EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of three articles examining the credibility
of the men who were Joseph Smith's "witnesses" to the "authenticity" of The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon contains the following statement:
"BE IT KNOWN unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, & to the Son, & to the Holy Ghost, which is One God. Amen."These men were the three witnesses who originally testified to the authenticity of Joseph Smith's writings in the Book of Mormon. But compare them and their testimony to the testimony of Jesus Christ's witnesses.
Christ was God manifest in the flesh (John 1:1-3, 14). As such, Christ was empirically observed by His witnesses. (1 John 1:1-3).
This "seeing" and "hearing" were done with fleshly eyes and ears. There was nothing "visionary" about it. When Thomas observed and felt the nail prints in Christ's hands and thrust his hand into his side, it was done with physical eyes and hands.
The apostles were eyewitnesses of Christ's glory (2 Pet. 1:16), and the witnesses of Christ performed miracles to establish their credibility (Heb. 2:1-4).
But no such credible testimony came from Joseph Smith. Instead, he conveniently received a "revelation" saying three witnesses would be selected to testify to the authenticity of The Book of Mormon.
"Behold, verily I say unto you, I have reserved those things which I have entrusted unto you, my servant Joseph, for a wise purpose in me, and it shall be made known unto future generations; But this generation shall have my word through you; And in addition to your testimony, the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things, and they shall go forth with my words that are given through you." (Doctrine & Covenants, Sec. 5, vv. 9-11).Cowdery, Whitmer and Harris lobbied to be Joseph's witnesses, according to Smith's own account.
"In the course of the work of translation, we ascertained that three special witnesses were to be provided by the Lord, to whom He would grant that they should see the plates from which this work (the Book of Mormon) should be translated; and that these witnesses should bear record of the same, as will be found recorded, Book of Mormon, page 581 [Book of Ether, chapter 5, verses 2, 3 and 4, p. 487, edition 1920], also page 86 [II Nephi, chapter 11, verse 3, p. 73, edition 1920]. Almost immediately after we had made this discovery, it occurred to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and the aforementioned Martin Harris (who had come to inquire after our progress in the work) that they would have me inquire of the Lord to know if they might not obtain of him the privilege to be these three special witnesses; and finally they became so very solicitous, and urged me so much to inquire that at length I complied; and through the Urim and Thummim, I obtained of the Lord for them the following:Smith then provides the following concerning the so-called "eyewitness accounts" and the subsequent testimony of these three men:
"Not many days after the above commandment was given, we four, viz., Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself, agreed to retire into the woods, and try to obtain, by fervent and humble prayer, the fulfilment of the promises given in the above revelation — that they should have a view of the plates. We accordingly made choice of a piece of woods convenient to Mr. Whitmer's house, to which we retired, and having knelt down, we began to pray in much faith to Almighty God to bestow upon us a realization of these promises.
[ Mormonism's Three Inadmissible Witnesses - No. 2 ]