Appendix 5: Testimony of Eight Witnesses, Late June 1829
- Source Note
This document is a statement by eight men who testified that they had seen and handled the . It was published at the end of the Book of Mormon, alongside a similar statement by three other witnesses. A passage in the Book of Mormon , likely dictated in May 1829, may have anticipated these additional witnesses. It stated, “Ye may be privileged that ye may shew the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work; and unto three shall they be shewn by the power of God.” Additionally, in mid- to late June, shortly before the translation was finished, JS dictated a passage mentioning three witnesses but also hinting at others: “And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few, according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men.” In accordance with these passages, two groups, later known as the Three and the Eight Witnesses, were shown the plates. Although others had also assisted to “bring forth” the book and therefore might have met the criterion given in the Book of Mormon passage to be witnesses, , , , , , , , and were the “few” chosen “according to the will of God” to see the plates and testify of them.According to the account in JS’s history, the Eight Witnesses saw the plates in late June, “soon after” the Three Witnesses had seen them. After the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, JS traveled to the area, where the eight chosen witnesses, all from the Smith or Whitmer families, were shown the plates. related later that the eight men “repaired to a little grove where it was customary for the family to offer up their secret prayrs,” and there “those 8 witnesses recorded in the Book of Mormon looked upon the plates and handled them.” She also reported that after they were shown the plates, “that evening we held a meeting, in which all the witnesses bore testimony to the facts.”Several later reports affirmed the witnesses’ published statement. For example, stated, “I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the book of Mormon is translated, and . . . I have handled these plates.” Decades later, he provided further details: “At that time Joseph showed the plates to us, we were four persons, present in the room, and at another time he showed them to four persons more.” Whitmer reported that this event occurred at the Smith family’s log home near . recalled hearing that at a 25 October 1831 conference, “the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon, with uplifted hands bore their solemn testimony to the truth of that book; as did also the Prophet Joseph.” The witnesses were often questioned about their experience handling the plates. , for example, wrote, “After getting acquainted with them, I was unable to impeach their testimony, and consequently thought that it was as consistent to give credit to them as to credit the writings of the New Testament, when I had never seen the authors nor the original copy.” , in giving a “testimony to the world of the truth of the book of Mormon,” wrote, “I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had borne testimony to, wherever my lot had been cast.”The text featured here is from the first printed edition of the Book of Mormon, representing the statement’s likely purpose as a testimony to be included with the book. The earliest extant copy of this document is found on the last page of the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon and is in the handwriting of . It is unknown whether the Eight Witnesses signed the original statement, and it is likewise unknown who wrote the statement. Unlike the earlier testimony signed by the Three Witnesses, which borrowed most of its language from the Book of Mormon, this statement reads like a legal document. Its language distances the Eight Witnesses from JS by referring to him as “the said Smith.” Whereas the testimony of the Three Witnesses described a visitation by an angel and attested to the authenticity of the translation, this document describes a sensory experience that involved both sight and touch as the witnesses handled and lifted the plates. Though it is unknown who originally composed this statement, it is included as an appendix in this volume because a JS document, the Book of Mormon, mandated showing the plates to witnesses, and this statement was published in the Book of Mormon.
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