In June, 1829 near Fayette, New York, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris reported that an angel showed them the gold plates and a voice testified that Joseph had translated them by the gift and power of God. After this vision, Oliver, David and Martin were instructed to bear record of what they saw and heard.

Joseph Smith wrote in his history,

“Having thus through the mercy of God, obtained these glorious manifestations, it now remained for these three individuals to fulfil the commandment which they had received, viz: to bear record of these things; in order to accomplish which, they drew up and subscribed the following document.”

JS History, vol. A-1, 25.


Joseph Smith's mother Lucy reported that also in June, 1829, eight men looked at the plates and handled them. One of the eight, John Whitmer stated, “I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the book of Mormon is translated, and . . . I have handled these plates. At that time Joseph showed the plates to us, we were four persons, present in the room, and at another time he showed them to four persons more.”

Another of the eight, Hyrum Smith gave a “testimony to the world of the truth of the book of Mormon,” and wrote, “I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had borne testimony to, wherever my lot had been cast.”

John Whitmer, “Address,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Mar. 1836, 2:286–287.

Hyrum Smith, “Communications,” Times and Seasons, Dec. 1839, 1:20, 23.

Scriptural precedents requiring witnesses

Deuteronomy 19:15 "One witness shall not rise up . . . at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established."

2 Nephi 27: 12-14 "Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall 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. . . 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!"

Ether 5:2-4 "And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work; And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true. And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shown forth the power of God and also his word, of which the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost bear record—and all this shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day."

Doctrine & Covenants 5:11, 15 "And in addition to your testimony, the testimony of three of my servants, whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I will show these things, and they shall go forth with my words that are given through you. . . And the testimony of three witnesses will I send forth of my word."

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 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

Photo of Three Witnesses Plaques in Fairview Museum, Fairview, Utah [Photo Credit Jonathan Neville]

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 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