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The Eleven Witnesses x 2

October 24, 2009

The history of the birth of Christendom and the birth of Mormonism is similar in the persecution suffered by its members. Although the early LDS weren’t fed to literal lions or made to fight gladiators, they endured the ridicule from outsiders who saw their new religion as an affront to Americanism. Many comparisons and contrasts have been drawn between the leaders of the respective movements. In one striking way, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith were very similar. Both had an intimate group of witnesses who testified later of their observations.

The first group of eleven

Jesus’ original twelve disciples were His closest companions during His earthly ministry. It would be hard to overstate the betrayal that Jesus felt when Judas Iscariot sold Him for a mere 30 pieces of silver.  But Judas was not the only disciple to abandon Jesus. Peter famously denied Jesus three times. After witnessing the trial and crucifixion the disciples had to have been in low spirits. The confusion that they felt as they watched their Savior die would have been profound.  It would have been understandable if they had abandoned religious faith altogether and went back to secular careers. And yet, following the resurrection of Christ the disciples were transformed into missionaries, evangelists and writers of the New Testament. All of the disciples (with the exception of John) were martyred for their faith. They did not reside within the nation of Israel but left its borders to share the gospel. Tradition tells us that Thomas went to India, Bartholomew went to Armenia, James, Son of Alphaeus went to Syria. Some disciples are believed to have traveled as far as Britain in sharing the Good News. With the exception of Judas Iscariot, every disciple remained faithful to the very end of their lives, even in the face of intense persecution. Simon Peter died in the same manner as Christ—crucifixion. The Apostle John records that Jesus prophesied this event.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:18-19).

Church tradition records that he was crucified in Rome during the extreme abuse the Christians faced under Nero. Faithful to the end, Peter requested to be crucified upside-down—unwilling to share the honor of being slain in the same manner as his Savior.

The second group of eleven

It is fair to draw comparisons between the disciples of Jesus and the witnesses of Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates. Both groups of people were very close to Jesus and Joseph Smith respectively. Both groups were originally devout in their faith. But, something must have gone terribly wrong in the Mormon group for their later lives did not reflect their original fervor.

The beginning of the Book of Mormon recounts the testimony of the Three and Eight Witnesses. These are the individuals who actually handled the golden plates of Joseph Smith. The witnesses can be divided into three groups—the Smiths, the Whitmers and Martin Harris. The Whitmer family had seven individuals who testified of witnessing the plates. Their role in LDS history can not be overemphasized. Joseph and Emma Smith stayed with the Whitmer family for six months and it was in their house that the LDS church was started.

All three of the Three Witnesses left the church. Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated for apostasy. He had accused Joseph Smith of having anaffair with Fanny Alger.  David Whitmer was also excommunicated. Both men acknowledged James Strang as Joseph Smith’s successor although Whitmer would eventually reject Strang as well. Martin Harris—perhaps the most colorful figure of all—left the LDS church only to rejoin it later and be re-baptized prior to his death. He also accepted James Strang as Joseph Smith’s successor but then left the Strangites to join other splinter factions.

The Eight Witnesses were made up of two family units—the Whitmers and the Smiths. The entire Whitmer family abandoned their faith—this included Christian, Jacob, Peter, and John Whitmer. Also included in the Whitmer family was Hiram Page—married to Catherine Whitmer. (It should be noted that Oliver Cowdery was also a brother-in-law to the Whitmer family.) The Whitmers did experience persecution for their faith but credited another reason for their abandonment of the church.  An article in the Ensign provides insight into this family.

Years later, David gave several reasons for leaving the Church, but they can be summarized into one primary reason. First and foremost, he was not able to accept continued revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He felt that Joseph Smith had gone astray, and he rejected the revelations received by the Prophet after 1836.

The other family unit making up the remainder of the Eight Witnesses were the family of Joseph Smith. Hyrum, Joseph’s brother, was killed along with the Prophet in the Carthage jail. Another brother, Samuel, and his father Joseph Smith Sr, were the remaining two witnesses. Both of these men remained faithful to their testimony of the church and to Joseph Smith.

The remarkable aspect of the Three and Eight Witnesses is that none of them claimed to have “made up” their story.  As far as history can tell us, they went to their graves testifying that they had indeed witnessed the Gold Plates.  Some LDS argue that their abandonment of the faith while maintaining a testimony of the plates provides even greater evidence of the veracity of their story.  Should the greater weight of evidence rest on what the witnesses thought they saw or on the credibility of the person who convinced them they saw it?

And what about other aspects of their story?  What about their acceptance of James Strang?  What about Cowdery and his accusations of Joseph Smith’s immorality?  This leaves me to wonder, if the only witnesses who remained faithful to Joseph Smith were his own father and his brothers what does that say about his role as a prophet? If most of the people who actually saw the plates lost their faith what can be said for those who haven’t seen?

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. Cordelia permalink
    October 25, 2009 9:21 pm

    In response to your very last question: I think this shows that even a sign from heaven isn’t enough for some people. As Christ said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

  2. Stephanie permalink
    October 25, 2009 9:50 pm

    Hi Cordelia 🙂

    Jesus’ response to Thomas (Jn 20:29) was the quote I was also thinking of when I asked that last question. Thomas didn’t take the disciples word for it that they had seen the Savior–he wanted to see for himself. I doubt very much that Thomas would ever have embraced the resurrection had he not put his hands on Jesus’ wounds. I bet he would have gone back to his day job and quit with religion all together. Yet, what Thomas did was much different than that! Thomas became a great evangelist and missionary–perhaps traveling as far as India in his efforts to spread the Good News. He knew what he saw and it changed his life forever.

    The same can’t be said for the Witnesses of the plates. They did go back to their “day jobs” so to speak. Whatever they saw was not enough to convince them of the veracity of Joseph Smith or his claims. Are you sure that they just didn’t have as much faith as you?

    Stephanie

  3. Alan permalink
    October 26, 2009 3:56 am

    Paradigm check:

    1. David Whitmer had not problem with more revelation be it a prophecy, or knowledge. Read his pamphlet.

    2. The witnesses were liable for the BoM, not what Joseph did after it. Thus, they would NOT list their names as witnesses of the D&C.

    Your paradigm is flawed.

  4. Cordelia permalink
    October 26, 2009 4:56 am

    Hi Stephanie!

    I never said that they just didn’t have as much faith as me…that sounds pretty arrogant. I’m just saying that seeing a sign from heaven isn’t enough to base your faith on. I don’t know how many of the 11 witnesses of the golden plates based their faith on what they saw, or how many based their faith on the testimony that they received from the Spirit about who Joseph Smith claimed to be. If they based their faith on what they saw, then it’s easy to see how they would falter later on once things got difficult.

    I think it is very fair to say that the fact that they never denied what they saw is pretty good support for giving validity to their claims. In fact, I would say it’s almost a better support–what reason would they have for continuing to allege that they saw the plates when they no longer believed Joseph Smith to be a prophet? What advantage would that give them? I could be mistaken, but I don’t know that any of them ever said that they did not believe Joseph Smith to be a prophet. Those that fell away said he was a “fallen prophet”–which means he had to have been a prophet at one time. That’s something.

    Anyway, I am just having a bit of trouble seeing how this is a fair comparison–I think that seeing the resurrected Lord, who you had seen crucified and buried just a few days earlier, would leave an incredible impression on someone, much more so than what the witnesses of the golden plates experienced. But maybe that’s just me. =)

    ~Cordelia

  5. Cordelia permalink
    October 26, 2009 5:00 am

    Oh, and I’m not trying to excuse the apostasy of some of the witnesses in my last paragraph. It is definitely a concern to me that some of them fell away. But it doesn’t threaten my faith at all. Just wanted to make sure that was clear =)

  6. Stephanie permalink
    October 27, 2009 12:02 am

    Hi Alan,

    You wrote: Paradigm check:

    1. David Whitmer had not problem with more revelation be it a prophecy, or knowledge. Read his pamphlet.

    Do you mind clarifying your statement? I don’t understand what you are saying and I’d like to respond but I keep reading this sentence and it doesn’t make sense to me! 🙂 The quote that I linked to above regarding David Whitmer was from Ensign and it indicated that David had lost faith in Joseph Smith’s continued revelation. Here’s the link to that article.

    Stephanie

  7. Stephanie permalink
    October 27, 2009 12:18 am

    Anyway, I am just having a bit of trouble seeing how this is a fair comparison–I think that seeing the resurrected Lord, who you had seen crucified and buried just a few days earlier, would leave an incredible impression on someone, much more so than what the witnesses of the golden plates experienced. But maybe that’s just me. =)

    But, the accounts of the witnesses are incredible! How can an angel showing you golden plates–the very source of the Book of Mormon–not be an earth-shattering experience? I have had many spiritual experiences in my life where I knew that the Holy Spirit was guiding me and protecting me. I truly believe that God protected me from a fatal car accident when I was driving home from college once. Its an experience that I often think back on and praise God for. I’ve seen Him answer my prayers and move in other peoples lives. But, I can never claim to have actually seen anything supernatural. I’ve never seen an angel. I’ve never seen a physical object delivered by an angel to a man. I can tell you that if I did it would leave me beyond amazed. It would be life-changing and earth shattering.

    I think it is very fair to say that the fact that they never denied what they saw is pretty good support for giving validity to their claims.

    Martin Harris was said to have walked and talked about 2 miles with Jesus in the shape of a deer. As far as I know, he never recanted that. Does that mean that this account is also true? If Joseph Smith’s level of involvement in the supernatural was any precedent for his followers, they showed a very high interest in ghosts, angels and visions.

    Those that fell away said he was a “fallen prophet”–which means he had to have been a prophet at one time. That’s something.

    At least Olivery Cowdery had moral concerns about Joseph Smith and his affairs. It seems clear that the Whitmers also failed to recognize his continued revelation. What does this mean for the rest of the work Joseph Smith did in his ministry? If he was a “fallen prophet” when did he begin actin out of his own deception? I don’t think that this view is at all promoted by the LDS church.

    Stephanie

  8. October 27, 2009 6:26 pm

    Stephanie,

    Much of the falling away among the witnesses came about because they felt the LDS Church was originally true, but had lost it’s way somehow (this was David Whitmer’s position).

    But I fail to see how a Joseph Smith who was originally a true prophet, but later a fallen prophet makes the Protestant position any better.

    You guys are in deep doo-doo no matter which narrative is true. Joseph Smith – true to the faith till death? Or Joseph Smith – true messenger of God’s Restored Gospel and later fallen-prophet?

    Either way you go, traditional Christianity obviously went horribly wrong somewhere along the trail.

  9. Stephanie permalink
    October 27, 2009 8:19 pm

    You guys are in deep doo-doo no matter which narrative is true.

    I guess I would have to say that I don’t embrace either position. I don’t think that Joseph Smith was originally a prophet at all.

    Either way you go, traditional Christianity obviously went horribly wrong somewhere along the trail.

    I find it grievous that you would suggest that Christianity went horribly wrong during this time period. During the time that Joseph was “restoring” the truths to the church, the Protestants in America were enjoying the Second Great Awakening. This was a huge religious movement impacting society and participating in the rise of the temperance and abolition movements. Christian zeal was at a high in America. It brings to mind the charge that Jesus gave regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32). Are you attributing the revivals that the Protestant church experienced to the devil?

    Stephanie

  10. Cordelia permalink
    October 27, 2009 8:31 pm

    Stephanie,

    I’m so glad that you feel the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit in your life. It’s wonderful knowing that people throughout the world recognize that for what it is, a Father in Heaven reaching out through His Spirit to help His children. =)

    Allow me to explain why I don’t think the comparison is fair. I see a few differences between the 11 Apostles who testified of Christ’s resurrection and the 11 Witnesses of the golden plates.

    First of all, the angel only showed the plates to three of the eleven witnesses. The other eight only saw the plates themselves—not that that’s not an incredible experience as well, of course, but I just wanted to clarify that. And if you read their testimony, the eight witnesses never said that they knew for sure that an angel delivered the plates to Joseph—only that he actually did have plates in his possession. Sure, they believed Joseph’s story, but had no assurance, other than through the Holy Spirit, that he was actually telling the truth.

    Secondly, when did each experience happen? The 11 Apostles saw Christ after His resurrection. They had already spent three years walking and talking with Him, being taught by Him, and seeing Him perform miracles. They saw Him crucified on the cross and some participated in His burial. They felt the violent tremors of the earth as it reacted to the death of its Creator. All of this culminated with them being witnesses of His resurrection. They spent a brief period with Him after that resurrection, and watched Him ascend into heaven. They heard Him command them to go throughout the world, preaching the gospel to every creature. And that is what they did.

    The 11 Witnesses of the golden plates, however, saw the plates at the beginning of the time period we call the Restoration. And they testified solely of the Book of Mormon, not of the entire gospel as preached by Joseph Smith. They, too, experienced persecution for their testimony, and they were faithful to what they saw, none of them ever denying their witness to the Book of Mormon—and that was the only thing that they were actual witnesses of! Sure, they left the Church, but not because they turned their back on the Book of Mormon. Their issues were with Joseph and the revelations he received after the Book of Mormon had already been translated and published. Huge difference there. And because they did not have a testimony, or a witness, of Joseph’s further revelations, they left.

    Seth has a good point—the 11 Witnesses of the golden plates did not ever recant their testimony regarding the Book of Mormon. They believed that Joseph had been a prophet, just that he had fallen away at some point. For them, this meant that “the rest of the work Joseph Smith did in his ministry” was invalid, but it also means that what he did prior to that, including translating the Book of Mormon, was true. I don’t know when they believed he started “acting out of his own deception”—that’s not something I adhere to. I didn’t mean to imply that this was promoted at all by the LDS Church. It’s clearly not. I only seek to make clear the fact that they believed Joseph had been a prophet at one time, which is very important when you’re talking about them falling away from the Church at a later date.

    As to your mention of Martin Harris walking with Jesus in the shape of a deer…I had never heard that before, so I appreciate the link. My issue with this is that the link to the Wikipedia page uses a secondary account as the reference to claim, and it wasn’t something we have any record of Martin Harris saying himself (though if you can find something like this, please let me know). If we are requiring people to recant anything untruthful that anyone says about them in order to believe they’re not true, then it’s a wonder we believe anything about anyone (hope that made sense)!

    I’m not sure how to take this comment: “If Joseph Smith’s level of involvement in the supernatural was any precedent for his followers, they showed a very high interest in ghosts, angels, and visions.” Is there something wrong with that? If they’re coming from the right source, then I’m perfectly okay with it. And how do I know that these particular visions and angels came from the right source? Because I have received a testimony that they did from the Holy Spirit. =)

    Thanks for the discussion!
    ~Cordelia

  11. Cordelia permalink
    October 27, 2009 8:38 pm

    I can’t and don’t speak for Seth, but my understanding of his comment is not that traditional Christianity went horribly wrong “during this time period,” but at some point previous to that (think sometime soon after the death of the Apostles). It was things like the Reformation and the Second Great Awakening which made it possible for the truth to be restored, actually. I definitely believe those events were inspired of God.

  12. October 27, 2009 8:44 pm

    The time period I was referring to was the entire sweep of Christianity from 2nd century on.

  13. Stephanie permalink
    October 27, 2009 9:10 pm

    The time period I was referring to was the entire sweep of Christianity from 2nd century on.

    But, if the Holy Spirit was removed from the church (and remains removed–except in the LDS church) how can these events be justified? The holiness movement had a profound impact on Protestantism in the U.S.–during the same time period that Joseph Smith was acquiring women. Just a guess on which one was inspired by the Holy Ghost and I’m going to have to go with the Second Great Awakening.

    Stephanie

  14. October 27, 2009 9:31 pm

    If James Strang and the Kinderhook hoaxers could make a set of metal plate props sufficient to fool numerous people under close visible inspection, Joseph Smith could, too. The fact that he claimed 2/3 of the book was “sealed” and couldn’t be shown to anyone would have made the prop construction even easier.

    It’s nice that three of the witnesses said they saw an angel, but so what? There’s all kinds of accounts in the 19th century of multiple people claiming to have witnessed a paranormal event. There’s all kinds of people in the 20th and 21st century claiming to have witnessed a supernatural event. In 2006, 12 airline employees (including pilots) at Chicago O’Hare International Airport claimed that a flying saucer hovered over them for several minutes before shooting up into the sky, punching a hole in the cloud canopy as it went. I can’t explain that story—I think it’s much more compelling than the usual UFO craziness because it involves pilots and airline staff (i.e. people who aren’t going to be fooled by clouds of gas and weather balloons)—but I’m not quite ready to accept that little green men are visiting us just yet.

    The eleven witnesses are not much of a problem for those who reject Mormonism altogether, but they sure are a problem for the people who believe Joseph Smith was a prophet until his death and Brigham Young was his rightful successor.

  15. Cordelia permalink
    October 27, 2009 9:43 pm

    Who said the Holy Spirit was removed from the earth and only works within the LDS Church? That’s not what I believe. There is a difference between the Holy Spirit and the Gift of the Holy Spirit as taught by the LDS Church. The Holy Spirit is always around to testify of truth–that is how people all over the world can feel God’s influence in their lives. I think it is that Spirit that moved Martin Luther to write the 95 Theses. It is that Spirit that influenced people during the Second Great Awakening. God did not leave His people alone during the Great Apostasy. The Spirit was never completed removed from the earth.

  16. Cordelia permalink
    October 27, 2009 9:51 pm

    Jack,

    Of course Joseph could have made the plates himself. And of course the appearance of the angel could have been a group hallucination. Then again, so could the resurrection of Christ. Of course you and I don’t believe that, but it could also be explained away using your same logic, couldn’t it? Just because there are similar accounts that are false doesn’t make ones that actually happened less real.

    Oh, and the eleven witnesses are not a problem for me at all. I don’t have to account for them having fallen away. Even the very elect can be deceived, right?

    ~Cordelia

  17. October 27, 2009 10:00 pm

    Jack, I agree that the eleven witnesses hardly constitute sufficient proof for skeptics.

    But then again – neither do the witnesses of the resurrection.

    If we’d all just admit that our witnesses are primarily based on something other than objective proof everyone else must feel bound by, it would all be good in my book.

  18. October 27, 2009 10:15 pm

    Cordelia ~ No one’s making an empty tomb argument here (or at least, I’m not). I’m well aware that some of the arguments which can be used to deconstruct the miraculous phenomena in early Mormonism work just as well on the claims of early Christianity. (Although a lot more than 3 people claimed to have seen the risen Christ. It’s much easier to conspire with 3 than it is with dozens or hundreds.)

    Even the very elect can be deceived, right?

    Of course. The case of Judas shows that. However, if most of Christ’s apostles as well as His mother and brothers had later denounced what Christianity had become and taken to following the prophet of a heretical movement, it would sure give me pause for thought on the origins of Christianity.

    Seth ~ While I think that the case for the empty tomb is more compelling than the case for the miraculous origins of the Book of Mormon, I agree that neither case is going to be all that persuasive to skeptics. Guess it takes faith. 🙂

    I get the impression sometimes that Dan Peterson and some other LDS apologists are trying to Lee Strobel the 11 witnesses. I don’t think it’s working out.

  19. Stephanie permalink
    October 27, 2009 11:27 pm

    Cordelia

    Who said the Holy Spirit was removed from the earth and only works within the LDS Church? That’s not what I believe. There is a difference between the Holy Spirit and the Gift of the Holy Spirit as taught by the LDS Church

    Let me ask you a question then. If the LDS church is the only church that can “confer” the gift of the Holy Ghost, how did the Holy Ghost work in the Second Great Awakening? The Holy Ghost is not some vague entity that “works in the earth.” He works in the lives of people. The Apostle Paul said, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). He was speaking this to believers. If the believers apostatized during the second century and were no longer able to “confer” the Holy Ghost how did the Second Great Awakening occur?

    I’m not sure how to take this comment: “If Joseph Smith’s level of involvement in the supernatural was any precedent for his followers, they showed a very high interest in ghosts, angels, and visions.” Is there something wrong with that? If they’re coming from the right source, then I’m perfectly okay with it.

    I was referring to the money-digging to Joseph Smith. I’ve heard FAIR conference talks that try to reframe the meaning / purpose of this behavior but it all boils down to the strange category for me. Why does a prophet need to obtain money by digging in the earth? Why can’t God provide it for him? Why was it never successful? You would think that if the peep-stone was able to produce the translation for the gold plates it should be able to find money in the earth!

    Even as late as 1836 Joseph was still up to his money-digging expeditions. In their book Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery (both LDS scholars) cite the trip to Salem, Massachusetts by Joseph Smith.

    Accounts of the purpose of the trip conflict. Joseph’s letters mention his renting a home in Salem, Massachusetts, teaching, preaching, and visiting. Ebenezer Robinson, who boarded at Emma’s, said that Joseph had read in the Painesville (Ohio) Telegraph that a treasure lay buried beneath a house in Salem and a man had offered to guide him to it. Pressed by debts and needing capital to build Kirtland, on the one hand, and, on the other, pained by the earlier problems about money digging and peep stoning, Joseph kept his intentions from all but a few. In a note to Emma, Joseph made a veiled reference to the secret project: “With regard to the great object of our mission, you will be anxious to know. We have found the house. . .very luckily and providentially. . .[It] is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it. We think we shall be able to effect it.”

    The search for the treasure was unsuccessful. Perhaps the revelation he dictated at the close of the expedition quieted some criticism. “I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming on this journey, notwithstanding your follies. I have much treasure in this city [Salem] for you, for the benefit of Zion. . .I will order all things for your good, as fast as ye are able to receive them.” Joseph returned to Kirtland empty-handed. Ebenezer Robinson noted sadly, “We speak these things with regret.” But the episode brought to a close the money-digging chapter of Joseph’s life (p. 60).

    Money-digging is certainly not the most conventional means of making a profit—and in Smith’s case it wasn’t even fruitful! But, he was fascinated with the supernatural and so it is no surprise that he entered into this practice. When I brought up the supernaturalism of Smith I was referring to events such as these (there are many, many examples). If he could be deceived in his peep-stoning how can we be sure that his reception of the Book of Mormon wasn’t also self-deceit? Because of the wealth of information we have from Smith’s contemporaries we can be certain that the stories of his involvement in the supernatural are not just “anti-Mormon” rhetoric. Take this quote from Mormonwiki:

    Few historians today, however, LDS or not, deny that Joseph Smith and his family were deeply involved in folk magic

    Regarding the account of Martin Harris, it was written by John Clark. His entire Gleanings by the Way can be found here. His book is rejected by LDS as biased so you can do with that statement what you like. 🙂

    Stephanie

  20. October 27, 2009 11:32 pm

    Stephanie, Joseph Smith dropped his money-digging activity once he grasped the seriousness of his true calling with God. Once he started translation of the Book of Mormon, he never looked back.

    So it’s not really a failing you can attribute to “Joseph the Prophet” if failing it is.

  21. Stephanie permalink
    October 28, 2009 12:20 am

    Seth, the account I quoted above happened in 1836–far into his ministry.

  22. October 28, 2009 12:45 am

    BJM,

    Are you saying that Judas is one of the elect?

  23. October 28, 2009 1:04 am

    Not in the sense of being predestined to salvation. I had in mind the sense of being one of the Twelve.

  24. psychochemiker permalink
    October 28, 2009 1:17 am

    Jack. You know that talk is cheap. If you’re going to suggest that Joseph Smith had knowledge of metal-working, do you have any historical backing to support that? Better yet, can you also find out how much time (and money) it would take to construct this, and find out if the truly indigent nature of JS’s family would have enabled that? Better yet, could you take the same materials and tools available from that time period and reconstruct it. Because, heck, if the unschooled, male, (charlatan, as your argument goes) Joseph Smith could do it, certainly the educated, female, BJM could, especially with teh intarweb!

  25. October 28, 2009 1:22 am

    BJM,

    Thank you for the clarification.

  26. NChristine permalink
    October 28, 2009 1:54 am

    Hi Cordelia, Jack, and Seth,

    Cordelia said, And of course the appearance of the angel could have been a group hallucination. Then again, so could the resurrection of Christ.

    Seth said, If we’d all just admit that our witnesses are primarily based on something other than objective proof everyone else must feel bound by, it would all be good in my book.

    It is interesting that there were the “eleven” and the “eleven,” and certainly there are often comparisons made. But in my mind, comparing the eleven apostles with the eleven BoM witnesses is like comparing apples with volleyballs.

    The apostles were witnesses to the central events of Christianity (the crucifixion, resurrection, and giving of the Holy Spirit), around which its scriptural books are centered. In other words, they were in a position to know whether or not the events and truths to which they testified were true. To have a proper correspondence of witnesses, we would need eleven (+ 70 + 500 + others) witnesses to the events of the book of Mormon. Is not Christ’s appearance in the New World supposed to be the proper LDS counterpart to His appearance in the Old World?

    If we were to stretch the comparison very far, we could perhaps have an appropriate comparison of the apostolic witnesses with hundreds of witnesses (such as cited in I Cor. 15) for the First Vision. But we have witnesses for none of these things.

    If we were to formulate fictional witnesses for the New Testament as a true counterpart to the eleven Mormon witnesses, it would be like this:

    In the early 1600s one Englishman shows one mysterious Greek manuscript to a few people. Three claim to have seen a supernatural being. Then the manuscript disappears, and the King James Version is published. And of course the thousands upon thousands of NT manuscripts, historical references to NT events, and quotations by 1600 years of scholars, etc., never existed.

    That might be begin to be a fair comparison, don’t you think? 🙂

  27. October 28, 2009 2:11 am

    Are you kidding me PC?

    Joseph Smith personally didn’t have to have knowledge of metal-working. He only had to have a blacksmith make him some plates from a gold-looking alloy (like brass) and etch them with a sharp object. Since he kept the plates covered all the time, didn’t use them for the actual translating and barely allowed anyone to look at them, he didn’t even have to do a very thorough job with the engraving and it would be enough to fool people. If the Anthon transcript is an accurate record of what was engraved on the plates, he didn’t do a very good job.

    Better yet, can you also find out how much time (and money) it would take to construct this

    Again, James Strang and the Kinderhook hoaxers both managed to have metal plates with engravings made—and Strang was confident enough to put his plates on public display and publish facsimiles of them in their entirety, and they still fooled people. Do you know how much time and money it took for Strang and the Kinderhook company to make their plates? Or do you not believe those plates were a hoax?

    and find out if the truly indigent nature of JS’s family would have enabled that?

    Dunno, but I bet the money Martin Harris gave him to produce the Book of Mormon probably helped. I rather doubt it was an expensive endeavor though. Strang was accused of constructing his plates out of a tea kettle.

    Because, heck, if the unschooled, male, (charlatan, as your argument goes) Joseph Smith could do it, certainly the educated, female, BJM could, especially with teh intarweb!

    Well, PC, since I am a woman—as you so penetratingly observed—I wouldn’t do the grunt work of constructing such plates myself. I would simply find a man who is capable of making such a prop and sleep with him in exchange for his services.

    And the religion I would start would look almost exactly like this. Joseph Smith, eat your heart out.

  28. October 28, 2009 2:34 am

    NChristine,

    You are never, ever going to convince me that Evangelicalism has even one iota more objective proof of anything that actually matters in its faith claims than Mormonism does.

    So I suggest you drop it.

    In my eyes, these kind of arguments just make you look like you are incapable of reflective self-observation.

  29. October 28, 2009 3:12 am

    But we do have Mr. T, Seth.

    Doesn’t that tempt you toward conversion at least a little bit?

  30. psychochemiker permalink
    October 28, 2009 4:12 am

    It’s a well known fact that I have no sense of humor Jack.

    Maybe I misread your statement, but it certainly seems like you were implying Joseph faked the plates. I also don’t think you’ve shown it truly plausible that Joseph did fake them just because of the existence of the Voree or kinderhook plates. I mean, Strang only had 3 plates with a total surface area of around 16 square inches total. There is at least one person in the historical record who claims to have helped forge them from a tea-kettle. The kinderhook plates, on the other hand were six fairly small bell-shaped plates. I’m not certain of the size, but I’m guessing the order of magnitude is 100″ square. Again, for the kinderhook plates, there is someone who claimed that he helped fabricate the plates 36 years after they were “discovered”. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, was described to have dimensinos of 7×8″ with the thickness being the thickness of common tin. I haven’t been able to find that thickness of “common tin” so I’m just assuming 0.01″. This estimates about 400 pages total, for a total surface area of about 150 square feet, a size 5000x larger than the voree plates, and 250 times larger than my guess of the kinderhook plates.

    So anyone can afford 1 maybe two tea-kettles to destroy for a prank. How bout the cost of some gold/copper/other metal alloy? Could 40 lbs or more of this material be purchased for the paltry sum Harris gave Joseph to support his family? Was his family supported some other way if the money wasn’t used for the family?

    I mean seriously Jack. Hopefully your teachers will teach you to check your assumptions a lot better. The material cost for the kinderhook plates is at least 1/5000th the cost, the time in construction, would be at least 1/10,000. Simply from an order-of-magnitude calculation it looks like you’re comparing apples and oranges. It’s like saying, because one Incan family could build a pueblo that one family could also build a pyramid. Even though the pyramid is some 5000x larger, and the family wasn’t 5000x larger.

    See, I never implied that the kinderhook and voree plates weren’t hoaxes, so I’m not sure why you’re using that straw-man. It’s simply a different construction problem, level of skill, cost, and time. Further the argument is built on maybe’s, perhaps’s. Arguments from silence are good tactics for CARM members and Darrell, but I expect better from you (and therefore I’m calling you on it).

  31. October 28, 2009 4:16 am

    This estimates about 400 pages total, for a total surface area of about 150 square feet, a size 5000x larger than the voree plates, and 250 times larger than my guess of the kinderhook plates.

    Speaking of arguments from silence, which witness claimed to have thumbed through and verified all 400 metal pages? Did they thumb through the sealed portion taking up 2/3rds of the book as well?

  32. psychochemiker permalink
    October 28, 2009 4:40 am

    Even 133 pages is 1300 times larger than the voree plates Jack. That’s three orders of magnitude.

  33. October 28, 2009 4:58 am

    Which witness specified that he saw 133+ golden plates?

    That isn’t what the witnesses said at all. Even though he signed the affidavit saying that he had seen the engravings and handled the plates, Joseph Smith’s brother William said:

    I did not see them uncovered, but I handled them and hefted them while wrapped in a tow frock and judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds. … Father and my brother Samuel saw them as I did while in the frock. So did Hyrum and others of the family. (Zion’s Ensign, p. 6, January 13, 1894, as cited here)

    Handled them and hefted them in a tow frock? Doesn’t sound like he saw any gold plates at all, and apparently neither did 3 of the other 8 witnesses. Other witnesses claimed that they only saw the plates “in vision,” with “spiritual eyes,” etc.

    I believe Joseph Smith could have made a prop with 3-7 engraved plates and the rest just a hunk of metal, and that would satisfy what the witnesses said they saw. I don’t believe there was ever a time where he set the gold plates out on a table and said to a group of 8 men, “Here, look through them all you want.” A testimony of having hefted a bulky item in a tow frock really doesn’t mean very much.

  34. October 28, 2009 5:04 am

    Whoops, William was not one of the Eight. My bad. Too many Smiths to remember!

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