How did Joseph Smith get numerous witnesses to stand by their stories?

From Jeff Lindsay’s site, where he asks the question “If the gold plates never existed, how did Joseph get numerous witnesses to stand by their stories until their dying day, even when some of them later became angry with Joseph and left the Church?

This is a common question asked by Mormons, but I have yet to hear a good response. Let me know if you’ve got something you think is a pretty good explanation.


  1. Is this question trying to make us assume that golden plates can't be fabricated? I could transcribe a golden plate with a Harry Potter novel and still not a single word of it would be fact.

    • Could you get multiple people to write legal depositions stating that your Harry Potter golden plates were shown to them by an angel? Could you get them to testify to that over and over again throughout their lives, despite receiving no gain for it, and often quite the opposite? Could you get them to testify to it on their deathbeds?

  2. Could I do it? No, probably not. Could Jim Jones get people to drink poison Koolaid? Could David Koresh convince people to fight the BATF to a firey death? Could Mohammed Atta convince people to fly planes into buildings? Answer: if you can make people feel like they are part of something special, part of a unique expirience, then yes people will do these things. This isn't some mysterious phenomenon. These are the same type of people who get "abducted" by aliens or have "encounters" with ghosts; the same type of people that the virgin Mary "appears" to. Most people are common and insignificant. I realize I am and I'm fine with that. It's just part of being human. When confronted with that harsh reality many people choose to cope with it differently and will struggle desperately to be special. People have an overwhelming desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It's not suprising in the least that they will fabricate and maintain elaborate lies to do so.

  3. That is at least a halfway credible explanation for why the witnesses might have been willing to be party to the "hoax" at the beginning. For the sake of argument, let's follow that path and say that all the witnesses were lying and Joseph Smith made it all up. That being the case, Joseph Smith was in a risky position. At any moment he could be held hostage by any one of those witnesses who could expose him as a fraud. One would assume Smith would be extra careful to be nice to these guys. Instead, he excommunicated several of them. Is this the behavior of a man who knew these men could ruin him?

    Then one has to ask, why didn't these men come forward once they were excommunicated and expose Smith? Why did they continue to stand by their statements? Some returned to the Church later, so you could say that they didn't want to expose Smith because they looked forward to a future reunion. But that doesn't appear to be the case. And some of them never did come back to the Church, nor appears to have any intention of ever doing so, so this doesn't do a lot to explain their actions.

    If these men possessed such a great secret, why did not a one of them expose Smith during their lifetimes? Why did not a one of them leave a message for future generations exposing Smith? Why did not a one of them say something to a wife, a friend, or other person about how it was all a fraud? If you were starting a fake religion with a fake work of scripture, could you get 11 guys to swear over and over that they had this miraculous experience, even after you kicked them out of your church and they were telling everyone that you were a "fallen prophet"?

  4. I'm not very familiar with this story and I can't speak to the motivations of long-dead people none of us knew. I'm only seeking to illustrate that divinity is not the only possible answer to this question. Whether he manipulated them into truly believing it, or somehow persuaded them to go along with his ruse, or they all saw an angel deliver golden plates to him, are all possible. However, knowing what I know about facts, science, and human nature, the latter seems the least plausible.

  5. "I’m only seeking to illustrate that divinity is not the only possible answer to this question."

    Oh, I totally agree. I'm only seeking to illustrate that divinity is a possible answer. If people can at least accept that possibility, then they can find out for themselves whether it's true or not by asking God.

  6. Divinity is the only answer that still stands up after 180 years [or so] of attack on all fronts and from all quarters.

  7. Why did the witinesses testified that they saw the Plates witH Spiritual eyes ins
    tead of physical eyes? Where they in a trance or something?

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