Joseph was elated when others were chosen by the Lord to be witnesses of the Book of Mormon. The following account tells of his relief:
The following account from Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith’s mother, describes how Joseph felt after the Three Witnesses had seen the plates: “When they returned to the house it was between three and four o’clock p. m. Mrs. Whitmer, Mr. Smith [Joseph Smith Sr.] and myself, were sitting in a bedroom at the time. On coming in, Joseph threw himself down beside me, and exclaimed, ‘Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am: the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel, who has testified to them, and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves, that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul, that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.’ Upon this, Martin Harris came in: he seemed almost overcome with joy, and testified boldly to what he had both seen and heard. And so did David and Oliver, adding that no tongue could express the joy of their hearts, and the greatness of the things which they had both seen and heard” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, 152–53).
The witnesses of the Book of Mormon never denied their testimony of its truth. All who seek to know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon can ask God to know if it is true. I have done this, and add my testimony to those that were blessed to see the plates for themselves. Although I have not seen an angel, or the plates upon which the Book of Mormon was written, the spiritual witness that has been given to me of its truth is every bit as real.
Martin Harris’ Testimony
The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been willing to have perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true. [Martin Harris on his death bed. Cited by George Godfrey, “Testimony of Martin Harris,” from an unpublished manuscript copy in the possession of his descendants, quoted in Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1971), 65–66.]
David Whitmer’s Testimony
Though he never returned to the main body of the church, his testimony of the Book of Mormon was solid even until the day he died:
“On Sunday evening at 5:30, January 22, 1888, Mr. Whitmer called his family and some friends to his bedside, and addressing himself to the attending physician, said: ‘Dr. Buchanan I want you to say whether or not I am in my right mind, before I give my dying testimony.’
“The doctor answered: ‘Yes you are in your right mind for I have just had a conversation with you.’
“He then addressed himself to all around his bedside in these words: ‘Now you must all be faithful in Christ. I want to say to you all the Bible and the record of the Nephites (Book of Mormon) is true, so you can say that you have heard me bear my testimony, on my death bed. All be faithful in Christ and your reward will be according to your works. God bless you all. My trust is in Christ forever, world without end.-Amen.'” (Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses, p. 16)
Oliver Cowdery’s Testimony
“I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates. … I was present with Joseph when an holy angel … conferred, or restored, the Aaronic Priesthood. … I was also present with Joseph when the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by the holy angels of God.” (Journal of Reuben Miller, Oct. 21, 1848, at LDS Archives. See also Richard Anderson, “Reuben Miller, Recorder of Oliver Cowdery’s Reaffirmations,” BYU Studies 8 (Spring 1968): 277–93.)
The Role of Evidence
Though these men witnessed of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, everyone who seeks to know the truth of these things must find out for themselves. The following thought by Austin Farrer makes the point that evidence is good, and it creates an environment where belief may grow. I know this to be true, but also rational argument can only get us so far… it is vital to acknowledge that the witness of the Spirit is the only way we may know spiritual things.
“Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” (Austin Farrer, “Grete Clerk,” in Light on C. S. Lewis, comp. Jocelyn Gibb (New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1965), 26).