According to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he received a divine revelation from God regarding the Book of Mormon. In his account, Smith claimed that an angel named Moroni appeared to him and instructed him to unearth gold plates containing ancient writings. Smith was also given seer stones, which were found with the gold plates, to aid in translating these texts. The celestial being made it clear that only selected individuals should be allowed to see the plates.
The preface of The Book of Mormon acknowledges the significance of understanding the importance of the eleven witnesses mentioned, which includes both the three witnesses and the eight witnesses. The three witnesses identified in The Book of Mormon are Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
The book presents a roster of eight witnesses, namely Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith. It prompts inquiries regarding their identities and the reliability of their testimonies on this substantial matter. For further insights, it would be beneficial to delve into publications from Mormons who are inclined to maintain records of their primary witnesses.
This approach can serve as a preliminary step for collecting information before conducting detailed investigation. In this study, I will refer to two Mormon publications, namely the Doctrine and Covenant and the Church History Timeline by William W. Slaughter. The Doctrine and Covenant is an authoritative scripture book for Mormons, while the Church History Timeline was published in 1996 by Desert Book Company in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In this passage, there is a concise summary of multiple books that delve into the individuals involved with the Book of Mormon. The objective is not to present a comprehensive outline but rather to show that these books do not instill faith in either the witnesses or the Book of Mormon. One noteworthy figure discussed is Oliver Cowdery, who served as Joseph Smith’s scribe, held a leadership position within the Church, and previously worked as a country teacher.
Martin Harris was excommunicated from the Mormon Church on April 12,1838 but was later rebaptized in November 1848. Unfortunately, he passed away on March 3, 1850. This raises the question of why such an important witness would be excommunicated while Joseph Smith was still alive but then allowed back into the church after Smith’s death on June 27, 1844. Martin Harris, a prosperous farmer known for his hard work and generosity, financed the initial printing of 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon with his $3000. However, conflicts regarding monetary practices led to his excommunication in December 1837. He later underwent rebaptism on November 27, 1842.
Joseph Smith translated 116 pages of the book of Mormon using seer stones. He then gave these pages to Martin Harris. However, Harris allowed corrupt individuals to get their hands on the pages. Their goal was to distort the translation and use it against Joseph Smith. This raises the question: why would Harris do such a thing? The Doctrine and Covenants states that Harris was wicked and had purposely tried to undermine Joseph Smith. In his account, Joseph Smith reveals that Harris had previously taken sample characters from the book of Mormon and their translations. He received validation of their authenticity from Professor Charles Anton and Dr. Mitchell in New York City.
These men affirmed the authenticity of the characters in the Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic languages and attested to the accuracy of Joseph Smith’s translation. It is perplexing why Harris would seek to harm Joseph Smith after receiving this confirmation. Can we truly rely on the testimony of someone who tried to destroy a person he believed was a prophet? The Doctrine and Covenants denounces Harris as wicked, so should we trust his testimony? Or should we place our faith in the Doctrine and Covenants instead? However, to believe in the Doctrine and Covenants revealed to Joseph Smith, we must first have faith in the Book of Mormon that was revealed earlier. And for us to believe in the Book of Mormon, we must trust its witnesses. We are still at an early stage of examination.
David Whitmer, along with his family, played a significant role in the translation of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith stayed at their residence until he completed the translation from the gold plates. While other members of the Whitmer family were among the group of eight witnesses, only David had the privilege of being one of the three witnesses. However, according to Doctrine and Covenants (D 30:1), David Whitmer is depicted as someone who has fear towards men and lacks faith in God.
According to the Doctrine and Covenants, Paul’s focus was on worldly matters and he allowed himself to be influenced by individuals who were not instructed by the Lord. Despite this, Christians did not view Paul as an apostate. In contrast, David Whitmer, along with Oliver Cowdery, was expelled in April 1838 and seen as an apostate. These occurrences happened at the same time.
Following Joseph Smith’s demise, Oliver Cowdery was rebaptized, while David Whitmer remained estranged and did not rejoin the Church. Despite their wavering from their initial steadfastness towards the revelations, Mormons argue that these principal witnesses never renounced their original testimony, even after being excommunicated. Whitmer passed away forty-nine years later still estranged, prompting inquiries into the reasons behind the uncertainty exhibited by these witnesses.
According to the Church History Timeline, David Whitmer gave a positive testimony, stating that although it is documented he had denied his testimony as one of the three witnesses, he and the other two witnesses never actually denied their testimony or any actions. However, actions hold more significance than words, and the fact that these men withdrew their commitment to the revelations weakens their testimony. Two of the witnesses repented and were baptized, making them more trustworthy witnesses compared to David Whitmer who never came back. Nonetheless, their extended absence from the church raises doubts about the genuineness of their own testimony.
Mormons believe that the testimony of God holds more significance than the testimony of humans. They suggest praying to ascertain the truth of the Book of Mormon. However, the publishers of the book recognized the value in human testimony as well. Both prayer and investigation are vital. It is important to thoroughly examine witnesses after presenting them. If Mormons claim that human testimony is insignificant, then why do they include a list of witnesses in the book? When we scrutinize the list of eight witnesses, we notice three notable aspects. Firstly, the diversity portrayed in the list is not as extensive as it may initially appear.
The text focuses on a total of eight witnesses, including various members of the Whitmer and Smith families as well as Hiram Page. Notably, David Whitmer, who was part of a distinct group of three witnesses, later renounced his faith and died as an apostate. Nevertheless, his brothers remained unwavering in their belief in the revelations. The mentioned Smiths encompass Joseph Smith’s father and two brothers—Hyrum Smith, who was martyred alongside Joseph, and Samuel Smith, who passed away a month later.
Hiram Page, like Joseph Smith, believed he had received revelations. His father had passed away a few years prior to this, and it is worth mentioning that Hiram also possessed a seer stone for recording these divine messages. However, God stated in the Doctrine and Covenants that these revelations were not of divine origin but instead came from Satan (D&C 28: 11).
It is important to note that when considering the witness of Hiram Page regarding revelations from God, the testimony of the three witnesses carries more significance than that of the eight witnesses. The three witnesses not only visually saw the plates but also encountered an angel and heard God’s voice confirming the book’s authenticity and translation accuracy. On the other hand, the eight witnesses merely stated that they saw gold plates with skillfully crafted engravings without providing any assurance about their origin or validating the Book of Mormon’s accuracy.
According to the testimonies of individuals, Joseph Smith presented them with gold plates that had undecipherable engravings. They believed that he was translating these engravings to create the Book of Mormon. Some argue that these individuals can be seen as expert witnesses. However, it is worth noting that many primary witnesses eventually lost their belief in the Book of Mormon. Additionally, trusted confidants and associates of Joseph Smith also struggled to remain loyal to his mission despite initially professing their belief. Following Joseph Smith’s death, his only living brother at the time, William, continued to live for a considerable period.
William remained loyal to Joseph until 1845 when he was ousted from the church. However, after thirty-three years, he joined a faction that broke away from the Mormon Church (Church History Timeline, p. 3). Federick G. Williams, an early high priest of the Church, held the position of second counselor in the original First Presidency in 1833.
Before joining the Church, he was a successful and recognized physician. He formed a strong relationship with Joseph Smith and helped build the Kirkland temple in Ohio. He also played a role in selecting revelations for the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. Despite these accomplishments, he was rejected as second counsellor in 1837 and later excommunicated in 1838. However, after one year, he reconciled with the church but tragically passed away two years later (Church History Timeline, p.9).
William Wines Phelps, a complicated figure, had close ties to Joseph Smith and held a prominent position in the Church. He served as a scribe during the translation of the sacred text, Book of Abraham, and made noteworthy contributions to the hymnal. Despite his significant roles, he underwent excommunication in 1839 but was ultimately reinstated in 1841 (Church History Timeline, p. 11).
Thomas B. Marsh, the initial president of the Quorum of Twelve and acting president of the Church during David Whitmer’s departure, experienced a disagreement with the Saints over a minor matter that caused him and his wife to become estranged from the Church. In March 1839, Marsh was excommunicated; however, he reestablished ties with the Church after eighteen years according to the Church History Timeline (p. 11).
In 1830, Lyman Wight joined and became an apostle in 1841. Nevertheless, he faced excommunication in 1848 for rejecting Joseph Smith’s successor as leader. Following this event, Wight relocated to Texas and established his own faction as documented in the Church Timeline (p. 13).
John C. Bennett had various roles, such as being a doctor, the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, and the chancellor of the Nauvoo University. He also held the position of major general in the Nauvoo Legion. On April 8, 1841, Joseph Smith appointed him as assistant president in the First Presidency. However, he faced disfellowshipment in 1842 and was excommunicated the next year due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
Following his excommunication, John C. Bennett wrote a hostile book against the Church titled The History of the Saints; or An Expose of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Timeline, p. 14).
Emma Hale Smith married Joseph Smith in 1827, despite objections from her parents. She played a crucial role alongside Joseph in translating the Book of Mormon and also chose hymns for the first hymnal. Emma was the initial president of the Relief Society and was designated as Joseph’s eternal companion based on a revelation from God. This sealing of their marriage is highly significant to Mormons as it represents their union lasting forever. It is important to note that God warned Emma about being solely devoted to Joseph, otherwise she would face destruction (D&C 132:54). Surprisingly, three years after Joseph’s death, Emma married Lewis Bidamon. However, she was buried next to Joseph when she died (Timeline, p. 15).
William Law, an affluent entrepreneur, held positions as a Nauvoo City councilman and Joseph Smith’s second counselor in 1841. However, because of his opposition to polygamy, he chose to disassociate himself from the Church and was excommunicated in April 1844. Law actively opposed Joseph’s teachings and played a part in publishing the anti-Mormon Nauvoo Expositor (Timeline, p. 18).
According to the timeline on page 18, Joseph Smith destroyed the press that printed the Nauvoo Expositor, leading to his arrest for treason. Unfortunately, while Joseph and his brother Hyrum were in prison, a group of 200 people gathered on June 27, 1844 with the intent to assassinate Joseph. To defend himself, Joseph obtained a weapon and fought back against his attackers. Tragically, both he and his brother died on that unfortunate day.
Sidney Rigdon served as Joseph’s trusted advisor and held the position of first counselor in the First Presidency from 1833 to 1844. He played a significant role in revising the Bible and contributed to the creation of the Book of Moses for Mormon Scriptures. However, following Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, Sidney sought leadership of the Church but was rejected by its members. Consequently, he was expelled from the Church later that year and relocated to Pennsylvania where he established his own religious congregation (Timeline, p. 19).
Samuel Braman, who presided over the Eastern Saints, was baptized in 1833 but later excommunicated in 1851 (Timeline, p. 22). Similarly, Orson Pratt, one of the original 12 apostles, also faced excommunication in 1843 but was reinstated after a year. Orson Pratt was known for his skills as a writer, mathematician, and pioneer. The aforementioned incidents highlight the fact that many influential individuals who initially supported Joseph Smith ultimately turned away from his mission during his lifetime or shortly thereafter. While some eventually returned, others chose to permanently stay away.
The inconsistency of these individuals makes it challenging for an observer to trust the authenticity of Joseph’s assertion of being a divine messenger. The aforementioned details are all derived from writings that support the Mormon Church. One of these writings is even considered as authoritative scripture by the Church. Therefore, the information cannot be seen as prejudiced against the Mormon Church. If anything, the information should be in favor of the Church.
We anticipate that a book written by an outsider may not portray the Mormon faith as positively as these insider books do. However, the information revealed in these books does not generate enough trust to inspire confidence in an individual. The individuals referred to earlier are not a small number of isolated individuals chosen for sensationalism. They consist of the majority of those who held significant positions within Joseph and his Church.
The evidence we have gathered raises concerns about the credibility of the Book of Mormon. Among the three witnesses who attested to its authenticity, all eventually strayed from their beliefs, though two later returned. Additionally, one of the eight witnesses revealed that he received revelations in a similar manner to Joseph’s scribes, who faithfully transcribed his dictation of God’s revelations. However, some of these scribes themselves became unfaithful. Notably, Oliver Cowdery left and did not come back during Joseph’s translation of the One hundred and sixteen pages of the book. Unfortunately, these pages fell into the hands of enemies who aimed to tarnish Joseph Smith’s reputation by distorting his book’s content.
The book Church History Timeline on page 4 states that the pages were stolen from Harris. However, the Doctrine and Covenants reveals that Harris himself was one of the enemies who sought to destroy the prophet (D&C 10:67). After this incident, Harris no longer acted as scribe for Joseph (Timeline, p. 4). These were not isolated individuals.
The book Church History Timeline features significant individuals throughout the history of the Church. Page 4 introduces one person, while page 5 showcases two individuals, both of whom fell away. On page 9, a person is depicted who also fell away. Page 11 presents two individuals, both of whom fell away as well. On page 13, two individuals are shown, with one of them falling away.
On page 14, two individuals are shown, but one of them fell away. On page 18, there are also two individuals depicted: William Law and Joseph Smith. William Law disagreed with their views. On page 19, only one person is shown, who went away to form his own church. Moving on to page 22, two people are featured again, but both of them strayed from their faith. It is worth noting that many of these individuals eventually returned to the Church, underscoring the significance of their temporary loss of faith. Additionally, it raises questions about those who approach Mormons with love and deep concern for their spiritual well-being in the afterlife. It is essential to help them understand that early Muslims remained unwaveringly devoted to the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) under all circumstances because they firmly believed he was God’s messenger.
Believing his words, hastily obeying his commands, and risking their safety, some of the prophet’s most vehement adversaries eventually became convinced of the truth of his message. Once they publicly declared their newfound faith, no opposition could deter them. Muslims should also facilitate Mormons’ understanding of the paramount importance Muslims attach to the credibility of witnesses. To authenticate even a single statement uttered by the revered prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, unwavering witnesses with unimpeachable character and unshakeable faith are indispensable.
Those who relay the prophet’s sayings must be recognized for their unwavering honesty, flawless devotion, exceptional memory, and steadfast adherence to the prophet’s teachings. If Mormons acknowledge this principle of confirming historical accounts, they might reassess their perspectives on Mormon and Islamic histories and independently determine which merits greater trust and belief. Assist Mormons in familiarizing themselves with the Qur’an, which serves as a testament to its truth by persisting in its original language and form for everyone to witness.
Muslims possess a copy of the Qur’an in its original Arabic script, possibly alongside a translated version in another language. This demonstrates the belief that the angel who delivered the message to the prophet did not conceal it but left it accessible for all. We are not solely dependent on human witnesses, despite numerous individuals testifying to being present when the angel transmitted the Qur’an to the prophet throughout history, and many others vouching for the prophet’s admirable character and truthfulness. Presently, one can still scrutinize the Qur’an.
Throughout the centuries, millions of human beings have examined the book known as the Qur’an. Some have studied it in its original language, while others have relied on translations. The Qur’an is widely regarded as the best evidence that it is a revelation from God, with millions of people attesting to this fact. It is possible that you can assist your Mormon visitors in understanding the Qur’an and finding salvation. Mormons are individuals who sincerely devote themselves to spreading their message. You have the opportunity to guide them towards working for God’s message, which was revealed to the prophet Muhammad, pbuh, by the angel Gabriel. In the Qur’an, God states that anyone who desires a religion other than Islam will not have it accepted, and they will be among the losers in the Hereafter (Qur’an 3:85).
- Slaughter, William W Church History Timeline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Desert Book Co., 1996.
Doctrine & Covenants. Salt Lake City, Utah The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.,
- The Glorious Qur’an