Tämä kappale on osa Hillin arvostelemaa 2. laitosta Fawn
M. Brodien kirjasta No
Man Knows My History, joka silloin oli hiljattain ilmestynyt.
The Witnesses to The Book of Mormon
What of the prophet's story about gold plates, and what about his
witnesses? ... The evidence is extremely contradictory in this area,
but there is a possibility that the three witnesses saw the plates
in vision only, for Stephen Burnett in a letter written in 1838,
a few weeks after the event, described Martin Harris' testimony
to this effect:
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 ... the last pedestal gave way, in my
view our foundations.
Burnett reported Harris saying that he had "hefted the plates
repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or handkerchief over
them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain."
Nonetheless, Harris said he believed the Book of Mormon to be true.
In the revelation given the three witnesses before they viewed the
plates they were told, "it is by your faith that you shall view
them" and "ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my
servant Joseph Smith Jr. has seen them, for it is by my power that
he has seen them." There is testimony from several independent interviewers,
all non-Mormon, that Martin Harris and David Whitmer said they saw
the plates with their "spiritual eyes" only. Among others, A. Metcalf
and John Gilbert, as well as Reuben P. Harmon and Jesse Townsend,
gave testimonies to this effect. This is contradicted, however,
by statements like that of David Whitmer in the Saints Herald in
1882, "these hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel."
But Z. H. Gurley elicited from Whitmer a not so positive response
to the question, "did you touch them?" His answer was, "We did not
touch nor handle the plates." Asked about the table on which the
plates rested, Whitmer replied, "the table had the appearance of
literal wood as shown in the visions of the glory of God." It does
not seem likely from all of this that Joseph Smith had to put undue
pressure on the three witnesses. More likely their vision grew out
of their own emotional and psychological needs. Men like Cowdery
and David Whitmer were too tough minded to be easily pressured by
So far as the eight witnesses go, William Smith said his father
never saw the plates except under a frock. And Stephen Burnett quotes
Martin Harris that "the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated
to sign that instrument [their testimony published in the Book of
Mormon] for that reason, but were persuaded to do it." Yet John
Whitmer told Wilhelm Poulson of Ovid, Idaho, in 1878 that he saw
the plates when they were not covered, and he turned the leaves.
Hiram Page, another of the eight witnesses, left his peculiar testimony
in a letter in the Ensign of Liberty in 1848:
As to the Book of Mormon, it would be doing injustice to myself
and to the work of God of the last days, to say that I could know
a thing to be true in 1830, and know the same thing to be false
in 1847. To say my mind was so treacherous that I have forgotten
what I saw, to say that a man of Joseph's ability, who at that
time did not know how to pronounce the word Nephi, could write
a book of six hundred pages, as correct as the Book of Mormon
without supernatural power. And to say that those holy Angels
who came and showed themselves to me as I was walking through
the field, to confirm me in the work of the Lord of the last days--three
of whom came to me afterwards and sang an hymn in their own pure
language; yes, it would be treating the God of heaven with contempt,
to deny these testimonies.
With only a veiled reference to "what I saw," Page does not say
he saw the plates but that angels confirmed him in his faith. Neither
does he say that any coercion was placed upon him to secure his
testimony. Despite Page's inconsistencies, it is difficult to know
what to make of Harris' affirmation that the eight saw no plates
in the face of John Whitmer's testimony. The original testimony
of these eight men in the Book of Mormon reads somewhat ambiguously,
not making clear whether they handled the plates or the "leaves"
of the translated manuscript. Thus there are some puzzling aspects
to the testimonies of the witnesses. If Burnett's statement is given
credence it would appear that Joseph Smith extorted a deceptive
testimony from the eight witnesses. But why should John Whitmer
and Hiram Page adhere to Mormonism and the Book of Mormon so long
if they only gave their testimony reluctantly? It may be that like
the three witnesses they expressed a genuine religious conviction.
The particulars may not have seemed as important as the ultimate
truth of the work. ...