As if three were not enough, we get eight more.
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.
Peter Whitmer, Jun
Joseph Smith, Sen
Samuel H. Smith
Enough with the sales pitch!
There is a big difference, though, between these two testimonies. The Eight claim that they saw and handled the plates; the Three simply saw the plates. Additionally, they claim that Smith himself showed them the plates; the Three claimed that an angel had shown them the plates.
Far from putting me at ease, this makes me even more suspect. Not everyone has an experience of being shown something by an angel; everyone, though, has an experience of being shown something by a fellow human. And like Saint Thomas, the Eight are able to put their hands in the wound, so to speak.
It almost seems planned. And they all seem to eager to convince.
The list of signatories is also enlightening. A little research shows that in fact everyone on the list was either of Smith’s family or the Whitmer family (early followers of Smith). Even “Joseph Smith, Sen.” testified. Apparently, even father vouched for son. If what Joseph Smith claims to be true really happened, then why not? However, if this was a grand hoax, or a case of self-delusion, it’s frightening that Smith Senior would assure us that there really were tablets, that his son was not lying when in fact he knew very well that he was.
Nonetheless, it’s a little like putting your father’s name down as a reference on your resume.
But all of this assumes that these people did see what they claim to have witnessed.