Today Chris and Clay join me again for a round-table discussion about the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon. We talk at length about our assumptions that the Three Witnesses has a spiritual event, that the Eight Witnesses had a physical event, whether their experience was consistent, and how the Institutional Church may have expressed certainty about the boundaries and constructs of their experience when in the end all these assumptions may in fact be problematic and paradoxical.
Marvin Hill’s book on Joseph Smith
Dan Vogel’s Early documents Vol I
Richard Anderson on the Witnesses
Grant Palmer’s book on Mormon Origins
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This seemed fair and real analysis.
Something happened, to bad we just don’t exactly know what.
It’s a shame God wants us to figure things out this way.
Doesn’t that make Him kinda of a jerk that it he puts us through this process? Right, we accepted this plan, but we just don’t remember it. How convenient.
In the podcast the question is posed why John Whitmer said that the plates were shown to him by a supernatural power. Obviously, Lucy Mac Smith’s ancient Nephite introduces a spiritual element. It seems like John Whitmer would remember seeing an ancient Nephite though…
On second thought, if the report of Martin Harris’s comments are true, that the eight didn’t have a purely physical experience and that they were compelled to sign the witness document that made the experience seem totally mundane and completely “physical,” then we should expect to have two versions of the narrative. The first version would be the one that would more or less coincide with the witness document’s purely physical framing of the experience. This is exactly what John Whitmer’s account of seeing the plates in the Smith home sounds like, though I see no reason why there would be the contradiction with the group of 8 vs. 2 groups of 4. Anyways, the second version would be the uncorrelated version, so to speak, and this version would incorporate spiritual elements of some kind. That is certainly present in Lucy’s version (perhaps she is accidentally spilling some of the beans as an old lady?). Maybe neither version is completely accurate, but perhaps some of the major contradictions (prayer spot location and ancient Nephite bringing the plates) can be explained by a correlated vs. uncorrelared approach to the historical data.
Having a correlated version of the eight witnesses would be totally consistent with JS’s approach to church history, including priesthood restoration, the discovery of the gold plates, the translation method, etc.