Talk:Eight Witnesses

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I removed the following:

Although the statement as written seems to imply that the Eight were eye-witnesses, no other statements from the Eight back up that reading of the text. Rather, it seems that each of the Eight "hefted" the plates while they were encased in a box or were covered by a cloth and only "saw" the plates in a vision in June of 1829 using their "spiritual eyes."

This statement confuses a statement made by Martin Harris about "spiritual eyes." Page, Hyrum and John Witmer (and other witnesses) all gave contemporary accounts about thumbing through each leaf/plate. They also saw the Urim and Thummim. One of the accounts states that it was shown in a wood or near under a tree, and that they saw the seal/binding of the sealed portion. They also discuss the "appearance of gold" of the plates. In fact, William Smith, in one account discussing "hefting" the plates, but not seeing being allowed by Smith or God to see them as his brothers and father had. Only half of them never left the church - Peter who died, and the three Smiths, the rest did. -Visorstuff 22:23, 24 Mar 2005 (UTC)


The word "apostacizing" has an unfortunate connotation in its usage here, as apostasy can be taken to mean a denial of what one knows to be true. A better word is recant.

Clearer now?--John Foxe 17:27, 26 December 2006 (UTC)

Poulson interview[edit]

I removed the Poulson interview both because this is an encyclopedia article and because Vogel clearly states that Poulson is unreliable. Whitmer was dead when this interview was published, and Poulson says that Whitmer saw the plates in Joseph Smith's house and that the eight saw the plates in two groups of four. That's a story told nowhere else.--John Foxe 19:02, 9 January 2007 (UTC)

Shouldn't matter as it is citable - it is a source, and you can say why it is unreliable in the article, but not including is a mistake in the long-run. You are making a judgement call based on your POV (which is probably right), and the appearance is that of censorship. Although I know you'll disagree, I want to go on record as stating that the removal of such is a mistake. -Visorstuff 22:07, 9 January 2007 (UTC)
I regret having to remove that edit myself—but for a different reason. It was the only cited piece of information in the whole article. (You've been watching this one longer than me, so can I make you feel a little guilty?)
Nevertheless, it had to be removed because it was simply a bald insertion with no attempt at integration into the article, from an unreliable source, about just one of the eight witnesses.
As for the notion that every citation is as good as another: if this were the way we wrote about Mormonism on Wikipedia, you would take up FARMS and I would wield The God Makers, and we wouldn't have an encyclopedia article but a warring blog. While that does unfortunately occur here, it's not the model that men of good will like you and me should want to emulate.--John Foxe 00:29, 10 January 2007 (UTC)
I think the Poulson interview should be included - I agree with who Visorstuff - if Vogel included it, it should be mentioned - we can add a clause saying that he thought it was unreliable, or something like that, but it is very relevant and should be included. Also, it seems there are a lot more considerations missing from this article - I will do some research.Descartes1979 16:50, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
I don't think I said I thought it was relevant, but that it needed to be included as it is citable, and the removal of it smells of censorship. It is obviously not reliable, and may or may not be relevant. Very big difference. -Visorstuff 15:55, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

I think there is a big difference between godmakers/farms and a book on the topic where Vogel quotes Paulson, even if he states he's not that reliable. If it was significant on the topic, or completely unreliable, then Vogel wound't have included him, no? Perhaps I'm missing something. But I see the same pattern over and over again, and have no idea where you are coming from.

That said, we do have quotes from the Godmakers in wikipedia. That's fine, it provides a contrarian point of view to balance some articles. I do believe one source (reputable) is as good as another, and Vogel is definitely reputable. Could we say, he considers the interview unreliable? You bet, and it wouldn't take more than ten words to do, and wouldn't hurt the readability of the article, but rather the information contained in it is fascinating to most readers. Why delete content when we don't have space requirements? Rather we should move to another section, another article or a footnote, rather than delete. That is the beauty of Wikipedia. -Visorstuff 20:28, 12 January 2007 (UTC)

PS dont' feel guilt (you alluded to having some), we just have different styles that need to be worked out. Let's continue this dialogue, until we do. -Visorstuff 20:30, 12 January 2007 (UTC) is the LDS side of the story. Users are encouraged to seek a complete view off all sides of ccontroversial subject. The Godmakers does not rise to the level of an authoritative source.

Testimony extant?[edit]

Does the original signed manuscript still exist? -- 17:01, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

No.--John Foxe 18:15, 6 August 2007 (UTC)
The original manuscript to the Book of Mormon was put in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House and most of it rotted away. Though we have a small part of the original documents, the majority of it is gone. Just as with all manuscripts, without proper care it is very difficult to maintain/retain originals. We don't have any original signed testimony of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. However, we do have the printer's manuscript where, in Oliver Cowdery's hand, he signed his own testimony in copying the testimony of the three witnesses in the printer's manuscript. I hope this helps. --Storm Rider (talk) 19:56, 6 August 2007 (UTC)
There is no evidence that either the Three or the Eight Witnesses signed the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon before it was placed in the Nauvoo House cornerstone.--John Foxe 19:27, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
What is known is that none of the witnesses ever denied the testimony that was published. Not one ever withdrew statements. --Storm Rider (talk) 23:12, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
You are incorrect Storm Rider - I will have some references for you soon, several of the witnesses denied ever seeing the plates later in life - the fact that it was never denied is an oft repeated misstatement in the LDS church to promote faith (at least that has been my experience). As I said, I will get some references and add some text soon.Descartes1979 04:25, 13 August 2007 (UTC)
Happy hunting of that. The major allusions to any of them denying that i'm aware of, is actually for The Three Witnesses. For example, there is a newspaper article that alludes to Oliver Cowdery denying it, and he later said that it was a misunderstanding and begged forgiveness (even though he was estranged from Smith) that what he said could be interpreted as a denial. John Whitmer put great effort in keeping his integirty when somone claimed that he denied his words - went so far as to publish multiple statements saying that the man had lied or misquoted him. I'd be very intersted in any primary documents (as opposed to rumors that were later corrected by the eight or the three) that any of them denied their words. The data is just not available as fact, but rather as rumor. If you have an primary source of such, we'd all be interested, as the 11 witnesses went through great lenths to preserve that what they saw was in deed true. Even while estranged or (in some cases) involved in plots to kill smith they stayed true to their words. -Visorstuff 16:02, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Missing Something?[edit]

From what I know about the witnesses, I know there is controversy as to whether they actually saw the plates, with most of them later denying they ever did - why is this not included here? I will do some research and possibly add some text in the next few days.User:Descartes1979 16:43, 12 August 2007 (UTC)

Happy hunting.--John Foxe 19:27, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
As you do your research, it would be advisable to research the individuals and their lives. Anti-Mormon sites are wholly lacking in a complete picture; go to the source and not an interpretation of a statement by an individual. This should be fun. --Storm Rider (talk) 23:14, 12 August 2007 (UTC)
Well its been a few months, and I got side tracked on other stuff - but finally am coming back to this. I added a criticism section, and have a few more things to add, but need to get my sources in order.--Descartes1979 (talk) 08:22, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I've eliminated the "Criticism" heading because apologetics were included as well. I think that these sentences need two additional citations: one documenting the fact that critics actually use the Burnett letter and the other that apologists rely on later statements of the Eight and consider the Burnett letter hearsay.--John Foxe (talk) 19:59, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I added the cite showing one critic that use the Burnett letter (IRR) - but I don't have a cite for apologists rebuttal, other than what IRR says themselves in the cited article. I haven't checked FAIR or FARMS yet though - I will get to that in a bit. BTW, I am pretty sure that the Tanners have a lengthy article about the Burnett letter, but I don't have that cite either, so I didn't add them.--Descartes1979 (talk) 21:05, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
OK - finally made it back to wrap up what I started. Please also see my additions of critical perspectives on Three Witnesses and Book of Mormon witnesses. --Descartes1979 (talk) 06:21, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
In Richard Abane's Becoming Gods, he writes "In an August 11, 1838, letter, apostle Warren Parish recounted that

"Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses; has come out at least, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision; and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph not excepted.

See I'll leave it to someone else to judge whether this has any worth. (talk) 08:41, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
I think everyone who looks in on this article knows about Parrish's statement about what Harris said during the banking scandal in 1838. Even if we give this second-hand evidence the benefit of the doubt (as I would), the problem remains as to what Harris, one of the Three, would know about what the Eight saw.--John Foxe (talk) 21:32, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

"Critical" section[edit]

I've cut the recently added section. It's immaterial whether or not critics of Mormonism are well-known. The real question is, do their criticisms stand on all fours. One of the added ones is passable, the second-hand testimony of Burnett. The Brigham Young quotation is not because The Eight did not testify to having seen an angel.

It's a bad idea to write a "warring article" with apologetics and criticism in separate sections. Give us the facts, and let the chips fall where they may. Readers are not ninnies.--John Foxe (talk) 14:15, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

I think you may have misread my section - I was not emphasizing the fact that the critics are well known or not - I was emphasizing the facts and the pieces of evidence that cast doubt upon the authenticity of the testimony. ----Descartes1979 (talk) 16:28, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
I agree with your idea of not having a "warring article", and am cool with how it is set up for now. --Descartes1979 (talk) 16:36, 20 February 2008 (UTC)
Your small addition is an improvement.--John Foxe (talk) 19:42, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

I recently became aware that all of the eight have their own articles on Wikipedia. I propose we merge those articles here where their notability does not extend beyond their being one of the eight witnesses. See below for my proposal:

Article Notable? Merge?
Christian Whitmer No merge
Jacob Whitmer No merge
Peter Whitmer, Jr. No merge
John Whitmer Yes no merge
Hiram Page Borderline yes no merge
Joseph Smith, Sr. Yes no merge
Hyrum Smith Yes no merge
Samuel Harrison Smith No merge
  • Merge --Descartes1979 (talk) 18:01, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
  • Uncertain. It seems a little odd to merge half, but not all, of them. There might also be a good argument for giving Samuel Smith his own page because of the succession controversy. I'm not opposed to the proposal, but I wonder if the potential gain is worth the trouble.--John Foxe (talk) 19:39, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose for at least Samuel H. Smith. S.H. Smith is regarded by several Latter Day Saint churches, including the LDS Church, as the "first" Latter Day Saint missionary. This, combined with his role in the succession controversy as mentioned by John Foxe, suggests to me that his at least should not be merged. The others probably could be, but like Foxe I'm not sure if the gain of having some merged and some not would be worth the effort. Good Ol’factory (talk) 22:19, 7 September 2008 (UTC)
  • I'm opposed to this on general principles, but particularly with Samuel Smith who is clearly significant on his own. (talk) 22:35, 17 January 2009 (UTC)
    • Sorry, that was me. I didn't notice I wasn't logged in. Typical. Thmazing (talk) 22:41, 17 January 2009 (UTC)

Martin Harris's testimony[edit]

The article on Martin Harris makes it clear that his testimony is ambiguous. Harris did testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon, but sometimes he claimed he had actually held the plates, at other times he talked about them as a visionary experience, and at still other times he publicly denied he had ever seen or handled the plates.--John Foxe (talk) 20:14, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

I wouldn't call Harris' testimony ambiguous, often it is just the opposite. As to whether the experience he had with the plates was real and hard (i.e. physically touching the plates) or purely visionary, is an interesting aside. The point is that he believes he had the experience, and that this meant to him that the plates were physically real and of God. If Harris thought, perchance, his experience was in the form of a vision, that in no way means that he is equivocating. I know in LDS circles, and maybe elsewhere, it is believed that having an experience with the divine, either with angles, or divinity, can be hard for the person experiencing it to tell if it is in a vision or not. Angels appearing in power and majesty, with countenances like lightning, robes of a whiteness that are hard for the person to describe, are common descriptions. Some have conjectured that for a mortal to experience the full power and majesty of an Angel of God, they would have to be somehow enveloped in the Spirit, otherwise their mortal frames could not stand it at all, or at least they would be exhausted or harmed physically in some way. I think there probably are references that can be found in LDS literature that explain this.Rockford1963 (talk) 15:38, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Harris's testimony about the plates changed almost as often as his religion. When he was definite about a physical experience towards the end of his life, he claimed to have actually handled the plates while holding them on his lap—something Joseph Smith would certainly have mentioned. Furthermore, there is documented testimony that Harris denied ever having seen the plates at all. You can't expect too much from a fellow who was as superstitious as Harris. As a friend said, he "was a man that would do just as he agreed with you. But, he was a great man for seeing spooks."
A reflection: When angels appear to people in the Bible, they fall on their face. In early LDS history and in the Book of Mormon, they never do.
The removal of the "although" in the sentence makes for stylistically wooden writing.--John Foxe (talk) 18:31, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
There's no POV in the "although." There is, however, POV in removing it—plus it's weaker stylistically.--John Foxe (talk) 21:37, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
Maybe you missed the point about the difficulty some may have when having such an experience, which they deem highly spiritual, to know how much was vision and how much was simply just physical. Is the documented source of Harris denying seeing the plates in the Harris article? Or is this simply the same argument, i.e. if he saw the plates in a vision or handled them physically? I contend that the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. As for angels in the Bible, it is a bit more complex than you state. Some were in visions, others, such as appeared at the tomb after the Resurrection (Matt 28) do not seem dissimilar to some description in the Book of Mormon or other additional LDS scripture. The problem I see in this article I see in many other LDS themed articles in Wikipedia. The basic facts and the references should remain in most cases, but the crafting of the sentences and paragraphs often really do need reworking. A reader shouldn’t be subjected to opinions of Mormon proselytizing anymore than those of anxiously engaged Mormon detractors. My modest edit simply tries to delink the statement about the witnesses never being known to deny their testimony regarding the plates (a statement that might be seen as favorable to a Mormon view) from the third hand source that suggests Harris did deny (a statement which might seem favorable to those wishing to expose Mormon fraud). Putting the two statements together starting with the ‘although’ seems POV and quite calculated. Why not let the two statements stand on their own? I made a modification that helps with the flowRockford1963 (talk) 21:59, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
"However" is the weakest of all the connectives, and I try to avoid its use when possible. Worse, you've put two "nones" in a row. The "although" is stylistically superior and less POV—there's no suggestion that we've divided the sentence to promote a particular religious view. I suggest since this is a discussion among just two of us, and a fairly simple one at that that we take it to Third Opinion. Just let me know whether you'd like to ask or whether you prefer me to do it. All the best, John Foxe (talk) 11:50, 5 September 2010 (UTC)
Your point about weakness in the flow is taken - I tried a different approach - see last edit.Rockford1963 (talk) 13:49, 6 September 2010 (UTC)
I thought a paragraph separation might help too along with some other stylistic tweaks. See what you think.--John Foxe (talk) 14:46, 6 September 2010 (UTC)--John Foxe (talk) 14:46, 6 September 2010 (UTC)


If neutrality is wished for this article the facts that Joseph Smith WAS credited as the author in the first edition should be mentioned and not removed as it is a pure fact and not irrelevant. Andstobax (talk) 06:14, 14 December 2012 (UTC)

And was that done by choice or by requirement of the day? -StormRider 12:22, 14 December 2012 (UTC)
The reason it should not be included is because it has nothing to do with the subject of the article. It's completely tangential. We're talking about the Eight Witnesses' statement, and then all of the sudden we have this little factoid about Smith being listed as the author in the first edition. Does it mean that Smith fabricated the manuscript? Is it because that's just what the printer did? Does it matter? Does it tell us anything about the Eight Witnesses? No. This is what we call WP:COATRACK: hanging irrelevant but tangentially related information on articles where it doesn't belong. ~Adjwilley (talk) 17:41, 14 December 2012 (UTC)


Where's the proof that the eight witnesses actually signed anything as the article claims? The Joseph Smith papers[1] have Oliver Cowdery's printhouse (P) copy version of the witnesses statements in which all the names are written on his handwriting, but so far I haven't found any source that would actually prove that the eight witnesses signed anything. Thus I propose to change the wording on the article to indicate that the LDS church claims that the eight witnesses signed a testimony to have seen the plates. R. Sitia (talk) 13:48, 6 April 2013 (UTC)

False claim - the witnesses all testified to NOT actually seeing or touching the plates[edit]

The eight witnesses all testified to never actually seeing or touching the plates. The "plates" were in a box and covered by a sheet. They claim to have seen the plates with their "spiritual eyes". This article makes brazenly false claims that the witnesses held and saw the plates. They did not.

The witness testimony included in the book of mormon was written by Oliver Cowdery and submitted to a newspaper. The "8 witnesses" never saw or signed the document Oliver submitted, and was the cause of so many of them leaving the church and accusing the leadership of fraud.

There are no actual testimonies, besides the vicarious one included in the book of mormon. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:14, 24 July 2014 (UTC)

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