Are the Witnesses Reliable?

There are several critical problems for relying and betting on these 19th century men as credible witnesses.

CES Letter, Page 86

The Witnesses can be labelled unreliable only by selectively quoting the historical record (as The CES Letter does). A complete examination of available documents shows they were very reliable. 

The witnesses were also practical men. Click here.

Martin Harris checked Joseph’s translation with an acknowledged expert, and came away convinced. Click here.

Harris also replaced the seer stone without Joseph’s knowledge as a “blinded trial.” Click here.

Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer tested Joseph’s ability to use the seer stone to see things more than one hundred miles distant that they knew about, but Joseph did not. Click here.

One hostile source thought Martin was “quite skeptical” and practical, except when it came to Joseph’s claims. So, they did not see him as gullible or easy to deceive—that is why they could not understand why he believed Joseph. Click here.


Additional Resources:

A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article "Three Witnesses"
Brief Summary: Wikipedia's treatment of the Three Witnesses is controlled by a Protestant editor, and is crafted to discredit the Witnesses by emphasizing the negative and diminishing the positive. (Click here for full article)

What was the character of the witnesses?
Brief Summary: It is claimed that the witnesses cannot be trusted, or are unreliable, because they were unstable personalities, prone to enthusiasm and exaggeration. Evidence amply demonstrates that the formal witnesses of the Book of Mormon were men of good character and reputation, and were recognized as such by contemporary non-Mormons. (Click here for full article)

Martin Harris repeatedly sought empirical proof
Brief Summary: Some claim that Martin Harris was a gullible believer in the supernatural. But, in fact, Martin repeatedly performed empirical tests to confirm Joseph Smith's claims. He came away convinced. (Click here for full article)

David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery tested Joseph's abilities as a seer
Brief Summary: Some claim that the Three Witnesses were gullible believers in the supernatural. But, in fact, David and Oliver tested Joseph Smith's abilities as a seer. They came away convinced that he could see things that no one else could know. (Click here for full article)

Were the Book of Mormon witnesses not "empirical" or "rational" men because they lived in the 19th-Century?
Brief Summary: Some accuse the Book of Mormon witnesses of not being "empirical" or "rational" because they lived in the 19th-Century. (Click here for full article)

Does being a "treasure hunter" or believing in "second sight" make one an unreliable witness?
Brief Summary: Some of Joseph's associates were "treasure hunters" and may have believed in "second sight." Does this make them unreliable 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).