By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Some of my favorite Bible studies are with members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or members of the Mormon church, as they are usually known).
I admire the zeal of the members of this religious organization very much. Spending up to at least two years in mission work, many of the young men of this denomination are seen in their white shirts and ties all over America, knocking on the doors of often hostile neighbors with the message which they sincerely believe and which they desire to spread to every corner of the Earth. In many ways, these devout members are great examples in zeal of what New Testament Christians should be (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16)!
Over the years, my studies with Latter-day Saint missionaries have followed the same basic pattern.
First, I invite them to share with me their beliefs about the book of Mormon and their religious tenants.
After that, I usually share with them my convictions about the Holy Bible being the final and complete revelation of God to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This inevitably leads to a good discussion of evidence. I share with my friends that the Bible has many characteristics which demonstrate that it must be the Word of God (such as the supernatural unity of the Bible, prophecy and fulfillment, scientific foreknowledge of the Bible writers, archaeology and the Bible, the credible historians of the Bible, miraculous attestation, etc.).
Usually at this point, I then begin to ask my missionary friends about the evidences for the Book of Mormon.
Almost always, they refer me to the testimony of the three and the eight witnesses.
Who are they, you ask, and what did they witness?
Let me go back and share a brief history of the book of Mormon, and then we will examine the testimony of the witnesses, to see if they are indeed credible in their reporting.
The Story Of The Book Of Mormon
In 1805, a young man named Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in Vermont to Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack. Between 1820 and 1823, he had a vision from God the Father and Jesus Christ that all denominations were an abomination to God (as were man-made religious creeds). During this time, he also had an encounter with an angel named Moroni (or perhaps Nephi, as some accounts record). He was told that there were golden plates hidden near New York City which chronicled the rise and fall of an ancient civilization.
Over the next several years, Smith was told more about the golden plates. They were hidden under Hill Cumorah in Manchester, New York, and along with these were also to be found the Urim and the Thummin (two stones which were kept with the High Priest in the Old Testament and which were used by the Lord to somehow communicate His will to the people of Israel).
Moroni was eventually sent to Smith and allowed him to remove the gold plates in order to translate them from “Reformed Egyptian” to English. David Whitaker describes how Smith would translate the plates:
“I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Concord, CA: Pacific Publishing Co., 1887), p. 12.)
According to Mormonism, three witnesses-David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery- were allowed to “see” the gold tablets with Joseph Smith.
Attached to the front of every book of Mormon is the following account:
“BE IT KNOWN unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.” OLIVER COWDERY DAVID WHITMER MARTIN HARRIS”
Later, eight additional witnesses were allowed to “witness” the gold plates. We find the following also in the book of Mormon:
“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.” CHRISTIAN WHITMER HIRAM PAGE JACOB WHITMER JOSEPH SMITH, SEN. PETER WHITMER, JUN. HYRUM SMITH JOHN WHITMER SAMUEL H. SMITH
The book of Mormon claims to be the most perfect revelation of God to mankind:
“Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”. (Joseph Smith, Introduction To Book Of Mormon)
With a claim like this, we must be willing to carefully examine the credentials of this book.
Who were these witnesses?
What did they actually see and witness?
Do their writings pass the test of careful investigation?
Let’s carefully study.
Did The Witnesses Actually “SEE” The Things They Affirmed?
One member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, a man named Grant H. Palmer, wrote a fascinating book in 2002 entitled An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins. He carefully investigated the original accounts of the witnesses, and his observations are very relevant to our current study.
Let me say at the forefront of this section Mr. Palmer is indeed a member of the Latter-day Saints church:
“For thirty-four years I was primarily an Institute director for the Church Educational System (CES) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 52 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)
“I am a fourth-generation Mormon, and I want to address this discussion to other second-, third-, and fourth-generation Mormons who will better understand where I am coming from.” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 99 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)
Having established his credentials as a member of the Latter-Day Saints church, Palmer then reveals what his investigation of the witnesses uncovered.
Speaking of the culture of eighteenth century America, Palmer writes:
“The 1820s view of how the Book of Mormon was dictated is different than what we currently assume, as we have already seen. A corollary to this is that the perspective of the eleven men who testified to viewing and handling the gold plates differs from what we now assume. Their published statements tell only part of the story, and even then, we tend to read into their testimonies a rationalist perspective rather than a nineteenth-century magical mindset.  We are told that the witnesses never disavowed their testimonies, but we have not come to know these men or investigated what else they said about their experiences. They are eleven individuals—Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, and Joseph Smith Sr.—whose lives and personalities varied. They shared a common world view, and this is what drew them together in 1829. More specifically, they believed in what has been called second sight. Traditionally, this included the ability to see spirits and their dwelling places within the local hills and elsewhere. Josiah Stowell of Bainbridge, New York, hired Joseph Smith to hunt for buried treasure because Joseph “could discern things invisible to the natural eye.”  Ezra Booth, an early Mormon convert, reported of Joseph: “He does not pretend that he sees them [spirits and angels] with his natural, but with his spiritual eyes; and he says he can see them as well with his eyes shut, as with them open.””. (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 3826-3840 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)
Setting the stage for what he then discovered, Palmer goes on to explain the testimony of the initial three witnesses:
“This document gives the impression that there was an actual visitation of an angel who displayed physical plates. Church members today generally interpret the statement in this way. But the individual affirmations by Joseph Smith and the witnesses themselves indicate that their experience occurred as a vision.  James H. Moyle, a young LDS attorney, interviewed David Whitmer for two and one-half hours in 1885 and wrote that Whitmer “was somewhat spiritual in his explanations. He was not as materialistic in his descriptions as I wished.”  Zenas H. Gurley, an RLDS apostle, also interviewed Whitmer and asked, “Do you know the plates seen with the angel on the table were real metal, [and] did you touch them? [Whitmer:] We did not touch nor handle the plates. [Gurley:] Was the table literal wood? or was the whole a vision such as often occurs in dreams &c? [Whitmer:] The table had the appearance of literal wood as shown in the vision, in the glory of God … I [also] saw the ‘interpreters’ in the holy vision.”  In another account, Whitmer remembered: In June 1829, I saw the angel by the power of God … The angel appeared in the light … 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.  In his own pamphlet, An Address to All Believers in Christ, and elsewhere, Whitmer referred to this experience as a “vision.”  Harris testified to Anthony Metcalf of Elk Horn, Idaho, that “I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state … While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates.”  Another person asked Harris, “Did you see the plates and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes? … [Harris:] I did not see them as I do that pencil case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith.”  John H. Gilbert, Jesse Townsend, and Reuben T. Harmon all independently recalled that Harris said he saw the records with his “spiritual eyes” only. Harmon announced: “I am well acquainted with Martin Harris, who was often at my house … He never claimed to have seen them [the plates] with his natural eyes, only [in a] spiritual vision.”  According to the authorized testimony, the witnesses saw the plates but did not handle them. The angel turned the leaves for them to see the engravings. However, according to some of the witnesses’ individual affirmations, they handled the plates. Lucy Smith was at the Peter Whitmer home when Harris arrived immediately after the witnesses’ experience. He reported to her: “I have now seen an angel from Heaven … I have also looked upon the plates and handled them with my hands and can testify of the same to the whole world.”  To a group in Painesville, Ohio, in 1831, Harris declared that he knew “all about the gold plates, Angels, Spirits, and Jo Smith.—He had seen and handled them all, by the power of God! ”  Edward Stevenson, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, reported after interviewing Harris in August 1870: “He says he saw the plates, handled them and saw the angel that visited Joseph Smith, more than 40 years ago.”  Harris testified in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in September 1870, “I would rather have my right hand cut off than deny the knowledge of seeing and handling the plates, and hearing the words of the Angle [angel] regarding the truth of the Records.”  LDS bishop Simon Smith wrote that on his deathbed, Harris “did truly testify to me that he both saw and handled the plates that the Book of Mormon was translated from and that an angel of God did lay them before him.”  When asked about his vision, David Whitmer told RLDS member J. W. Chatburn in 1882: “These hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel, and these ears heard his voice.” In 1886 a newspaper correspondent interviewed Whitmer and wrote: “Mr. Whitmer describes every detail of the ‘vision’ with great precision and much fervency and insists that he handled and scrutinized the plates, and that the form and appearance of the strangely engraved characters were so impressed upon his memory that he would never forget them.”  Recall that when asked by Gurley if the three witnesses actually did “touch” the “real metal,” Whitmer responded, “We did not.”  In other words, if they handled them, it was in vision rather than in plain sight. Moyle said that Whitmer “repeated to me that he did see and handle the plates; that he did see and hear the angel”  in a vision, but that he “did not handle the plates” physically.  According to Reuben Miller, Oliver Cowdery said, “I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated.” In 1873 Brigham Young informed Elizabeth Kane and others that the plates that Cowdery saw “were in a cave; that Oliver Cowdery … would not deny that he had seen [and handled] them. He had been to the cave.” It appears that this cave was not a physical reality but rather something that was visited in a dream-vision.  The event, as the three witnesses describe it, was similar to the many second-sight experiences of Apostle John E. Page, John Landers, John Young (Brigham’s brother), Harrison Burgess, and Apostles Luke S. and Lyman E. Johnson (brothers), and other early Mormons. Elder Page related to John Landers his “vision” of 1833 when “three ancient-looking men” stood together in a room. According to Landers’s report: “They had the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated between them. He [Page] stood directly in front of them and saw them turn over the leaves, leaf by leaf, until they came to a thick mass of leaves that had a seal on them. While looking upon them, he heard the voice of the Lord say to him, ‘This is shown you, and you are to bear witness of it …’” ” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 4053-4117 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)
Thus it seems that the three witnesses did not actually “see” the golden plates.
Instead, they had a “vision” of these things while in some kind of “trance.”
Before we explore the significance of this, please notice what Palmer also found out about the testimony of the other eight witnesses:
“Although this collective declaration again seems to describe a literal event, the supporting evidence points to a less physical incident. If the three witnesses and others inspected the plates in a vision, perhaps the eight did also. Their statements indicate that this is likely the case. On 25 March 1838, Martin Harris testified publicly that none of the signatories to the Book of Mormon saw or handled the physical records. His statement, made at the height of Ohio’s banking-related apostasy, became the final straw that caused Apostles Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and John F. Boynton, and high priest Stephen Burnett and seventy Warren Parrish to exit the church. Stephen Burnett, in a letter dated 15 April 1838, three weeks after this meeting, wrote to Lyman Johnson: I have reflected long and deliberately upon the history of this church & weighed the evidence for & against it—loth to give it up—but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations was sapped & the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins, … I was followed by W. Parish[,] Luke Johnson & John Boynton[,] all of who[m] concurred with me[. A]fter we were done speaking[,] M Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of [h]im but should have let it passed as it was …  Warren Parrish, like Stephen Burnett, also heard Harris say at this meeting that none of the eleven men examined physical records. On 11 August Parrish wrote in a letter: “Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, 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 [Smith] not excepted.”  Of the eight signatories, only three individually reported that they saw and touched the records. A fourth, Hiram Page, curiously mentioned neither handling nor seeing plates. He said that he could not deny “what I saw. To say … that [I did not see] those holy Angels who came and showed themselves to me as I was walking through the field … would be treating the God of heaven with contempt.”  Hyrum Smith said his “eyes had seen … [and] my hands had handled” the plates. According to LDS member Daniel Tyler, Samuel Smith said that “he had handled them and seen the engravings thereon.”  John Whitmer provides the only detailed statement when he said in 1839, according to church member Theodore Turley: “I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides … they were shown to me by a supernatural power.”  This added detail of how he saw indicates that the eight probably did not observe or feel the actual artifact, just as Harris testified. If Joseph Smith placed the gold records uncovered into their hands, as the authorized statement seems to imply, there would be no reason for John Whitmer to say that a supernatural power was involved or for Harris to say that the eight witnesses viewed them in vision, like imagining “a city through a mountain.” Having handled the plates in vision, the eight witnesses therefore “hesitated to sign” their testimony because it seemed to say that their experience was physical. Both the Harris and Whitmer statements lead me to believe that the eight, like the three, saw and scrutinized the plates in a mind vision.” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 4154-4200 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)
Palmer references several other sources to substantiate his claims.
Please notice two things with me.
The Witnesses Did Not Actually See What They Say They Saw
The first thing that stands out to me about the credibility of these witnesses is that they did not actually witness anything tangible. They “saw” with a “spiritual” eye, and beheld things in “visions” and in the mind.
Is this to be considered truly authentic evidence?
It may be argued that the God of the Bible often spoke through visions to His Prophets and Apostles, and this is certainly true:
Genesis 15:1-After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
Numbers 12:6-Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.
Daniel 2:19-Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
Acts 16:9-And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
God can certainly communicate His will through visions.
However, there are two factors to keep in mind regarding these visions of the Bible and the contrast with the “visions” of the witnesses of the golden plates.
First, the supernatural visions of the Bible (which God communicated to His Prophets and Apostles) were supernaturally confirmed by God and verified by real, objective, and empirical proofs. Thus, the supernatural God provided detailed supernatural evidence which was clearly and empirically verifiable to the seekers of truth.
Consider the Resurrection of Christ as an example. When Jesus appeared to His Apostles, was it in the form of a vision or a trance?
Not at all!
Luke 24:37-43-37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.
38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?”
42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.
43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
Jesus not only appeared bodily to His Apostles. He showed them clearly that He was alive (even eating food in their presence so that they would know He had indeed risen).
Later, when Jesus appeared to Thomas, we read:
John 20:24-28-24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Even more to the point, we are reminded that when God supernaturally revealed His Word to His Prophets and Apostles, He supernaturally confirmed that Word in ways that were empirically veritable. So we read, for example:
John 3:2-This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
John 5:36-But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
John 7:31-And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?”
John 10:37-38-37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;
38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”
Acts 2:22-“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
Hebrews 2:3-4-3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
The visions that God gave to His Prophets and Apostles in the Bible were confirmed supernaturally-not through visions and trances-but through the agency of credible witnesses in empirical fashion.
This is a huge factor in our investigation of the credibility of these witnesses, especially when we consider that visions may come from several sources, according to the Bible. Constantly, the people of God are warned not to trust “dreams” and “visions” when they are in contradiction to His revealed Word (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:21-32; 29:8-9).
Furthermore, we are warned that even Satan and his forces can work such visions and “lying wonders” (Job 4:13-15; Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). This is especially noteworthy when we consider the occult background of Joseph Smith and of his family. One author, Peter Levenda, has carefully examined and documented these ties:
“JOSEPH SMITH, JR.—THE FOUNDER OF MORMONISM—came from a long line of occultists and religious zealots. For instance his ancestor, Samuel Smith, was one of the accusers of Mary Towne Easty who was eventually hanged as a witch at Salem on September 22, 1692. Even his father was well-known as an occultist and exorcist.” (Peter Levinda, The Angel And The Sorcerer:The Remarkable Story of the Occult Origins of Mormonism and the Rise of Mormons in American Politics, 82 (Kindle Edition); Lake Worth, Florida; Ibis Press)
“His childhood in Vermont took place at a time when there was a tremendous religious revival taking place all over the northern states, from New England to New York and Pennsylvania. The American Revolution, followed by the War of 1812 which began when Joseph Smith Jr was only seven years old, led to tremendous social and economic upheaval in the newly-independent States. His father experienced terrible luck at farming with three years of crop failures in a row and was going bankrupt. He tried to augment his family’s meager income with treasure-seeking using a divining rod, but with limited or no success. A divining rod is normally a forked branch or a specially-made wand of wood or metal that is used to point to the location of buried valuables. The operator holds the forked ends in his/ her left and right hand—a bit like a steering wheel—and invokes a higher power to enable him/ her to be drawn to the underground location. The rod will then bend towards the spot where the operator should begin digging. The use of the divining rod was extremely popular throughout that part of the country for more than a hundred years. In fact, the author knew of people using the divining rod in New Hampshire as late as the 1960s, mostly to find water during the drought of 1963–1964. But finding water or gold was not the only purpose of the divining rod. It could also be used as a means for spiritual communication. A group known as the Fraternity of Rodmen was active in Vermont at the time the Smiths lived there. The Fraternity was composed of men who—for instance—would use divining rods to determine who built the so-called “Indian burial” mounds by asking if it had been the Egyptians, etc. until the rod would respond at the mention of the Welsh. If the rod did not move, the answer was “no.” Any movement was usually interpreted as a “yes.” 1 This went further to the extent that the Fraternity began receiving instructions to build a temple, since they were informed that they were descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The idea that the New World was the ultimate destination of the wandering tribes had tremendous currency in those days, and groups like the New Israelites were formed along the lines of that belief. Other groups insisted that the Native Americans were themselves remnants of the Lost Tribes, while such seventeenth-century luminaries as Cotton Mather claimed that the “Red Men” were in fact Devils incarnate since there was no mention of the Native Americans in the Bible.” (Peter Levinda, The Angel And The Sorcerer:The Remarkable Story of the Occult Origins of Mormonism and the Rise of Mormons in American Politics, 170-181 (Kindle Edition); Lake Worth, Florida; Ibis Press)
The Prophets and Apostles of the Bible were forbidden from using any kind of paganism, witchcraft, divination or necromancy in order to try and summon Divine revelation (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10, 14; 1 Samuel 15:23; 2 Kings 17:17; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 14:14; Acts 16:16-19).
The contrast here is striking.
The Obvious Contradictions In The Witness Accounts
As if this were not enough, we should also notice that there are obvious discrepancies in the witness accounts.
For example, the common Mormon assertion today is that the original three witnesses did NOT touch and handle the golden plates (and several of the later testimony of the witnesses makes this claim also). Yet it is ALSO true that the earlier accounts of the three witnesses (and some of the later ones) say the EXACT OPPOSITE: that they did indeed touch and handle the goldEN plates.
Further, the same may also be said of the eight witnesses. While the finished signed statement was clear that the eight witnesses had “handled” the plates, it was also evident that this was not entirely accurate (from their own testimony).
Indeed, this was one of the reasons why the eight witnesses were hesitant to sign their names to the statement that Joseph Smith made (as Palmer clearly documents).
Friends, the witnesses of the book of Mormon were not credible witnesses. The book of Mormon is NOT the final revelation of God to mankind: the Bible itself is (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Often members of the churches of Christ are looked down upon for doing exactly what the Bible teaches: testing all things and sharing the Gospel with others (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Peter 3;15; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2;2).
It was the Prophets of God who continually pointed out the false religions of the world (just read through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel sometime and you will be amazed how often they directly confront the false teachers of that day and age). Jesus did the same (Matthew 16:12; 23:23; Mark 7:1-7; Luke 11:42), as did Paul (Romans, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Titus, etc.) and all the Apostles of Christ.
Examining religious teaching is not done in a spirit of self-righteousness or to try and unduly anger those around us; but to try and encourage people to return to the Word of God which alone is the safe path for us (Jeremiah 6:16). After all, the wisdom from above above is first PURE, and then PEACEABLE (James 3:17-18).
The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and several evidences document this clearly. The central message of Holy Scripture is that the Son of God came to this world to die in the place of sinful man (1 Timothy 2:4-6). Dying for the sins of fallen humanity, Jesus was able to become the Perfect High Priest to save us from our own wickedness (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). He died for us, was buried, and He arose from the dead on the third day after His death (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites believers everywhere to repent and be baptized by the authority of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins upon a profession of faith in Him as the Son of God (Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38), and He invites unfaithful Christians to return to Him in repentance and prayer (1 John 1:9).
Why not obey Him today?
If I can assist you in any way, please call upon me.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.