Original Witness Signatures

CES Letter Core Question

Did the witnesses sign the original statement found at the beginning of the Book of Mormon?

No Document of Actual Signatures

The closest thing we have in existence to an original document of the testimonies of the witnesses is a printer’s manuscript written by Oliver Cowdery (you can see black/white photo on Joseph Smith Papers here). Every witness name except Oliver Cowdery on that document is not signed; they are written in Oliver’s own handwriting. Further, there is no testimony from any of the witnesses, with the exception of David Whitmer, directly attesting to the direct wording and claims of the manuscript or statements in the Book of Mormon.

Closest Original to Testimony of Witnesses

CES Letter, Page 99

The original document of the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses was destroyed with a majority of the pages of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon as they lay in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House for many years, exposed to water and mold.

This complaint reflects a poor understanding of the history of the document and is a non-issue.

It is important that none of the Eight Witnesses ever denied it and multiple manuscripts demonstrate that they continued to affirm they had seen the plates.

Available documents support that the witnesses felt an obligation to continue to bear that testimony independent of their relationship with Joseph Smith or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Father David Whitmer was asked if the three witnesses signed their own names to their testimony to the Book of Mormon? Father Whitmer unhesitatingly replied with emphasis: ‘Yes, we each signed his own name.’”[1]

The portion of the original manuscript containing the signatures has been destroyed (only about 25% of the original manuscript remains). The printer’s copy, made by Oliver Cowdery and a few other scribes, is still intact, though of these signatures:

 “The witnesses did Dav not sign the original [printer's] manuscript though [they] were present and ordered Oliver Cowdry to sign for them.”[2] Click here

In light of the numerous documented testimonies from the both the Three and the Eight Witnesses, this criticism is shallow and irrelevant. Click here


Additional Resources:

Signatures on the testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses
Brief Summary: It is claimed that there are no actual signatures on the witness statements printed in the Book of Mormon. (Click here for full article)

Witnesses reaffirmed published statements in the Book of Mormon
Brief Summary: The Three and Eight Witnesses often reaffirmed their written statement and referred others to it. (Click here for full article)

Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Book of Mormon Witnesses," byu.edu

Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005): 18–31.

Kenneth W. Godfrey, "David Whitmer and the Shaping of Latter-day Saint History," in The Disciple As Witness: Essays on Latter-Day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),223–256.

Kirk B. Henrichsen, "How Witnesses Described the "Gold Plates"," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): 16–21.

Jeff Lindsay, "Circumstantial Evidence and the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon: Can They Be Ignored Any Longer?", jefflindsay.com

Matthew Roper, "Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 164–193.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, "The Credibility of the Book of Mormon Witnesses," in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds and Charles D. Tate (eds.), (Provo, Utah : Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University ; Salt Lake City, Utah : Distributed by Bookcraft, 1996 [1982]),Chapter 9, 213–232.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981).

Richard L. Anderson, "Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), Chapter 3.

 Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1983).

Matthew B. Brown, Plates of Gold: The Book of Mormon Comes Forth (American Fork UT: Covenant, 2007).

John W. Welch and Larry E. Morris, editors, Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2006).

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 1: Motives (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 2: Oliver Cowdery (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 3: Martin Harris (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 4: David Whitmer (PDF) by Michael Ash

The Book of Mormon Witnesses: Evidence for The Book of Mormon

pt 1 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

pt 2 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced (PDF) (2006 FAIR Conference) by Daniel C. Peterson

pt 1, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 2, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 3, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 4, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 5, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

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

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

Articles of Faith 2: Royal Skousen on Book of Mormon Critical Text Project and Mary Whitmer Witness to the Gold Plates, Royal Skousen, 0:38:05

Faith and Reason 7: Book of Mormon Witnesses, Michael R. Ash, 0:15:32

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses, Martin Tanner, 0:19:20

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses

Explaining Away the Book of Mormon Witnesses (2004 FAIR Conference) by Richard L. Anderson


[1] "The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon," Improvement Era 3/1 (Nov. 1899): 61–65.

[2] James Henry Moyle, diary, 28 June 1885; in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:141.