David Whitmer: “Oliver has told you the solemn truth, for we could not be deceived.”

One of the most solid and respected veteran scholars of the Church, the impeccable Richard Lloyd Anderson, gave the Neal. A. Maxwell lecture at BYU on March 20, 2009, where he offered his insights about the authenticity and integrity of the New Testament record. His lecture was just published in the Farms Review of Books, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2009. He points out some serious errors by modern scholars who say that the story of the Gospels are not based on eye-witness accounts but evolved from story-telling over decades. He also turns to the Joseph Smith story, including the First Vision and the Book of Mormon. He is most well known for his work dealing with the latter, for he has been a leader in collecting and analyzing extensive records dealing with the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. His scholarship has amply refuted the allegations of critics regarding the witnesses and has shown with overwhelming evidence that these primary witnesses never denied their witness of the Book of Mormon, even when some had left the Church over other issues, and even when they had nothing to gain and everything to lose for their stand.

One relatively unknown tidbit that Brother Anderson shared comes from an 1871 notebook by William McLellin. The notebook was long missing and only recently acquired by Brent Ashworth. It describes a scene in 1833 when McLellin was being sought by mobs in Missouri, shortly after Bishop Partridge had been tarred and feathered. Armed men were out looking for McLellin and Oliver Cowdery, who were in hiding in woods west of Independence. They met with David Whitmer there, and McLellin recalls his conversation there with two of the Three Witnesses in those dire circumstances, facing death for their religion:

I said to them, “brethren I never have seen an open vision in my life, but you men say you have, and therefore you positively know. Now you know that our lives are in danger every hour, if the mob can catch us. Tell me in the fear of God, is that book of Mormon true?” Cowdery looked at me with solemnity depicted in his face, and said, “Brother William, God sent his holy Angel to declare the truth of the translation of it to us, and therefore we know. And though the mob kill us, yet we must die declaring its truth.” David said, “Oliver has told you the solemn truth, for we could not be deceived. I most truly declare to you its truth!!” Said I, boys I believe you. I can see no object for you to tell me falsehood now, when our lives are endangered.”

The faithful and adamant testimony of the Book of Mormon from every witness of the gold plates, to the end of their lives, is one of the most insurmountable barriers yet to be scaled by those who claim there were no plates, no angel, no divine record translated by the power of God, but merely a fraud concocted by a charlatan. As one observer (can you remind me who?) quipped, it’s one thing to talk about seeing an angel, but it’s quite a different thing to introduce him to your friends.

Here is the Testimony of the Three Witnesses, three honorable and respected men who experienced the miracle of the Angel Moroni showing them the gold plates and declaring that it was of God.


Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery

David Whitmer

Martin Harris

There were others also, such as the Eight Witnesses, who saw the plates under less miraculous conditions and testified of their reality, never departing from that. So who were these witnesses, and what is the importance of their persistent, consistent, and insistent eyewitness accounts? It’s worth considering.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

71 thoughts on “David Whitmer: “Oliver has told you the solemn truth, for we could not be deceived.”

  1. I went to BYU in September 1964, directly off my mission, and was in Hyrum Andrus' ward (he was bishop). He told us that when he submitted his doctoral dissertaion, he included the both testimonies of the witnesses; the committee insisted he remove the 8 Witnesses testimony, which he refused to do. He explained that it was much harder to refute that one since it has nothing mystical about it. Before that I'd always thought that the 3 Witnesses' testimony was the more powerful of the two; but to the world it isn't.

  2. Jeff,

    The Bible is authoritative. It is the measuring stick against which we measure other "revelations" or "scripture" to determine the veracity of such claims. This post is aimed at relegating the Bible to a position lower than the BOM, which is seen as heretical in nature by Christians.


  3. I don't know of any LDS, who know anything about the LDS church, who say that the Bible is LESS than the Book of Mormon in importance. In fact, the Book of Mormon testifies that the Bible is the word of God, and that if you believe the Bible you will believe the Book of Mormon and if you believe the Book of Mormon you will believe the Bible. In our Standard Works the Bible is on the same level as the other three scripture works in importance. In our adult Sunday School classes we spend one year studying the Old Testament, (which we are doing this year), the next year we study the New Testament, the third year we study the Book of Mormon, and the fourth year we study the Doctrine and Covenants. Then we start over the next year. We have done this for many years. Which does not mean we ignore the other scriptures in any one year. The Bible is ALWAYS used in our lessons, church talks, etc. I'm sorry some have decided on their own that we treat the Bible shabbily. We do not! In fact, I daresay you will find, as many others do, that when you learn how highly we hold the Bible in esteem and believe its words, you will find that we believe far more of the Bible than most people not of our faith. We believe all that was translated correctly in the Bible. Do you believe the parts which were not translated correctly? We also understand the purpose, necessity, and the importance of Jesus Christ in the entire history of mankind from the premortan existence, to this mortal existence, and to the life hereafter. He is pre-eminent in all and is truly the living Son of the Living God.

  4. Geraldine,

    I know you really mean what you say, and I don't want to discount your passion on the subject. If the Bible were indeed authoritative for the LDS Church, however (I know, you probably knew a "however" was coming), you would not believe many of its tenets that are directly the outcome of the teachings of JS. You wouldn't believe that God was a created being who worked His way to Godhood. You see, such a teaching isn't biblical; therefore, if you were really to esteem the Bible as highly as you do, you would have reject such a teaching. The Bible doesn't teach that marriage is a new covenant; in fact, it teaches that the New Covenant is Jesus Christ Himself. There can't be another "new" covenant, can there? If the Bible were indeed authoritative for you, you would also have to reject the "new and everlasting covenant of marraige." I know it sounds good, but it's not biblical–which is all I'm trying to say. You see, the Bible is indeed relegated to a status that is less than it should be–it should be the authority against which you measure any "new" prophecies or scripture. The truth of the matter is that your leaders have more authority than the Bible. If there is a contradiction, then the Church will side with the leader rather than the Bible. The Church will take the teachings of D&C over the teachings of the Bible. So, I think you might want to rethink your position regarding how authoritative the Bible is for the LDS Church. When you make such comments as "We believe all that was translated correctly in the Bible," you basically utter a false assumption, which is that the Bible has not been translated correctly. You can do that if you wish; it is your prerogative to believe however you want. I, on the other hand, am compelled to point out the reality of the situation despite the fact that Mormons will not agree with me. You see, the Bible contains everything one needs to know to be saved and live eternally in the presence of God. That's a basic Christian presupposition that is not shared by those of the LDS faith. I'm sorry, but the LDS faith needs to operate from the premise that God CANNOT preserve His word. And, with regard to the Mormon position that mighty precious things have been taken out of the Bible; well, I guess you could say that if what was taken out had to do with eternal polygamy and becoming gods. I don't think evil men would take out those parts. More than likely, they would take out the parts that said repent, trust in the LORD, love the LORD, and love neighbor as self. So, I have to reject that argument made by the LDS Church.

    FYI, I have read all the standard works of the Church, and used to believe they were true. But, when measured against the inerrant Word of God, I had to reject the whole lot of them because I had to reject JS as a prophet of God. The gospel he taught is not the gospel of Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible. You can find out for yourself, as well. I pray that you will.


  5. ++ awesome historical tidbit. If only it could have had a more lasting impact on Brother McLellin…

    anon@11:45 — how does this passage (the only one in the post that mentions the Bible) aim to relegate the Bible to a lower position than anything?

    [Anderson] points out some serious errors by modern scholars who say that the story of the Gospels are not based on eye-witness accounts but evolved from story-telling over decades.

    Also, the atheist's advocate in me wants to know who is this "we" who got to decide the Bible is the authoritative reference for truth and revelation, and how did "we" come to that conclusion?

    (I know how *I* came to that conclusion, but apparently you reject that method so there must be some other way)

  6. Peace Anon, the post was not aimed at dissing the Bible. Indeed, it begins by mentioning Dr. Anderson's evidence-based defense of the authenticity of the New Testament in the face of popular attacks by modern scholars.

    If all people need is the Bible and nothing more, why didn't Christ teach that to his people? Why did he organize a Church and ordain apostles to lead it and create other offices? Why did He continue giving revelations and guiding the Church through changes such as the expansion of the ministry to the Gentiles, after His death?

    Is the Bible the final authority – or is it God? Which one do we look to for all truth? The Bible, wonderful as it is, is subject to printing errors, translation errors, errors of interpretation, and challenges from conflicting sources and texts in the absence of the original documents. I don't see how, at any practical level for us today, we can treat the versions we have as inerrant and all sufficient.

    If you believe in Bible that is inerrant and one that is so perfect and complete that no further revelation from God is needed, could I ask which version of the Bible might that be? Could it be the scriptures that Timothy knew since he was a child, which would be the Septuagint, in Greek? Or would it be the Targum? Or would it be the Syriac canon? Or would it be one of the other various canons that have been accepted by Christian groups over the centuries? Perhaps it is the Vulgate, including the Apocrypha? Or do you feel that some of those volumes should be subtracted from the canon to give the canon currently in use by Protestants today? We use that one too, and recognize as the Word of God, but also recognize the potential for loss and human error in anything that goes through human hands.

    Now if you mean the current Protestant canon when you speak of the Bible (whether we can defend that choice of books as the "one true" canon or not), may I also ask which translation you use? Because there are such major differences between various translations in some passages, that if we are to put all our trust in a Bible as the ultimate, final, only authority that is inerrant and all sufficient, I would sure hate to use a translation that gets some things wrong. Yes, of course I ask these questions rather rhetorically, but I hope you get the serious point I am trying to make. . . .

    So which Bible and which translation is the true, all sufficient, inerrant one? And then, can you tell me by what means this important truth was revealed to the world? A fair question to ask since all revelation ceased with the last writer of the New Testament, right?

    The principle of sola scriptura, not being found in the Bible, is one that, in my view, was either crafted by men or revealed by God. But since it seems to preclude post-Biblical revelation, I struggle to understand the origins of this recent doctrine, and the origins of the divine seal of approval on whatever Bible it is that you have determined to be the inerrant, complete, all-sufficient version.

    Both the earliest Christians and the modern Latter-day Saints cherish the scriptures we have inherited, but recognize that God, not a printed book, is the ultimate authority, and that he can and surely does continue to guide His Church through ongoing revelation through apostles and prophets, just as Christ organized the original Church to do.

    This is a huge and painful paradigm shift for modern Christians to get their arms around, but the concepts we are talking about are truly biblical and divine, while the modern arguments justifying the lack of ongoing revelation are arguments of necessity but not of validity. The exciting thing is that the Ultimate Authority lives and speaks today as in days of old, and has restored a Church with his authority on the earth, including the ability to receive true revelation as needed.

  7. Jeff,

    Excellent! Thank you for taking the time to respond with a well thought-out defense. I don't want to respond with anything less, and it's late–so I will get back to you in the next day or two.

    I think this is a serious discussion that is at the heart of the conflict between Mormons and Christians. We don't operate from the same presuppositions regarding the biblical text, and it's why all other discussions on any other topic go haywire.

    I don't know how it happened, but when I signed in as jackg, it came out as anonymous. I don't know what I did wrong. Anyway, I'm the same jackg who has visited here from time to time. I don't want anyone to think i'm being sneaky. So, if this comes off as anonymous, you'll know I tried.:-)


  8. Peace-anon:

    Now you know how the Jews felt when the Christians came out with the "New" Testament, and by calling it "Scripture" elevated it higher than the "Old" Testament, thereby "dissing" the Old Testament.

    "The Law and the Prohets" (Genesis through Malachi) is the Standard by which all other revelation and scripture must be judged. And that which contradicts "The Law and the Prophets" must therefore be rejected.

    How do YOU defend the "New" Testament against such accusations made by the Jews who put "The Law and the Prophets" (Old Testament) above all?

    That sir, would likely be how "Restoration Christians" (Mormons) defend against such accusations who put the Old and New Testaments "above all".

    Just as God revealed more in Old Testament times by sending new prophets over the years, He revealed more in New Testament times by sending new prophets and apostles. God is merely repeating His pattern with modern prophets, modern apostles and modern scriptures.

    If you reject the Book of Mormon a priori for being "new" scripture, then you're on the same footing (or at least repeating the same pattern) as the Pharisees who rejected the New Testament prophets/apostles and their writings as "new" scripture.

    History is repeating itself, and "creedal Christians" (ie, Nicean Creed-believers) are now in the same boat as the Pharisees of old.

  9. bookslinger,

    What have your modern prophets done for you? They have put forth doctrines that need to be trumped by the next leader. Where's BY teachings? Gone. Otherwise, you would still be running around and telling everyone that Adam is our god. Where's JS teaching regarding polygamy? Gone.

    What you fail to understand is that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the OT. Everything one needs to know to be saved is in the Bible. Show me where I am wrong in that statement.

    The major difference between the NT and the Mormon writings is that the NT is the product of true apostles who fought against first century heresies and who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. Mormon writings are the product of a false prophet who preached a god as a created being. Imagine that, the Creator being a created being. Sorry, BS, but such teachings about God is heretical–no way of getting around that. So. go ahead and champion your "prophets." You see, they are exactly that–your prophets, not God's prophets.

    As for feeling as the Pharisees felt? That's a pretty big leap of hyperbole to try and prove your point.


  10. I don’t find this entry from Brother Lindsay especially impressive. What constitutes evidence and what significance has a story of seeing an angel? I have read the book about McLellin that Signature Books recently published. This episode is mentioned in the book and there is no doubt about that the recounted episode had a deep impact on brother McLellin. When an evaluation of this episode in Church history is conducted one needs to begin with some observations.

    1. It does not exist, to my knowledge, any verified and well documented encounter between a human being and an angel. There is also no scientific support for such claims and lets be honest here. Has anyone reading this seen an angel? What about you, Jeff Lindsay? We do however know about many similar unsupported claims from people belonging to many different churches and religions.

    2. Both Oliver Cowdery and William McLellin were persons who believed in the possibility of Angelic ministration and other supernatural phenomena such as treasure hunting, glass looking, peep stones etc. McLellin, to his disappointment, never had a vision of his own. Cowdery however had some visionary experiences together with Joseph Smith. There are strong reasons to believe that Cowdery as a result of strong conviction, deep meditation and great influence from the charismatic Mormon prophet really believed that he had a vision (The Three Witness). If you read about the background to the claimed manifestation it is clear that it was an individual experience combined with strong expectations. There are also strong reasons to expect that the circumstances led to some kind of ecstatic experience possibly resulting in some kind hallucination. Martin Harris whom initially failed to see anything went away alone with the prophet (usually an unknown fact among members, who tends to believe that they all saw the vision together).

    The fact suggests that Cowdery could have been in excitement and perhaps the brain fooled to see something that actually never happened. The brain is an unreliable companion of ours. We cannot always trust what we see, or what we experience is always correct. The vast majority of brain research supports the conclusion that no angel appeared and that it all was about imagination. In a court room testifying of this kind would be considered as null and void. Cowdery and Whitmer would be judged as probably honest but highly unreliable witnesses.

    In summary. This recited history is worth absolutely zero when it comes to the authencity of the Book of Mormon. It does however teach us a lot about humanity and organized religion.

    From Tramper whom still enjoy reading the Book of Mormon – as fiction.

  11. Let's get to the bottom line; Mormonism is another gospel, period. It bears no resemblance to what is taught in the Bible and proclaimed by the apostles and those whom they taught. In his letter to the Galatians we have the verse that pretty much sums up the Mormon testimony; "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Gut even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:6-8)
    I would suggest that folks read Grant Palmer's book "An Insiders View of Mormon Origin" regarding the hocus pocus that Joseph Smith and friends were into. If you want to believe the testimony of guys who ran around in the middle of the night with magic seer stones attempting to find buried treasure, that's your choice. These guys were into "second sight vision" which is an occult practice of trying to peer into the spirit world. I have no doubt that they could have conjured-up a spirit/angel. Also take a look at a man by the name of Messmer who had a technique named after him Messmerism. He was very talented at providing "spiritual" experiences for the willing.
    Before I'd latch on to someone's "testimony" of having seen angelic beings, I'd do some investigating of spiritual phenomenon. Start with Bernadette of Lourdes. She was visited by the Virgin Mary. She was exhumed a couple of times after her death and her body was in pristine condition, no decomp. If you go out to the website, they have her body on display under glass. It's perfect.
    So what does that mean? Does it testify that the Catholic Church and its veneration of Mary is endorsed by God?
    Look, I've made a study of this type of thing and can provide countless examples. The bottom line is that Jesus warned us about false prophets with false claims. Examine very carefully what Joseph Smith taught and ask if it is consistent with Biblical teaching. It's that simple. I'm unimpressed with folks and their visions and revelations. I have a high bar that someone has to get over before I would take such a report as accurate and true.

  12. @ Anonymous 7:11AM,

    You're using David Hume's argument. Nice. Hard to improve on Hume.

    @ Anonymous 8:33AM,

    If you're unimpressed with folks and their visions and revelations, why would you be impressed with the Bible?

  13. Brigham Young's teachings gone? Wow. Talk about hyperbole.

    BY's teachings were recently featured in a Priesthood/RS manual within the past 10 or so years, in the series "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church".

    Far more teachings of Moses have been superseded than those of Brigham Young.

    Even some the teachings of Paul have been superseded. Does your church allow women to speak in church or to go to church without a head-covering? If so, you're ignoring Paul's teaching that women should keep silent in church and keep their head covered.

  14. Okay, BS, so you're saying the Church once again believes in the Adam/God doctrine. I didn't know that. Or, is it like I said, such teachings are gone? Nice try.

    P.S. So there's no confusion, I only signed on as anonymous (by accident) on the first two anonymous postings before letting you know I'm jackg. I say this because another anonymous has followed my jackg posts. Thanks!


  15. To Anon, at 8:33 AM, January 20, 2010:

    No, -your- church is the "other gospel."

    If your church doesn't stone adulterers as it plainly states in the Old Testament, then you're going in contravention of what God plainly told Moses.

    By taking away stoning, and adding this "New" testament thing by tacking it onto the "Law and the Prophets" and publishing it all in one book, you've plainly broken the commandment in Deuteronomy 4:2 about not adding to or taking away from the book!

  16. jackg: Excuse me, I thought you could read. My bad. Either that, or you're not operating in good faith here, and knowingly twisting Mormon doctrine.


  17. Bookslinger,

    Why the insults? Are you desperate in your defense of Mormonism?

    As for your reference to stoning adulterers…I guess you haven't read the New Testament.


  18. Anonymous–Adam was the first Christian–though most professing Christians don’t know or believe that, since they believe Christianity didn’t start until Jesus came and proclaimed it–and he was taught the Gospel in its fullness, as were the following prophets and the people, until they rejected it and were given the lesser Law of Moses.

    Since the days of Adam, whenever a prophet has said something considered to be new, many of the people have rejected it, saying that it was false since the real, dead prophets didn’t say that and we follow them. When Jesus came, did He say anything really new that previous prophets hadn’t already said? How do we know that, when we don’t have their complete records? The Jews rejected Jesus for His “new” sayings and commandments, and then killed Him for it, as they’d done to the prophets before Him.

    It’s amazing that only the long-dead prophets are the ones who are believed by the professing faithful–whenever they happen to live–and they reject what living prophets say, pretending to follow only the dead ones (who were rejected by those living among them!).

    We don’t like current prophets because their statements hit too close to home, making it hard to love them; whereas, the long dead prophets are easier to love and follow since their teachings might not specifically refer to our needs and problems, and they are thus easier to ignore as we pretend to follow them.

    And, then we have the problems of Moses and the Burning Bush, with the Voice speaking to him, conjured up in his frenzied mind; Balaam imagining that his donkey spoke to him, and then he saw an angel and talked to him–what a frenzied, imaginative mind; Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, seeing the angelic beings appearing then; Paul being caught up into the third heaven and seeing unspeakable things (including angelic beings?). That seems to destroy his credibility and all arguments made using Paul’s statements); Jesus talking to Satan (another angelic being, having only been manufactured by His mind)–these episodes, and others not mentioned here, discredit all of them, so there is no one left to believe; so, how can any intelligent, thinking person believe anything in the Bible–with all of those hallucinations from the top authorities down–and state that the Bible is infallible? According to this way of thinking, the Bible is just trash–unless we ignore a good portion of it as we see fit to do in our great wisdom and understanding of the scriptures!

  19. Well it would seem that Mormons are more comfortable in testing truth by the reports of spiritual manifestations and revelations then in trusting the revealed Word of God, the Bible. I'm all for spiritual manifestations and revelation as long as there is a standard by which to judge them.
    If a guy with a magic rock comes up to me testifying to all sorts of visions and revelations that he has received, I test it. I've tested Joseph Smith and the prophets of Mormonism and they are false prophets. Mormons have their own brand of revelation which is a little like roulette. Just spin the wheel, drop the ball and see what color and number come up. The house always wins. It's true ignorance that keeps someone in Mormonism.
    The foundation of Mormonism is the occult. Pick-up a copy of "Temple Manifestations" by Mormon Joseph Heineman. It's got some real "deep" spiritual truths that Mormons can hang their hats on. Let's have a go of it on page 69.
    President Wilford Woodruff in March 1877.
    "….The dead will be after you, they will seek after you as they have after us in St. George. They called upon us, knowing that we held the keys and power to redeem them…..those men who laid the foundation of this American Government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men. General Washington and all the men that labored for the purpose were inspired of the Lord…….every one of these men that signed the Declaration of Independence with General Washington called upon me, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Temple at St. George, two consecutive nights, and demanded at my hands that I should go forth and attend to the ordinances of the house of God for them."
    WOW! Isn't that cool. Dead people are appearing to him. And not just any real live dead people. These are the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Man, can you dig it? It just proves that the LDS church is true because real live dead people are showing-up demanding to become Mormons.
    No thank you! I'm not interested in the spirits of dead people manifesting themselves to me. It's called necromancy and is forbidden by the Bible. But hay, why do you need the Bible anyway. It's just going to spoil all this really neat spiritual stuff.
    Mormons need to wise up and see that what they are tapping into lives on the dark side of the spirit world.

  20. Here is some interesting information about the Book of Mormon "Three Witnesses" that I think we should all know about.

    “During 1837 there were intense financial and spiritual conflicts in Kirtland, Ohio. Martin Harris later said that he ‘lost confidence in Joseph Smith’ and ‘his mind became darkened’ (quoted from Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, page 110). He was released from the high council in September 1837 and three months later was excommunicated.” (Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks, Ensign, May 1999)

    Like Martin Harris, David Whitmer later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his fleshly eyes: He said he saw the plates “by the eye of faith” handled by an angel. (Palmyra Reflector, March 19, 1831)

    Cowdery, was excommunicated for this and other “crimes”. Whitmer was also excommunicated the same year. (History of the Church, Vol.3, pp.16-18)

    David Whitmer would also like for us to know this:

    “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spoke to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to undo me, so should it be done unto them.’ In the spring of 1838, the heads of the church and many of the members had gone deep into error and blindness.” (David Whitmer, An Address To All Believers, page 27)

    What did Joseph Smith think about David Whitmer and the other two BoM witnesses?

    Joseph Smith refers to David Whitmer as a “dumb ass to ride” and that “he brays out cursings instead of blessings. (History of the Church, Vol.3, p.228).

    Joseph Smith states: “Such characters as David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” (History of the Church, Vol.3, p. 232).

  21. What about those golden plates?

    March 25, 1838: Martin Harris, in the Kirtland Temple, states that none of the witnesses had physically seen or handled the plates, that they had not seen the plates with their “natural eyes” but rather their “spiritual eyes”. (Joseph Smith Letterbook, Vol.2, pages 64-66, LDS archives, Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol.2, page 291)

    No wonder Martin Harris was excommunicated and not very popular among the LDS faithful.

    William Smith couldn't see them:

    “I was permitted to lift them as they laid in a pillow-case but not to see them, as it was contrary to the commands he had received. They weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgment” (William Smith, as cited by Francis W. Kirkham, A New Witness for Christ in America 2:417)

    This description of supposedly gold plates doesn't measure up neither in weight nor it's descriptoin. Sounds more like tin that has been cut. Anyway, LDS historian states in his book:

    “Amidst the comings and goings, Joseph took up the translation again. Emma wrote his dictation most of the time, although she says her brother Reuben Hale helped. Emma had none of Martin’s trouble in believing Joseph. When the plates were not in her red morocco trunk, they lay on the table wrapped in a linen table cloth. ‘I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table,’ she later told Joseph Smith III, ‘tracing their outline and shape. They seemed pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.’ She occasionally moved them around on the table as her work required it” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, pp. 95-96)

    Did they really see the plates with their natural eyes or their "spiritual eyes"? You be the judge:

    “…there is a possibility that the three witnesses saw the plates in vision only, for Stephen Burnett in a letter written in 1838, a few weeks after the event, described Martin Harris’ testimony to this effect: Burnett reported Harris saying that he had ‘hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain.’ In the revelation given the three witnesses before they viewed the plates were told, ‘it is by your faith that you shall view them’ and ‘ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith Jr. has seen them, for it is by my power that he has seen them.’ There is testimony from several independent interviewers, all non-Mormon, that Martin Harris and David Whitmer said they saw the plates with their ‘spiritual eyes’ only. Among others, A. Metcalf and John Gilbert, as well as Reuben P. Harmon and Jesse Townsend, gave testimonies to this effect. This is contradicted, however, by statements like that of David Whitmer in the Saints Herald in 1882, ‘these hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel.’ But Z.H. Gurley elicited from Whitmer a not so positive response to the question, ‘did you touch them?’ His answer was, ‘We did not touch nor handle the plates.’” (Marvin S. Hill, “Brodie Revisited: A Reappraisal,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol.7, No.4, pp. 83-84)

    How convenient that supposedly God's Word had to be hid from the people that He died for so they could have atonement:

    “Lucy Harris [Martin Harris’ wife] pled for a glimpse of the plates and even offered payment. Joseph told her, as he had told all the villagers, that he was forbidden to show them.” (Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p. 62; [brackets mine])

    “[Isaac Hale] I was allowed to feel the weight of the box and they gave me to understand, that the book of plates was then in the box – into which, however, I was not allowed to look.” (Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, p. 63)

  22. More on the golden plates:

    Does the description below match the version that is put out by the LDS Church in how the Book of Mormon was translated? Joseph wasn't looking at the plates? He was using a seer stone in a hat? Why were the plates still covered? Why were the plates needed at all? You decide:

    “When Martin Harris had taken dictation from Joseph, they at first hung a blanket between them to prevent Harris from inadvertently catching a glimpse of the plates, which were open on a table in the room. By the time Cowdery arrived, translator and scribe were no longer separated. Emma said she sat at the same table with Joseph, writing as he dictated, with nothing between them, and the plates wrapped in a linen cloth on the table. When Cowdery took up the job of scribe, he and Joseph translated in the same room where Emma was working. Joseph looked in the seerstone, and the plates lay covered on the table. Neither Joseph nor Oliver explained how translation worked, but Joseph did not pretend to look at the ‘reformed Egyptian’ words, the language on the plates, according to the book’s own description. The plates lay covered on the table, while Joseph’s head was in a hat looking at the seerstone, which by this time had replaced the interpreters.” (Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, pp. 71-72)

    “When he [Joseph Smith] ‘translated’ the Book of Mormon, he did not read from the gold plates; he looked into crystals of the Urim and Thummim or gazed at the seerstone. The words came by inspiration, not by reading the characters on the plates…Joseph translated Abraham as he had the characters on the gold plates, by knowing the meaning without actually knowing the plates’ language.” (Rough Stone Rolling, pages 291-292)

    More problems for the beloved David Whitmer:

    Like Martin Harris, David Whitmer later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his fleshly eyes: He said he saw the plates “by the eye of faith” handled by an angel. (Palmyra Reflector, March 19, 1831)

  23. David Whitmer has some more that he would like to tell us:

    “With this stone all of the present Book of Mormon was translated.” (David Whitmer, Des Moines Daily News, October 16, 1886)

    “By fervent prayer and by otherwise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange, oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone, about the size of an egg, only more flat, which, was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing Urim and Thummim. With this stone all of the present Book of Mormom was translated.” (David Whitmer, Saints’ Herald, Nov. 15, 1962, page 16; Chicago Inter-Ocean, October 17, 1886)

    Mormon apostle Russell Nelson stated in the July 1993 issue of the Ensign:

    “The details of this miraculous of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote: ‘Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness [see 2 Nephi 26:23 – God doesn't do His work in the dark] the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principle scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.’” (David Whitmer, An Address of All Believers in Christ, 1887, page 12)

    We need to know this about Joseph Smith's peep/seer stone:

    “The Prophet also had a seer stone which was separate and distinct from the Urim and Thummim, and which (speaking loosely) has been called by some a Urim and Thummim.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 818)

    “In imitation of the true order of heaven whereby seers receive revelations from God through a Urim and Thummim, the devil gives his own revelations to some through peep stones or crystal balls.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 565-566)

    “This seer stone is now in the possession of the Church.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, page 225)

    “The statement has been made that the Urim and Thummim was on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated. The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the seer stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is now in the possession of the Church.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, p. 225)

    “The temple at Manti was dedicated in May, 1888. First there was a private dedication of it on the 17th by President Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon and a number of the Twelve Apostles, among them Lorenzo Snow, president of the quorum…One item mentioned by President Woodruff about the private dedicatory services at Manti is of more than passing interest. ‘Before leaving,’ he writes, ‘I consecrated upon the altar the Seer Stone that Joseph Smith found by revelation some thirty-feet under the earth (ground), and carried by him through life.’ This is the very Seer Stone that the Prophet Joseph Smith used part of the time when translating the Book of Mormon; the one he took from the well he was digging with his brother Hyrum, near Palmyra, for Mr. Clark Chase” (Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.6, page 230)

  24. Mormon historian and apostle B.H. "Defender of the Faith" Roberts would like to say something:

    “The seer stone referred to here was a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the Prophet found while digging a well in company with his brother Hyrum, for a Mr. Clark Chase, near Palmyra, N.Y. It possessed the qualities of Urim and Thummim, since by means of it – as described above – as well as by means of the Interpreters found with the Nephite record, Joseph was able to translate the characters engraven on the plates.” (Mormon historian B.H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, page 129)

    We also need to know this about Joseph Smith's magic rock:

    “Another event which occurred in the House of God was the consecration of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s Seer Stone upon the altar by President Wilford Woodruff. While addressing a large congregation in Salt Lake City on Sunday, September 4, 1870, Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses and the Prophet’s first scribe, said ‘that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone.’” (Temple Manifestations, Joseph Heinerman, page 120; The Historical Record, Vol.6, page 216, Andrew Jenson)

  25. Andy – I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Anyone familiar with the Old Testament shouldn't be surprised at the translation process employed by Joseph Smith.

  26. Can someone please post some historical documentation of using a seer stone? How does one get one and what properties it has?
    All I can find is that Joseph found the seer stone in a hole he had dug and that it was used throughout his life including for the translation of the BOM.
    What is the historical religious significance of a seer stone in Christianity?

  27. Jeff,

    Your response to me merely proved my point to Geraldine, so I hope she sees that I was speaking the truth when I said the Bible is not authoritative for Mormons. You gave a rather exhaustive list of reasons why it's not authoritative for you. Regarding the various translations, you will never be able to say that the message of salvation history found in the various translations differs. However, one can say that the teachings of JS differs from what the biblical text teaches. Now, what I find to be humorous is JS "translation" of the Bible, which isn't a translation at all. You see, to translate requires documents. What he did was rather audacious–he changed the biblical text to suit his needs. I could do what he did and call it a translation and lead people straight to hell as he did and continues to do. Would that make me a prophet? I don't think so.

    I think it behooves every LDS to study the history of the Church (and I am talking about the true church and not the LDS brand) to see the amazing way in which God, through a fallen humanity, preserved His Word and His Church.

    Just so you know, I read from numerous different translations. Some I like better than others, with KJV near the bottom of the list. My favorite Bible is my NIV with key Hebrew and Greek supports. The NRSV is also very good. But, like I said, the message of salvation history does not change. What does change are the teachings of your "prophets." Otherwise, you would still be practicing polygamy. You know, the most true representation of JS church was the FLDS. We all got to see what JS started.

    Regarding your attempt to denigrade the Bible based on the claim that men have written it, well, I can't help it that God chose to work through a fallen humanity to bring forth His Word. But, hey, that's why it's a God thing: He works through the least likely candidates to show that He is God (read the Book of Judges for ample examples of this) and that He is the One breathing life into the pages that we know as the Bible. Once again, I claim that you work from the faulty premise that God cannot preserve His Word. Another thing about your claim of the Bible being corrupt because men have translated it: are your leaders not men? Are they another species? You see, such a claim is rather ridiculous.

    The problem with Mormonism is that it works from faulty presuppositions. You solidified this claim, as did the other LDS who have responded to my comments. Bookslinger is trying to set a trap by making the case for the need for the NT, which he will then twist to show a need for the BOM and D&C and PGP.

    DK wants to make an appeal to the argument that only dead prophets are listened to by Christians, and that we are not listening to modern-day prophets, but why would I listen to false prophets? I say they're false because their teachings are incongruent with God's revealed Word. But, again, I believe God is able to preserve His Word, and that He has chosen to work through a fallen humanity to prove this. That' the nuts and bolts of this debate.

    So, thank you for proving to Geraldine that the Bible is not authoritative for you and the LDS Church. I hope she sees that this is exactly what you presented for your argument. You know, at least you don't hide the fact that it's not authoritative for you; I'll give you points in honesty. People like Geraldine are just a bit naive; otherwise, they would make the argument you made. Though your argument sounded pretty good, Jeff, it doesn't hold water because of the sandy premise upon which it's built.

    Praying for you and for all Mormons…

  28. Andy,

    Amazing what high school Church History seminary class can teach you, isn't it (if you weren't asleep that is)?

  29. @ Anonymous 1:21 AM, 1/21/10,

    There are three books that I recommend that helped me to better understand the larger tradition of scrying (including seer stones) in which Joseph Smith was participating: Crystal Gazing by Theodore Besterman; Reunions by Raymond Moody Jr.; Early Mormonism and the Magic World View by D. Michael Quinn. The first two books aren't too scholarly, but they did open my eyes (no pun) to the prevalence of scrying throughout history. The third book is more scholarly and deals with the mixing of Christianity and folk magic.

    For a different point of view, there's another book called Seers and Seer Stones by Ogden Kraut.

    As for how one gets a seer stone, you just pick one up from off the ground. I'm not kidding. Or if you feel like spending money, you can buy some shiny ones from All Things Wiccan. What properties does a seer stone have? Aside from the geological, nothing special. The mystical properties come from the mind of the seer.