Episode 18 – Witnesses? Or Swindlers Syndicate?
On this episode, we focus strictly on the testimonies of the 3 witnesses, and the 8 witnesses. Should we take them at face value and consider them unimpeachable, or is it worth taking a closer look? The quotes seem pretty open and shut at first glance, but let's really dive in to see what lurks under the surface, and discover the naked truth.
Outro music used with permission
John H. Gilbert recollections: http://boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/JHGilbert.html
Dan Vogel, witnesses of the plates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-jNV6jN-VQ
History of the Church 1:54: https://byustudies.byu.edu/hc/hcpgs/hc.aspx
Welcome to Episode 18 of the Naked Mormonism podcast, I'm Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
Last episode covered a lot of information about the plates, and the authorship of the BoM. We started out talking about the newlyweds, Joseph and Emma Hale Smith. They went through a lot of transitions throughout 1827-1829 which was the timeframe we focused on for most of the episode. The main quote that advanced us through the sequence of events was the affidavit of Isaac Hale, Joe's father in law.
We could tell from the content of the quote that Isaac really didn't like Joe, and was pretty distraught about Joe stealing away, and marrying his daughter. Put yourself in Isaac's shoes for a minute. In 1825, this dirty little punkass young man Joseph Smith, dressed in rags, comes to live with you for a few months while working for Bossman Josiah Stowell. He wasn't there to help farm, or work in a coopers shop or something productive, he was just there to stare at a rock in a fuckin hat, and tell a large group of men where to dig to find buried treasure. You watch as Joe and the gang come up empty handed at the end of every digging day, and watch the whole group swindle Bossman Joe out of living expenses and wages, while still never finding anything valuable buried in the ground. Not only that, but the men gave You a note for boarding at your house for $12, which "Has yet to be repaid", quoted 9 years after the incident. How would you feel if you were Isaac in this situation?
Well, this experience probably left a pretty bad taste in his mouth for Joe and his treasure digging buddies, but Joe wasn't satisfied with just leaving Isaac's beautiful daughter alone. Joe frequented back and forth from Palmyra to Harmony to court Emma. This eventually led to one crowning moment that besmirched Joe's name forever throughout the entire Hale family. While the family was away at church one sunday in the summer of 1827, Joe picked up Emma, who was alone at the Hale house, and they eloped in Bainbridge N.Y.
Isaac would forever despise Joe throughout the rest of their relationship, but this wasn't the only reason why. Joe took Emma and made her live in rags, in the already overcrowded, and under-resourced, Smith home, then told Isaac that he wouldn't be looking at Precious in Mr. Hat to find treasure anymore, and that it was all "Damned nonsense", according to Alva Hale, Emma's brother. Then Joe pretended to have the plates, and when he and Emma moved in to the Hale household, he showed Isaac the box that the plates were supposedly in, then continued to repeatedly lie so that Isaac could never actually look at the plates that were in the box. Then, when Isaac told Joe that he couldn't have anything in the Hale house that Isaac, himself, couldn't examine, Joe supposedly hid the plates in the woods, and translated from them while they were outside, and he was inside.
Isaac got fed up with the shenanigans, and kicked Joe and Emma out. But not all the way out, just out of the Hale house. Joe agreed to a $250 mortgage note to be paid to Isaac for Jesse Hale's house, which was on one corner of the Hale property. Joe told Isaac he would repay the debt by working hard, which would have been the most reasonable way to pay off the note.
Joe gave up on his promise of working hard for a living, and continued to work on the plates with NSSM as the first scribe, and a few subsequent scribes after that. Isaac was sick of dealing with Joe's shit and cut him and Emma off from any kind of assistance. I'm guessing there were a few conversations in there about Joe and Emma making adult decisions, like eloping, therefore they needed to act like adults and support themselves.
As life got busier for Joe, what with Marty losing the 116 pages, and having a deformed kid that died a few hours after childbirth, Joe joined the United Methodist church in mid 1828, and halted the translation of the BoM. Fast forward to April 5th 1829, and here enters Oliver Cowdery, or Ollie Cowdung, as we know him. Ollie and Joe translate the plates until their money and supplies dry up. Along came D-Day David Whitmer around June 1st, to move Joe, Emma, Ollie, and Joe's little brother Samuel Smith, to Fayette N.Y., where the authorship of the BoM would be completed.
We finished up last episode talking about the order in which the Book of Mormon was authored, as well as the historical probability of the existence of the plates that comprised the content of the BoM. Basically, there isn't a single thing in any field of research that lends any level of credibility to anything about the entire ancient sectarian metal plate in the Americas story. It almost seems like we can destroy Joe's claims without even opening the BoM, but there's a problem with writing it off so flippantly. There exists contemporary witness testimony of the authenticity of the Gold Plates. If anybody listening isn't familiar with the BoM, you may not know exactly what I'm talking about here.
Well, let's start in on the topic of this episode, the 11 witnesses. Joe couldn't just make wild claims like that of the existence of the Gold Plates, without having some people back up what was in his possesion. Remember, according to Joe, the Angel Moroni regained possesion of the plates, and translators (Urim and Thummim) before the BoM went to print, so Joe wasn't able to put the plates on exhibit along with the BoM for people to see, in order to authenticate the ancient origin of his work. The best thing Joe could do to vindicate his story to the skeptics of the world, was have a bunch of people examine the plates, and publish their testimonies at the end of the BoM.
For a unique perspective of reading these testimonies, listen to the first episode of David Michael's My BoM podcast, because he reads it from the perspective of complete ignorance, and tells what he thinks about the testimonies. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, don't worry, because we're going to read them in their entirety, and deconstruct them in the usual Naked Mormonism way.
There are so many ways to go with this. Normally when I'm researching for an episode, I start with one point, and follow each tangent, and try to bring it all together by the end of the episode. But this research has been like pushing a shopping cart full of puppies through a bacon factory... The tangents and possibile solutions go off in tons of directions, and it's hard to wrangle them into one cogent point. So we're going to start off by just reading the testimonies, and go from there. The testimonies of the 11 are broken up into the 3 witnesses and the 8 witnesses. Let's start with the testimony of the 8 witnesses, as it's less important and will probably take less time than the 3 witnesses.
I'll read it straight through from the current print of the BoM, and then deconstruct it line by line after that.
"Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
Peter Whitmer, Jun.
Joseph Smith, Sen.
Samuel H. Smith"
So, let me start off by qualifying the witnesses. This raises our first problem, and set of questions. You see, when a scientific work is going under review for validation, and correctness, it has to be seen, comprehended, and reproduced by hundreds of peers, before it is considered a scientific fact, or can be called the most likely explanation. Well, historical and ancient artifact research is much the same way.
Let me bring in a current example to shed some light on this. I was just reading a headline that was a total clickable. It was a link to an article talking about a piece of Mark that was found in the paper used for an ancient Egyptian mask in a sarcophogus. Apparently there are archeaologists that have found these ancient masks made out of, basically, ancient paper mache, and they are using a method to dissolve the resin, without destroying the text on the paper that was used to construct the mask. Well, one of the fragments obtained is supposedly a piece of the gospel of Mark, and somebody working on it, dated the fragment to 80 C.E. This may seem like, "what's the big fuckin deal bro?", but it's fascinating because it's very unique. The earliest gospel manuscript we have is estimated to be from about 125 C.E., and it's from an unknown gospel. This manuscript is called P. 52, and it's about the size of a credit card. One random guy that was working on the mask, obviously qualified to do so, dated this piece from the mask to 80 C.E., and was able to determine that it was from the gospel of Mark, which would fall into line with current scholarship that believes Mark to be the earliest gospel written. The headline said, "shocking victory for biblical scholars as new archeaological evidence has atheists up in arms". After reading the article, I'm not really sure why I'm supposed to be up in arms, because it falls perfectly in line with when secular, and christian, bible scholars believe the gospel of Mark to have been written. Now that the discovery has been made, the fragment will be examined by hundreds of scholars and ancient artifact researchers, to determine if it is legitimately the first fragment of any gospel we have from the first century. If it is, and can be authenticated as such, it will truly be a one-of-a-kind discovery, and will be extremely fascinating. Hundreds of books will be written by the scholars that examine the fragment, all relating to the implications of this discovery. But, it takes review, and consensus from hundreds of people in related fields to verify it's authenticity.
The whole reason I brought this up, was to juxtapose it to the quality of the 8 witnesses. Let's review who these witnesses were, and what else they wrote about their chance to examine the plates. The first 4 witnesses are Christian, Jacob, John, and Peter Whitmer Jr. Hopefully the last name rings a bell there. These guys were 4 brothers of D-Day David Whitmer. They were all living together for the last half of the authorship of the BoM in the Whitmer residence in Fayette N.Y. They helped with the translation, and later on became some of the first missionaries that Joe ever called in service of the church. Then, we have Hiram Page, the only person in this list without the last name of Whitmer or Smith. We know very little about Hiram Page, only that he was born in Vermont, and became a member of the church. We don't even know what city. But, this serves to explain the connection between D-Day David, Ollie Cowdung, and Joe Smith. Ollie was the person who baptized Hiram Page, in 1830, once the church was started, meaning Ollie was probably the person in the group that was closest to Page. Being that both Ollie, and Page were born in Vermont, and other connections, we can only assume they were acquainted with each other, and probably friends. Well, Page also married Catherine Whitmer in late 1825. This is probably how Ollie met the Whitmer family, they were his buddie's in-laws. The relationship Ollie and Page had is the vital bridging piece for Joe meeting the Whitmer family, and coming to live with them to finish up writing the BoM.
The only other place that the name Hiram Page has come up was when we talked about him revealing the location of Zion with his black seer stone when Joe was slacking off in the revelation department, in 1831. A lot of people in the church wanted to know where Zion was going to be and Joe couldn't tell them, so Page revealed it for himself. Of course, Joe didn't like this blatantly subversive action and ordered Page's black seer stone crushed into dust, and the revelation destroyed.
The next three witnesses are Joseph Smith Sr. (Big Daddy Cheese), Hyrum Smith, Joe's older brother whom he dearly loved and looked up to, and Samuel Smith, Joe's younger brother who was pretty much just along for the ride. Are we starting to understand the quality of the witnesses that we're working with here?
What I mean is, why the fuck couldn't Joe show the plates to Dr. Mitchell, or NSSMSSSPPP Charlie Anthon, both of Columbia University being ancient, and biblical scholars? They were the first educated scholarly dissenters of Joe's work, and they would have been perfect candidates to authenticate Joe's work. The thing about scholars is, when they study something legitimate, they put a lot of time into it, and document everything just for the pursuit of knowledge. When we compare real scholars to the 8 witnesses here, we find some major discrepancies that seem to shoot a lot of holes in Joe's credibility.
All of the witnesses were related to each other in some way. They didn't each give individual testimonies, rather, Joe drafted up the witness statement and had all of them sign it. Not only that, but the testimony has no exact date/time or setting, and has undergone a major adjustment from when it was originally recorded to what we see in the BoM now. It may seem incidental, but the original testimonies were at the end of the BoM, and the first line in it didn't call Joseph Smith the translator, but rather, the "Author and Proprietor" of the book. This may seem insignificant, but it's still worth asking, why did the church change the original wording of the witness testimony at all? Did they think it wasn't credible enough calling Joe the Author, and instead went with "Translator"? And why did they move the testimonies from the end of the book, to the beginning? Could the book not stand on it's own merits without preempting the reader with the testimonies at the beginning?
With the small changes aside, remember how I said that most scholars record everything they are legitimately studying for the pursuit of knowledge, well, what else do we have from these witnesses, written by their own hand, regarding this examination? I'm much less concerned with what Joe wrote and had them sign, I want to hear what the individuals had to say about the witness, for themselves.
Well, now we really start to run into problems. Christian, Jacob, and John Whitmer Jr., as well as Big Daddy Cheese, Joe's popa, left no known trace of their account of the occurence, aside from their signed statement. You would think that such a monumental occurence in their lifetime would illicit at least a journal entry, but we simply have nothing of the sort. But what about the other 4 witnesses?
Well, we have Hyrum Smith, Joe's brother and one of his closest friends throughout the entirety of the Mormonite religion. He was the first one who died at the Carthage Jail shootout wherein Joe killed 2 guys, and was killed himself. Hyrum was holding the door shut and a bullet smashed through the door and hit Hyrum in the face just below his left eye. Well, that was in 1844. During an earlier stint in jail with Joe and some others in 1839, everybody wrote some letters to the saints from the jail cell they were locked in. This is where we find Hyrum's only other reference to seeing the plates.
“I thank God that I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had born testimony to."
And that's all we have record of. Like I said, if you had seen a set of ancient gold plates with another testament of Jesus written on them in "Reformed Egyptian", wouldn't that be all you could talk about? Wouldn't that have a dramatic impact on your life?
Let's talk about Samuel Smith for a second. This is the only other reference we have from him about handling and seeing the plates. This wasn't even recorded by Samuel himself, it was recounted by a person named Daniel Tyler who attended one of Samuel Smith, and Orson Hyde's proselyting sermons, wherein they preached all about the BoM.
"Elder Smith read the 29th chapter of Isaiah at the first meeting and delineated the circumstances of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, of which he said he was a witness. He knew his brother Joseph had the plates, for the prophet had shown them to him, and he had handled them and seen the engravings thereon. His speech was more like a narrative than a sermon."
I think the last sentence in that phrase holds a bit of significance. "His speech was more like a narrative than a sermon." I can't figure out if Daniel Tyler was pro or anti-Mormon, but the way he describes this meeting seems very unexciting and anti-climatic. It seems only reasonable to think that Samuel Smith would have been rather emphatic and excited if he was indeed recounting a story of one of the most epic and spiritual experience of his life.
Well, Samuel did have one other experience on record that's worth mentioning. He didn't really offer any insight to the authenticity of his gold plate experience, but he apparently bore his testimony about the experience. Which is pretty much no different from what people do about the Book of Mormon in the church today.
This is taken from LDS.org from an article all about Samuel Smith.
"One of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s first actions after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized (sic, it was actually called the Church of Christ when it was first organized) was to call his trusted younger brother Samuel to go forth and preach the restored gospel. Samuel’s attempts to sell copies of the newly published Book of Mormon, with its seemingly incredible story of angels and visions, had met with little success until he arrived at the Tomlinson Inn in April 1830. Samuel Smith gathered his courage, strode boldly into the inn, and walked across the room directly to Phineas Young. Holding out a Book of Mormon to him, Samuel said simply, “There is a book, sir, I wish you to read.” Surprised by the young man’s direct approach, Phineas hesitated a moment, then asked, “Pray, sir, what book have you?” “The Book of Mormon,” said Samuel, “or, as it is called by some, the Golden Bible.” Samuel then testified that the book was a revelation from God and added, “If you will read this book with a prayerful heart, and ask God to give you a witness, you will know the truth of this work.” He requested that Phineas look at the testimony of the witnesses in the front of the book. After doing so and asking the young man his name, Phineas remarked that Samuel was one of those witnesses who testified of seeing and handling the gold plates from which the book was translated.
“Yes,” said Samuel, “I know the book to be a revelation from God, translated by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother Joseph Smith, jun., is a Prophet, Seer and Revelator.” Phineas was intrigued. He bought the book and took it home. Neither Phineas nor Samuel realized that their short meeting at the Tomlinson Inn would later bring about the conversion of a man who would become a mighty prophet of the Lord."
That's right, Phineas Young, met Samuel Smith at this Tomlinson Inn, and bought a BoM from him. If only Sam would have known at that point, the true implications of his actions. If he wouldn't have walked up to that specific man, in that specific bar, Samuel might have been the second prophet of the Church of Christ after Joe. Instead, he died a month after his older brothers were shot in Carthage Jail.
Sorry for the digression from the topic there. Let's talk about Hiram Page's secondary witness of the Gold plates. Well, I couldn't find the exact quote, but apparently he testified only about seeing the plates. He says nothing about hefting them, or manipulating the plates as seems to be portrayed in the official testimony of the 8 witnesses. Like I said earlier, if you had seen and held something this monumental and historically mind blowing, wouldn't you remember the exact circumstances and feelings of the occurence? Wouldn't a person that goes on to proselyte about the BoM remember exactly what happened that day in the woods, and use it as his opening statement when talking to a propective member? Maybe I'm asking questions from ignorance here, because I wasn't there to experience the plates like these guys were, but that's because I'm a jaded millenial. I play with touchscreens all day and drive a fast car. I can access any information I possibly want, at the speed of light, at any given time, and even *I *would find the plates superbly fucking amaze-balls. How could these guys not? I'm even the same age as Joe, and most of these guys were when they were in the woods looking at the plates. Even in my jaded state, this would be the most monumental occurence of my life up to that point, and I wouldn't be able to stop talking about it.
Well let's leave these 7 witnesses behind for a minute to talk about John Whitmer. Of the 8 witnesses, John lived the longest, and left the most on record regarding the plates. This may have something to do with the fact that he was called as the first official church historian in 1831, and lasted as such until his excommunication in 1838, a month before Defection-Day.
Let's read a few things that John Whitmer wrote or said about his experience with the plates.
This was pulled from a Deseret News article written by Mormon apologist/reporter Daniel Peterson, and I couldn't find where he pulled it from, much like Deseret News' usual MO.
"I desire to testify to all that will come to the knowledge of this address, that I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the Book of Mormon is translated, and that I have handled these plates, and know of a surety that Joseph Smith, Jr., has translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. And in this thing the wisdom of the wise most assuredly has perished. Therefore, know ye, O ye inhabitants of the earth, wherever this address may come, that I have in this thing freed my garments of your blood, whether you believe or disbelieve."
That was a pretty cut and dry testimony of what he saw, but let's get a few more quotes to try and get a handle on John Whitmer.
I pulled this quote from moroni10.com which is a Mormon apologist website. I find that some of the best information can be pulled from websites like this once you cut through all the "church is awesome" and "Joseph Smith was a real prophet of God" bullshit.
Let me set the scene for you. It's 1835, and a group of men have a revelation in their hand from Joe himself which seems to be inaccurate. Well, this group of about 50 men are out for blood because they're sick of Joe's prolific bullshit. They had sworn to "not eat or drink until they had murdered Joe", so they were legitimately pissed off. When the storyline comes to this situation we'll discuss it in detail, but for now this setting will do.
John Whitmer was in the group, I'm not sure if he wanted to kill Joe along with everybody else in the group at the time, but I would assume so because he was definitely one of the 50. So all of these guys approach a guy named Theodore Turley, who was a higher up in the church at the time, and asked where they could find Joe, conveying their intentions.
I picture John at the head of the group, and Turley standing up to them and getting in John's face about what was going on, and the interaction is detailed as such.
Turley Said **"There are many things published that they say are true, and again turn around and say they are false?" John, asked, "Do you hint at me?" Elder Turley said, "If the cap fits you, wear it; all I know is that you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith." John replied: "I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. I handled them." Then he described in the presence of these bitter enemies how the plates were fastened and he said, "They were shown to me by a supernatural power."
This seems like quite an interesting back and forth between these church leaders. Basically, Theodore Turley accused the church historian, John Whitmer, of testifying of the truthfulness of something, and then turning around and testifying of it being false. He pretty much called John a devilish little liar with regard to actually seeing and handling the plates. Then, John fires back with an 1835 equivalent of "Are you talkin to me asshole?". Turley lobs back with a quip about John wearing whatever hat fits, effectively calling him a social chameleon. Then, John digs in nice and deep to defend himself against these malicious words. He repeatedly, and emphatically testified of the truthfulness of the plates and tells everybody about his experience with them. Because, let's face it, he couldn't go back on everything he had been doing for the past 6 years of his life, just because this Turley guy was calling him a liar. So what do liars do when they're confronted with the facts? They burrow in, hunker down, and throw up a defensive wall, and I think that's what John did here, when he went way above and beyond what was necessary to defend his testimony of the plates. Let me remind you, this was 3 years before he left the church, this guy was in it, for what he considered, the long haul, no matter what he had to do or say to secure his position, whether that meant lying or telling, what he considered, the truth through his testimony.
Let's examine one of the last testimonies we have from John about the plates. It's in the form of an interview conducted by P. Wilhelm Poulson, in 1878, and it was published about 2 weeks after John died. The interview itself was probably conducted about 6 months before John's death, making it the last thing on record we have from John Whitmer.
"**Q - I am aware that your name is affixed to the testimony in the Book
of Mormon that you saw the plates?
A - It is so, and that testimony is true.
Q - Did you handle the plates with your hands?
A - I did so!
Q - Then they were a material substance?
A - Yes, as material as anything can be.
Q - Were they heavy to lift?
A - Yes, and as you know gold is a heavy metal: they were very heavy.
Q - How big were the leaves?
A - So far as I recollect, 8 by 6 or seven inches.
Q - Were the leaves thick?
A - Yes, just so thick, that characters could be engraven on both sides.
Q - How were the leaves joined together?
A - In three rings, each one in the shape of a D with the straight line towards the center.
Q - In what place did you see the plates?
A - In Joseph Smith's house; he had them there.
Q - Did you see them covered with a cloth?
A - No. He handed them uncovered into our hands, and we turned the leaves sufficient to satisfy us."
_This almost seems like an open and shut, irrefutable testimony of the plates standalone. But, when it's examined in comparison to the testimony of the 8 witnesses and the other testimonies of John Whitmer, there seems to be some problems. _
Let's deconstruct the written testimony in the Book of Mormon as best we can to try and tease out any discrepencies between the official witness statement, and what the witnesses claimed in the years following the publishing of the BoM.
**It starts out "Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the author and proprietor of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken"
**I pause here to bring focus to the style it's written in. People in that day didn't speak in Elizabethan english like the BoM is written in, they talked in much the way extreeeemly uneducated hicks would nowdays. That's why the original BoM has phrases like "the Lamanites were a-comin" and stuff like that, the Elizabethan english just makes it sound authoritative and from God because people were so familiar with the style of the King James Bible. Why the hell is this testimony written in the same way? This is just a witness testimony of the people that saw the book, it should have been written in the way they would be speaking or writing at that time. Well, it's written this way because Joe himself wrote it. You see, Joe had this ability to snap in and out of old english style of speaking, and that's how he differentiated his speaking, from God speaking through him giving divine revelation. Well, this is written in the same, old english manner, and it sounds pretty legit.
**Let's move on to the next line. "which have the appearance of gold;"
_Apologists love this line in the testimony. The question is often raised, if the book of plates were indeed made of gold, how could Joe and others move them around so easily? If they were indeed the dimensions described, they would weigh over 200 lbs, we've gone over this before. How would Joe have been able to carry them through the woods, running at top speed and fending off attackers? How would people be able to "heft" them or move them around on a table, if it should have taken 2 strong men to even budge them? Well, this is the cop-out apologists like to use. "they had the appearance of gold" doesn't mean they were gold. _
The problem with this excuse, as with many other excuses, is Joe. He said that an angel visited him in his room and would give him a book made of plates of pure gold. If a real angel of God says gold, it means gold. It said nothing about appearing gold, nothing about them being a gold alloy to lighten them up, just pure gold. Once again, Joe takes aim at his own foot, and pulls the trigger, while current day apologists try to bandage up the profuse bleeding.
**Next, the testimony said "and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands"
_First thing we need to talk about this is the exact verbiage of "as many of the leaves as the said smith has translated". The Gold plates were massive with two separate partitions. The first portion is what Joe translated from, and it was supposedly the open part of the plates. The second, and larger portion, was supposedly sealed to be translated at a later date. Hingepin Sidney Rigdon was even quoted saying he knows what's in the sealed portion of the plates without ever having seen the plates himself. At the time, he was probably trying to set himself up as a future prophet, but that's neither here nor there. Well, there's absolutely no reference to this specific trait about the plates, it just talks about the witnesses seeing all the plates that Joe supposedly translated from. You would think that the sealed portion would spark somebodys interest. If not during this testimony, then the separate, sealed portion, should at least have been referenced later, but it simply wasn't. None of these supposed witnesses talked about it. _
**The next line is as follows, talking about the plates **"and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship."
**I may be nitpicking here, but how does this uneducated group of dirt poor back-country bumpkins know what ancient work looks like? And what the hell classifies something as being "of curious workmanship"? And why was that specific line, that was initially used to describe the Liahona in the first book of Nephi, used to describe the Golden plates? "Curious workmanship" is one of Joe's favorite catchphrases, when describing something indescribable. Why is this the most detailed description we get of any ancient artifact when it's reported by Joe? Beyond that, did the group really see the "engravings thereon" on the actual plates, or did they see a piece of paper that had some reformed Egyptian written on it? By this standard, NSSMSSSPPP Charlie Anthon saw the engravings thereon just as much as these 8 witnesses did when NSSM brought the caractors manuscript to him, and he was an educated college professor that called bullshit on Joe. It may be all a matter of symantics, and overanalyzing what's in the testimony, but it at least seems like something worth mentioning.
**Let's finish it up "And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it."
**There really isn't much to say about this part, except to draw attention to the almost legalistic nature of the wording. It says "said Smith" twice, in one sentence, and then says the powerful words of "and we lie not". Remember, this statement was written by Joe himself, speaking for the undersigned witnesses.
_When a young child, or anybody for that matter, does something and then lies about it, like taking a cookie from the cookie jar, for example. They say something like "No daddy, I didn't take the cookie, I swear I'm not lying", and any parent knows how paper thin that facade is. It goes the same for most adults as well. When a person emphatically states that they aren't lying, they probably just are. That's why good liars are hard to pin down, because they never tell you I'm not lying to you, they simply spin a web of lies that seem internally coherent, and slowly wrap it around the person they're lying to. _
Well, I think this statement is very symptomatic of Joe doing pulling the "I'm totally not lying" trick. He was a liar by trade, which has become abundantly clear by this point in his life. But, I think the problem he had was, the simple fact that there wasn't enough thread built into the BoM itself by this point, to spin a complete web of lies. There was still some major holes, so, Joe had to try and patch up the holes, by telling anybody that read the witness testimonies that he wasn't lying, and nobody else that saw the plates was lying either. You would think that the book could stand on it's own merits, if it were indeed true.
_There really isn't much more to talk about when it comes to the 8 witnesses. In comparing the official statement in the BoM, to what the witnesses reported individually later on, the connections are paper thin. We also have a problem with the settings when we take into account John Whitmer's 1879 interview. The story reports that Joe led the witnesses into the woods, where the plates were, and the witnesses examined them and signed Joe's written statement. Well, in the interview John said that he saw the plates in Joe's house. The setting doesn't match up at all there. None of the translation happened inside the Smith home, and John couldn't have been referring to Joe's house that Joe bought from his father in law Isaac Hale in Harmony PA, because John didn't even meet Joe until D-Day David Whitmer brought Joe, Emma, Ollie and Sam to live with them in Fayette, NY. The timeline simply doesn't match up, and it's a major discrepancy in John's testimony of the witnessing account. _
_It really says something about the veracity of this entire 8 witness claim if the only witness that left anything substantial behind relating to witnessing the plates contradicted himself, and the reported story about the setting of the plates at the same time. Not only that, but when John was defending himself against Theodore Turley in 1835, he said that he saw the plates by a supernatural power, but in the 1879 interview, he stated that he handled the plates, and that Joe handed the plates to him uncovered so he could see the plates and "turn the leaves sufficient to satisfy us". There isn't anything supernatural about that, nor does it require anything supernatural to explain anything about the plates. _
**This phrase supernatural power is something of a recurring theme throughout the testimonies of both the 8, and the 3 witnesses. I haven't used this phrase in a while, but it's talking about stoned sight. Joe was the master of stoned sight when he would use precious in Mr. Hat to look for buried treasure, or translate the gold plates. Well, I would make the argument that this was what John Whitmer was referring to.
_If this seems unbelievable, let's look at the testimony of the 3 witnesses, in comparison to what the witnesses said individually in the years following, regarding their experience. _
_This is the testimony of the 3 witnesses. _
****"**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.
It isn't worth rehashing all the same phrases that this testimony shares with that of the 8 witnesses, so I'm just going to pick out the phrases that are unique to this testimony, and try to deconstruct them.
**Let's start off with one of the first lines "That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record".
This may seem insignificant right now, but there might be a little wink-nod to stoned sight hidden in there. It says explicitly that "through the grace of god... we have seen the plates". Standalone, this phrase is extremely insignificant, but when we couple it with all the other phrases that sound similar to it, we start to get an idea of what's really going on here.
**The next line to focus on is "we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us".
**Translated by the gift and power of god? I suppose one could make the argument that the Urim and Thummim that Joe used were running off of magic Mormon Jesus power, but that's ignoring the setting in which the plates were translated. In Isaac Hale's affidavit, he said that Joe translated the plates while they were at the same time in the woods. That seems like a much more likely explanation for the phrase "translated by the power of God". Most of the time that Joe was translating the BoM, the plates were still supposedly hidden in the woods. Joe probably took the plates with him when he moved to the Whitmer house in Fayette, but I still doubt that he was literally translating from the plates, or else every single person living in the house would have an amazing irrefutable testimony of watching Joe dictate from the Gold plates day after day, while they were writing the BoM. It seems like another wink-nod to the fact that Joe didn't have a physical set of plates that were up to snuff.
**The next line like this is one of the most important. "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."
**This is a powerful line with the emphasis on the right section of the sentence. This line blatantly tells us that these witnesses didn't see the plates in any sort of natural circumstance, but that they were **shown to the witnesses by the power of God. What could that possibly mean other than stoned sight? **
**The next line is even more revealing. **"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"
**First off, why was the angel shenanigan necessary? This occurence supposedly happened before the 8 witnesses saw the plates, and Joe just led those guys into the woods and showed them the plates. But for some reason, when the 3 witnesses saw the plates, an unspecified angel of the lord had to bring them down and show them to the group. But, that's not even the most damning part of this piece of the testimony. It says that the angel laid the plates before our eyes, and they beheld the engravings thereon, then it transitions to saying we know by the grace of God that it's true. Is there anything missing here? Why the fuck did the 8 witnesses get to heft the plates and turn the leaves with their own hands, but the 3 witnesses had a strictly hands off policy? Why didn't NSSM, Ollie, and D-Day David get to lift and play with the plates like the other group of witnesses? This question becomes even more weighted when you consider that NSSM, the man that was about to finance publishing the BoM, didn't get to touch the plates, but rather saw them through the grace and power of God. We'll get into the details of this in a minute, as well as the theories as to why shit went down this way.
**The next line we need to talk about takes us to the end of the testimony. "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."
I think that it's important to focus on the beginning of that set, to fully understand the rest of the testimony. It says, "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". Exactly what commandments of God were they being obedient to? Was there a verse in the bible that said something to the effect of three witnesses reporting to the world what they had just seen by the grace and power of God? NO! Joe was the conduit to God that they all believed in, and they would do exactly what he said because they thought it was a commandment straight from God. Does that mean Joe just told these guys that God commands you to witness the plates, and testify to the world what you have seen? That would just be ridiculous! But guess what, that's exactly what happened..... in multiple places no less.
_This was written in the BoM, in Ether chapter 5 verses 2-4 _
"2)And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work; 3)And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true. 4)And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shown forth the power of God and also his word, of which the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost bear record – and all this shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day."
That was supposedly written by Moroni around 420 C.E. Did any of the phrases seem familiar thoroughout that? "Three shall be shown by the power of God" "They will know of a surety that these things are true". It's almost like the testimony of the three witnesses was written by Moroni, or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe whoever wrote Moroni, wrote the testimony of the three witnesses.
Surprisingly enough, this wasn't the only commandment written about the 3 witnesses. This was just seen as prophecy at this point. Joe needed a proper commandment to make these guys testify of the truthfulness of the plates. Get ready for a rapid fire of other scriptures prophesying of, or commanding the three witnesses.
**2 NE 27:12-13 "Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein. 13)And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men; for the Lord God hath said that the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead"
That was just another prophecy of the witnesses. Remember, Ether and 2 NE were some of the last books chronologically written in the Book of Mormon when Joe was making up for the lost 116 pages that NSSM took and, reportedly "lost".
**Now let's read the commandments Joe gave in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding the 3 witnesses.
D&C 5:10-13 "10)But this generation shall have my word through you;
11)And in addition to your testimony, the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things, and they shall go forth with my words that are given through you.
12)Yea, they shall know of a surety that these things are true, for from heaven will I declare it unto them.
13)I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are;"
_And of course, D&C 17:1-5 _
**"**1)**Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea. **
*2)*And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.
3) And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them, by the power of God;
4) And this you shall do that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., may not be destroyed, that I may bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men in this work.
5) And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith."
That was probably a little redundant, but I thinks it's important to try and get into the mindset of the individuals that were seeing these plates. Hopefully we'll be able to better understand the context in which these testimonies were signed. It's not quite as cut and dry as the face value permits.
**When it comes to these testimonies, I'm not sure what I personally think, but there really only seems like one possibility that fits everything best. When you're talking about the 8 witnesses, there are only a few possibilities for what actually happened. One, is that Joe was a real prophet with a real set of plates, and showed these 8 individuals the real deal under the direction of God. I don't think this is very **likely, given countless reasons that made me decide to start a podcast about real Mormon history. But I can't rule that out completely, and still call myself entirely intellectually honest. **
Every other possibility posits that Joe was a fraud. One of these possibilities would be Joe having a set of plates at this time in 1829. It was 6 years after he said he would be pulling gold plates out of the ground, and he may have painted his mock set with some gold paint and done a real good job of making a fraudulent set. Let's face it, historical frauds have accomplished much more challenging feats in the past. This may have fooled the 8 witnesses into reluctantly signing the testimony, but Joe thought his fake plates might not pass the critical examination of the much older and wiser NSSM. This required a visionary examination of the plates for the 3 witnesses, and still allowed an examination of the physical plates by the 8 witnesses.
But the theory that I align myself with is much more sinister. I don't agree with it because I'm trying to villify Joe and his buddies, or anything like that, even if it may sound that way. I align myself with this theory because it has the most explanatory power for everything that happened, and requires only a small group of individuals to conspire together, in order to make it happen.
I personally believe that Joseph Smith Jr., Joseph Smith Sr., Samuel Smith, Hyrum Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, Christian, Jacob, John, Peter Jr., and David Whitmer were all in on the scheme together, and Martin Harris was the target of them conspiring together to get his money.
This may seem pessimistic or sinister, but let's look at the facts. First off, it worked! We're talking about it today only because Joe was able to get Marty's money to publish the BoM, and start his own church in the first place. But that's not the only reason I think this was what happened. I think that the 8 witnesses signing their testimony was just one more piece Joe used as ammunition against Marty's rather weak psyche, and mediocre skepticism. I don't believe this in a vacuum. Look at the quality of the witnesses. All of the 8 witnesses were from 2 families that were dirt poor, and heavily aligned in their goals of making money off Joe's new Jesus book. 2 of the 3 witnesses were Joe's best buddies that had helped him author the Book of Mormon for the past year, and they had everything to lose if Marty didn't follow through with the money, at the end of the equation.
_You guys know what I like to do in shows like this. When I'm talking about a conspiracy like this that's up for conjecture, I like to support my claims with quotes from the relevant people. Well, let me do that now. _
The 3 witness testimony that we have, was actually sythesized from more than one occassion. We're going to read a fairly large excerpt from the History of the church Vol 1:54 written by Joe himself. There's a lot going on, so I'll comment on it as we go.
"Not many days after the above commandment was given, we four, viz., Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself, agreed to retire into the woods, and try to obtain, by fervent and humble prayer, the fulfilment of the promises given in the above revelation—that they should have a view of the plates. We accordingly made choice of a piece of woods convenient to Mr. Whitmer's house, to which we retired, and having knelt down, we began to pray in much faith to Almighty God to bestow upon us a realization of these promises."
Basically, Joe had received all the revelations we read earlier, stating that 3 men, called of God, would be witnesses to the plates, so these four men, Ollie, D-Day, Marty, and Joe went into the woods by the Whitmer house to obtain the vision.
"The Order of Prayer.
According to previous arrangement, I commenced prayer to our Heavenly Father, and was followed by each of the others in succession. We did not at the first trial, however, obtain any answer or manifestation of divine favor in our behalf. We again observed the same order of prayer, each calling on and praying fervently to God in rotation, but with the same result as before."
This just said that Joe started praying fervently that God would reveal the plates to the group, and everybody else followed his lead. After they tried once without success, all the men in the group prayed in rotation to have the plates revealed to them, like some kind of mushroom induced, seyonce in the woods shit or something. The second attempt failed as well. Just wait for the next part, because this is when the turn happens, and the con that Joe, Ollie, and D-Day were pulling really starts to come out.
"The Visitation of the Angel—Viewing the Plates.
Upon this, our second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he should withdraw himself from us, believing, as he expressed himself, that his presence was the cause of our not obtaining what we wished for."
What I picture here, is Joe, Ollie, and D-Day were all engaged in this seyonce-like praying without success, and sort of looking over at the nay-sayer NSSM, and giving him signals and body language that he might be why the angel hasn't descended to show them the plates yet. Joe's persuasion skills were about to be tested above and beyond any skill level he's attempted before.
"He [Marty] accordingly withdrew from us, and we knelt down again, and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air, of exceeding brightness; and behold, an angel stood before us. In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. He turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discern the engravings theron distinctly. He then addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said, "David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps His commandments;" when, immediately afterwards, we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, "These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear."
So Marty had left the group and suddenly an angel floated down in a pillar of light and showed the plates to Ollie, Joe and D-Day David. Then the angel told D-Day, for some reason, that blessed is the lord, which doesn't really make any sense, and also he that keeps the lords commandments. Apparently Ollie and Joe weren't important enough for the angel to address. According to this, the angel held the plates, and even turned the leaves individually, so the three men could see the engravings thereon distinctly. This must have been a pretty amazing experience, or like I am trying to suggest, and make a case for, it was the most critical point, for the con to work on Marty. Either Marty would walk away calling it all nonsense at this exact moment, or he would decide to believe, while being heavily influenced by Joe, Ollie, and D-Day. Let's find out what happened next. Remember this is all from history of the church vol. 1, written by Joseph Smith as a first hand account, as the instigator of all this batshittery.
"Martin Harris also Views the Plates.
I now left David and Oliver, and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance, fervently engaged in prayer. He soon told me, however, that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me to join him in prayer, that he also might realize the same blessings which we had just received. We accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view, at least it was again opened to me, and I once more beheld and heard the same things; whilst at the same moment, Martin Harris cried out, apparently in an ecstasy of joy, " 'Tis enough; 'tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have beheld;" and jumping up, he shouted, "Hosanna," blessing God, and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly."
That was the turn. Joe just leveled up in his persuasion skill tree, and the world has this one moment to thank, for the gensis of the Book of Mormon, and the Church of Christ under Joseph Smith. Everything boiled down to this point. If things hadn't gone perfectly in favor of Joe's way during this scene in the woods, we would have nothing to talk about today, and Joe never would have created his empire in the way that history tells us today.
Joe, Ollie, and D-Day had put so much pressure on Marty, to see what they wanted him to see, and Marty knew he was the last sticking point for the BoM to be published. Marty was a weird-tempered, God-crazed zealot, that thought Joe was completely legit. He was the odd man out that was under an immense amount of peer pressure from his fellow pre-Mormonites, and he didn't want to let them, or God, down because he wasn't spiritual, or pious, enough to see the vision that the other three were having. That's why he left the group to go pray a considerable distance away. Once everybody else "saw" the plates, Joe broke away from that group to go find Marty.
Joe found him kneeling down and praying, and Marty "earnestly" asked Joe to join him so that he could see what everybody else saw. Joe knelt down and I bet it went something like this. I'm going to try to channel Joe.
"Lord, Lord, God of all that is holy. We know that we are not worthy to be your servants, but we ask that you would show us, that which is desirous in our hearts. Lord please let it be known to Martin that this work is indeed the work that you have appointed to us. Let him understand his place in the earthly kingdom of God which is about to come forth to the children of men. Please Lord, show us by your power the holy gold plates from which we have translated the account of the ancient inhabitants of this promised land, which we thank you for bestowing upon us. If there be any sins that make us unworthy to see your truth, then please forgive us our trespasses, for we do not wish to carry the burden of sin with us into the kingdom of God. Please lord, show us your holy gold plates."
"Martin, Martin! I see them. They are glorious! The angel is showing me the holy golden plates! He's turning the leaves one by one! I can see the engravings thereon! Blessed is the Lord and his son Jesus Christ for their mercy unto me, their modern day prophet. Do you see them Martin, they are so beautiful! The angel is white beyond any whiteness that is in nature! Do you see the angel holding the plates Martin?! What a glorious sight to behold!"
What does Marty do in a situation like this? Put yourself in his shoes. Does he say you guys are full of shit and walk away? If he does that, and Joe is really a prophet, it's a one way ticket to hell for Marty. Does he continue to say he doesn't believe and needs a greater witness to believe? Joe already gave him revelation that "He seeketh a greater witness, but none can be given"(refer to episode 17 for the situation there). It was go time! The manuscript was done, and they needed Marty's money to start printing the Book of Mormon. Marty had even said that even if it is false, he will make money of it (see episode 4 for that) So what choice did Marty have when all these pressures were collapsing on him. He was the one piece of rock along a fault line that would either give way and allow the shifting earthquake to happen, or be sheered off and lost to the annals of history forever as a nobody. So what did he do? He gave in to the pressures surrounding him, and gave Joe the confirmation, that Joe, Ollie, and D-day were pressuring Marty into conforming with.
It may have just been a white lie, or maybe Marty really did hallucinate and see the angel holding the plates, but his ecstasy filled exclamation of" 'Tis enough; 'tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have beheld; Hosanna," was enough for Joe. He probably threw a couple "Glory be to God the most merciful and high of all" in there to add to the effect. And thus, the seeds of the Mormonite religion were planted for Joe to reap less than a year later when he gathered the first congregation in Fayette N.Y., on April 6th 1830.
Earlier in this episode I was talking about how monumental this occassion would have been for anybody that would've experienced it. At the time I was referring to the 8 witnesses not leaving behind very much about witnessing the plates, aside from the signed testimony, and John Whitmer, who was the official church historian. Well, it wasn't any different for these three gentlemen. This would have been one of the most epic experiences of their entire lives.
The problem we have is Joe. He recorded things either, as he remembered them, or in a way that would best serve his purposes. For example, the revelations that were given about the three witnesses in the BoM, and the Doctrine and Covenants that we read earlier, explicitly state that the 3 witnesses would see, not only the plates, but the chestplate, Urim and Thummim, sword of Laban, and the Liahona given to Lehi on the shores of the Red Sea. Well the official testimony in the BoM says NOTHING about these other items. It only says that an angel brought down the plates and showed them to the 3 witnesses. It doesn't even make reference to Joe being there, when he was the one instigating and influencing everything in the first place.
Another problem Joe created was what the angel said to D-Day David that was recorded in the History of the Church version of witnessing the plates. Joe recorded that the angel told D-Day "blessed is the Lord" and all that gobbledy-gook, but apparently Joe and Ollie, who were kneeling right next to D-Day at this time, weren't important enough, for the angel to address. Well, that's because according to an interview that believer Elder Edward Stevenson had with D-Day, the angel appeared to him before they all went into the woods, while he was ploughing a field. That was when the line was given addressing D-Day. Then, shortly after that visitation, Joe and Ollie approached D-Day and said, "Come David, and be one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon". This is a huge time discrepancy between the two accounts.
Joe just grabbed whatever he could, and put it into his own version of the 3 witness occurence. All of this being said, we haven't even addressed the biggest discrepency between the revelation version of what would happen with the three witnesses, as opposed to what was recorded. Where the fuck were the chestplate, and Urim and Thummim, and all these other pieces from antiquity? Why the hell didn't anybody talk about those? Why didn't Joe record anything about those in the BoM version of the official witness testimony, or in the History of the Church version?! This is a huge problem and one more score against Joe on his prophetic scorecard.
Well, D-Day and Marty did end up talking about these other toys, but it was much later than the actual recorded versions. Unfortunately, we don't have shit from Ollie about the vision, aside from his signature in the BoM. So, let's hear what D-Day and Marty each had to say in regards to these other badass little trinkets being in the vision, along with the angel holding the plates.
This is D-Day David's account of that morning given in an interview with E.C. Briggs, and reported on Apr 25th, 1884.
"In June, 1829, I [David Whitmer] saw the angel by the power of God, Joseph, Oliver and I were alone, and a light from heaven shone round us, and solemnity pervaded our minds. The angel appeared in the light, as near as that young man. [Within five or six feet]. Between us and the angel there appeared a table, and there lay upon it the sword of Laban, the Ball of Directors, the Record, and Interpreters. The angel took the Record, and turned the leaves, and showed it to us by the power of God. They were taken away by the angel to a cave, which we saw by the power of God while we were yet in the Spirit. ..."
Another quote that D-Day gave regarding the vision, was in an interview with Edward Stevenson in Dec of 1877, it provided the same details, but ended with the line "and thus the vision ended"
Apparently D-Day did see everything else that was promised in the prior revelations in the BoM and D&C, but I think it's important to keep an eye on the last lines of his statements. "They were taken away by the angel to a cave, which we saw BY THE POWER OF GOD WHILE WE WERE YET IN THE SPIRIT", as well as "and thus the VISION ended". This holds a lot of weight really soon, and I'll explain why, once we look at a few quotes from NSSM.
_First we'll see what Marty said concerning the other trinkets in addition to the plates. This is from an interview with Marty, conducted by Edward Stevenson and published in the Millenial Star in June 1886. _
_"[We] asked him to explain the manner in which the plates containing the characters of the Book of Mormon were exhibited to the witnesses. Brother Harris said that the angel stood on the opposite side of the table on which were the plates, the interpreter, &c., and took the plates in his hands and turned them over. To more fully illustrate this to them, Brother Martin took up a book and turned the leaves over one by one." _
We know from Joe's account in the History of the Church, that that wasn't what Marty saw. Marty was separate from the group when they supposedly saw the table with everything on it. Unless the angel gave Marty the same exact witness as it did Ollie, D-Day and Joe, which would make sense, but isn't what Marty said happened in his initial account. The contradictions run deep with this one.
The next quote we're going to read is something that brings everything together, if it hasn't been made abundantly clear by this point. It's by John H. Gilbert quoting a conversation he had with Marty, but we're going to read a bunch of it, just for fun.
_Let me set the scene here. By the time 1893 had rolled around, the topic of the Mormons was something that was on everybodys minds. The church was undergoing a major political battle to gain statehood, but the government wouldn't grant it because of their practice of polygamy. Well, the 1893 worlds fair had an exhibit about the Mormons, and a man named John H. Gilbert decided to make a statement about the Mormons, and include it with some photographs of the Hill Cumorah, to be included in the exhibit. We're going to read a few excerpts from it, but the last paragraph is the most telling and pertinent to what we've been talking about this entire episode. This will take us to the end of the history for this episode. _
****" I am a practical printer by trade. I have been a resident of Palmyra, New York, since about the year 1824, and during all that time have done some typesetting each year. I was aged ninety years on the 13th day of April 1892, and on that day I went to the office of the Palmyra Courier and set a stickful of type.
My recollection of past events, and especially of the matters connected with the printing of the "Mormon Bible" [Book of Mormon], is very accurate and faithful, and I have made the following memorandum at request, to accompany the photographs of "Mormon Hill," which have been made for the purpose of exhibits at the World's Fair in 1893.
In the forepart of June, 1829, Mr. E. [Egbert] B. Grandin, the printer of the Wayne Sentinel, came to me and said he wanted I should assist him in estimating the cost of printing 5,000 copies of a book that Martin Harris wanted to get printed, which was called the "Mormon Bible." It was the second application of Harris to Grandin to do the job--Harris assuring Grandin that the book would be printed in Rochester if he declined the job again.
Harris proposed to have Grandin do the job, if he would, as it would be quite expensive to keep a man in Rochester during the printing of the book, who would have to visit Palmyra two or three times a week for manuscript, etc. Mr. Grandin consented to do the job if his terms were accepted.
A few pages of the manuscript were submitted as a specimen of the whole, and it was said there would be about 500 pages.
The contract was to print, and bind with leather, 5,000 copies for $3,000. Mr. Grandin got a new font of small pica, on which the body of the work was printed.
When the printer was ready to commence work, [Martin] Harris was notified, and Hyrum Smith brought the first installment of manuscript, of 24 pages, closely written on common foolscap paper-- he had it under his vest, and vest and coat closely buttoned over it. At night [Hyrum] Smith came and got the manuscript, and with the same precaution carried it away. The next morning with the same watchfulness, he brought it again, and at night took it away. This was kept up for several days. The title page was first set up, and after proof was read and corrected, several copies were printed for Harris and his friends. On the second day--[Martin] Harris and [Hyrum] Smith being in the office--I called their attention to a grammatical error, and asked whether I should correct it? [Martin] Harris consulted with [Hyrum] Smith a short time, and turned to me and said, "The Old Testament is ungrammatical, set it as it is written."
After working a few days, I said to [Hyrum] Smith on his handing me the manuscript in the morning, "Mr. [Hyrum] Smith, if you would leave this manuscript with me, I would take it home with me at night and read and punctuate it, and I could get along faster in the daytime, for now I have frequently to stop and read half a page to find how to punctuate it." His reply was, "We are commanded not to leave it." A few mornings after this, when [Hyrum] Smith handed me the manuscript, he said to me, "If you will give your word that this manuscript shall be returned to us when you get through with it, I will leave it with you." I assured Smith that it should be returned all right when I got through with it. For two or three nights I took it home with me and read it, and punctuated it with a lead pencil. This will account for the punctuation marks in pencil, which is referred to in the Mormon Report, an extract from which will be found below.
Martin Harris, Hyrum Smith and Oliver Cowdery, were very frequent visitors to the office during the printing of the Mormon Bible [Book of Mormon]. The manuscript was supposed to be in the handwriting of [Oliver] Cowdery. Every chapter, if I remember correctly, was one solid paragraph, without a punctuation mark, from beginning to end.
Names of persons and places were generally capitalized, but sentences had no end. The character or short "&" was used almost invariably where the word "and" occurred, except at the end of a chapter. I punctuated it to make it read as I supposed the author intended, and but very little punctuation was altered in proofreading. The Bible [Book of Mormon] was printed sixteen pages at a time, so that one sheet of paper made two copies of sixteen pages each, requiring 2,000 sheets of paper for each form of sixteen pages. There were thirty-seven forms of sixteen pages each--570 pages in all.
The work was commenced in August 1829, and finished in March 1830--seven months. Mr. J. H. Bortles and myself did the presswork until December taking nearly three days to each form.
[Oliver] Cowdery held and looked over the manuscript when most of the proofs were read. Martin Harris once or twice, and Hyrum Smith once, Grandin supposing these men could read their own writing as well, if not better, than anyone else; and if there are any discrepancies between the Palmyra edition and the manuscript these men should be held responsible.
Joseph Smith, Jr., had nothing to do whatever with the printing or furnishing copy for the printers, being but once in the office during the printing of the Bible [Book of Mormon], and then not over fifteen or twenty minutes.
Hyrum Smith was a common laborer, and worked for anyone as he was called on.
[Oliver] Cowdery taught school winters--so it was said--but what he did summers, I do not know.
Martin Harris was a farmer, owning a good farm, of about 150 acres, about a mile north of Palmyra Village, and had money at interest. Martin--as everybody called him--was considered by his neighbors a very honest man; but on the subject of Mormonism, he was said to be crazy. Martin was the main spoke in the wheel of Mormonism in its start in Palmyra, and I may say, the only spoke. In the fall of 1827, he told us what wonderful discoveries Jo [Joseph] Smith had made, and of his finding plates in a hill in the town of Manchester (three miles south of Palmyra), --also found with the plates a large pair of "spectacles," by putting which on his nose and looking at the plates, the spectacles turned the hieroglyphics into good English. The question might be asked here whether Jo [Joseph] or the spectacles was the translator?
Sometime in 1828, Martin Harris, who had been furnished by someone with what he said was a facsimile of the hieroglyphics of one of the plates started for New York. On his way he stopped at Albany and called on Lieutenant Governor Bradish--with what success I do not know. He proceeded to New York, and called on Professor C. [Charles] Anthon, made known his business and presented his hieroglyphics.
This is what the professor said in regard to them--1834--
"The paper in question was, in fact, a singular scroll.
It consisted of all kinds of singular characters, disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him, at the time, a book containing various alphabets; Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sidewise, arranged and placed in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, arched with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar, given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject since the Mormon excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained anything else but "Egyptian Hieroglyphics."
Martin [Harris] returned from this trip east satisfied that "Joseph" was a "little smarter than Professor Anthon."
Martin was something of a prophet--he frequently said that "Jackson would be the last president that we would have; and that all persons who did not embrace Mormonism in two years' time would be stricken off the face of the earth." He said that Palmyra was to be the New Jerusalem, and that her streets were to be paved with gold.
Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the Three Witnesses-- ([Martin] Harris--[Oliver] Cowdery and [David] Whitmer). I said to him, "Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, "No, I saw them with a spiritual eye."
That brought it all together. These men never saw anything with their natural eyes. They never really saw an angel descend from the clouds in a pillar of light. They never handled the plates. They never saw the chestplate, Liahona, sword of Laban, or Urim and Thummim. To bring this all to a close, we need one more quote written by somebody quoting Marty himself.
"Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses of the plates has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision; and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph not excepted."
**What do you think? Should we take the tesimonies of the 3 and the 8 witnesses at face value like Mormon apologist Richard L. Anderson suggests? Or, should we really question the veracity of the claims, judged by the standards we judge every other historical claim? Should we really just bend over and take these historically flimsy statements for what they say, and nothing more? Or, should we skepticize everything about these cardboard claims, written by the hand of Joseph Smith himself, and reluctantly signed by the 11 others, that had everything to lose if the Book of Mormon failed? I suppose it's up to you, the listener to decide.
Copyright Ground Gnomes LLC subject to fair use. Citation example: "Naked Mormonism Podcast (or NMP), Ep #, original air date 06/04/2015"