Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
There are eleven so-called witnesses to the existence of the gold plates mentioned in the foreword of the Book of Mormon; one set of three and another other of eight. However, not a single one of them was ever allowed to look at the plates for fear of being struck dead. They had to see them in their minds, by faith. Stephen Burnett explained that when he became aware of this, he decided to leave the LDS church:
“ … but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision and 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 away … the reasons why I took the course which I was resolved to do, and renounced the Book of Mormon. I was followed by W. Parrish, Luke Johnson, and John Boynton, all of who concurred with me, after we were done speaking M. Harris arose and 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 [him] but should have let it passed as it was.” (Stephen Burnett Letter, as quoted in Persuitte’s Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, page 47.)
Times and Seasons, Volume 2, page 482:20, printed a verse of poetry indicating that Oliver Cowdery, one of the set of three witnesses, had denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon:
“Or prove that Christ was not the Lord
Because that Peter cursed and swore?
Or Book of Mormon not his word
Because denied, by Oliver?”
Cowdery left the LDS and joined the Methodist Church of Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio. An extract from an affidavit by G. J. Keen in 1885 reads as follows:
“At that time he arose and addressed the audience present, admitted his error and implored forgiveness, and said he was sorry and ashamed of his connection with Mormonism. He continued his membership while he resided in Tiffin, and became Superintendent of the Sabbath-School, and led an exemplary life while he resided with us.” (The True Origin of the Book of Mormon, Charles A. Shook, The Standard Publishing Co., Cincinnati, 1914, pages 58-59).
However, it seems that the LDS somehow managed to talk him into returning. But he left again within two weeks, this time for good. David Whitmer, another of the witnesses who had also left the LDS, made it clear that Cowdery had died believing that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet, and that Doctrine & Covenants contained false revelations (c/f An Address to All Believers in Christ, 1887, pages 1-2).
Wayne C. Gunnell, in his 1955 Brigham Young University thesis on Martin Harris, also one of the three witnesses, quoted a letter written in 1844 by Phineas Young to Brigham Young:
“Martin Harris is a firm believer in Shakerism, says his testimony is greater than it was of the Book of Mormon.” (Martin Harris Witness and Benefactor to the Book of Mormon, Wayne C. Gunnell, BYU Thesis, 1955, page 52).
The second LDS President and Prophet, Brigham Young, confirmed that Book of Mormon witnesses had later denied their testimonies:
“ … witnesses of the Book of Mormon who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God were afterwards left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel.” (LDS President and Prophet, Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 7, page 164)
By 1847 not a single one of the eleven witnesses was still in the LDS church (c/f D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy — Origins of Power, Signature Books, 1994).
The following link leads to an article on the background to the Book of Mormon:
Copyright © 2013 by Yvonne Gibbs. All rights reserved.