Post Author: Bill Pratt
In part 2, we continued looking at Rob Bowman’s online exposition of how the witnesses of Jesus’s resurrection and the witnesses of Joseph Smith’s golden plates compare to each other. In part 3, we will compare the lives of the witnesses after their experiences of either the resurrection or the viewing of the golden plates. Bowman writes:
The witnesses to the Resurrection gained credibility after their experience, becoming consistently reliable, faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ and honorable members of the Christian movement. Cowardly Peter, doubting Thomas, and persecuting Paul each became unwavering witnesses to Christ and remained so for the rest of their lives. Peter and Paul were both martyred for their faith, as were some of the other apostles (e.g., James the son of Zebedee in Acts 12). Not one of the known witnesses of the Resurrection ever undermined his or her testimony. Not one ever left the Christian church. Not one was ever excommunicated or excluded from the church. Not one ever tarnished his or her witness by engaging in wicked behavior. Not one ever diluted his or her witness by also bearing witness to other religious claims in conflict with the Christian faith.
What about the golden plate witnesses? Did they live out their lives in a similar fashion?
The witnesses to the gold plates, far from gaining in credibility following their signing the testimonies, lost credibility over the years. Martin Harris diluted his witness by also bearing witness later to the Shakers and the Strangites. Hiram Page had his own seer stone and claimed to receive revelations that Joseph condemned as from the devil! Several of the witnesses were excommunicated (some eventually returned, others did not). Several of the witnesses over the years gave conflicting testimony as to whether they actually saw the plates with their natural eyes or physically handled the plates. Joseph [Smith] claimed that God had commanded him to take over thirty women, some of them already married to living men, as his wives. David Whitmer maintained, not without cause, that Joseph was a fallen prophet. Joseph and Hyrum were killed, not for their testimony to the Book of Mormon, but because of violent mob reaction to their polygamy and other illegal activities.
There is simply no comparison between these two groups of witnesses. What a stark contrast! Bowman continues:
Mormons routinely argue that the checkered history of the witnesses all the more underscores the fact that they never disavowed their testimony that Joseph did have the plates. There is some question about this claim with regard to Cowdery and Harris, but letting that pass, one may accept that Joseph had something like metal plates without concluding that the whole story is true and Joseph really did translate gold plates with Egyptian characters by the gift and power of God. The lack of credibility of the witnesses is a real evidential difficulty that cannot be turned into an apologetic asset.
In the last post of this series, Bowman explains some final difficulties with the golden plates. You won’t want to miss it.