Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Value of Witnesses

Imagine, if you will, that a man is arraigned before a court of law as the defendant in a case. This man is accused of deception and fraud. The man is questioned and maintains the truth of his assertions of innocence.

The prosecution calls its witnesses to the stand and they testify, but their combined testimony amounts to little more than perjurious character assassination against the defendant.

Next, the defense calls its witnesses to the stand, 11 in all, and one by one they give their testimonies. One of the witnesses is the man's father, two are his brothers, and the remaining eight are friends and associates. Each witness is well acquainted with the defendant, with his character and attributes, even with his faults, yet each witness solemnly declares that the defendant is honest and upright and innocent of the charges leveled at him.

Now, imagine that the case has been given to the jury to decide the innocence or guilt of the defendant. What do you suppose the verdict will be? Justice, being blind, will surely rule in favor of the defendant and acquit him of any wrongdoing.

In 1829, Joseph Smith published to the world the Book of Mormon. He did so amidst great opposition. Many sought to destroy Joseph's reputation and credibility by spreading all manner of lies and falsehoods concerning his character and his testimony about the Book of Mormon.

When it was published, the testimonies of 11 men attesting to its truthfulness were printed within the covers of the Book of Mormon.

Following is the testimony of three of the witnesses:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery
David Whitmer
Martin Harris

Next comes the testimony of the remaining eight witnesses:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer
Jacob Whitmer
Peter Whitmer, Jun
John Whitmer
Hiram Page
Joseph Smith, Sen
Hyrum Smith
Samuel H. Smith

Though a number of the 11 witnesses later severed their friendly associations with Joseph Smith--some of them even opposed him openly and bitterly--not one of them, not even one, ever denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the manner of its coming forth: that it was translated from an ancient record written upon golden plates.

Yet even today, when such irrefutable testimonies should weigh heavily upon our minds, too many people, who are otherwise intelligent and reasonable, pass off Joseph Smith as a charlatan or delusional and the account of the Book of Mormon as a craftily contrived deception or the product of a deranged, though sincere, mind.

The Book of Mormon is available to any person for free. One may read it and find out for oneself whether the book's message is true, or whether Joseph Smith was a liar. All one has to do to find out the truth is study the Book of Mormon and sincerely ask God in the name of Jesus Christ whether or not it is true. If this is done with a real intent to act on the knowledge gained, then God will answer one's prayer by the power of the Holy Ghost; for by the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things.

I know the Book of Mormon contains the word of God. It is not given to us to replace the Bible, but to compliment it. Each book bears a unique testimony of Jesus Christ--that He is the literal Son of God and the Savior of the world. Thus, having two witnesses to the truth, we may stand confident that our faith in Jesus Christ is not in vain.

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