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Did John Whitmer actually see the plates?


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Dan Vogel didn't want to discuss this on the NHMN thread, so here it is.

The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol 14, #1, 2005 contains an article by Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Attemps to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses."

In the NHMN thread, Vogel says he is not presuaded that Anderson has adequately dealt with a report by Thomas Turley that John Whitmer had made a statement indicating that the experience of the Eight Witnesses was some kind of spiritual experience, which Vogel likens to a group hallucination.

Since John Whitmer on a number of other occasions described a physical experience, handling, hefting, turning pages, etc., how much reliance should be placed on a second hand account to discredit all the others?

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Dan Vogel didn't want to discuss this on the NHMN thread, so here it is.

The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol 14, #1, 2005 contains an article by Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Attemps to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses."

In the NHMN thread, Vogel says he is not presuaded that Anderson has adequately dealt with a report by Thomas Turley that John Whitmer had made a statement indicating that the experience of the Eight Witnesses was some kind of spiritual experience, which Vogel likens to a group hallucination.

Since John Whitmer on a number of other occasions described a physical experience, handling, hefting, turning pages, etc., how much reliance should be placed on a second hand account to discredit all the others?

Unfortunately, David Whitmer is not of much help, when we try to figure out just what

his brother John's experiences were; so looking to David for answers will probably

just muddy the waters. Unlike David, who gave a number of conflicting statements.

John Whitmer said very little about the "plates." Probably all that is recorded as his

own recollections and second-hand accounts of his recollections, can be summarized

here in a single FMB posting.

So, perhaps the place to begin would be by listing all of the John Whitmer statements,

including his joint-statement in the 1830 BoM and what he had to say in his "history,"

(as the first Church Historian).

Anybody care to lay out the textual sources, so we can examine the "evidence?"

Uncle Dale

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Did Oliver Cowdery really walk into a cave in the Hill Cumorah and see stacks and stacks of gold plates? Would you scoff if someone suggested that such a thing didn't literally happen?

Believers like to state this topic in a certain way--"What, did Joseph hypnotize the witnesses and induce a hallucination so real that none of them would ever deny it?? Where did Joseph learn how to hypnotize people?" (as if hypnotism is more absurd than angels walking around with gold plates......)

But it's really not that crazy. Joseph effectively selected the most credulous, fantasy prone people of a credulous, fantasy prone bunch. If you put an ad in the paper that said "I just dug up some gold plates and I need a scribe so I can translate them by use of my magic interpreter stones," what kind of people do you think would show up? Well, you'd probably get people like David Whitmer, who before meeting Joseph claimed he'd seen the Devil in person, not to mention Jesus in the form of a deer. And really, how hard would it be to convince someone who lived in a fantasy world of their own imagination that they'd seen some gold plates?

Modern gurus perform the same tricks with their self-selected followers. Do some reading on cults and charismatic gurus, and you'll find the same kinds of fantastic stories.

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Wow, MC. That's a remarkably cheap and easy dismissal of the Witnesses.

We have a very great deal of material about them, their reputations, their characters, etc., but, hey, who needs it? A facile, summary brushing-off will do the trick.

For those who might actually care to seriously engage the Witness testimonies, the locus classicus is Richard Lloyd Anderson's book Investigating the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

Lyndon Cook's collection of David Whitmer Interviews is also valuable, as is Richard Anderson's article in the current issue of the FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

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Charity,

Dan Vogel didn't want to discuss this on the NHMN thread, so here it is.

The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol 14, #1, 2005 contains an article by Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Attemps to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses."

In the NHMN thread, Vogel says he is not presuaded that Anderson has adequately dealt with a report by Thomas Turley that John Whitmer had made a statement indicating that the experience of the Eight Witnesses was some kind of spiritual experience, which Vogel likens to a group hallucination.

Since John Whitmer on a number of other occasions described a physical experience, handling, hefting, turning pages, etc., how much reliance should be placed on a second hand account to discredit all the others?

I don

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It

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>Harris said the witnesses hesitated to sign the testimony.

Oh, really. And the references to this statement?

Or are you talking about *Burnett's* rendition of what Harris said, "in public". I assume that you are able to give us multiple witnesses to that statement, from those present "in public". Certainly such a statement would have caused a stir, and others would have made reference to such an admission.

Does the apostate Burnett stand alone in recording that "public" statement?

Just curious what you are willing to accept as "evidence", since you are so particular in accepting evidence.

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Wow, MC. That's a remarkably cheap and easy dismissal of the Witnesses.

We have a very great deal of material about them, their reputations, their characters, etc., but, hey, who needs it? A facile, summary brushing-off will do the trick.

For those who might actually care to seriously engage the Witness testimonies, the locus classicus is Richard Lloyd Anderson's book Investigating the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

Lyndon Cook's collection of David Whitmer Interviews is also valuable, as is Richard Anderson's article in the current issue of the FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

do you have the links?

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Cdowis,

>Harris said the witnesses hesitated to sign the testimony.

Oh, really. And the references to this statement?

Or are you talking about *Burnett's* rendition of what Harris said, "in public". I assume that you are able to give us multiple witnesses to that statement, from those present "in public". Certainly such a statement would have caused a stir, and others would have made reference to such an admission.

Does the apostate Burnett stand alone in recording that "public" statement?

Just curious what you are willing to accept as "evidence", since you are so particular in accepting evidence.

You should tell us why you question Burnett

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But it's really not that crazy. Joseph effectively selected the most credulous, fantasy prone people of a credulous, fantasy prone bunch.

There's really no mystery as to how it was done. It was written down in great detail in D&C Section 5.

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Any historian will tell you the problems with history. The accounts of the witnesses hang together very well and one really has to scrape to get something to the contrary. Journalists misquote all the time, even when they're trying to be accurate; imagine an untrained or biased third person account!

About the cave, I don't have problems believing a cave might exist somewhere. They're always finding things in caves and such. But don't plug in a mental image from Indiana Jones. Such a place, if it exists, probably is far different than what Hollywood would produce and undoubtfully elusive. I remember seeing the chamber of the Jaguar at Chizen Itza. To hear someone describe it might make it sound very implausible; however, seeing it puts it into perspective.

Cold Steel

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Wow, MC.  That's a remarkably cheap and easy dismissal of the Witnesses.

We have a very great deal of material about them, their reputations, their characters, etc., but, hey, who needs it?  A facile, summary brushing-off will do the trick.

For those who might actually care to seriously engage the Witness testimonies, the locus classicus is Richard Lloyd Anderson's book Investigating the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

Lyndon Cook's collection of David Whitmer Interviews is also valuable, as is Richard Anderson's article in the current issue of the FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

do you have the links?

There's still a lot in this world that needs to be read in things called "books" and "journals," on something called "paper."

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Remember there is no such medical condition as group halucination. If eight men claim they saw something, they actually saw something.

What would the difference (proof wise) be between a literal spiritual manifestation and a literal physical manifestation.

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What would the difference (proof wise) be between a literal spiritual manifestation and a literal physical manifestation.

I would say quite a lot.

edite to add: I hope your not trying to get into a semantics argument over the meaning of manifest.

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Did Oliver Cowdery really walk into a cave in the Hill Cumorah and see stacks and stacks of gold plates? Would you scoff if someone suggested that such a thing didn't literally happen?

Believers like to state this topic in a certain way--"What, did Joseph hypnotize the witnesses and induce a hallucination so real that none of them would ever deny it?? Where did Joseph learn how to hypnotize people?" (as if hypnotism is more absurd than angels walking around with gold plates......)

But it's really not that crazy. Joseph effectively selected the most credulous, fantasy prone people of a credulous, fantasy prone bunch. If you put an ad in the paper that said "I just dug up some gold plates and I need a scribe so I can translate them by use of my magic interpreter stones," what kind of people do you think would show up? Well, you'd probably get people like David Whitmer, who before meeting Joseph claimed he'd seen the Devil in person, not to mention Jesus in the form of a deer. And really, how hard would it be to convince someone who lived in a fantasy world of their own imagination that they'd seen some gold plates?

Modern gurus perform the same tricks with their self-selected followers. Do some reading on cults and charismatic gurus, and you'll find the same kinds of fantastic stories.

Says who?? You???

Uh huh!!

I just loved your deep erudition, your scholarly insight, and your utterly ridiculous speculation palmed off as fact. That may pass as briiliant in the curelom household, but where I come from, If you don't know, then just say you don't know.

I really dig Dales posts, because he doesn't tread where history is not. You seem to follow in the mold of a certain Brody character who was fasinated with making up stories about what went on in the minds of certain people.

I don't know what to be more amazed about: A man seeing God, angles and golden plates.... or your ability to mind read people from 200 years ago. :P

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I have always found the Testimony of Eight Witnesses one of the most compelling arguments in favor of Joseph Smith's claims. The published testimony comes across as so naturalistic, and it did involve a fair-sized group, rather than just an individual or two, who might be easy to deceive. The Eight Witnesses were one of the pieces of evidence for Mormonism I clung to the longest.

I think Dan Vogel has done a pretty good job raising questions about the literal, physical nature of the experience and proposing a naturalistic explanation. I don't think his arguments offer a complete or sufficient explanation, and I think in places he over-reaches - such as in concluding that the Testimony provides no more evidence than does religious experience in general, as though eight men saying they saw and lifted a 60 pound object were equivalent to someone claiming to know that the plates existed because they had a burning in the bosom. But I think his approach, informed as it is by the actual practices of stage magicians and confidence men, provides an important angle and new insights.

As Dan V. has not tired of pointing out, Joseph Smith was a treasure seer before he was a prophet, and therefore the typical practices of treasure seers and other occult practitioners should be examined for their possible relevance to Joseph Smith's actions, first as treasure seer, and then as prophet, roles not sharply divisible in his case.

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses has been approached by apologetically (e.g., by Richard L. Anderson) and debunkingly, by Dan; but it awaits a more even-handed analysis. There are, for instance, intriguing, and probably illuminating, questions that can be pursued regarding the composition and wording of the Testimony and regarding the uniformity and lack of detail in all extant tellings of the Eight's witness event.

Don Bradley

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DonB:

I have always found the Testimony of Eight Witnesses one of the most compelling arguments in favor of Joseph Smith's claims.

I have always found the testimony to be the most overrated arguments.

The statements are second hand, ie prepared by one person to be endorsed by others. These were not contemporaneous first hand accounts of eight individuals. I don't even see dated and notorized signature of the witnesses.

Did any of these witnesses keep journals? If so what did they write on the day or week of this supposed event? Did they write to others to tell of this remarkable opportunity? Journals and letters would have more meaning than a formal statement prepared by an unkown third party.

The statement lack any foundational basis. When, where and how did this witness take place. When and who wrote the statement. Why are there no signatures? Combine the lack of foundation evidence with contradictory accounts of who was present, the plates being wrapped, and the use of spiritual eyes.

But most importantly, the statements are not presented by independent unbiased observers. Why not bring the plates to a judge, a professor, a doctor, the mayor, a priest. Was there not a local assay office to take the plates for examination?

I guess we are to either believe that God want us to have witnesses, but only those whose credibility can be question to require faith or that the others, in league with the adversary would have denied the truth.

Sorry, but the "testimony" of the eight witnesses does not add any credibilty to an otherwise incredible story.

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Sorry, but the "testimony" of the eight witnesses does not add any credibilty to an otherwise incredible story.

None at all, huh? Not even a tiny bit?

That's simply ridiculous.

As always, though, for those not so deeply entrenched in dogmatism that they never will and never can acknowledge the existence of any evidence, however weak, for any Mormon claim, I recommend reading Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, and perhaps Lyndon Cook's David Whitmer Interviews for a serious engagement with the evidence provided by the Witnesses. And Richard Anderson's article in the latest Journal of Book of Mormon Studies deserves attention, too.

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None at all, huh? Not even a tiny bit?

That's simply ridiculous.

Nope. None at all. As presented, the lack of foundational basis, coupled with reports of cloth sacks, and spiritual eyes, renders the second hand statement of the eight friendly witnesses worthless.

There is a reason why courts require foundation, before allowing a witness to testify. There is a reason why courts don't allow a party to lead his own witness.

There is a reason why heresay testimony is inadmissable.

The statement has no evidentiary value in any court of law. You can't say, despite its flaws, its still has some evidentiary value.

Now, if you had clear coherent and seperate testimony of what took place in thier own words, even if biased, you would have evidentiary value in the statements. I still wouldnt believe them, for their inherent bias, but I would certainly concede evidentiary value.

I am far from dogmatic.

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None at all, huh? Not even a tiny bit?

That's simply ridiculous.

Nope. None at all. As presented, the lack of foundational basis, coupled with reports of cloth sacks, and spiritual eyes, renders the second hand statement of the eight friendly witnesses worthless.

It seems that you've accepted a Vogel-style dismissal of all contrary evidence relating to the Witnesses. By the standards of normal historical inquiry, their abundantly attested testimonies are extremely sturdy. Vogel's attempt to explain the Witnesses away has always struck me as rather desperate.

I am far from dogmatic.

Your picture, along with Dan Vogel's, accompanies the dictionary entry.

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Nope. None at all. As presented, the lack of foundational basis, coupled with reports of cloth sacks, and spiritual eyes, renders the second hand statement of the eight friendly witnesses worthless.
The statement has no evidentiary value in any court of law. You can't say, despite its flaws, its still has some evidentiary value.

I know nothing about courts, but presumably something can have a fair amount of value as evidence and still not be admitted to in a court of law. There has to be some gap there, right? Every time I see a non-black non-raven thing I gain a little evidence that all ravens are black. Very little, but not none.

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I am far from dogmatic.

Your picture, along with Dan Vogel's, accompanies the dictionary entry.

Funny... I looked up dogmatic at Dictionary.com and didn't see a picture of either Jaybear or Dan Vogel. Perhaps they're the couple pictured in the Classmates.com advertisement banner I see at the top of the page... I didn't think that was associated with the dictionary entry, though.

Here's the definition -

dog

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