This post is based on comments left on a different thread by Jed Smith asking “If Joseph Smith was a fraud where did the Book of Mormon come from?” But since the comment was off-topic, I’ve copied and pasted it here for response. The comment:
Josh, I appreciate what you are trying to do also in trying to have an open discussion in regards to the Book of Mormon. Regarding it’s authenticity, have you had any questions regarding the integrity of the witnesses? For example, Oliver Cowdery, one of the supposed Three witnesses was excommunicated from the church. He claimed to have seen the plates in a vision before he met Joseph. He supposedly was the primary scribe for the BOM as Joseph Translated. Later in 1829, Oliver, Joseph and David Whitmer supposedly experienced a vision in which an Angel appeared to them and showed them the Golden Plates. Let’s be clear, this is a supposed “vision” not a physical sight of the Plates. Later that same day the 3rd original witness, Martin Harris, claims to have had a similar “vision”. All three signed their names that they had seen these things. Cowdery Was Ex’d due to his disagreement regarding a couple matters, one being Joseph’s “dirty, nasty, filthy affair” with Fanny Alger, the smiths young housekeeper. David Whitmer was Ex’d also due to some Leadership struggle between himself and Joseph. Martin Harris, the third witness was also a scribe and special witness who lost 116 pages of the BOM manuscript (what a reliable person, shouldn’t joseph have known better than to lend the manuscript out?). He supported Joseph financially as he worked to supposedly translate the plates. Harris was a loose canon who had changed religions 5 times before he had met Joseph. This guy could not make up his mind and after Josephs death became a follower of various groups who he thought were leading the true church and accepted one fellow as the next new prophet, James J. Strang. People who know Martin said that he was a man known for having a knack to have visitations of Angels and ghosts. To me, these just don’t seem like rock solid witnesses. A couple of the witnesses were rebaptised but to me they don’t seem like reliable witnesses. People are supposed to take their word for their supposed visions? I mean don’t get me wrong, I have some great LDS friends and many are great people. I just don’t know why more people don’t look at some of the problems with the authenticity. I mean, a person can convince themselves of anything. I think especially being raised in the church and being surrounded by it socially, it is hard to really put into question the authenticity as that is all that some people know. They are surrounded by LDS, their families are LDS, why would they even want to challenge the authenticity, they would be an outcast in their social network and family. If you would like to know where I was looking at the information from above, I simply typed each of the 3 witnesses names into wikipedia. Which gives a good honest history of their life. Please let me know your thoughts and if you really feel that these men were reliable witnesses. Thanks.
Ironically, the three witnesses and five of the eight other witnesses became more reliable as a result of their inconsistency with and/or rejection of the LDS Church and Joseph Smith as a prophet. If all three had never wavered and had supported the LDS Church and Joseph Smith to their deaths, then the anti-Mormon line would be that they were gullible and under the influence of Joseph Smith who manipulated and tricked them, and that they were all crazy together. However, since they left the church and called Joseph Smith a fallen prophet, we must ask ourselves why they didn’t retract their statement concerning the Book of Mormon. If they were inconsistent in many other things, but rock solid in this one thing, does this not add to the strength of their statements concerning the Book of Mormon?
I agree, a person can convince themselves of anything, even that the Book of Mormon isn’t true, despite the overwhelming evidence. But perhaps in some cases that is just a result of their social network and family
By the way, if you consider Wikipedia to be a perfectly reliable source, then it appears you are a person of greater faith than I originally led to believe.