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Saints: The Standard of Truth, Part 9, The 11 Witnesses to the Book of Mormon

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
February 12, 2020 8:16 pm

Saints: The Standard of Truth, Part 9, The 11 Witnesses to the Book of Mormon

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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February 12, 2020 8:16 pm

In this 9th episode, Bill and Eric take a look at the 11 witnesses to the Book of Mormon.

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.1 examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from a biblical perspective viewpoint when Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism research ministry since 1979 Mormonism research ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's viewpoint on Mormonism welcomed this additional viewpoint on Mormonism on your host, Bill McKibben, founder and director Mormonism research ministry with me today is Eric Johnson my colleague MRM we continue looking at a history book produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, its volume 1 titled Saints the standard of truth and although are not going through it chapter by chapter.

There certainly is a lot of information in it that needs to be examined yesterday. We were discussing the section in the book that talks about how the three witnesses saw the plates and as we pointed out with the book does not tell you the documentary history of the church tends to tell you and that is that it doesn't seem like the three witnesses saw tangible plates, but instead saw something in a vision now to bolster that position. We need to also look at the testimony of the eight witnesses and what's interesting is that Mormon historian Marvin Hill when discussing whether or not the three witnesses saw tangible plates makes this interesting statement.

He said the evidence is extremely contradictory in this area but there is a possibility that the three witnesses saw the plates in vision only and this was in his review of no man knows my history. Should you want to check that out. But here is a Mormon historian raising that very same question that we've raised why does it say in the history of the church, volume 1, page 55 that Martin Harris saw the plates in vision the same way that the other two witnesses saw the plates and remembering yesterday show. We mentioned Mary Witmer who claims that she was visited by Moron I learned in that Moron. I pulled out from a knapsack on his back.

The gold plates and showed them to Mary.

Now many Latter Day Saints reading these accounts would say while there's three witnesses and then there's Mary there's four they sold the plates will ask yourself this. Why would you think Mary Witmer would be able to see tangible plates but apparently the three witnesses are allowed to see tangible plates.

They only get to see the plates in vision, and only after they have faith and they pray about seeing them.

This now brings us to the eight witnesses because the eight witness account is on page 75 of the book Saints. In fact, we should probably read that or go ahead.

It says a few days later, the Witmer's joined the Smith family at their farm in Manchester knowing the Lord had promised to establish his words in the mouth of his many witnesses as seen with him good. Joseph went into the woods with his father, Hiram and Samuel as well as four of David Witmer's brothers Christian, Jacob, Peter Junior and John and their brother-in-law Hiram page. Let me just stop either because that list of individuals compose really to families.

Joseph went into the woods with his father.

That would be Joseph Smith, Senior Hiram, his brother Samuel, his brother, as well as four of David Witmer's brothers, Christian, Jacob, Peter Junior and John and their brother in law Hiram page 2 families again. I need to ask the question there at the Witmer farm in Manchester. That's where the translation is taking place in the Witmer cabin it's been re-created. You can go visit it. I've been there. I've seen this port supposedly took place and my question is is why are they leaving the home. The cabin and going out into the woods to see the plates that are on the second floor where the translation was going on. That just seems so odd to me. Maybe it's not very spiritual, and so when you can include prayer as part of this and it's going to perhaps be more acceptable to people as being a spiritual revelation.

Notice the next paragraph on page 75 of Saints, the men gathered at the spot where the Smith family often went to pray privately with the Lord's permission.

Joseph uncovered the plates and show them to the group.

They did not see an angel as a three witnesses had but Joseph let them hold the record in their hands, turn its pages and inspect its ancient writing handling the plates affirmed their faith that Joseph's testimony about the angel and the ancient record was true if you had only that to go by. How could you not assume that they are seeing tangible physical plates at the impression I get in. I'm sure anybody reading that account the way it is on page 75.

They would also assume that they were seen tangible plates but why is it that we have other information that gives us more detail that makes us wonder if that's really true.

I wrote an article and you can find it on It's titled, did the 11 witnesses actually see the goal plates if you want to see this article. It's word 11-witnesses/11-witnesses. This is what I say later comments that could clarify the language used in the testimony of the eight witnesses are scarce, but several historians and researchers recount a statement made by John Witmer that makes their experience sounds similar to the three witnesses. Witmer was excommunicated from the LDS church on March 10, 1838, along with WW Phelps over Cowdrey and David Witmer would also be excommunicated. A month later on April 5, 1839 Theodore Turley challenged John Witmer to either affirm or deny his testimony regarding the goal plates. Witmer responded by saying the plates quote were shown to me by a super natural power and you can find this in the history of the church. Volume 3, page 307, the plates were shown to John Witmer by a supernatural power it does that sound like a supernatural power is included in this story on page 75.

It just sounds like Joseph Smith has the plates and showing them the plates turning the leaves over one by one and also if you look at Joseph Smith.

Rough Stone rolling by Richard bushman, a Mormon historian. He has a very similar story. In fact, it seems very closely written.

I'm sure they probably use some of bushman's material. This is what bushman wrote there just to show them the plates this time without an angel present. They turned over the leaves examine the characters in the workmanship and held the plates in their own hands. They later signed a statement saying that what they had seen and testifying that they knew of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken interest in the it doesn't seem like were getting a full picture of what is taking place and as you mentioned, why would we think that Mary had a better experience than the three witnesses and then why would we think the eight witnesses would've had a better express in the three witnesses. It seems like it would be on the same plane.

That's always troubled me, but yet when you talk to most Latter Day Saints. They just naturally assumed that all of them saw physical plates, but the language becomes very confusing. Now you have other writers that have written about Joseph Smith's history and you have, for instance, Robert and Hollinger on page 133 of his book Joseph Smith's response to skepticism. Hollinger says this he says in 1838 John Witmer left the church and was confronted by Theodore Turley. Now this is the story that I read a little bit earlier on volume 3, page 307 of the history of the church.

Hollinger apparently seems to get the same impression that I got reading that section that something was amiss here that it really wasn't a physical appearance that they saw in these plates that had to be more of a supernatural thing because is going to quote what John Witmer said but you have to remember Theodore Turley is a Mormon. He's not an enemy of the church and Hollinger says 1838 John Witmer left the church was confronted by Theodore Turley, who reminded Witmer that he had published the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith although that is not with the testimony of the eight claims Witmer nevertheless affirms that the plates quote again were shown to me by a supernatural power." But he could not vouch for the translation because he could not read the engravings on the plates Martin Harris publicly denied that the eight witnesses ever saw the plates, the eight pause before in their testimony. He said, and signed only after much persuasion.

That's what Hollinger says now here's what really gets to me. On page 75 Joseph Smith's father, Joseph Smith, Senior is there with these other gentlemen that make up the eight witnesses but yet Marvin Hill, a Mormon historian, records that William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith that William was not there with the eight. He's another brother. The two brothers were Hiram and Samuel that are part of these eight witnesses, but Marvin Hill records that William Smith said that his father and I'm quoting now from an article he wrote in dialogue. Journal of Mormon thought, volume 7, number four, page 84.

William Smith said his father quote never saw the plates except under a frock.

Why is and that brought out in this narrative because it doesn't fit the purpose of what the writers are trying to do their trying to give us the impression that they were real plates that Joseph Smith had in his possession but yet when you look at some of the information behind this story.

You start to see that the way it's worded in the testimony of the three witnesses in the testimony of the eight witnesses isn't quite the way it reads, and yet how often on the streets. Have you had this information given to you that there were 11 witnesses doesn't matter what the weight because we have those 11 witnesses. I've heard that many times that it didn't matter to them at that.

Plates were too heavy. They can answer the questions that I have for them.

But it doesn't matter. As you said because people saw all of them will yes they said they saw them, but just as a person can see things in a vision.

You can't assume that what they're seeing is something that's physical and that's what's important. Did Smith really have goal plates or was he just calling people into thinking he had something like that. Now let me just state up front, I believe he had something that was wrapped up because people did say they felt them. They never really saw what was under the lid and frock are in the box but they knew we had something he must've had something but I don't think it was goal plates. I really cannot believe that this really explains the power of the pen and what the authors here are able to do is get you to assume things that aren't really true and how many Latter Day Saints are going to be critical enough reading this book, which is 1/5 grade kind of writing. It's very simple writing, but I think if you were to read this chapter on fellow servants. I think that this is meant to be faith promoting. And that's exactly what the writers are trying to do.

They want you to really have a confidence that the book of Mormon is true that these witnesses are credible, but let me ask you this, Eric. This book is written, and I have to admit there's a lot of things written in this new narrative that you cannot find in the older narrative sometimes and so I think they're trying to be more transparent if there really trying to be more transparent.

Why did they not include these things in this book. They had a perfect opportunity to say you know there's some controversy over whether or not they saw physical plates, but they don't include it.

So while they are insisting there wanting to be more transparent to the members and the general public.

Here's a case where they clearly are not. Thank you for listening you would like more information regarding his research ministry.

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