Book of Mormon/Witnesses/Recant

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None of the Book of Mormon witnesses ever recanted their testimony

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Richard Anderson: 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:[1]

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."[2] 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."[3]


Question: Did the Three Witnesses consider Joseph Smith a "fallen prophet" after they left the Church?

Some of the Three Witnesses considered Joseph Smith to be a "fallen prophet" after they left the Church

The Three Witnesses left the Church for a variety of reasons, among with was the initiation of the practice of polygamy. David Whitmer felt that Joseph had restored the true Church, but that he had ultimately taken the Church in directions that he shouldn't have. Yet, all three of the witnesses never denied their testimony of the plates and the angel.

If the witnesses felt that Joseph had perpetuated a scam, they would have exposed it after their falling out with him

Just following their excommunication from the Church, Thomas B. Marsh approached Cowdery and Whitmer about their witness. If there was any time for them to deny their witness, this was it:

I enquired seriously at David if it was true that he had seen the angel, according to the testimony as one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He replied, as sure as there is a God in heaven, he saw the angel, according to his testimony in that book. I asked him, if so, how did he not stand by Joseph? He answered, in the days when Joseph received the Book of Mormon, and brought it forth, he was a good man filled with the Holy Ghost, but he considered he had now fallen. I interrogated Oliver Cowdery in the same manner, who answered me similarly.[4]

The witnesses had every reason to recant their experience, and no reason to lie to support either themselves, or Joseph Smith, with whom they were at odds for many years. The only compelling reason for persisting with their story was their essential honesty and honor, and their conviction that they had indeed seen the angel and the plates, and heard the voice of God.

The charge that the witnesses abandoned their testimonies is groundless: they did not recant their story, even when given ample opportunity to do so. There is abundant evidence that the witnesses remained faithful to their testimonies. It is even more impressive that all of them left the Church, and for many years expressed extremely bitter feelings toward Joseph Smith and the Church. Despite this, they continued to insist that their experience was real and undeniable.


Question: Did the Witnesses who left the Church continue to maintain their witness of the Book of Mormon?

All of the Three Witnesses and three of the Eight Witnesses left the Church in 1838 and were hostile, at least for a time, against Joseph Smith. Yet, they clung to their witness and continued to affirm it

Three Witnesses

Oliver Cowdery

Oliver would later return to the Church and seek rebaptism.

During his estrangement from the Church, he insisted upon his witness as true.

Martin Harris

Martin Harris would later return to the Church and seek rebaptism.

During his estrangement from the Church, he insisted upon his witness as true, and sought to bear his witness often.

David Whitmer

David Whitmer never returned to the Church, but left an extensive record validating his testimony. When Thomas B. Marsh, an excommunicated apostle, approached Whitmer and Cowdery to learn "the real truth" about the Book of Mormon (since they, like him, were now excommunicated and hostile to it) Marsh reported:

I enquired seriously at David if it was true that he had seen the angel, according to his testimony as one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He replied, as sure as there is a God in heaven, he saw the angel, according to his testimony in that book. I asked him, if so, how did he not stand by Joseph? He answered, in the days when Joseph received the Book of Mormon, and brought it forth, he was a good man filled with the Holy Ghost, but he considered he had now fallen. I interrogated Oliver Cowdery in the same manner, who answered me similarly.[5]

Eight Witnesses

Hiram Page

Hiram Page never returned to the Church, but continued to bear his witness. Even when approached by the excommunicated William McLellin, Page replied:

As to the Book of Mormon, it would be doing injustice to myself, and to the work of God of the last days, to say that I could know a thing to be true in 1830, and know the same thing to be false in 1847.[6]

Jacob Whitmer

Jacob Whitmer never returned to the Church, but bore his testimony on his deathbed, with no record of denial.

John Whitmer

John Whitmer never returned to the Church, but maintained his testimony as the second-longest lived witness (after his brother David Whitmer).

When asked how he could leave in view of his testimony of the plates' literal reality, John rationalized his choice to disbelieve the translation of the Book of Mormon (despite knowing that the plates were literal and physical):

I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.[7]

Whitmer would not, then, deny what he had seen and hefted, even when estranged from Joseph and the Church.

After leaving the Church, John said:

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.[8]


Question: Did Oliver Cowdery ever deny his Book of Mormon witness because he thought that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet?

There is a wealth of evidence which demonstrates that Oliver never denied his testimony, even after his disagreements with Joseph Smith

As a lawyer, while writing to Phineas Young, Oliver said:

I have cherished a hope, and that one of my fondest, that I might leave such a character, as those who might believe in my testimony, after I should be called hence, might do so, not only for the sake of the truth, but might not blush for the private character of the man who bore that testimony. I have been sensitive on this subject, I admit; but I ought to be so—you would be, under the circumstances, had you stood in the presence of John, with our departed Brother Joseph, to receive the Lesser Priesthood—and in the presence of Peter, to receive the Greater, and looked down through time, and witnessed the effects these two must produce,—you would feel what you have never felt, were wicked men conspiring to lessen the effects of your testimony on man, after you should have gone to your long sought rest.[9]

Surely Oliver's concern for his testimony included his testimony as a witness.

Eventually Oliver left the law practice he had started after leaving the Church, and journeyed to Kanesville, Iowa, with his wife and daughter and finally reunited with the Church in 1848. Before he was baptized he bore his testimony to the congregation that had gathered for a conference.

I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by the book, Holy Interpreters. I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the Holy Interpreters. That book is true. ...It contains the everlasting gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfillment of the revelations of John, where he says he saw an angel come with the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high.[10]

Oliver rejoined the Church and prepared to journey to Utah to unite with the main body of the Latter-day Saints but he died while living temporarily in Richmond, Missouri. Oliver Cowdery had contracted tuberculosis. In March 1850, while on his deathbed, Oliver used his dying breaths to testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Lucy P. Young, his half-sister, was at his bedside and reported:

Oliver Cowdery just before breathing his last, asked his attendants to raise him up in bed that he might talk to the family and his friends, who were present. He then told them to live according to the teachings contained in the Book of Mormon, and promised them, if they would do this, that they would meet him in heaven. He then said, ‘Lay me down and let me fall asleep.’ A few moments later he died without a struggle.[11]

In November 1881, over 30 years after Oliver's death, his former law partner Judge W. Lang claimed in a letter that Oliver had admitted that the Book of Mormon was a fraud. Lang's letter claimed that the Book of Mormon was derived from the Spalding manuscript by Oliver, and that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith approved the final draft. This claim cannot be considered credible for a number of reasons, among them the fact that the Spalding manuscript bears no resemblance to the Book of Mormon (something even the critics agree with), and the fact that Sidney Rigdon was never associated with Joseph Smith prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon. The basis for Lang's claim seems to be the standard Spalding theory of Book of Mormon authorship.


Question: What did Oliver Cowdery say about his witness experience after Joseph died?

Oliver continued to affirm his witness experience after Joseph's death

As a lawyer, well after he had left the Church and two years after Joseph's death, Oliver wrote the following to Phineas Young:

I have cherished a hope, and that one of my fondest, that I might leave such a character, as those who might believe in my testimony, after I should be called hence, might do so, not only for the sake of the truth, but might not blush for the private character of the man who bore that testimony. I have been sensitive on this subject, I admit; but I ought to be so—you would be, under the circumstances, had you stood in the presence of John, with our departed Brother Joseph, to receive the Lesser Priesthood—and in the presence of Peter, to receive the Greater, and looked down through time, and witnessed the effects these two must produce,—you would feel what you have never felt, were wicked men conspiring to lessen the effects of your testimony on man, after you should have gone to your long sought rest. [12]


Question: Did Martin Harris ever deny his Book of Mormon witness because he thought that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet?

Even after Martin Harris had left the Church and was openly criticizing Church leadership, he still held to his testimony of the Book of Mormon

When in England to preach for an LDS splinter group, Martin Harris was ejected from a meeting of Latter-day Saints. He left, and began to loudly criticize the Church leadership. Critics of Mormonism arrived quickly:

When we came out of the meeting Martin Harris was beset with a crowd in the street, expecting he would furnish them with material to war against Mormonism; but when asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, he answered yes; and when asked if the Book of Mormon was true, this was his answer: "Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that he translated that book by the power of God."[13]

An LDS author reported in 1870:

On one occasion several of his old acquaintances made an effort to get him tipsy by treating him to some wine. When they thought he was in a good mood for talk they put the question very carefully to him, ‘Well, now, Martin, we want you to be frank and candid with us in regard to this story of your seeing an angel and the golden plates of the Book of Mormon that are so much talked about. We have always taken you to be an honest good farmer and neighbor of ours but could not believe that you did see an angel. Now, Martin, do you really believe that you did see an angel, when you were awake?’ ‘No,’ said Martin, ‘I do not believe it.’ The crowd were delighted, but soon a different feeling prevailed, as Martin true to his trust, said, ‘Gentlemen, what I have said is true, from the fact that my belief is swallowed up in knowledge; for I want to say to you that as the Lord lives I do know that I stood with the Prophet Joseph Smith in the presence of the angel, and it was the brightness of day.”[14]

And, at his death, Harris reported:

The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been willing to have perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true.[15]


Question: Did David Whitmer ever deny his Book of Mormon witness because he thought that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet?

David Whitmer was very vocal about his testimony of the Book of Mormon up until the end of his life, even though he thought that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet

David Whitmer's gravestone, upon which is engraved his testimony of the Book of Mormon: "The record of the Jews and the record of the Nephites are one."

Throughout Richmond, Missouri, the non-Mormons knew David Whitmer as an honest and trustworthy citizen. When one anti-Mormon lectured in David’s hometown, branding David as disreputable, the local (non-Mormon) paper responded with “a spirited front-page editorial unsympathetic with Mormonism but insistent on ‘the forty six years of private citizenship on the part of David Whitmer, in Richmond, without stain or blemish.’”[16]

...The following year the editor penned a tribute on the eightieth birthday of David Whitmer, who “with no regrets for the past” still “reiterates that he saw the glory of the angel.” This is the critical issue of the life of David Whitmer. During fifty years in non-Mormon society, he insisted with the fervor of his youth that he knew that the Book of Mormon was divinely revealed. Relatively few people in Richmond could wholly accept such testimony, but none doubted his intelligence or complete honesty.[17]

David Whitmer—like the other witnesses—had been charged with being deluded into thinking he had seen an angel and the plates. One observer remembers when David was such accused, and said:

How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height—a little over six feet—and said, in solemn and impressive tones: ‘No sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes, and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!’[18]

When another anti-Mormon published an article claiming that David had denied his testimony, David printed a “proclamation” testifying to the truth of the Book of Mormon and reiterating the fact that he had never denied that testimony. He wrote:

It is recorded in the American Cyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, that I, David Whitmer, have denied my testimony as one of the Three Witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon: and that the two other witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, denied their testimony to that book. I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery nor Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died affirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.[19]

Apostate William E. McLellin wrote:

I saw him [David Whitmer] June 1879, and heard him bear his solemn testimony to the truth of the book—as sincerely and solemnly as when he bore it to me in Paris, Ill. in July 1831.[20]

Following Whitmer's death the Richmond Conservator wrote:

On Sunday evening before his death he called the family and his attending physician, Dr. George W. Buchanan, to his bedside and said, “Doctor do you consider that I am in my right mind?” to which the Doctor replied, “Yes, you are in your right mind, I have just had a conversation with you.” He then addressed himself to all present and said: “I want to give my dying testimony. You must be faithful in Christ. I want to say to you all that the Bible and the record of the Nephites, (The Book of Mormon) are true, so you can say that you have heard me bear my testimony on my death bed....

On Monday morning he again called those present to his bedside, and told them that he had seen another vision which reconfirmed the divinity of the “Book of Mormon,” and said that he had seen Christ in the fullness of his glory and majesty, sitting upon his great white throne in heaven waiting to receive his children.[21]

The Richmond Democrat also added this comment:

Skeptics may laugh and scoff if they will, but no man can listen to Mr. Whitmer as he talks of his interview with the Angel of the Lord, without being most forcibly convinced that he has heard an honest man tell what he honestly believes to be true.[22]


Question: Did Oliver Cowdery privately admit to his law partner that the Book of Mormon was actually a hoax?

William Lang's letter repeats the standard Spalding theory and disingenuously assigns this claim to Oliver Cowdery

It is claimed that Oliver Cowdery admitted to his law partner that the Book of Mormon was a hoax, and that it was derived from the Spalding manuscript.

If not among the forgeries promulgated by Robert Neal, William Lang's letter repeats the standard Spalding theory and disingenuously assigns this claim to Oliver Cowdery, who had been dead for over thirty years and was not available to rebut the claim.

Letter from Judge W. Lang

The following letter was published in an anti-Mormon flyer in November 1881. The letter is said to have been written by Judge W. Lang, a law partner of Oliver Cowdery during the period between his excommunication and re-baptism. The entire letter is reproduced below:

TIFFIN, O., Nov. 5, 1881,

DEAR SIR: -- Your note of the 1st inst. I found upon my desk when I returned home this evening and I hasten to answer. Once for all, I desire to be strictly understood when I say to you that I cannot violate any confidence of a friend, though he be dead.

This I will say, that Mr. Cowdery never spoke of his connection with the Mormons to anybody except to me. We were intimate friends.

The plates were never translated and could not be, were never intended to be. What is claimed to be a translation is the "Manuscript Found" worked over by Cowdery. He was the best scholar amongst them. Rigdon got the original at the job printing office in Pittsburg, as I have stated. I often expressed my objection to the frequent repetition of "And it came to pass" to Mr. Cowdery, and said that a true scholar ought to have avoided that, which only provoked a smile from Cowdery. Without going into detail or disclosing a confided word, I say to you that I do know, as well as can now be known, that Cowdery revised the "manuscript," and Smith and Rigdon approved of it before it became the "Book of Mormon."

I have no knowledge of what became of the original. Never heard Cowdery say as to that.

Smith was killed while Cowdery lived here. I well remember the effect upon his countenance when he read the news in my presence. He immediately took the paper over home to read to his wife. On his return to the office we had a long conversation on the subject, and I was surprised to hear him speak with so much kindness of a man that had so wronged him as Smith did. It elevated him greatly in my already high esteem, and proved to me more than ever the nobility of his nature. Cowdery never gave me a full history of the troubles of the Mormons in Missouri and Illinois, but I am sure that the doctrine of polygamy was advocated by Smith and opposed by Cowdery.

Then when they became rivals for the leadership, Smith made use of this opposition by Cowdery, to destroy his popularity and influence, which finally culminated in the mob that demolished Cowdery's house the night when he fled.

This Whitmer you speak of must be the brother-in-law of Cowdery, whose wife was a Whitmer. It may be true that Whitmer has the original MS.

Now as to whether Cowdery ever "openly denounced Mormonism," let me say this to you: No man ever knew better than he how to keep one's own counsel. He would never allow any man to drag him into a conversation on the subject. Cowdery was a Democrat and a most powerful advocate of the principles of the party on the stump. For this he became the target of the Whig stumpers and press, who denounced him as a Mormon and made free use of Cowdery's certificate * at the end of the Mormon Bible to crush his influence. He suffered great abuse for this, while he lived here on that account.

In the second year of his residence here, he and his family attached themselves to the Methodist Protestant Church, where they held fellowship to the time they left for Elkhorn.

I have now said about all that I feet at liberty to say on these points, and hope it may aid you some in your researches. If Mrs. Cowdery is still living, I would be glad to learn her post-office address, so as to enable me to write to her.

You have now the substance of all I remember on the subject and if it proves of any benefit to your enterprise (to which I wish you success), you are certainly welcome. I could only answer your questions in the manner I did, because some of them were not susceptible of a direct answer by me. Respectfully yours, W. LANG.

There are a number of items mentioned in the letter which make this claim suspect

There are a number of items mentioned in the letter which make this claim suspect.

  1. The letter was written over thirty years after Oliver Cowdery's death.
  2. The idea that Oliver would claim that the Book of Mormon was derived from the Spalding's "Manuscript found." This claim was made by Lang in 1881, while the Spalding theory still had some traction. The theory collapsed three years later in 1884 with the discovery of Spalding's manuscript. The primary support for the Spalding theory were the affidavits collected by Doctor Phiastus Hurlbut from Solomon Spalding's family and neighbors published in E.D. Howe's 1834 anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed. With the discovery that the Spalding manuscript did not support their theory, critics postulated the existence of a second Spalding manuscript in order to explain the affidavits of Spalding's neighbors. Critic Fawn Brodie actually discounted these affidavits, suggesting that some "judicious prompting" by Hurlbut may have been involved in the affidavits that were gathered to support the Spalding theory. [23]
  3. The idea that Sidney Rigdon obtained the Spalding manuscript while in Pittsburgh. Sidney Rigdon did not meet Joseph Smith until after he saw the Book of Mormon for the first time. There is absolutely no source which indicates a connection between Sidney and Joseph prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon.
  4. The author's insistence that he cannot "violate any confidence of a friend, though he be dead," yet share a detail which would be as devastating as this, then conclude by saying that he "really can't say much more "[w]ithout going into detail or disclosing a confided word" of his friend. Lang even covers the fact that Oliver never said this to anyone else by claiming that "Mr. Cowdery never spoke of his connection with the Mormons to anybody except to me."

The 1881 letter is no longer extant and there is reason to believe that all or part of the letter is a forgery

The 1881 letter is no longer extant and there is reason to believe that all or part of the letter is a forgery. After reviewing claims made about the letter's provenance, Spalding theory researcher Dale Broadhurst concludes, "Judge Lang's purported 1881 reference to Solomon Spalding's Manuscript Found should be viewed with a modicum of scholarly distrust." Broadhurst proposes a scenario where William Lang's surviving son could have been duped into authenticating the handwriting and reproduction of the letter.

It seems unlikely that two Spalding theorists (William Lang and Thomas Gregg) suppressed Oliver's devastating admission in their own publications. A third Spalding theorist, Rev. Robert B. Neal, printed the 1881 letter between the first two only after their deaths. In the same 1906 tract, Neal also published the known forgery Defense in a Rehearsal of My Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter-day Saints. That he pointed out his sensational Oliver Cowdery material to his readers specifically to raise money may indicate an additional motive for fabricating evidence.

As noted, William Lang's own writings published in his lifetime do not use Oliver Cowdery to support the Spalding theory. Lang's 1880 History of Seneca County mentions Cowdery multiple times. For example, Lang became a legal apprentice to Cowdery soon after his 1840 move to Tiffin, Ohio (p. 387). In a lengthy appendix on Mormonism (p 646- ), Lang makes a reference to Cowdery being "a respected citizen" who had lived there, and a few paragraphs later introduces the Spalding theory without using Cowdery as a source. He also has a two-page biography (p. 364-5) about Oliver Cowdery where he hints that "Cowdery had more to do with the production of the Mormon Bible than its history ever gave him credit for," but nothing connects Oliver to the Spalding manuscript.

The supposed recipient of the letter, Thomas Gregg, was a long time newspaper publisher in the Hancock, Illinois, area. His intermittent associate in the newspaper business, Thomas Sharp, had played a large role in stirring up anti-Mormons to kill Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Frank Worrell, Gregg's brother-in-law, had failed to protect the Smiths as a guard at Carthage jail and was later shot by the deputized Porter Rockwell at the behest of the non-Mormon sheriff, Jacob Backenstos. Many of his publications over a 50-year span set forth his less-than-impartial version of Mormon history. For example, his 1880 History of Hancock county contained a lengthy Mormon section. More to the point, in 1890 he published the 550 page The Prophet of Palmyra. Gregg's biographer describes it thusly:

It is not so much a biography of Smith as a history of the Latter Day Saints' Church from the appearance of The Book of Mormon through the exodus from Illinois. Here, too, Gregg's attitude toward the Prophet and other Mormon leaders is consistently negative. He views The Book of Mormon as a carefully planned deception, based partly on Solomon Spaulding's Manuscript Found (c. 1813), and he relies on a number of Mormon exposes - such as E. D. Howe's Mormonism Unveiled (1834) and William Harris's Mormonism Portrayed -for information about Smith.

Despite a desire to defend and document the Spalding theory, Thomas Gregg did not print William Lang's supposed 1881 letter. This may point to the letter being a forgery. An alternative is that Gregg found it unethical to print the letter because it betrayed confidential information or was deemed not credible enough. Robert Neal was clearly less burdened by ethical considerations or less discerning about what he published. None of these proposed scenarios inspires any confidence that Oliver, did in fact, retract his testimony of the Book of Mormon to William Lang in private and to no one else.

Oliver Cowdery made many statements during his life, even during the period during which he had been excommunicated from the church, in which he confirmed his testimony of the Book of Mormon

Oliver Cowdery made many statements during his life, even during the period during which he had been excommunicated from the church, in which he confirmed his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Oliver even testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon as he was dying.

Oliver Cowdery just before breathing his last, asked his attendants to raise him up in bed that he might talk to the family and his friends, who were present. He then told them to live according to the teachings contained in the Book of Mormon, and promised them, if they would do this, that they would meet him in heaven. He then said, ‘Lay me down and let me fall asleep.’ A few moments later he died without a struggle. [24]

This is not consistent with Lang's story of a man who readily admitted to a hoax of the magnitude that he suggests.


Question: What did the Book of Mormon witnesses say about the faithfulness of other witnesses?

Some Book of Mormon witnesses emphasized that they had never renounced their testimony, and insisted that they had never heard other witnesses do so either.

  • John Whimter: "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."[25]
  • David H. Cannon: The thing which impressed me most of all was, as we stood beside the grave of Oliver Cowdery the other Witness, who had come back into the Church before his death, and [David Whitmer] in describing Oliver[']s action, when bearing his testimony, said to the people in his room, placing his hands like this upon his head, saying 'I know the Gospel to be true and upon this head has Peter[,] James and John laid their hands and confer[r]ed the Holy Melchisedic Priesthood.' [26]
  • David Whitmer, interview with James H. Hart: "Mr 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. 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."[27]
  • Said Oliver Cowdery of a testimony by John Whitmer: "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 taht 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."[28]


Oliver Cowdery's alleged 1839 Defence in a Rehearsal of my Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter Day Saints

Summary: Although this document purports to have been published in 1839 by Oliver Cowdery, the earliest copies in existence are dated 1906. The document was "discovered" by the Reverend R. B. Neal, who was a leader in the American Anti-Mormon Association. No references to this document exists prior to 1906. This document was believed to be authentic for many years, until it was discovered that it consists primarily of a selection of Cowdery's phrases taken from various issues of the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate that were removed from their original context and placed in a different context. A number of talking points appear to have been reworded from David Whitmer's 1887 An Address to All Believers in Christ. Historians now agree that this document is a forgery.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 137-138. ISBN 0877478465.
  2. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 141.
  3. Deseret News (26 May 1858).
  4. "History of Thomas Baldwin Marsh," Deseret News (24 March 1858).
  5. "History of Thomas Baldwin Marsh," November 1857; printed in Deseret News (24 March 1858) and Millennial Star 26 (1864): 406; cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 56-57. ISBN 0877478465.
  6. Letter of Hiram Page to William E. McLellin (30 May 1847), Ray County, Mo.; cited in Ensign of Liberty 1 (1848): 63.
  7. "Theodore Turley's Memorandums," Church Archives, handwriting of Thomas Bullock, who began clerking in late 1843; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:241.; see also with minor editing in Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:307–308. Volume 3 link
  8. John Whitmer, "Address To the patrons of the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate," (March 1836) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2:286-287. (italics added)
  9. Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, 23 March 1846, Oliver Cowdery Collection, "Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith Jr." (kept by George W. Robinson), 22, LDS Church Historical Department (published in Scott H. Faulring, ed, An American Prophet's Record.— The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), emphasis in original; cited in Scott H. Faulring. “The Return of Oliver Cowdery”, FARMS Featured Paper, no date.
  10. Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901), 1:246.
  11. Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901), 1:246.
  12. Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, 23 March 1846, Oliver Cowdery Collection, "Scriptory Book of Joseph Smith Jr." (kept by George W. Robinson), 22, LDS Church Historical Department (published in Scott H. Faulring, ed, An American Prophet's Record.— The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), emphasis in original; cited in Scott H. Faulring. “The Return of Oliver Cowdery”, FARMS Featured Paper, no date.
  13. 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. wiki citing George Mantle to Marietta Walker, 26 December 1888, Saint Catherine, Missouri, cited in Autumn Leaves 2 (1889): 141.
  14. Letter of Elder Edward Stevenson to the Millennial Star quoted in William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1974), 57–58.
  15. George Godfrey, “Testimony of Martin Harris,” from an unpublished manuscript copy in the possession of his daughter, Florence (Godfrey) Munson of Fielding, Utah; quoted in Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1971), 65–66.
  16. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 74. ISBN 0877478465.
  17. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 74. ISBN 0877478465.
  18. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 88. ISBN 0877478465.
  19. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).
  20. McLellin to Cobb, 14 August 1880; cited by Larry C. Porter, "The Odyssey of William Earl McLellin: Man of Diversity, 1806–83," in The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836, edited by Jan Shipps and John W. Welch (Urbana: Brigham Young University Studies and University of Illinois Press, 1994), 296. ISBN 0842523162.
  21. Richmond Conservator Report (26 January 1888); quoted in Lyndon W. Cook ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Grandin Book Company, 1993), 226.
  22. Richmond Democrat 16/6 (2 February 1888), quoted in Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1971), 16.
  23. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 446–447.
  24. Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901), 1:246.
  25. John Whimter to Mark H. Forest [Forscutt], 5 March 1876, Whitmer Papers, Community of Christ Library-Archives; in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:243.
  26. David H. Cannon, Autobiography, 13 March 1917, p. 5; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:218.
  27. David Whitmer, interview with James H. Hart on 10 March 1884, Letter to Deseret News (18 March 1884); cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:105.
  28. Oliver Cowdery, "Conference Report," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 (June 1835), 143. Reproduced in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:250.