The Testimony of Three
When the angel Moroni showed the plates to the Three Witnesses, he fulfilled prophecy uttered at both the beginning and the end of the Book of Mormon. Nephi stated that “none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, … and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein” (2 Nephi 27:12). Hundreds of years later, Moroni prophesied: “And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work … shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day” (Ether 5:4).
Hey, guys, so at the beginning of every Book of Mormon is the testimony of the three witnesses who claimed that an angel came down from heaven and he brought and laid before our eyes that we beheld and saw the plates and the engravings they’re on. That’s a big deal because previously Joseph had been commanded not to show the ancient Book of Mormon record to anyone. But suddenly all these people are saying, I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it? Yes. You haven’t seen it.
Well, OK. So did Joseph somehow trick them? Were they lying? And coconspirators with Joseph Sike. As it got you, or could it be possible that they were just telling the truth, what he was telling the truth? Why do we die? Great. Now, I have guilt in this episode. We’re going to take a closer look at one of the three witnesses all over Cowdrey. Oliver Cowdery was born in Vermont in eighty six and was a second cousin to Joseph Smith in eighteen twenty eight.
He took a job as a schoolteacher in Palmyra, New York. He boarded with Joseph Smith’s parents for a while, heard about Joseph’s golden plates, went to meet Joseph for the first time in Harmony, Pennsylvania, in eighteen twenty nine, where he became Joseph’s scribe for the Book of Mormon translation in June eighteen twenty nine, he became one of the three witnesses in the eighteen thirties. Oliver’s finances took a hard hit with the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, and he had a falling out with Joseph.
Oliver resigned and was excommunicated from the church in eighteen thirty eight. According to researcher Richard Anderson, during Oliver’s non Mormon decade, he was also a politician, journalist, promoter of education and civic servant. The opinions of his friends of this period show clearly that he was widely respected as a man of more than ordinary stature between about 1840 in eighteen forty seven, Oliver was a practicing lawyer. Don’t mess with me, man. I’m a lawyer. A man named William Lane was Oliver’s apprentice for a while and would later serve as a judge, mayor and an Ohio State senator.
Take a second to pause and read his description of Oliver. In eighteen forty eight, Oliver returned to the church but was unable to join the Saints in Utah after being bedridden for much of eighteen forty nine. He died of a lung condition in March 1850. But despite leaving the faith for a decade, Oliver never once retracted his powerful witness of seeing the ancient Book of Mormon plates and the angel. In fact, like the other two witnesses, Oliver reemphasized the truthfulness of his testimony on his deathbed.
So to get around Oliver’s witness skeptic’s search for reasons to be able to say he’s obviously lying. Of course, Oliver knew that had already happened and would continue to happen. In a letter to his brother in law, Oliver wrote, I have cherished a hope and that one of my fondest that I might leave such a character as those who might believe in my testimony after I should be called, hence might do so not only for the sake of the truth, but might not blush for the private character of the man who bore that testimony.
But despite Oliver’s cherished hope, some people think that his use of a divining or dowsing rod is good reason to question his character. Dowsing was a folk practice commonly employed in Oliver’s day to locate groundwater or minerals. Among other things, it was associated with the Christian faith healing practices of the Pennsylvania Dutch. We don’t know what Oliver used his for or how often. And if you’re interested, you can buy dowsing rods online today for about 20 bucks. Even major water companies surprisingly still use this technique, doctrine and covenants.
ET says Oliver’s ability to use the rod or the gift of Aaron to receive revelation was a gift from God. And the scriptures are full of examples of God allowing the use of physical aids when receiving revelation or performing miracles. And sometimes what works for one person doesn’t. For the next, for example, in Pharaoh’s court, Aaron’s staff became a serpent by the power of God, by the power of not God. The magicians did the same thing with their rods.
Not being by the priests did the same thing. But my ability with the staff maxes out at amateur renditions of me bamboo, what some people call magic divination, others call divine revelation. For example, the apostles replaced Judas by casting lots, which today might look like flipping a coin or rolling dice. But they believed God manifested his will through that medium. And frankly, God can do whatever he wants. Claiming someone believes in magic and is therefore out of touch with reality and untrustworthy is an incredibly easy accusation to make against anyone who’s religious.
At the end of the day, Oliver was either tricked, lying or telling the truth about the plates. The witness of Oliver and others is so consistent and so strong that even some of the most popular antagonistic authors from Joseph’s Day until now seem convinced that the witnesses were not simply lying, but they at least thought they were telling the truth. Their theories are that Joseph was a skilled magician or a wizard, or Joseph hypnotized the witnesses or unconsciously induced hallucinations, or that the witnesses only imagined their experience, that it was a dreamlike vision and not physical reality.
That’s right, because Charlie thinks that this whole thing actually happened.
People advanced similar theories while Oliver was still alive, to which he responded. It was a clear, open, beautiful day, far from any inhabitants in a remote field at the time we saw the record of which has been spoken, brought and laid before us by an angel arrayed in Glorious like. Now, if this is human juggling, Judge Ye, check out the links in the description for more info on this and enjoy this montage of statements from and about Oliver Cowdrey.
Feel free to pause and read as many as you like.