We’re going to look at the section called, The Testimony of the Three Witnesses. Three men who were close associates to Joseph Smith were chosen to be witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Their names are Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. This official statement claims: “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.”
Then there is The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses . The eight men (note there’s no women) who were called to be witnesses in a different way from the Three Witnesses, were mainly from two close families. This official statement claims: “That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown 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… for we have seen and hefted.” Notice here, there was no angel involved.
Neither, the Three Witness Testimonies nor the Eight Witness Testimonies are dated nor is any location identified. The few statements provided by the witnesses themselves suggest a far more visionary, supernatural experience than the physical ever portrayed in these official declarations. Of the total eleven witnesses, over half of them apostatized from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I want to point out that in the original 1830 edition it read: “That Joseph Smith, Jun., the Author and Proprietor of this work, has shewn unto us the plates.” In the 1964 edition it was changed to read: “That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates.”
Let’s now look at the section titled, Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. “While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor… He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni.” It’s important to point out here, that Joseph had difficulty keeping this angel story straight. This official account published by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches that Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni who buried the gold plates in the Hill Cumorah. But in Joseph’s own handwritten version of that account, he wrote that the angel Nephi visited him. Yet the angel Nephi could not have shown Joseph Smith the location of the plates because, according to the Book of Mormon history, Nephi died several centuries before the plates were even written. Since the Book of Mormon teaches that Moroni buried the plates when he was alive on earth, the angel who showed Joseph Smith the location of the plates was later changed from Nephi to Moroni. You can learn more about Nephi and Morni by clicking here or click on the link in the description below.
I need to emphasize that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints makes no distinction between human spirits and angelic beings. For example, the Angel Moroni is supposedly a resurrected being. Yet, the Bible teaches that humans cannot become angels because we are a completely separate creation. In Hebrews 2:17, we read that by becoming a human, Jesus “was made like unto his brethren”, and in Verse 9, “was made a little lower than the angels.” Now, if angels are disembodied human spirits, how could Jesus be made lower than the angels by becoming human? These biblical statements wouldn’t make sense if angels are simply human spirits who do not have a body. Again, a clear distinction is made between angels and humans when we read that Jesus did not take upon Himself the nature of angels but took upon Himself a human form in order to pay for our sins.
Okay, back to The Testimony of Joseph Smith it reads, “He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.” I challenge you to study the book thoroughly and list anything you discover which correlates with the fulness of the everlasting Gospel. Not only will you find nothing which supports a single aspect of Joseph’s restored gospel – you will find many elements that completely contradict what he wrote in the Book of Mormon. That’s because Joseph Smith later altered his beliefs and introduced new ideas as his theology evolved. What eventually became the fulness of the gospel started to appear long after the book was published. The Nephites could not believe in the teachings Joseph Smith was yet to come up with, and as a result they do not appear in the Book of Mormon.
Back to The Testimony of Joseph Smith “Also, that there were two stones in silver bows, and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummin – deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted ‘seers’ in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.” In the Gospel Topic Essays Called – The Book of Mormon Translation the church establishes as fact that Joseph used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon (image on lds.org). Joseph found this stone in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates and Urim and Thummin. He had used this specific stone to search for treasure. As a matter of fact, he only used the Urim and Thummin to translate the first 116 pages called the book of Lehi. It makes you wonder why the need for the gold plates and the Urim and Thummin, when Joseph Smith ended up using his treasure seeking peep stone in a hat, instead. Pictures were used by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on their official website and in various publications for decades, we have links to these websites in the description below. This may have misled members into concluding that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon while actually looking at the characters engraved upon the gold plates. Only recently is the Church including Joseph’s face in the hat in their pictures of the translation process.
The Angel Moroni or Nephi went on to tell Joseph, “I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummin; only to those whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed.” Keep in mind, all of this happened while his brothers lay sleeping next to Joseph in the bedroom. Joseph Smith claimed during these visions, a bright light filled the room like noon day and lasted most of the night, with the angel standing by his bed and talking to him. Since the Smith family lived in a small log cabin, it is highly unlikely that they wouldn’t have been awakened by this event. The final version of this story had evolved up until an official account was written in 1838, and not published until 1842.
Then once again, Moroni or Nephi reappears and Joseph said, “he informed me of great judgments which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on earth in this generation.” Since there was no fulfillment of these described judgments, we could surmise that the angel was giving false prophecy. Then the angel appears the third time to Joseph, “telling me that Satan would try to tempt me,… to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich.”
The very next day, while working in the fields, Joseph collapsed with exhaustion. The angel appeared and rehearsed everything from the night before and told Joseph to go tell his father, which he did. Afterwards, he went directly to the hill Cumorah. He describes, “On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box.” Having removed the stone, he looked in and saw the plates, the Urim and Thummin, and the breastplate. The angel told him to return on the same date for four years,
which he did and met the angel who gave him instructions. On September 22, 1827, the angel delivered them up to him.
The Testimony of Joseph Smith comes to a finish with Joseph saying, “they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight.”
The last page we need to cover in the Introductory Pages to the Book of Mormon is called A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon. It speaks of four kinds of metal record plates that are spoken of in the book itself. And mentions the parts or divisions among the narrative of the Book of Mormon. Then, it ends with this disclaimer admitting to the correction of errors in past editions. “Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
The Come Follow Me manual suggests to the Sunday School teacher that, “You could also invite class members to share answers to these three questions suggested by President Russell M. Nelson: ‘First, what would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? Second, what would you not know? And third, what would you not have?’” My honest response would be that – because of the contradictions between modern-day Mormonism and the Book of Mormon – we would actually have, a clearer understanding of Mormonism without the Book. Life would still be great, because we have God’s word contained in the Holy Bible. By-the-way, we just about didn’t have the Book of Mormon because of Joseph Smith’s attempt to try and sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon. If you want to find out more about that, check on this link here, or check out the description below. (Episode 75 T2M).
So, if all that we have covered in this lesson tells us about where the Book of Mormon came from – are there any other possibilities about its origin? There are many scholars who believe Joseph Smith borrowed from contemporary books of his day, when he wrote it. It is their opinion that he plagiarized numerous chapters from the Bible, and borrowed names, phrases, and stories specifically from three other books entitled: The Late War Between the United States and Great Britain, The First Book of Napoleon, and the View of the Hebrews, by Ethan Smith. If this is true, the Book of Mormon is nothing more than a 19th Century book of fiction written by man. That my friends, is a decision each one of us has to make when seriously considering the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
And this concludes the lesson for the Introductory Pages to the Book of Mormon. Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, Google Podcast. Also, check out our website at CFMpodcast.com where you can download and print this script and learn much more.
Until next time, God Bless!