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behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein. And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God, to bear testimony of his word unto the children of men: for the Lord God hath said, That the words of the faithful should speak as if it were from the dead. Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good, will he establish his word; and wo be unto him that rejecteth the word of God." (2 Nephi 27).
The angel, Moroni, who delivered the plates to Joseph Smith, received them back into his keeping after the translation of the unsealed portion had been effected. The latter-day prophet had been instructed to guard the plates with vigilant care, and was warned against any temptation to use the sheets of gold for personal gain. They were preserved inviolate while in his hands; and were shown by him only as the Lord directed. In June, 1829, three men, designated through revelation, were chosen to view the plates, and the occasion was one of heavenly visitation.
The Testimony of Three 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 shewn 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 marvellous 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 honour be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin
This solemn affirmation was never revoked nor in the least degree modified, though all of the three were later severed from the Church for transgression. To the time of death each maintained the truth of his testimony, despite ridicule and divers sufferings through persecution.
Shortly after the witnessing of the plates by the three, other eight persons were permitted to see and handle the records, as they thus attest:
The Testimony of 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 shewn unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appear
ance 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 shewn 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."
Three of these eight died out of the Church, yet not one of the whole number ever was known to deny his testimony. Had policy figured in the matter, as doubtless would have been the case in the fraudulent exploitation of a spurious book, the Church might have been expected to tolerate misconduct on the part of members so vitally prominent in its affairs; but the ban of excommunication fell, as justice demanded, without respect to persons. The biography of each of the eleven witnesses has been widely published. Their testimonies appear in every copy of the Book of Mormon. Read and consider.
N September 22, 1827, Joseph Smith, a youthful resident of Manchester, N. Y., took from the side of a hill in that vicinity a book made up of thin leaves of beaten
gold, held together by rings after the fashion of our modern loose-leaf records. As described by the finder, and by others to whom they were shown, these golden leaves or plates were engraved with fine characters having all the appearance of ancient and curious workmanship.
The engraved plates had been laid away with care and attention to preservation; for, when uncovered, they were found, together with certain other antique objects, resting in a small vault or box of stone. "The box in which they lay," wrote Joseph Smith, "was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them." The top slab or lid of the box "was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth."
As subsequent examination proved, the graven characters constituted a history of the aboriginal peoples of the Western Continent, of whom the existing tribes of American Indians are the posterity. A part of the ancient record has been translated into English and the modern version was first published in 1830 as The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon contains pointed and specific predictions of its own coming forth in the latter days; and these prophecies harmonize with the Biblical Scriptures. The ancient peoples whose voice is again heard among the living were of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and therefore of the family of Joseph, son of Jacob. With this fact in mind, the thoughtful student finds profound significance in the otherwise obscure words of Ezekiel (37:15-20): "The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon
it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand."
To the puzzled questioners who would ask the meaning of all this, the prophet was told to declare the Lord's purpose in this wise: "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.”
Plainly the record of Judah, which we recognize as the Holy Bible, was to be supplemented by the record of Joseph; and the bringing forth of the latter was to be effected by the direct exercise of Divine power, for the Lord said "I will take the stick of Joseph"; and of the two He averred "they shall be one in mine hand," even as the prototypes had become one in the hand of Ezekiel.
If the testimony of scholars as to Biblical chronology be reliable, Lehi and his colony had already crossed the great waters and become well established in America when Ezekiel voiced this significant prophecy concerning the "stick" or record of Joseph as being distinct from that of Judah. The prediction has been fulfilled. The Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon, the records of Judah and Joseph respectively, are before the world, each attesting the authenticity of the other, and each standing as an irrefutable testimony of the atoning life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A century and a half earlier, Isaiah had cried wo unto Ariel, the City of David; and had made distinction between Judah who then occupied Ariel or Jerusalem, and another