were hung [on rings], and [said] ‘they were shown to me by a supernatural power;’ he acknowledged all.[97]

According to E. C. Brand of the RLDS church, in 1875 Whitmer "declared that his testimony, as found in . . . the Book of Mormon, is strictly true" (see EMD "John Whitmer Addendum").

On 5 March 1876, John Whitmer wrote Mark H. Forscutt of the RLDS church: "Oliver Cowdery lived in Richmond, Mo., some 40 miles from here, at the time of his death. I went to see him and was with him for some days previous to his demise. I have never heard him deny the truth of his testimony of the Book of Mormon under any circumstances whatever. . . . Neither do I believe that he would have denied, at the peril of his life; so firm was he that he could not be made to deny what he has affirmed to be a divine revelation from God. . . . I have never heard that any one of the three or eight witnesses ever denied the testimony that they have borne to the Book as published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon. There are only two of the witnesses to that book now living, to wit. David Whitmer, one of the three, and John Wh[itmer], one of the eight. Our names have gone forth to all nations, tongues and people as a divine revelation from God. And it will bring to pass the designs of God according to the declaration therein contained.[15]

On 11 December 1876, Whitmer wrote to Heman C. Smith of the RLDS church concerning his testimony in the Book of Mormon: "That testimony was, is, and will be true, henceforth and forever" (EMD VI.B.5, JOHN WHITMER TO HEMAN C. SMITH, 11 DEC 1876).

Whitmer told Myron Bond in 1878: “[O]ld Father Whitmer told me last winter, with tears in his eyes, that he knew as well as he knew he had an existence that Joseph translated the ancient writing which was upon the plates, which he 'saw and handled,' and which, as one of the scribes, he helped to copy, as the words fell from Joseph's lips, by supernatural or almighty power"[99].

In 1878 P. Wilhelm Poulson recalled John Whitmer said: I am aware that your name is affixed to the testimony in the Book of Mormon, that you saw the plates?

He–It is so, and that testimony is true.

I–Did you handle the plates with your hands?

He–I did so!

I–Then they were a material substance?

He–Yes, as material as anything can be.

I–They were heavy to lift?

He–Yes, and you know gold is a heavy metal, they were very heavy.

I–How big were the leaves?

He–So far as I recollect, 8 by 6 or 7 inches.

I–Were the leaves thick? He–Yes, just so thick, that characters could be engraven on both sides.

I–How were the leaves joined together?

He–In three rings, each one in the shape of a D with the straight line towards the centre. I-In what place did you see the plates.

He-In Joseph Smith's house; he had them there.

I–Did you see them covered with a cloth?

He–No. He handed them uncovered into our hands, and we turned the leaves sufficient to satisfy us.

I-Were you all eight witnesses present at the same time?

He-No. At that time Joseph showed the plates to us, we were four persons, present in the room, and at another time he showed them to four persons more....

when Joseph Smith [III]...sent word to John Whitmer to reaffirm his testimony, his answer was: 'I have never recalled it, and I have nothing to reaffirm.'[100]

 

Other Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

Lucy Mack Smith: 

In a few days we were follow by Joseph and Oliver and the Whitmers who came to make us a visit and also to make some arrangements about getting the book printed soon after they came They all that is the male part of the company repaired to a little grove where it was customary for the family to offer up their secret prayers. as Joseph had been instructed that the plates would be carried there by one of the ancient Nephites. Here it was that those 8 witnesses recorded in the Book of Mormon looked upon the plates and handled them of which they bear witness in the [title page of the Book of Mormon]. . . . After the witnesses returned to the house the Angel again made his appearance to Joseph and received the plates from his hands.[87]

William Smith: 

that they [the Eight Witnesses] not only Saw with their eyes but handled with their hands the said record . . . nor has either or any one of these witnesses ever to my knowledge Counteracted the testimony as given above Concerning the real existence of these Mormon tablets.[89]

Richard Anderson described multiple accounts of all the Witnesses bearing testimony and reaffirming their published testimony:[90]

The three Smiths who formally gave their names as seeing and handling the plates were the Prophet's father, Joseph Smith, Sr.; the Prophet's older brother, Hyrum; and his immediately younger brother, Samuel Harrison. They sometimes joined the other Book of Mormon witnesses to reaffirm their testimony printed in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon regarding lifting and turning the leaves of the plates. After quoting the published statements of the Three and Eight Witnesses, and describing the experience of the latter group, Lucy Smith relates, "The ensuing evening, we held a meeting, in which all the witnesses bore testimony to the facts as stated above."[91] 

Two years later, in the period of dynamic preaching of the early elders, a conference was held near Cleveland, Ohio, remembered by Luke Johnson as follows: "At this conference the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon, with uplifted hands, bore their solemn testimony to the truth of that book, as did also the Prophet Joseph."[92]

 

Mary Whitmer:

David Whitmer had invited Joseph and Oliver to live in his father’s home while translating the Book of Mormon. When Oliver’s hand and Joseph’s eyes grew tired they went to the woods for a rest. There they often skated rocks on a pond. Mary Whitmer, with five grown sons and a husband to care for, besides visitors, often grew tired. She thought they might just as well carry her a bucket of water or chop a bit of wood as to skate rocks on a pond. She was about to order them out of her home. One morning, just at daybreak, she came out of her cow stable with two full buckets of milk in her hands, when a short, heavy-set, gray-haired man carrying a package met her and said, “My name is Moroni. You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do. The Lord has given me permission to show you this record:” turning the golden leaves one by one!*


Additional Resources:

The Testimony of Eight by Scott Gordon

Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses –  by Richard Lloyd Anderson

Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner –  by Matthew Roper

David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness –  by Daniel C. Peterson

How Witnesses Described the “Gold Plates” –  by Kirk B. Henrichsen

‘I Should Have an Eye Single to the Glory of God': Joseph Smith’s Account of the Angel and the Plates –  by Larry E. Morris

In the Mouths of Two or More Witnesses –  by Noel B. Reynolds

Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard Lloyd Anderson