The world was not left with Joseph Smith’s testimony alone
Why Do We Care If There Were Witnesses? by Daniel C. Peterson on Meridian Magazine
“Variety and Complexity in the Witnesses to the Book of Mormon” by Daniel C. Peterson in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
“The testimonies of the three witnesses is the closest we come to rational evidence for Latter-day Saint belief. Three men attest to a sensory encounter with the gold plates and a divine being. In an age of skepticism, when all religious belief is under attack, their statement becomes more relevant every day.”
— Richard L. Bushman, Ph.D., Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University; former Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University; former president of the Mormon History Association, author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.
(January 7, 1805 – January 25, 1888) Farmer, livery keeper, city councilman, and mayor. Arranged for the completion of the translation of the Book of Mormon in his father’s home. Among six original members of the Church. Appointed president of the Church in Missouri. For a short time, he was the designated successor to Joseph Smith. Helped to select the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation.
(May 18, 1783 – July 10, 1875) Farmer, weaver, sheep raiser, and veteran of the War of 1812. Scribe for the lost portion of the Book of Mormon. Paid the printing costs for the publication of the Book of Mormon through the sale of 151 acres of his farm. A member of the first Church High Council. Helped to select the first members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation.
“Why are there two sets of official Book of Mormon witnesses? The Three Witnesses had an experience with the divine while the Eight Witnesses had an experience that was more secular in nature. To those who claim the Three Witnesses were caught up in a hallucination brought on by the suggestion of a supernatural encounter, we can turn to the experience of the Eight Witnesses, which contains no hint of a supernatural element. To those who say that Joseph Smith somehow created a fake set of plates that was used to fool the Eight Witnesses, we can consider the angelic visitation reported by the Three Witnesses. The contrast between these two kinds of experiences strengthens the case that Joseph Smith was not just making it all up.”
— Daniel C. Peterson, Ph.D., president of The Interpreter Foundation; professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at Brigham Young University; author of numerous articles on the witnesses of the Book of Mormon
Joseph Smith Sr.
(July 12, 1771 – September 14, 1840) Cooper, farmer, teacher, merchant, and father of Joseph Smith Jr. Attended the first meeting of the School of the Prophets. Member of the Kirtland high council. Ordained patriarch of the Church and assistant president of the Church. Sustained as an assistant counselor in the First Presidency.
(February 9, 1800 – June 27, 1844) Farmer, cooper, city council member, vice mayor, and older brother of Joseph Smith Jr. Among the six original members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Presided over the Colesville, New York branch. Attended the organizational meeting of the School of the Prophets. Member of the committee to supervise the construction of the Kirtland temple.
Samuel H. Smith
(13 March 1808 – 30 July 1844) Farmer, logger, scribe, builder, tavern operator, bishop, alderman, city councilman and younger brother of Joseph Smith Jr. Among the six original members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Attended the organizational meeting of the School of the Prophets. President of the Kirtland high council. Regent of the University of Nauvoo.
(February 2, 1800 — April 21, 1856) Shoemaker, farmer, son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman and older brother of David Whitmer. Member of the High Council in Missouri. Member of the building committee for the temple at Far West.
(August 27, 1802 – July 11, 1878) Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor, Church historian, and older brother of David Whitmer. One of the scribes for the translation of the Book of Mormon. An assistant to his brother David Whitmer in the Missouri Church presidency.
(January 18, 1798 – November 27, 1835) Shoemaker. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman and oldest brother of David Whitmer. Ensign in the New York militia and constable of Fayette, New York. Served as one of the Book of Mormon scribes. Served as a high counselor of the Church in Clay County, Missouri.
Peter Whitmer Jr.
(September 27, 1809 – September 22, 1836) Tailor. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman and youngest brother of David Whitmer. Served as one of the Book of Mormon scribes. Among the six original members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Served as a high counselor of the Church in Clay County, Missouri.
(c. 1800–August 12, 1852) Physician, and farmer. Married Catherine Whitmer, the younger sister of David Whitmer. Claimed to receive revelations for the Church through his personal seer stone but later denounced them in response to a revelation to Joseph Smith (see D&C 28). Helped found Far West, Missouri.