Criticism of Mormonism/Books/An Insider's View of Mormon Origins/Use of sources/Redefining the "witnesses"

Table of Contents

Use of sources: Redefining the witnesses of the gold plates

A FairMormon Analysis of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, a work by author: Grant Palmer

The Quotes

An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, page 195

  • The book makes the following claim:

Far removed from our own modern empiricism, the world view of the witnesses is difficult for us to grasp. The gold plates they saw and handled disappeared when placed on Cumorah's ground.[54] The witnesses believed that a toad hiding in the stone box became an apparition that struck Joseph on the head.[55] (emphasis added)

The References

Footnote 54

  • Dean C. Jessee, ed., "Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History," BYU Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 30-31
  • Lucy Smith, History of Joseph Smith, 83-88
  • Affidavit of Willard Chase, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 242 quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:67.

Footnote 55

  • Benjamin Saunders, interview by William H. Kelley (an RLDS apostle), 1884, in William H. Kelley Collection, "Miscellany 1795-1948," P19/2:44, RLDS Library-Archives quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:137
  • Affidavit of Willard Chase, 11 Dec. 1833, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 242 quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:67
  • Joseph Smith Jr., interview by Joseph and Hiel Lewis, 1828, "Mormon History, A New Chapter about to be Published," Amboy Journal, 30 Apr. 1879, 1
  • Joseph Smith Sr., interview by Fayette Lapham, ca. 1830, in "The Mormons," Historical Magazine 7 (May 1870): 305-6 quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:458-59.

The Problems

Who were the "witnesses" of the gold plates?

We know of the three and eight witnesses of the gold plates. The problem here is that the author has created an entire new class of "witnesses" based upon third-hand accounts. For example, Fayette Lapham recalled an interview with Joseph Smith, Sr. forty years before, and noted that something "struck" Joseph on the breast, "always with increasing force." Willard Chase and Benjamin Saunders told the story of the "toad" hiding in the stone box. None of these men actually saw or handled the gold plates, and in all cases were relating second or third-hand information, sometimes many years after the events occurred.

Answer

In order to convince the reader that the Three and Eight witnesses had a "magical world view," the author promotes individuals who never actually saw or handled the plates to the status of "witnesses," and conflates various second and third-hand accounts of Joseph's attempts to obtain the plates. According to the author, anyone who had a story to tell regarding the plates was a "witness." None of the Three or Eight witnesses ever told a story of a toad as "treasure guardian" of the plates, yet, according to the author, "The witnesses believed that a toad hiding in the stone box became an apparition that struck Joseph on the head."[1]

Notes

  1. ↑ Steven C. Harper, "Trustworthy History? (Review of: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins)," FARMS Review 15/2 (2003): 273–308. off-site