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Joseph Antley

What's the difference between the Book of Mormon witnesses and the Strangite witnesses?

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I usually trump the Three and Eight Witnesses as evidence for the Book of Mormon. But, from what I understand, James Strang also had witnesses to his plates, although I know virtually nothing about them. Can someone more knowledgeable explain the difference between the two and why the Book of Mormon witnesses are more impressive?

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The Strangite witnesses came after the BoM witnesses, so one set stole the idea from another.

JJ Strang let virtually anybody who wanted to do so come and see his plates. He had them on display for quite a while. His biographers contend the plates were frauds.

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JJ Strang let virtually anybody who wanted to do so come and see his plates. He had them on display for quite a while. His biographers contend the plates were frauds.

Of course, biographers can contend anything. Some of Joseph's biographers contend that his plates were fraudulent as well.

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Sethpayne:

None of the 3 or the 8 witnesses to the BoM ever claimed it was a fraud.

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Sethpayne:

None of the 3 or the 8 witnesses to the BoM ever claimed it was a fraud.

True true.

I'm not a Strang expert by any means .... did the Strang witnesses recant?

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Martin Harris:

Even before he had become a Mormon, Harris had changed his religion at least five times.[16] After Smith's death, Harris continued this earlier pattern, remaining in Kirtland and accepting James J. Strang as Mormonism's new prophet, a prophet with his own set of supernatural plates and witnesses to authenticate them.[17] By 1847, Harris had broken with Strang and accepted the leadership claims of fellow Book of Mormon witness, David Whitmer. Mormon Apostle William E. M'Lellin organized a Whitmerite congregation in Kirtland, and Harris became a member. By 1851, Harris accepted another Latter Day Saint factional leader, Gladden Bishop, as prophet and joined Bishop's Kirtland-based organization.[18] In 1855, Harris joined with the last surviving brother of Joseph Smith, William Smith and declared that William was Joseph's true successor. Harris was also briefly intrigued by the "Roll and Book," a supernatural scripture delivered to the Shakers.[19] By the 1860s, all of these organizations had either dissolved or declined. In 1856, his wife Caroline left him to gather with the Mormons in Utah while he remained in Kirtland and gave tours of the temple to curious visitors.[20]
(Emphasis added)
John H. Gilbert, the typesetter for most of the book, said that he had asked Harris, "Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" According to Gilbert, Harris "looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, 'No, I saw them with a spiritual eye."[24] Two other Palmyra residents said that Harris told them that he had seen the plates with "the eye of faith" or "spiritual eyes." [25] In 1838, Harris is said to have told an Ohio congregation that "he never saw the plates with his natural eyes, only in vision or imagination."[26]A neighbor of Harris in Kirtland, Ohio, said that Harris "never claimed to have seen [the plates] with his natural eyes, only spiritual vision." [27]

Martin Harris.

If Harris was so sure of his vision, why did he join the Strangites? He later returned to the Church, but one might ask, why any doubt on the part of one who "saw an angel"? According to "official" accounts. (That's disputable too, as he had to be "coaxed" into a "vision").

Anderson ignores most of this, or whitewashes it.

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According to Dallin Oaks:

Finally, in 1870, Martin's desire to be reunited with his family in Utah resulted in a warm invitation from Brigham Young, a ticket for his passage, and an official escort from one of the Presidents of Seventy. A Utah interviewer of the 87-year-old man described him as "remarkably vigorous for one of his years, . . . his memory being very good" (Deseret News, 31 Aug. 1870). He was rebaptized, a common practice at that time, and spoke twice to audiences in this Tabernacle. We have no official report of what he said, but we can be sure of his central message since over 35 persons left similar personal accounts of what he told them during this period. One reported Martin saying, "It is not a mere belief, but is a matter of knowledge. I saw the plates and the inscriptions thereon. I saw the angel, and he showed them unto me" (quoted in Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, 116).

The Witness: Martin Harris.

"One reported"? I don't think Anderson did enough "investigating".

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If Harris was so sure of his vision, why did he join the Strangites? He later returned to the Church, but one might ask, why any doubt on the part of one who "saw an angel"? According to "official" accounts. (That's disputable too, as he had to be "coaxed" into a "vision").

Visions and angels are weak props on which to hold up your faith. Most people who haven't had them are convinced that they would be life-altering events and that if they had one they would never falter again. Those who have had them say otherwise.

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Visions and angels are weak props on which to hold up your faith. Most people who haven't had them are convinced that they would be life-altering events and that if they had one they would never falter again. Those who have had them say otherwise.

So you fall into the Laman/Lemuel category? If you had seen an angel, a veridical angel, pointing to plates, you'd go join, for example, the Jehovah's Witnesses? Or take up Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science?

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So you fall into the Laman/Lemuel category? If you had seen an angel, a veridical angel, pointing to plates, you'd go join, for example, the Jehovah's Witnesses? Or take up Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science?

I hope not, but I don't think an angel or a vision would stop me from falling if I let myself slip away.

If humans were purely rational beings then contact with something like that would convince us forever. For better or worse, we're not that rational.

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I hope not, but I don't think an angel or a vision would stop me from falling if I let myself slip away.

If humans were purely rational beings then contact with something like that would convince us forever. For better or worse, we're not that rational.

You need to read Martin's account more closely. For him it was a "spiritual vision". I don't find it hard to understand why he would later make it "more palatable" to believers when he returned to the Church. That's human nature. You don't even have to read "anti-Mormon" writing to realise this. I realised it when I read the History of the Church.

I agree that we are not always rational. And one way in which we are not rational is by thinking that a "burning in the bosom" equals "historical truth".

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He later returned to the Church, but one might ask, why any doubt on the part of one who "saw an angel"?

Really? That's the argument? He doubted? He wavered? He questioned his experience?

The children of Israel saw the sea parted, got manna from heaven, were healed by a fiery serpent, and followed a pillar of fire. Some doubted and even complained that they had it better in Egypt.

Peter saw Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead and yet in a moment of weakness denied knowing Christ.

Angels told Sarah she would have a son and she laughed in their faces.

Even Christ cried out "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

It would be more fantastic if he hadn't doubted. As it is, he's in fine company.

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Really? That's the argument? He doubted? He wavered? He questioned his experience?

He said it was a "spiritual vision". Henry Moyle also felt Whitmer's account was "too spiritual", but he still accepted it.

The children of Israel saw the sea parted, got manna from heaven, were healed by a fiery serpent, and followed a pillar of fire. Some doubted and even complained that they had it better in Egypt.

I guess you also accept that staffs turn into serpents? And ax heads float?

Peter saw Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead and yet in a moment of weakness denied knowing Christ.

Don't forget to qualify that with "before he had the Holy Ghost".

It would be more fantastic if he hadn't doubted. As it is, he's in fine company.

If you saw an angel before your eyes, talking to you, would you have doubts? Gosh, if you did I'd seriously question your sanity.

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...Ray, why in the world would Martin Harris' testimony that he saw an angel and handled the gold plates be invalidated because he thought James Strang might be Joseph's successor? IIRC, Harris never claimed that the angel told him, "When Joseph dies, make sure you go West with this guy named Brigham Young who you'll meet in a few years."

I don't see the connection between the two.

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The Strangite plates and witnesses are not closely comparable to those of Joseph Smith. I suppose it's time to repost my little piece on them from the 2006 FAIR conference, for perhaps the seventh or eighth time here on this board (the last being on 22 March of this year). I haven't bothered to include the footnotes:

Forgery is the virtually certain explanation for the two sets of inscribed metal plates that James Jesse Strang said he had found in Wisconsin and Michigan (between 1845 and 1849) and translated. Strang, who claimed to have a letter of appointment from Joseph Smith, announced himself as Joseph Smith's successor and was clearly seeking to imitate the Prophet. That his plates really existed is beyond serious dispute. The first set, the three "Voree" or "Rajah Manchou" plates, were dug up by four "witnesses" whom Strang had brought to the appropriate site. Inscribed on both sides with illustrations and "writing," the Rajah Manchou plates were roughly 1.5 by 2.75 inches in size -- small enough to fit in the palm of a hand or to carry in a pocket. Among the many who saw them was Stephen Post, who reported that they were brass and, indeed, that they resembled the French brass used in familiar kitchen kettles. "With all the faith & confidence that I could exercise," he wrote, "all that I could realize was that Strang made the plates himself, or at least that it was possible that he made them." One not altogether reliable source reports that most of the four witnesses to the Rajah Manchou plates ultimately repudiated their testimonies. The eighteen "Plates of Laban," likewise of brass and each about 7 3/8 by 9 inches, were first mentioned in 1849 and, in 1851, were seen by seven witnesses. Their testimony appeared at the front of The Book of the Law of the Lord, which Strang said he translated from the "Plates of Laban." (Work on the translation seems to have begun at least as early as April 1849. An 84-page version appeared in 1851; by 1856, it had reached 350 pages.) The statement of Strang's witnesses speaks of seeing the plates, but mentions nothing of any miraculous character. Nor did Strang supply any second set of corroborating testimony comparable to that of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. One of the witnesses to the "Plates of Laban," Samuel P. Bacon, eventually denied the inspiration of Strang's movement and denounced it as mere "human invention." Another, Samuel Graham, later claimed that he had assisted Strang in the fabrication of the "Plates of Laban." The well-read Strang had been an editor and lawyer before his brief affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his subsequent career as a schismatic leader. Thus, Strang's plates were much less numerous than those associated with Joseph Smith, his witnesses saw nothing supernatural, his translation required the better part of a decade rather than a little more than two months, and, unlike the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Strang's witnesses did not remain faithful to their testimonies. Milo Quaife, in his early, standard biography of Strang, reflected that "It is quite conceivable that Strang's angelic visitations may have had only a subjective existence in the brain of the man who reported them. But the metallic plates possessed a very material objective reality." If we are unwilling to accept The Book of the Law of the Lord as authentically divine, he says, "we can hardly escape the conclusion . . . that Strang knowingly fabricated and planted them for the purpose of duping his credulous followers" and, accordingly, that "Strang's prophetic career was a false and impudent imposture." Roger Van Noord, Strang's most recent biographer, concludes that, "Based on the evidence, it is probable that Strang -- or someone under his direction -- manufactured the letter of appointment and the brass plates to support his claim to be a prophet and to sell land at Voree. If this scenario is correct, Strang's advocacy of himself as a prophet was more than suspect, but no psychological delusion."

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Pres. Henry B. Eyring said that faith has a short shelf life. I assume so does these types of experiences. I also recall Dr. Daniel Peterson giving a FAIR talk about this some years ago, I saw it on youtube.

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I suppose it's time to repost my little piece on them from the 2006 FAIR conference, for perhaps the seventh or eighth time here on this board (the last being on 22 March of this year).

I hope it wasn't too much of an inconvenience. :P

But seriously, your post was enlightening. I had actually just read it on the FAIRwiki.

So, now that the question from my OP has been answered, I'm guessing the thread will devolve further into a debate over the credibility of the Three Witnesses, whether they saw with "spiritual eyes" and what that even means, how Joseph deluded them into believing they saw an angel, etc.

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...Ray, why in the world would Martin Harris' testimony that he saw an angel and handled the gold plates be invalidated because he thought James Strang might be Joseph's successor?

If someone told you that the New World Translation of the Scriptures was more authentic than the King James Version, would you accept that? If not, why not? You mean Harris couldn't tell the difference between Strang and Joseph Smith, even after having read the Book of Mormon? Even after having donated $5,000 to its publication??

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If someone told you that the New World Translation of the Scriptures was more authentic than the King James Version, would you accept that? If not, why not?

No, I wouldn't, because I'm familiar with the different translations.

You mean Harris couldn't tell the difference between Strang and Joseph Smith, even after having read the Book of Mormon?

What does reading the Book of Mormon have to do with Harris knowing who to follow after Joseph's death? Is there a verse I missed about following Brigham Young and not James Strang?

Even after having donated $5,000 to its publication??

What does how much Harris invested in the Book of Mormon publication have to do with anything? Was that supposed to have endowed Harris with some sort of discerning powers?

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The Strangites never ditched the Book of Mormon.

Frome their website:

- â??We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.â? We prefer the last printing of the Book of Mormon during Joseph Smith Jr.â??s lifetime, the Nauvoo, 1842 edition â??carefully revised by the translator.â? We prefer the last printing of the Doctrine and Covenants during Joseph Smithâ??s lifetime, the Nauvoo, 1844 edition. The Nauvoo Doctrine and Covenants contains the â??Lectures of Faith,â? and the revelations from the Book of Commandments (1833) and from the first Doctrine and Covenants (1835), and the additional revelations from 1835 to 1844. The Nauvoo edition does not have the purported revelations which may or may not have some historical validity (such as one on eternal marriage, first published in Utah in 1852). But we have not discarded any of Joseph Smith Jr.â??s revelations that were printed in the Doctrine and Covenants before his death. The Nauvoo scripture editions are available in our Catalogue.

- We have prophecies, visions, revelations, and translations, printed by James J. Strang in the Voree Herald and Diamond. Most of those which survived are published in the Revelations of James J. Strang and Book of the Law of the Lord. The Book of the Law of the Lord is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible, and we believe it was translated from the brass plates of Laban taken by Nephi from Jerusalem.

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If Harris was so sure of his vision, why did he join the Strangites?

If Harris was so unsure of his vision, why did he keep hunting for the correct branch of 'Mormonism' to affiliate himself with? He could easily have just become a Protestant of some kind or even a skeptical, bitter agnostic.

He later returned to the Church, but one might ask, why any doubt on the part of one who "saw an angel"?

Be honest, Ray. If you saw an angel on your way home tonight, how many hours/days/weeks would it take you before you'd rationalised the whole thing away as something else? Seriously, be honest.

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You need to read Martin's account more closely. For him it was a "spiritual vision".

What other kinds of visions are there, Ray?

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If you saw an angel before your eyes, talking to you, would you have doubts? Gosh, if you did I'd seriously question your sanity.

I would question the sanity of anyone who didn't question the experience.

At the moment when such things occur, doubt seems impossible. It doesn't take long back in the non-angelic visitation-filled workaday world before one starts to wonder what really happened. To do otherwise would be dangerously uncritical.

And yes, before you bring it up, we are counselled, commanded even, to be critical of spiritual experiences.

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What does reading the Book of Mormon have to do with Harris knowing who to follow after Joseph's death? Is there a verse I missed about following Brigham Young and not James Strang?

This isn't about Harris following Brigham Young. It's about Harris' credibility as a witness. Strang didn't produce a Book of Mormon - Joseph did! Yet, knowing this, he still followed Strang for a time. Why is that? What great new scripture did Strange produce to lure Harris away? What prevented Martin from adding 2+2? Strang came no where near to anything like a Book of Mormon - yet Harris accepted him. Did Strang need to make angels appear to convince Harris that he should swap over? Answer: No. So why was he so easily convinced?

What does how much Harris invested in the Book of Mormon publication have to do with anything? Was that supposed to have endowed Harris with some sort of discerning powers?

Would you invest $5,000 in something you thought was a fraud? Yet by crossing over to the Strangites Harris thought that Strang had as much credibility. What does that say about Harris' "vision"? Then we have David Whitmer, calling Joseph a "fallen prophet". Oliver Cowdery returned to the Church, with conditions. He was in agreement with Whitmer in regard to polygamy. Read his final testimony carefully. He only accepted Joseph as a prophet under certain conditions. He gagged criticism in his final testimony.

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Oliver Cowdery returned to the Church, with conditions. He was in agreement with Whitmer in regard to polygamy. Read his final testimony carefully. He only accepted Joseph as a prophet under certain conditions. He gagged criticism in his final testimony.

Maybe you have access to a different 'final testimony' from Oliver? This is the one I could find:

Friends and Brethren, -- My name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this Church I stood identified with her, and one in her councils. True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called; but, to fulfill the purposes of God. He called me to a high and holy calling. I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters.' I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the 'holy interpreters.' That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it; Mr. Spaulding did not write it; I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. It contains the everlasting gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfilment of the revelations of John, where he says he saw an angel come with the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high, Brother Hyde has just said that it is very important that we keep and walk in the true channel, in order to avoid the sand-bars. This is true. The channel is here. The holy Priesthood is here. I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred on us, or restored, the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, and said to us, at the same time, that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands. I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by holy angels from on high. This Priesthood we then conferred on each other, by the will and commandment of God. This Priesthood, as was then declared, is also to remain upon the earth until the last remnant of time. This holy Priesthood, or authority, we then conferred upon many, and is just as good and valid as though God had done it in person. I laid my hands upon that man-yes, I laid my right hand upon his head (pointing to Brother Hyde), and I conferred upon him this Priesthood, and he holds that Priesthood now. He was also called through me, by the prayer of faith, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ (Kanesville, Iowa, Oct. 21, 1848).

There's also this letter, the last thing he is known to have written before his death:

While darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people; long after the authority to administer in holy things had been taken away, the lord opened the heavens and sent forth his word for the salvation of Israel. In fulfillment of the sacred Scripture the everlasting gospel was proclaimed by the mighty angel, (Moroni) who, clothed with the authority of his mission, gave glory to God in the highest. This gospel is the "stone taken from the mountain without hands." John the Baptist, holding the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood; Peter, James, and John, holding the keys of the Melchisdedek Priesthood, have also ministered for those who shall be heirs of salvation, and with these ministrations ordained men to the same Priesthoods. These Priesthoods, with their authority, are now, and must continue to be, in the body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blessed is the Elder who has received the same, and thrice blessed and holy is he who shall endure to the end. Accept assurances, dear Brother, of the unfeigned prayer of him, who, in connection with Joseph the Seer, was blessed with the above ministrations and who earnestly and devoutly hopes to meet you in the celestial glory (Oliver Cowdery to Samuel W. Richards, 14 Jan. 1849, in Deseret News, 26 Mar. 1884, 153).

He of course died in David Whitmer's home. Of this, David had the following to say:

I was present at the deathbed of Oliver Cowdery in 1850 . . . Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw . . . His last words were, "Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon, for we know that it is of God and that it is verily true." After shaking hands with the family and kissing his wife and daughter, he said, "Now I lay me down for the last time, I am going to my Savior," and died immediately, with a smile on his face. Many witnesses yet live in Richmond, who will testify to the truth of these facts, as well as to the good character of Oliver Cowdery (Milton V. Backman, Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Deseret Book: Salt Lake City, 1986), p. 163).

It does seem that he was doing an amazingly good job of gagging his criticism.

Please do share the criticisms you meant, though, if I've missed them. And then please explain why somebody who didn't believe his own testimony concerning angels and plates and priesthood restoration would come back despite all these criticisms.

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