Book of Mormon/Witnesses/Witnesses knew they would be ridiculed and not believed

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The Book of Mormon witnesses knew they would be ridiculed and not believed

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Question: Did the witnesses to the Book of Mormon realize that they would be ridiculed and not believed?

The witnesses were not naive

They knew that they would not be believed by many, and would suffer ridicule or personal/professional costs. Despite this, they stuck to their claims.

David Whitmer recalled:

"When we were first told to publish our statement, we felt sure the people would not believe it, for the Book told of a people who were refined and dwelt in large cities; but the Lord told us that He would make it known to the people, and people should discover the ruins of the lost cities and abundant evidence of the truth of what is written in the Book."[1]


Question: What might the witnesses to the Book of Mormon have gained if they had denied their testimonies?

The witnesses had much to gain by denying their experiences

Martin Harris noted that he would have been well-paid if he was willing to deny his witness:

A few hours before his death and when he was so weak and enfeebled that he was unable to recognize me or anyone, and knew not to whom he was speaking, I asked him if he did not feel that there was an element at least, of fraudulence and deception in the things that were written and told of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and he replied as he had always done so many, many times in my hearing the same spirit he always manifested when enjoying health and vigor and said: ‘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.[2]

One non-member noted that the excommunicated Oliver Cowdery would have been the editor of a Democratic Party newspaper, "but was dropped on the discovery that he was one of the seven founders of Mormonism."[3] Cowdery would have been advantaged to have denied his witness, but did not. Later, in 1848, an opposing political party opposed Cowdery's Democratic candidacy partly because he was "one of the three witnesses to the discovery of the Golden Plates, or Mormon Bible, by Joe Smith."[4] Richard Anderson noted that citations from the Book of Mormon were then used as "the basis of personal sarcasm against Cowdery."[5] Again, Oliver would have been advantaged to distance himself from his testimony and witness, but did not.

Notes

  1. David Whitmer, interview with James H. Hart on 21 August 1883, Journal-Notebook, 21 August 1883, Special Collections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU ; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:96.
  2. 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. Also cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 117. ISBN 0877478465.
  3. "Letter from General W.H. Gibson," Seneca Advertiser (Tiffin, Ohio) (12 April 1892); cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 40. ISBN 0877478465.
  4. Milwaukee Sentinel (13 April 1848); cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 44. ISBN 0877478465.
  5. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 44. ISBN 0877478465.

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