Book of Mormon/Witnesses/Character

Table of Contents

Reliability of the Book of Mormon witnesses

Jump to Subtopic:

Several families, numbering about fifty souls, took up their line of march from this town last week for the “promised land,” among whom was Martin Harris, one of the original believers in the “Book of Mormon.” Mr. Harris was among the early settlers of this town, and has ever borne the character of an honorable and upright man, and an obliging and benevolent neighbor. He had secured to himself by honest industry a respectable fortune—and he has left a large circle of acquaintances and friends to pity his delusion.

—“Several families . . .,” Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, New York) (27 May 1831). off-site
∗       ∗       ∗
Mr. Cowdery was an able lawyer and a great advocate. His manners were easy and gentlemanly; he was polite, dignified, yet courteous...With all his kind and friendly disposition, there was a certain degree of sadness that seemed to pervade his whole being. His association with others was marked by the great amount of information his conversation conveyed and the beauty of his musical voice. His addresses to the court and jury were characterized by a high order of oratory, with brilliant and forensic force. He was modest and reserved, never spoke ill of any one, never complained.

—William Lang, History of Seneca County (Springfield, Ohio, 1880), 365.
∗       ∗       ∗

Question: What did Oliver Cowdery's associates say about his character?

William Lang, who apprenticed in Cowdery's law office long after he left the Church, knew him for many years

William Lang, who apprenticed in Cowdery's law office, knew him for many years. Lang was a member of the Ohio bar, and served as "prosecuting attorney, probate judge, mayor of Tiffin, county treasurer, and two terms in the Ohio senate. He was nominated by his party for major state offices twice." [1]

Lang wrote of Cowdery:

Mr. Cowdery was an able lawyer and a great advocate. His manners were easy and gentlemanly; he was polite, dignified, yet courteous...With all his kind and friendly disposition, there was a certain degree of sadness that seemed to pervade his whole being. His association with others was marked by the great amount of information his conversation conveyed and the beauty of his musical voice. His addresses to the court and jury were characterized by a high order of oratory, with brilliant and forensic force. He was modest and reserved, never spoke ill of any one, never complained. [2]


1843 announcement in the Seneca Advertiser, Tiffin, Ohio, with Oliver Cowdery and his partner's law practice.

Harvey Gibson, a political opponent of Oliver's, and another lawyer, said that Cowdery was an "irreproachable gentleman"

Harvey Gibson, a political opponent of Oliver's, and another lawyer (whose statue now stands in front of the Seneca County courthouse) wrote:

Cowdery was an able lawyer and [an] agreeable, irreproachable gentleman. [3]

Incidents that some have claimed bring Cowdery's character into question

Some have used other ways to try and impugn Cowdery's character and bring it into question. One such way is bringing up an 1838 petition signed by 83 Latter-day Saint men accusing Oliver of various crimes[4]. Such incidents have been thoroughly addressed. Balanced context can be found in Latter-day Saint historian Alexander Baugh's PhD dissertation "A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri. Neither Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, nor Hyrum Smith of the First Presidency signed the petition[5] The document was written by then-apostate Sampson Avard. Furthermore, the allegations in the document are baseless. For example, it was feared that Oliver's desire to become a lawyer would lead to him to defending unsavory criminals or participating in vexatious lawsuits against the Church. When David and Oliver were earlier excommunicated they didn't defend themselves as they thought that church courts didn't have jurisdiction. Some of the Danites inferred guilt from their silence or by association. Historian Jeffrey Walker writes:

In April 1838, Oliver Cowdery was tried before a high council court and excommunicated. He did not attend the hearing, claiming that in his role as Assistant President of the Church the high council lacked jurisdiction over him.[6] Nine charges were brought against him. Counts one and seven dealt directly with Cowdery’s interest in or participation as a lawyer: “1st, For stirring up the enemy to persecute the brethren by urging on vexatious lawsuits[7]and thus distressing the innocent,” and “7th, For leaving the calling, in which God had appointed him, by Revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre, and turning to the practice of Law.”[8] While Cowdery did not substantively defend all the charges, he did submit a letter addressed to Bishop Partridge requesting that the council “take no view of the foregoing remarks, other than my belief in the outward governments of the Church.”[9][10]

Scott Faulring describes Oliver's exit from the Church and eventual return including these episodes.

Cowdery longed to put the strife associated with his June 1838 departure from Far West behind him. The situation, he explained, was "painful to reflect on." In a genuine spirit of reconciliation, Oliver offered his personal interpretation of the circumstances leading to his dismissal. He observed candidly: I believed at the time, and still believe, that ambitious and wicked men, envying the harmony existing between myself and the first elders of the church, and hoping to get into some other men’s birth right, by falsehoods the most foul and wicked, caused all this difficulty from beginning to end. They succeeded in getting myself out of the church; but since they them selves have gone to perdition, ought not old friends—long tried in the furnace of affliction, to be friends still. [11]

Oliver also told Brigham and the other members of the Twelve that he did not believe any of them had contributed to his removal and thus he could speak freely with them about returning.[12] In his reply to the Twelve’s invitation, Oliver mentioned a "certain publication," signed by some eighty-three church members then living in Missouri, charging him and others with conspiring with outlaws. [13] Cowdery emphatically denied such an vile indictment. He conceded that he had not seen the offending declaration, but had heard of its existence and the accusations made in it.[14]

"Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them."

Some critics have used a December 1838 quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith to impugn Oliver's character. The above is the standard representation of this quote. Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints on 16 December 1838 to provide comfort to the Saints and update them on his current condition in Liberty Jail:

To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Caldwell county, and all the Saints who are scattered abroad, who are persecuted, and made desolate, and who are afflicted in divers manners for Christ's sake and the Gospel's, by the hands of a cruel mob and the tyrannical disposition of the authorities of this state; and whose perils are greatly augmented by the wickedness and corruption of false brethren, greeting: May grace, mercy, and the peace of God be and abide with you; and notwithstanding all your sufferings, we assure you that you have our prayers and fervent desires for your welfare, day and night. We believe that that God who seeth us in this solitary place, will hear our prayers, and reward you openly.

Know assuredly, dear brethren, that it is for the testimony of Jesus that we are in bonds and in prison. But we say unto you, that we consider that our condition is better (notwithstanding our sufferings) than that of those who have persecuted us, and smitten us, and borne false witness against us; and we most assuredly believe that those who do bear false witness against us, do seem to have a great triumph over us for the present. [15]

By this time, all of the three witnesses had fallen away from the Church after severe disagreements with Joseph Smith. This is why Joseph Smith published the comment in the letter—Joseph was angry with them:

Was it for committing adultery that we were assailed? We are aware that that false slander has gone abroad, for it has been reiterated in our ears. These are falsehoods also. Renegade "Mormon" dissenters are running through the world and spreading various foul and libelous reports against us, thinking thereby to gain the friendship of the world, because they know that we are not of the world, and that the world hates us; therefore they [the world] make a tool of these fellows [the dissenters]; and by them try to do all the injury they can, and after that they hate them worse than they do us, because they find them to be base traitors and sycophants.

Such characters God hates; we cannot love them. The world hates them, and we sometimes think that the devil ought to be ashamed of them.

We have heard that it is reported by some, that some of us should have said, that we not only dedicated our property, but our families also to the Lord; and Satan, taking advantage of this, has perverted it into licentiousness, such as a community of wives, which is an abomination in the sight of God.

When we consecrate our property to the Lord it is to administer to the wants of the poor and needy, for this is the law of God; it is not for the benefit of the rich, those who have no need; and when a man consecrates or dedicates his wife and children, he does not give them to his brother, or to his neighbor, for there is no such law: for the law of God is, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already in his heart. Now for a man to consecrate his property, wife and children, to the Lord, is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, the sick and afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord. In order to do this, he and all his house must be virtuous, and must shun the very appearance of evil.

[Page 231]

Now if any person has represented anything otherwise than what we now write, he or she is a liar, and has represented us falsely—and this is another manner of evil which is spoken against us falsely.[16]

It is on this page that we get the quote from Joseph referencing the men specifically. Notice how he states only that they are "mean" and nothing more:

And now, brethren, we say unto you—what more can we enumerate? Is not all manner of evil of every description spoken of us falsely, yea, we say unto you falsely. We have been misrepresented and misunderstood, and belied, and the purity and integrity and uprightness of our hearts have not been known—and it is through ignorance—yea, the very depths of ignorance is the cause of it; and not only ignorance, but on the part of some, gross wickedness and hypocrisy also; for some, by a long face and sanctimonious prayers, and very pious sermons, had power to lead the minds of the ignorant and unwary, and thereby obtain such influence that when we approached their iniquities the devil gained great advantage—would bring great trouble and sorrow upon our heads; and, in fine, we have waded through an ocean of tribulation and mean abuse, practiced upon us by the ill bred and the ignorant, such as Hinkle, Corrill, Phelps, Avard, Reed Peck, Cleminson, and various others, who are so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society, and whose eyes are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin. Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them. Marsh and "another," whose hearts are full of corruption, whose cloak of hypocrisy was not sufficient to shield them or to hold them up in the hour of trouble, who after having escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, became again entangled and overcome—their latter end is worse than the first. But it has happened unto them according to the word of the Scripture: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."[17]

It begs questions:

  1. Why would Joseph risk angering these men further if he knew that they could expose him?
  2. Why didn't they expose him and instead go to their deathbeds (and in the case of Harris and Whitmer never returning to the Church) testifying that the work was true?

This quote, in the end, is a testament to the strength and integrity of the witnesses in general.


Question: What did Martin Harris's non-Mormon associates say about his character?

Even early anti-Mormons who knew Harris believed that he was “honest,” and “industrious,” “benevolent,” and a “worthy citizen”

Even early anti-Mormons who knew Harris, or knew those acquainted with Harris, believed that he was “honest,” and “industrious,” “benevolent,” and a “worthy citizen.” [18] Wrote the local paper on Harris' departure with the Saints:

Several families, numbering about fifty souls, took up their line of march from this town last week for the “promised land,” among whom was Martin Harris, one of the original believers in the “Book of Mormon.” Mr. Harris was among the early settlers of this town, and has ever borne the character of an honorable and upright man, and an obliging and benevolent neighbor. He had secured to himself by honest industry a respectable fortune—and he has left a large circle of acquaintances and friends to pity his delusion.[19]

Pomeroy Tucker, who knew Harris but didn’t believe in the Book of Mormon, once noted:

How to reconcile the act of Harris in signing his name to such a statement [his Book of Mormon testimony], in view of the character of honesty which had always been conceded to him, could never easily be explained. [20]

Martin Harris's association with a number of LDS "splinter groups"

Some have argued that Harris' tendency to associate with a number of LDS "splinter groups" indicates that he was "unstable and easily influenced by charismatic leaders." [21]

This claim fundamentally distorts Harris' activities during this period. [22] Wrote Matthew Roper:

Martin was excommunicated in December 1837 in Kirtland, Ohio, where he remained for the next thirty-two years. During this time, Harris associated himself with Warren Parrish and other Kirtland dissenters who organized a church. On March 30, 1839, George A. Smith wrote a letter from Kirtland describing some of the divisions in the Parrish party. "Last Sabbath a division arose among the Parrish party about the Book of Mormon; John F. Boynton, Warren Parrish, Luke Johnson and others said it was nonsense. Martin Harris then bore testimony of its truth and said all would be damned if they rejected it." Such actions suggest a significant degree of independence for which Harris is generally not given credit. [23]

Harris managed to frustrate many other religious groups by his continued insistence on preaching the Book of Mormon instead of their tenets. He eventually returned to the Church and died in full fellowship.

The witnesses were men considered honest, responsible, and intelligent. Their contemporaries did not know quite what to make of three such men who testified of angels and gold plates, but they did not impugn the character or reliability of the men who bore that testimony.


Question: What did David Whitmer's associates say about his character?

Throughout Richmond, Missouri, the non-Mormons knew David Whitmer as an honest and trustworthy citizen

Throughout Richmond, Missouri, the non-Mormons knew David Whitmer as an honest and trustworthy citizen. When one anti-Mormon lectured in David’s hometown and branded 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.’” [24]

...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. [25]

Another newspaper declared:

And no man can look at David Whitmer's face for a half-hour, while he charit[abl]y and modestly speaks of what he has seen, and then bodldly and earnestly confesses the faith that is in him, and say that he is a bigot or an enthusiast.[26]

Twenty two non-Mormon citizens signed the following statement, including, Mayor, county clerk, county treasurer, postmaster, revenue collector, county sheriff, two judges, two medical doctors, four bankers, two merchants, and two lawyers:

We the undersigned citizens of Richmond Ray CO Mo where David Whitmer Sr has resided since the year AD 1838, Certify that we have been long and intimately acquainted with him, and know him to be a man of the highest integrity, and of undoubted truth and veracity....[27]

Another said:

Mr. Whitmer is an old citizen of this town, and is known by every one here as a man of the highest honor, having resided here since the year 1838.[28]

Upon Whitmer's death, the local newspaper wrote:

He lived in Richmond about half a century, and we can say that no man ever lived here, who had among our people, more friends and fewer enemies. Honest, conscientious and upright in all his dealings, just in his estimate of men, and open, manly and frank in his treatment of all, he made lasting friends who loved him to the end.[29]

Events used to impugn David Whitmer's character

Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &C. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; And the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State

Some have used other ways to try and impugn Whitmer's character and bring it into question. One such way is bringing up an 1838 petition signed by 83 Latter-day Saint men accusing David of various crimes[30]. Such incidents have been thoroughly addressed. Balanced context can be found in Latter-day Saint historian Alexander Baugh's PhD dissertation "A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri. Neither Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, nor Hyrum Smith of the First Presidency signed the petition[31] The document was written by then-apostate Sampson Avard. More information can be found on him by reading Baugh's work.

"Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them."

Some critics have used a December 1838 quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith to impugn the character of the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. The above is the standard representation of this quote. Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints on 16 December 1838 to provide comfort to the Saints and update them on his current condition in Liberty Jail:

To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Caldwell county, and all the Saints who are scattered abroad, who are persecuted, and made desolate, and who are afflicted in divers manners for Christ's sake and the Gospel's, by the hands of a cruel mob and the tyrannical disposition of the authorities of this state; and whose perils are greatly augmented by the wickedness and corruption of false brethren, greeting: May grace, mercy, and the peace of God be and abide with you; and notwithstanding all your sufferings, we assure you that you have our prayers and fervent desires for your welfare, day and night. We believe that that God who seeth us in this solitary place, will hear our prayers, and reward you openly.

Know assuredly, dear brethren, that it is for the testimony of Jesus that we are in bonds and in prison. But we say unto you, that we consider that our condition is better (notwithstanding our sufferings) than that of those who have persecuted us, and smitten us, and borne false witness against us; and we most assuredly believe that those who do bear false witness against us, do seem to have a great triumph over us for the present. [32]

By this time, all of the three witnesses had fallen away from the Church after severe disagreements with Joseph Smith. This is why Joseph Smith published the comment in the letter—Joseph was angry with them:

Was it for committing adultery that we were assailed? We are aware that that false slander has gone abroad, for it has been reiterated in our ears. These are falsehoods also. Renegade "Mormon" dissenters are running through the world and spreading various foul and libelous reports against us, thinking thereby to gain the friendship of the world, because they know that we are not of the world, and that the world hates us; therefore they [the world] make a tool of these fellows [the dissenters]; and by them try to do all the injury they can, and after that they hate them worse than they do us, because they find them to be base traitors and sycophants.

Such characters God hates; we cannot love them. The world hates them, and we sometimes think that the devil ought to be ashamed of them.

We have heard that it is reported by some, that some of us should have said, that we not only dedicated our property, but our families also to the Lord; and Satan, taking advantage of this, has perverted it into licentiousness, such as a community of wives, which is an abomination in the sight of God.

When we consecrate our property to the Lord it is to administer to the wants of the poor and needy, for this is the law of God; it is not for the benefit of the rich, those who have no need; and when a man consecrates or dedicates his wife and children, he does not give them to his brother, or to his neighbor, for there is no such law: for the law of God is, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife. He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery already in his heart. Now for a man to consecrate his property, wife and children, to the Lord, is nothing more nor less than to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the widow and fatherless, the sick and afflicted, and do all he can to administer to their relief in their afflictions, and for him and his house to serve the Lord. In order to do this, he and all his house must be virtuous, and must shun the very appearance of evil.

[Page 231]

Now if any person has represented anything otherwise than what we now write, he or she is a liar, and has represented us falsely—and this is another manner of evil which is spoken against us falsely.[33]

It is on this page that we get the quote from Joseph referencing the men specifically. Notice how he states only that they are "mean" and nothing more:

And now, brethren, we say unto you—what more can we enumerate? Is not all manner of evil of every description spoken of us falsely, yea, we say unto you falsely. We have been misrepresented and misunderstood, and belied, and the purity and integrity and uprightness of our hearts have not been known—and it is through ignorance—yea, the very depths of ignorance is the cause of it; and not only ignorance, but on the part of some, gross wickedness and hypocrisy also; for some, by a long face and sanctimonious prayers, and very pious sermons, had power to lead the minds of the ignorant and unwary, and thereby obtain such influence that when we approached their iniquities the devil gained great advantage—would bring great trouble and sorrow upon our heads; and, in fine, we have waded through an ocean of tribulation and mean abuse, practiced upon us by the ill bred and the ignorant, such as Hinkle, Corrill, Phelps, Avard, Reed Peck, Cleminson, and various others, who are so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society, and whose eyes are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin. Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them. Marsh and "another," whose hearts are full of corruption, whose cloak of hypocrisy was not sufficient to shield them or to hold them up in the hour of trouble, who after having escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, became again entangled and overcome—their latter end is worse than the first. But it has happened unto them according to the word of the Scripture: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."[34]

It begs questions:

  1. Why would Joseph risk angering these men further if he knew that they could expose him?
  2. Why didn't they expose him and instead go to their deathbeds (and in the case of Harris and Whitmer never returning to the Church) testifying that the work was true?

This quote, in the end, is a testament to the strength and integrity of the witnesses in general.


Question: Is someone unreliable because they practiced "treasure hunting" and believed in the use of seer stones to find lost objects?

To imply that someone is unreliable simply because of things that they believed were valid is a ad hominem attack

Some of Joseph Smith's associates practiced "treasure hunting" and believed in the use of seer stones to locate lost objects. Some claim that many of these individuals believed in "second sight." Do these characteristics make these men unreliable witnesses?

Those who accuse people of being unreliable witnesses because they believed in "treasure hunting" or "second sight" are employing what is known as a "ad hominem" attack on the witnesses' character. The term "ad hominem" is defined, according to Merriam-Webster, as:

  1. appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect.
  2. marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.

One can see that this accusation applies both of these definitions:

  1. The terms "treasure hunter" and "second sight" are intended to evoke feelings of prejudice in the 21st-century reader. We typically reject such things as "superstition." Applying these attitudes to how we view 19th-century individuals is called "presentisim."
  2. One critic implies that, despite the fact that the witnesses never denied what they said, that "in light of their superstitions and reputations," we will somehow find their testimony to have less value. The witnesses, incidentally, had reputations for honesty. [35]

How exactly does the belief that one can locate buried treasure by means of a seer stone speak to one's character or honesty?

All Three Witnesses left the Church after disagreements with Joseph Smith, yet they never denied having seen the plates and the angel

One must also consider this: The Three Witnesses all left the Church after serious disagreements with Joseph Smith, and yet never denied that they had seen the plates and the angel, even near the end of their lives.

The fact that three different men allowed their name to be printed below a statement saying that they saw an angel, and then continued to affirm that they had seen the angel in public statements (some of them even published in newspapers) until the end of their lives, tends to tip the scale more toward "it really happened" than "it didn't happen." That's the point of a signed statement after all.

Is someone's ability to see something affected by their seeing something else?

As it regards the witnesses, the extent to which any were involved is not certain. Even among historians today, the extent to which Joseph Smith was involved is in dispute. It was originally the idea of his father to undertake the practice. It is in doubt if many of the witnesses were involved at all in treasure seeking. For instance, there is no record of the Whitmers being involved in treasure seeking and magic before the organization of the Church (Not to say that they absolutely weren't. Just that there is no evidence.)But let's think of it this way

As it regards the eight witnesses, even if all of them were treasure hunters, is their ability to see something affected by their seeing something else? It's just a silly question to imply that these eight men can't look at a physical object with their physical eyes when they looked at something else with their physical eye. According to John Whitmer, none of them ever denied seeing the physical plates with their physical eyes.

In the case of the three witnesses, some people have suggested that these men may have hallucinated their experience or only seen things with their "spiritual eyes". Aside from "spiritual eyes" being scriptural language that they were commanded to use, there has never been a recorded case in the history of scrying of two people hallucinating the same thing at the same time[36]. It strains credulity to suggest that these men could do that and hold their testimony of the Book of Mormon after falling away from Joseph and the Church.

The following video examines all claims against the witnesses (both formal and informal) and the emergent strength of their composite testimonials.


Question: Did Martin Harris change his religion five times prior to the Restoration?

Palmyra sources do not yet prove that Martin was a Quaker, though his wife probably was, and there is no evidence yet that associates Martin with the Baptist or Presbyterian churches

This is an old charge from one of the earliest anti-Mormon works. Richard L. Anderson noted:

The arithmetic of Martin's five religious changes before Mormonism is also faulty. The claim comes from the hostile Palmyra affidavits published by E. D. Howe; G. W. Stoddard closed his in sarcasm against Martin Harris: "He was first an orthodox Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationer, then a Baptist, next a Presbyterian, and then a Mormon."[37] Palmyra sources do not yet prove that Martin was a Quaker, though his wife probably was.[38] And no evidence yet associates Martin with the Baptist or Presbyterian churches. Note that the other two names are religious positions, not necessarily churches—philosophical Universalists dissent from traditional churches in believing that God will save all, and Restorationists obviously take literally the many Bible prophecies of God's reestablished work in modern times. An early Episcopal minister in Palmyra interviewed Martin and reduced his five positions to two: "He had been, if I mistake not, at one period a member of the Methodist Church, and subsequently had identified himself with the Universalists."[39] Of course Martin could have been a Universalist and Restorationer simultaneously. This view fits what other Palmyra sources say about Martin Harris. In the slanted words of Pomeroy Tucker, who knew him personally, "He was a religious monomaniac, reading the Scriptures intently, and could probably repeat from memory nearly every text of the Bible from beginning to end, chapter and verse in each case."[40]

Martin Harris: "In the year 1818—52 years ago—I was inspired of the Lord and taught of the Spirit that I should not join any church, although I was anxiously sought for by many of the sectarians"

This impression of Martin as Bible student outside of organized religions is just what Martin says in his little-known autobiography of this period:

In the year 1818-52 years ago—I was inspired of the Lord and taught of the Spirit that I should not join any church, although I was anxiously sought for by many of the sectarians. I was taught two could not walk together unless agreed. What can you not be agreed [is] in the Trinity because I cannot find it in my Bible, Find it for me, and I am ready to receive it. . . . Others' sects, the Episcopalians, also tried me—they say 3 persons in one God, without body, parts, or passions. I told them such a God I would not be afraid of: I could not please or offend him. . . . The Methodists took their creed from me. I told them to release it or I would sue them . . . The Spirit told me to join none of the churches, for none had authority from the Lord, for there will not be a true church on the earth until the words of Isaiah shall be fulfilled. . . . So I remained until the Church was organized by Joseph Smith the Prophet. Then I was baptized . . . being the first after Joseph and Oliver Cowdery. And then the Spirit bore testimony that this was all right, and I rejoiced in the established Church. Previous to my being baptized I became a witness of the plates of the Book of Mormon.[41]

The above is Martin Harris's creed, held for the half-century before giving this statement on returning to the Church, plus the five additional years that he lived in Utah. For the dozen years prior to joining Mormonism he was a seeker, like scores of other LIDS converts, and through life never departed from his confidence that the Bible prophecies were fulfilled in the Restoration through Joseph Smith. This core belief was what everything else related to, the structure that stood before, during, and after any gingerbread decorations at Kirtland.[42]

In any case, such a charge is simply ad hominem--to deny Harris' testimony because of beliefs he had prior to the restoration.


Question: Is a man unreliable because he lived in the 19th-Century?

To imply that someone is unreliable simply because of the era they lived in is a ad hominem attack

Were the Book of Mormon witnesses not "empirical" or "rational" because they lived in the 19th-Century during a time when "folk magic" was practiced?

  • One critic of Mormonism claims "The mistake that is made by 21st century Mormons is that they’re seeing the Book of Mormon Witnesses as empirical, rational, twenty-first century men" (The claim was modified to read "nineteenth-century men" in later revisions)[43]

To imply that nineteenth-century men are intrinsically unreliable is both an ad hominem (an attack against the character of person making the claim, rather than the claim itself) and sets an impossible standard of evidence for the gospel inasmuch as they were the only men available as witnesses at the time. Thus the author is using a screening argument (dates of life) that can be used to exclude whatever evidence he wishes to ignore.

The following video examines all claims against the witnesses and the emergent strength of their composite testimonials.


Question: Could Joseph Smith have hypnotized the witnesses to the Book of Mormon?

The Three Witnesses had the opportunity to qualify their testimony, but all of them insisted that their vision was literal and unmistakable

It is claimed that the Book of Mormon witnesses may have been sincere in their testimony, but were actually the victims of 'hallucination' or 'hypnosis' induced in them by Joseph Smith.

The Three Witnesses had the opportunity to qualify their testimony, but all of them insisted that their vision was literal and unmistakable. In addition, they each verified the literalness of the event by stating that their physical ears heard a heavenly voice. Critics twist the historical record in their effort to eliminate the troublesome witnesses but their testimonies cannot be convincingly dismissed.

(Note: All emphasis in the following quotes has been added.)

David Whitmer—like the other witnesses—had been charged with being deluded into thinking he had seen an angel and the plates. Joseph Smith III remembered 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!'."[44]

Martin Harris used the same qualifying statements to describe his experience in 1829:

"In introducing us, Mr. Godfrey said, 'Brother Harris, I have brought these young men to hear your statement as to whether or not you believe the Book of Mormon to be true.' His face was turned to the wall. He turned and faced us and said, 'Now I don't believe, but I know it to be true, for with these eyes I saw the angel and with these ears (pointing to them) I heard him say it was a true and correct record of an ancient people that dwelt upon this the American continent'."[45]

Oliver Cowdery was asked, “Was your testimony based on a dream, was it the imagination of your mind, was it an illusion”? He responded with the exact same qualifying statements as the other two Witnesses:

"My eyes saw, my ears heard, and my understanding was touched, and I know that whereof I testified is true. It was no dream, no vain imagination of the mind—it was real."[46]

Only 3% of people are capable of experiencing a visual hallucination, and only 9% of the population can hallucinate a voice speaking to them while under the influence of hypnosis

Research by Ernest Hilgard at Stanford found that only 3% of people are capable of experiencing a visual hallucination, and only 9% of the population can hallucinate a voice speaking to them while under the influence of hypnosis. These statistics just further refute psychological arguments against the validity of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon.[47]



Question: Are the Book of Mormon witnesses unreliable because many of them were related?

To imply that someone is unreliable simply because of who they are related to is a ad hominem attack

It is claimed that because many of the witnesses are related, this means they are not to be trusted.

Mark Twain made fun of this very issue:

And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too; and not only seen those plates but "hefted" them, I am convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified. [48]

This is what is known as a "ad hominem" attack on the witnesses' character. The term "ad hominem" is defined, according to Merriam-Webster, as:

  1. appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect.
  2. marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.

How, exactly, does being related to someone else who is viewing the same thing that you are make one less honest or reliable? This is simply an irrelevant distraction. When you are going to show something sacred to someone, you certainly don't show it to strangers but to those with whom you are familiar and who you can trust. As such, one would not expect anyone but close acquaintances and family to be so trusted. The witnesses, incidentally, had reputations for honesty.

Some have claimed that this rebuttal is a misapplication of the ad-hominem fallacy. It's easy to claim that an ad-hominem fallacy is misapplied by invoking the fallacy fallacy, which means that an argument can still be true even if it contains a logical fallacy. Thus, even if it's an ad hominem attack, it may still be true! But that is not the point of the original argument being made here. The original argument states that the witnesses are unreliable because they are related to each other and their love and bias for Joseph somehow weakens their efficacy. It is ad hominem to claim this and does not address the consistency of the witnesses, even when their feelings for Joseph turned sour at different points of their lives. It does not address the multiplicity of occasions when they went on record to testify, the occasions when they went our of their way to correct their testimony when misrepresented by the public press, the both tangible and revelatory nature of their experience, the witnesses other than the 11 that saw the plates and handled them, and so forth. The argument is bunk.

The witnesses would, of necessity, be those who were close to Joseph. Recall the fact that the witnesses eventually had disaffected members among them because of disagreements with Joseph Smith, yet they never denied their witness. This gives credence to their testimony over time.

Relationships among the Three and Eight Witnesses

Three of the witnesses were related to Joseph Smith:

  • Joseph Smith, Sr. [father]
  • Hyrum Smith [brother]
  • Samuel H. Smith [brother]

Five of the eleven witnesses were sons of Peter Whitmer, Sr., who had provided Joseph and Oliver a place to translate:

  • David Whitmer
  • Christian Whitmer
  • Jacob Whitmer
  • Peter Whitmer, Jr.
  • John Whitmer

Two of the witnesses married into the Whitmer family:

  • Oliver Cowdery would marry Elizabeth Ann Whitmer in 1832.[49]
  • Hiram Page married the oldest Whitmer daughter, Catherine, on 10 November 1825.[50]

The following video examines all claims against the witnesses and the emergent strength of their composite testimonials.


Question: Does the fact that Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith distant cousins make Oliver an unreliable witness to the Book of Mormon?

Oliver was indeed a distant cousin of Joseph Smith, but they had never met before the Book of Mormon was translated

The accusation that Oliver being a distant cousin of Joseph Smith makes him an unreliable witness to the Book of Mormon is what is known as a "ad hominem" attack on the witnesses' character. The term "ad hominem" is defined, according to Merriam-Webster, as:

  1. appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect.
  2. marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.

One can see that accusations that Oliver is an unreliable witness because he is related to Joseph Smith applies both of these definitions:

  • Oliver was indeed a distant cousin of Joseph Smith, but they had never met before the Book of Mormon was translated. Those who put forth this criticism attempt to prejudice the reader by implying that this relationship made Oliver unreliable.
  • The fact that they were distantly related has no bearing upon Oliver's reliability as a scribe or as a witness. How does this relationship make him an unreliable witness? What is the conflict of interest?

More to the point, if Oliver was covering up a fraud on the part of Joseph Smith when he acted as a scribe during the translation of the Book of Mormon simply because he was related to Joseph Smith, or if he was covering for Joseph when he acted as one of the Three Witnesses, then why didn't Oliver expose the fraud after he fell into disagreement with Joseph Smith and was excommunicated from the Church? This would have been the perfect opportunity to expose a fraud.


Question: Did Joseph Smith say that viewing the gold plates would result in death?

The only first-person account—that made by Joseph Smith himself—says that it was Joseph who would be destroyed if he showed the plates to any other person unless commanded to do so by the Lord

It is claimed that Joseph Smith said that the penalty for viewing the gold plates was death, and that this was just a way for Joseph to hide the fact that the plates really didn't exist. However, the only first-person account—that made by Joseph Smith himself—says that it was Joseph who would be destroyed if he showed the plates to any other person unless commanded to do so by the Lord. Many accounts attributed to Joseph in which he is supposed to have claimed that anyone else who viewed the plates would die originated with people who were hostile to Joseph and the Church. Significantly, Emma's statement makes no mention of the alleged penalty associated with the unauthorized viewing of the plates.

Primary source: Joseph Smith's own words

Joseph Smith-History 1:42 describes the conditions under which Joseph was to handle the plates:

Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it. (emphasis added)

According to this, it was Joseph who risked destruction if he showed the plates to anyone unless explicitly commanded to do so by the Lord, not the person to whom he showed them.

Of course, we also have the testimony of the Three and Eight witnesses, who all viewed the plates without any threat of destruction.

The idea that God would "strike down" anyone who viewed the plates came from a hostile secondary source

Fawn Brodie claimed that Joseph told Martin Harris that God's wrath would strike him down if he examined the plates or looked at him while he was translating. This is supported by a second-hand source: Charles Anthon's statement regarding the visit of Martin Harris in Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed. Anthon stated:

I adverted once more to the roguery which had been in my opinion practised upon [Harris], and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate and have the trunk examined. He said the "curse of God" would come upon him should he do this. [51]

In the critical bookMormonism Unvailed, Peter Ingersoll and Sophia Lewis claimed that Joseph told them that anyone who viewed the plates would perish.

Peter Ingersoll was a hostile source. Here is what he claims that Joseph said to him:

...On my entering the house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live. However, I offered to take out the book and show it to them, but they refuse to see it, and left the room." Now, said Jo, "I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun." Notwithstanding, he told me he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book....(emphasis added)[52]

Here we have a statement alleged to have been made by Joseph Smith that "no man can see it with the naked eye and live." However, we also see that, according to Peter Ingersoll, Joseph came up with the entire idea of the "golden bible" on the spur of the moment as a way to have "fun." Then he claims that Joseph confided to him that the plates didn't actually exist at all. There are so many inconsistencies between this story and the statements of numerous other witnesses that one wonders if Peter Ingersoll was the one who was having some "fun" with his audience. Ingersoll can also be discredited on his claim that Joseph made the story up on the spot, because Joseph was telling various people about his Moroni visits well before recovering the plates (see for example various Knight family recollections).

Examining the testimony of Sophia Lewis we find:

SOPHIA LEWIS, certifies that she "heard a conversation between Joseph Smith, Jr., and the Rev. James B. Roach, in which Smith called Mr. R. a d-----d fool. Smith also said in the same conversation that he (Smith) was as good as Jesus Christ;" and that she "has frequently heard Smith use profane language. She states that she heard Smith say "the Book of Plates could not be opened under penalty of death by any other person but his (Smith's) first-born, which was to be a male." She says she "was present at the birth of this child, and that it was still-born and very much deformed."(emphasis added)[53]

Here we find that not only could the plates not be viewed by another person, but that the only person who could "open" them would be Joseph's first-born child. Sophia Lewis's testimony is suspicious however. Hezekiah M'Kune, Levi Lewis and Sophia Lewis went together to make their depositions before the justice. Their testimonies bear a remarkable similarity and contain the unique claim that Joseph claimed to be "as good as Jesus Christ." This claim is not related by any other individuals who knew the Prophet, suggesting that these three individuals planned and coordinated their story before giving their depositions. [54]

Joseph's wife Emma did not recall any specific threat of destruction associated with the unauthorized viewing of the plates

It is interesting to note that Emma Smith, admittedly much closer to her husband Joseph than the hostile sources previously quoted, never mentioned a penalty for viewing the plates. In fact, in an interview with her son Joseph Smith III in 1879, the following conversation was recorded:

[Joseph Smith III} Q: I should suppose that you would have uncovered the plates and examined them?

[Emma Smith Bidamon] A. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so.

Major Bidamon here suggested: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?

[Emma] A. I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.

[JS III] Q. Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin, of the Book of Mormon?

[Emma] A. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity - I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.(emphasis added)[55]

Emma, therefore, did not recall any specific threat of destruction associated with the unauthorized viewing of the plates.


Question: Were the Book of Mormon witnesses not neutral because they were members of the Church and believers in Joseph's mission?

The witnesses did not believe they had seen plates because they believed in the restoration; they believed in the restoration because they had seen plates

It is claimed that because the witnesses are "interested"—i.e., they were members of the Church and believers in Joseph's mission—they are therefore not reliable, since they cannot be "neutral" or "disinterested."

  • The critics have the sequence reversed: the witnesses did not believe they had seen plates because they believed in the restoration; they believed in the restoration because they had seen plates. It would be a strange witness if realizing the Joseph had actual plates and divine aid to translate them did not compel them to become members of the restored gospel.
  • As Pratt points out above, the Book of Mormon is something about which one cannot be neutral or disinterested—if one is convinced that it is what it claims to be, then this requires action.
  • Given that many witnesses were subsequently disaffected from Joseph Smith and the Church (some permanently), and yet never denied their witness, this attack has been robbed of much of whatever force it previously had. The disaffected witnesses had many reasons to be "interested" in denouncing Joseph Smith and the faith he founded. Yet, they did not—this argues for the reality of their experience and the sincerity of their witness despite any beliefs they had when they first gave it.
  • Why didn't Martin expose the Book of Mormon as a scam after he lost his investment?
  • Why didn't Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and some of the eleven witnesses expose Joseph as a fraud after they left the Church?
  • If they all knew together that it was a hoax, why didn't any one of them say anything?

Parley P. Pratt replied to this assertion, which was frequently the main means of dismissing the witnesses in early anti-Mormon writing:

Mr. L. complains of all the witnesses to the Book of Mormon being interested witnesses; that is, they are all followers of, and believers in, that system. But, I enquire, who would be a disinterested witness? If all Christendom were to see the original document, and be convinced of its truth, they would all see the original document, and be convinced of its truth, they would all be as much interested in it as those who first witnessed it. The Lord never chose a disinterested witness of his resurrection or any other truth. Would Mr. L. have a witness who would say the thing is true to be sure, but does not concern me, I purpose never to obey it myself, but to go down to hell, for the sake of giving others a disinterested testimony of its truth? But after all, the first witnesses to the Book of Mormon were not members of this church when they gave their testimony; for there was no such church in existence until some time after their testimony had been published.[56]

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), 40. ISBN 0877478465.; the following quotes on Oliver are also taken from Anderson.
  2. William Lang, History of Seneca County (Springfield, Ohio, 1880), 365.
  3. "Letter from General W. H. Gibson," Seneca Advertiser (Tiffin, Ohio) 12 April 1892.
  4. Jeremy Runnells "Debunking FAIR's Debunking (Debunking FairMormon) July 2014 Revision; The omnibus title of the document in question is "Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &C. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; And the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State" (Fayette, MO: Boon’s Lick Democrat, 1841), 103–7
  5. For a discussion of these documents, see Stanley B. Kimball, “Missouri Mormon Manuscripts: Sources in Selected Societies,” BYU Studies 14, no. 4 (Summer 1974): 458–87.
  6. Cowdery articulated this general concern to Warren and Lyman by letter wherein he cited a March 10, 1838, letter to Thomas Marsh from David Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, and John Whitmer noting, “It is contrary to the principles of the revelations of Jesus Christ & his Gospel and the laws of the land, to try a person by an offence by an illegal tribunal, or by men prejudiced against him, or by authority that has given an opinion or decision beforehand or in his absence” (Oliver Cowdery to Warren and Lyman Cowdery, March 10, 1838, Huntington Library).
  7. Both contemporary and historical commentators suggest that the term “vexatious lawsuits” as used here and other places meant mean-spirited or malicious lawsuits brought without probable cause. However, cases where less than five dollars was at issue were also referred to as vexatious suits and several states had even limited the ability to bring forward such cases or otherwise limit the action. For example, in Ohio cases that were brought to recover five dollars or less, the plaintiff could not recover costs (Revised Statutes of the State of Ohio, ch. 86, sec. 78 [1841]). It appears that it is within this context that the reference to vexatious lawsuits is being made. This is further supported from the testimony proffered during the hearing in which the complaints are against Cowdery wanting to do “collection” work. This kind of legal work, while certainly not vexatious in terms of it being malicious and without probable cause (the debt would actually be claimed to be owed), but rather for a small amount—something less than five dollars.
  8. Cowdery’s excommunication hearing was held on April 12, 1838, presided over by Bishop Edward Partridge. As indicated, Cowdery did not attend the hearing but provided a letter of explanation. The letter was read at the hearing wherein he denied many of the allegations, noting that he “wished that those charges might have been deferred until after my interview with President Joseph Smith” (Oliver Cowdery to Edward Partridge, April 12, 1838, as cited in Donald Q. Cannon and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., Far West Record: Minutes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1844 [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983], 164). Testimony was heard from several persons including John Corrill, John Anderson, Dimick B. Huntington, George Hinckle, George Harris, and David W. Patten. Much of the testimony centered on Cowdery’s practice of law. Testimony included charges that he “had been influential in causing lawsuits in this place, as a number more lawsuits have taken place since he came here than before,” that he “went on to urge lawsuits as even to issue a writ on the Sabbath day also, that he heard him say that he intended to form a partnership with Donaphon who is a man of the world,” and that he “wanted to become a secret partner in the store” so he could act as an attorney and collect debts (Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 166–67). At the conclusion of the hearing, three of the nine charges were rejected or withdrawn. All the others were sustained, including the charges related to his legal activities, justifying his excommunication (Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 169).
  9. Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 165–66. Cowdery started the letter noting that “his understanding on those points [the charges] which are grounds of difference opinions on some Church regulations” (Cannon and Cook, Far West Record, 164). His feelings at the time were more openly expressed to his brother, Warren and Lyman in a letter dated February 4, 1838, where he commented about the upcoming council: “My soul is sick of such scrambling for power and self aggrandizement by a pack of fellows more ignorant than Balaam’s ass. I came to this country to enjoy peace, if I cannot, I shall go where I can” (Oliver Cowdery to Warren and Lyman Cowdery, February 4, 1838, Huntington Library).
  10. Jeffrey N. Walker, “Oliver Cowdery’s Legal Practice in Tiffin, Ohio,” in Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery, ed. Alexander L. Baugh (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009), 295–326. [1]
  11. Cowdery to Brigham and the Twelve, 25 December 1843; emphasis in original.
  12. "Them" referred to the addressees of his response, namely Elders Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, William Smith, Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, and George A. Smith. During his troubles in Far West, 1837–38, Oliver Cowdery was not oppressed by any of these men.
  13. Actually a letter (ca. 18 June 1838) addressed to the leading dissenters (i.e., Oliver Cowdery, John and David Whitmer, W. W. Phelps, and Lyman E. Johnson). This document warned Cowdery and others to depart Far West with their families within 72 hours or "a more fatal calamity shall befall you." A copy of the letter was published as evidence in Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &c., 103–06. Sidney Rigdon is suspected as the letter’s author. For balanced context to this incident, see Alexander L. Baugh, "Dissenters, Danites, and the Resurgence of Militant Mormonism," chapter four of "A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri" (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1996), 68–101.
  14. Faulring, Scott "The Return of Oliver Cowdery" (Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: Provo, UT) online at <https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=973&index=1> (accessed 6 December 2018)
  15. Joseph Smith "The Prophet's Letter to the Church" 16 December 1838 in History of the Church Vol 3: Ch 15: P 226 (ed.) Brigham H. Roberts off-site
  16. Ibid, 230-31
  17. Ibid, 231
  18. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 96–98. ISBN 0877478465.
  19. “Several families . . .,” Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, New York) (27 May 1831). off-site
  20. Pomeroy Tucker, Palmyra Courier (24 May 1872); cited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 104. ISBN 0877478465.
  21. Tanner and Tanner, "Roper Attacks Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?" 14.
  22. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 167–170. ISBN 0877478465.
  23. 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 Letter of George A. Smith to Josiah Fleming, 30 March 1838, Kirtland, Ohio.
  24. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 74. ISBN 0877478465.
  25. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 74. ISBN 0877478465.
  26. David Whitmer, interview with Chicago Times (August 1875); cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:23.
  27. David Whitmer, Proclamation, 19 March 1881; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:69.
  28. David Whitmer, Interview with Chicago Tribune, 23 January 1888, printed in "An Old Mormon's Closing Hours," Chicago Tribune (24 January 1888); cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:209.
  29. David Whitmer, Interview, "The Last Witness Dead! David Whitmer, the aged Patria[r]ch, Gone to His Rest. His Parting Injunction to His Family and Friends. He Departs in Peace," Richmond (MO) Democrat (26 January 1888); cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:211.
  30. Jeremy Runnells "Debunking FAIR's Debunking (Debunking FairMormon) July 2014 Revision; The omnibus title of the document in question is "Document Containing the Correspondence, Orders, &C. in Relation to the Disturbances with the Mormons; And the Evidence Given Before the Hon. Austin A. King, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Missouri, at the Court-House in Richmond, in a Criminal Court of Inquiry, Begun November 12, 1838, on the Trial of Joseph Smith, Jr., and Others, for High Treason and Other Crimes Against the State" (Fayette, MO: Boon’s Lick Democrat, 1841), 103–7
  31. For a discussion of these documents, see Stanley B. Kimball, “Missouri Mormon Manuscripts: Sources in Selected Societies,” BYU Studies 14, no. 4 (Summer 1974): 458–87.
  32. Joseph Smith "The Prophet's Letter to the Church" 16 December 1838 in History of the Church Vol 3: Ch 15: P 226 (ed.) Brigham H. Roberts off-site
  33. Ibid, 230-31
  34. Ibid, 231
  35. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (original draft posted on the critical website "FutureMissionary.com") (2013)
  36. See Theodore Besterman, Crystal-gazing: a study in the history, distribution, theory and practice of scrying, London, W. Rider & son, limited, 1924, 123. As they write “What is perhaps the most interesting of these miscellaneous phenomena can be best described as collective scrying, coming under the general head of simultaneous hallucination. In such a case two or more persons simultaneously see approximately the same vision in the speculum. The qualification is necessary, for in none of the best attested and detailed instances of such visions did the scryers see precisely the same vision. This forms the most puzzling of the various aspects of this puzzling matter.”
  37. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 251. (Affidavits examined)
  38. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 41.
  39. John A. Clark, Episcopal Recorder 18 (1840):94.
  40. Tucker, Mormonism, 52.
  41. Testimony of Martin Harris, dictated to Edward Stevenson, Sept. 4, 1870, Stevenson microfilm collection, after journal, vol. 32. Researchers are greatly indebted to descendant Joseph Grant Stevenson for locating and publishing this document in the Stevenson Family History (Provo, Utah: Stevenson Publishing Co., 1955), 1:163-64. Appreciation also goes to Max Parkin for reminding me of the item, no. 1043 in Davis Bitton, Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), p. 146. My text follows my rereading of the microfilm. Martin's view of being baptized right after the first two elders probably refers to events of April 6, 1830.
  42. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 169-170. ISBN 0877478465.
  43. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (original version posted on the critical website "FutureMissionary.com") (2013)
  44. Joseph Smith III visited David Whitmer in 1884, along with a committee from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and several onlookers. According to Joseph III's memoirs, one of the non-believers there was a military officer, who suggested the possibility that Whitmer "had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance or hallucination, which had deceived him into thinking he saw" the angel and the plates. Joseph III's recollection of Whitmer's response is quoted above. See Memoirs of Joseph Smith III, cited in Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Joseph Smith III and the Restoration (Independence, MO: 1952), pp. 311-12. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 88. ISBN 0877478465.
  45. Alma L. Jensen, attested statement, Dayton, Ohio, 1 June 1936, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  46. Jacob F. Gates, "Testimony of Jacob Gates," Improvement Era no. 15 (March 1912), 418–419.
  47. Hilgard, Ernest R. (1965). Hypnotic Susceptibility. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.; Stanford Profile Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  48. Mark Twain, Roughing It, pages 107-115
  49. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Oliver Cowdery," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 3:338.
  50. Susan Easton Black, Who’s Who in the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1997), 208.
  51. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 272. (Affidavits examined)
  52. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 235-236. (Affidavits examined)
  53. Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, 1834), 269. (Affidavits examined)
  54. Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), 128. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  55. "Interview with Joseph Smith III", in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:542.
  56. Parley P. Pratt, A Reply to...“Complete Failure,”...and...“Mormonism Exposed,” (Manchester: W. R. Thomas, 1840), 1-9. off-site Full title