Witnesses

Witnesses Never Denied Testimonies

We are told that the witnesses never disavowed their testimonies, but we have not come to know these men or investigated what else they said about their experiences.


CES Letter, Page 88

Several of the witnesses left the Church forever, while others returned, but none denied their testimonies of the things they had experienced with the Book of Mormon.

Oliver Cowdery described their situations: “A thousand things may be conjectured, but when a man declares openly, candidly, and seriously, of what he has seen, hefted and handled with his own hands, and that in the presence of a God who sees and knows the secrets of the heart, no man possessed of common reason and common sense, can doubt, or will be so vain as to dispute."

Multiple members of the witnesses insisted that they had not recanted their testimony, and denied that any of the other witnesses, with whom they remained in contact, had done so either.

John Whitmer wrote in 1876: “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."

In an 1884 interview David Whitmer “felt very indignant while speaking of certain statements published recently to the effect that he and Oliver Cowdery had denied their statement as published in the Book of Mormon. This he denounced as false in every particular.” Then he said:

Oliver never wavered in his testimony, and when he was on his death bed, I was there, with many of his friends, until he passed away. He bore the same testimony on his dying bed that he had always borne through life, and earnestly called upon all to cleave to the truth revealed through the Prophet Joseph, and to serve the Lord. As for myself, I have never denied my testimony that is published in the Book of Mormon, for I know that God has revealed these things for the salvation of the children of men, and to Him belongs all the honor, the power and the glory.

All eleven Book of Mormon witnesses publicly reaffirmed their testimony as printed.

Richard Anderson described multiple accounts of all the Witnesses bearing testimony and reaffirming their published testimony and summarized: “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.’ 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.’"

The CES Letter makes much of the fact that the witnesses were family members, and then ignores the implication—they were in an excellent position to know if someone had changed their testimony, because they continued to associate with these family members even if they apostatized.  There is no evidence that any witness recanted.


Additional Resources:

Did the Book of Mormon witnesses ever recant?—Some have tried to argue that some or all of the Witnesses recanted concerning their testimony. They were all faithful to their testimonies to the end of their lives, even though many of them had personal disagreements with Joseph Smith that caused them to leave the Church. (Click here for full article)

Many witnesses were related—: It is claimed that because many of the witnesses are related, this means they are not to be trusted. (Click here for full article)

All were "interested" since they followed Joseph Smith— It is claimed that because the witnesses are "interested"—i.e., they were members of the Church and believers in Joseph's mission—that they are therefore not reliable, since they cannot be "neutral" or "disinterested." (Click here for full article)

Witnesses knew they would be ridiculed and not believed—The Witnesses understood that by giving their names to the witness statements, they would suffer social costs and rejection. (Click here for full article)

Witnesses persisted even in the face of persecution or death—The Witnesses stuck to their claim even in the face of threats or the risk of death. (Click here for full article)

Witnesses who left the Church continued to maintain their witness—Some witnesses were excommunicated and left the Church. However, the staunchly stuck to their witness accounts. (Click here for full article)

Witnesses had shared experiences which they could compare to confirm their reality—The Three and Eight Witnesses did not have merely internal, subjective experiences. These were shared experiences, which they could and did use to confirm their reality and objectivity. (Click here for full article)

Witnesses confirmed the faithfulness of other witnesses—The Three and Eight Witnesses often affirmed that others of their number had maintained their witness. (Click here for full article)

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

Were the experiences of the witnesses spiritual or literal?—: It is claimed that the witnesses’ encounter with the angel and the plates took place solely in their minds. They claim that witnesses saw the angel in a “vision” and equate “vision” with imagination. (Click here for full article)

Eight witnesses—: Some have tried to argue that the Eight witnesses only claimed a 'spiritual' or 'visionary' view of the plates, not a literal, physical one. The witnesses left concrete statements regarding the physical nature of the plates. There were others besides the eleven who saw and felt the plates, and testified that they were real. (Click here for full article)

Other Book of Mormon witnesses—Are there any other witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates besides the Three and Eight witnesses? (Click here for full article)

Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Book of Mormon Witnesses," farms.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