Did The Book of Mormon Witnesses Contradict Their Testimony?


CES Letter claims, “many of the ‘testimonies’ given by some of the witnesses do not match the claims and wording of the statements in the Book of Mormon.” They give two quotes:

  1. “Martin Harris: ‘…he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them…'”

    This is the same quote that CES Letter quoted twice before and misquoted. This quote is not referring to the experience of the three witnesses. It is referring to when the gold plates were lifted out of a storage box, and it was indeed covered by a cloth. CES Letter clips out part of the quote that makes this obvious:

    “…after we were done speaking M Harris arose & 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 a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city throught [sic] a mountain.” – Letter from Stephen Burnett to “Br. Johnson,” April 15, 1838, in Joseph Smith Letter Book, p. 2

    Also, Stephen Burnett was a bitter ex-Mormon so this quote is unreliable.

  2. “I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me, though at the time they were covered over with a cloth”

    Again, this is a quote that CES Letter quoted twice before, and they falsely presented it as regarding the Witness statements. It had absolutely nothing to do with the witness statement. Know how I know? Because it was given in 1827, years before the Book of Mormon was ever published. Nobody ever claimed that the Three Witnesses saw the gold plates uncovered in 1827.

    That quote comes from an anonymous third-hand account through rabid anti-Mormon Rev. John A. Clark. Not only is it likely a fake quote, it couldn’t possibly apply to the issue of discussion. So why does CES Letter keep repeating it over and over?

No Contradictions

So, that’s it? That’s all CES Letter can come up with? Two fake quotes repeated over and over? CES Letter claimed:

“While we have ‘testimonies’ from the witnesses recorded in later years through interviews and second eyewitness accounts and affidavits, many of the ‘testimonies’ given by some of the witnesses do not match the claims and wording of the statements in the Book of Mormon.” (CES Letter)

Yeah, sure. CES Letter has an odd definition of “testimony.” Apparently a testimony is a rumour an rabid anti-Mormon says about a totally different event? Apparently a testimony is something you said in 1837, years before the event in question? A testimony is not really a testimony? Many eyewitness accounts and affidavits aren’t really eyewitness accounts and affidavits? CES Letter says the Witness testimonies of the Book of Mormon “hold no credibility or weight in a court of law.” Well, in the court of law, does a statement from 1827 have anything to do with a document written in 1830? Gee, I sure wouldn’t want CES Letter as my lawyer in a court of law…

The witnesses never denied or contradicted their Book of Mormon testimonies. They reaffirmed it over and over, in detail, to their dying breathes.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

Falsehood The witnesses did not make those statements, but modern anti-Mormon third hand sources. CES Letter falsely attributes the second quote to Martin Harris. This second quote also couldn’t possibly apply, as it is from 1827, years after the Book of Mormon witness statement.
Repetition CES Letter repeats phony quotes that they already repeated twice before.
Shifting Goalposts In their comparison with James Strang’s fake metal plates, CES Letter said he had witnesses, and “they too had seen and inspected ancient metal plates.” But now we are back to the narrative that Joseph Smith’s witnesses didn’t actually see the plates.
Big Lie Tactic – This is pretty much a repeat of CES Letter‘s earlier argument that the Book of Mormon witnesses only saw the gold plates in their imagination. It is hokey for CES Letter to repeat this narrative right after they admitted that the witnesses claimed to have “seen and inspected ancient metal plates.” But as we know, a big lie is more effective when it is repeated over and over and over.

Contradiction Strategy – This argument is blatantly false and contradicts itself. But the narrative doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t the witnesses just say it was all phony, as they were enemies to Joseph Smith later in their lives? The reason this lie is convincing is because CES Letter just got done convincing us that your testimony must either be absolute knowledge of everything or you don’t actually know anything. This argument supports this narrative, and we start to wonder if we really could have a testimony of Joseph Smith.

The attack on faith and promotion of fake science gains considerable strength with this narrative in place, and the explanation for how Joseph Smith fabricated the founding of the church suddenly appears more credible.

The human mind is trained to find patterns. It is easy to cherry-pick a few vague discrepencies, clip out all context, and build a narrative that one thing is different from the other. We start to wonder, if the witnesses couldn’t be 100% consistent, does that mean feeling the Holy Ghost is just feeling emotion? The false correlations and false causation fallacies crop up when anti-Mormons start telling Mormons what should have happened.

It is especially effective for CES Letter to play this game immediately following arguments where they attack faith and our method of gaining knowledge. At this point in their document, our brain is eager to understand how it can justify what it knows, so when CES Letter points out that something we believe was supposedly contradicting itself, our brain questions what should be a basis for what we know. This is the same argument that Leftists use against the bible and all the other prophets. The human brain is trained to look for discrepancies and patterns, so this trick is common. It is confirmation bias. Fools jump to conclusions.We must be careful not to be tricked when it comes to pareidolia and history, take care to use critical thought. It is easy to manipulate Satan’s followers when it comes to history because they rely only on what they can see and put no true faith in anything. It is easy to be negative.

This Marxist propaganda technique of finding contradiction is especially insidious as it defines Mormons in a constrained and unfair frame, and it rallies non-Mormons or anybody who was sitting on the fence in solidarity against Mormons and their beliefs. These days, everybody knows about Joseph Smith and his peep stones, right? It’s all over the media.

Use Opponent As Authority Tactic – This is a popular Marxist tactic that anti-Mormons use. They use Mormonism’s own authorities to discredit the faith, such as an alleged Mormon scholar. What makes this argument powerful is:

  • Deceptively discredits the vast libraries of study on Book of Mormon theology by LDS professionals.
  • Gives more focus to a phony frame that attacks the Mormon church.
  • Divides the ranks of the church.
  • Establishes a frame that demands a clear, modern explanation in the Book of Mormon for every religious issue in existence, and that it be exactly corroborated by every other Mormon source.

Oh, and doesn’t CES Letter themselves backpeddle and change their publication? Don’t they introduce new versions? (Perhaps they will be introducing another version after all the falsehoods and logical fallacies I have pointed out… probably not.) So why does CES Letter get to make additions but others aren’t allowed to?