This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice (conflictofjustice.com). Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.
“Within eight years, all of the Three Witnesses were excommunicated from the Church. This is what Joseph Smith said about them in 1838: ‘Such characters as… John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.’ – History of the Church Vol. 3, Ch. 1 5, p. 232” (CES Letter)
Joseph Smith was defending his character from being “misrepresented and misunderstood” by a group that included Cowdery, Whitmer, and Harris. By this time, those three had fallen out with the Prophet and were saying negative things about him. Joseph did not attack them back or condemn them for it. He just said he would like “to have forgotten” the negative things they said.
Here is the entire quote in context:
“Is not all manner of evil of every description spoken of us falsely, yea, we say unto you falsely. We have been misrepresented and misunderstood, and belied, and the purity and integrity and uprightness of our hearts have not been known—and it is through ignorance—yea, the very depths of ignorance is the cause of it; and not only ignorance, but on the part of some, gross wickedness and hypocrisy also; for some, by a long face and sanctimonious prayers, and very pious sermons, had power to lead the minds of the ignorant and unwary, and thereby obtain such influence that when we approached their iniquities the devil gained great advantage—would bring great trouble and sorrow upon our heads; and, in fine, we have waded through an ocean of tribulation and mean abuse, practiced upon us by the ill bred and the ignorant, such as Hinkle, Corrill, Phelps, Avard, Reed Peck, Cleminson, and various others, who are so very ignorant that they cannot appear respectable in any decent and civilized society, and whose eyes are full of adultery, and cannot cease from sin. Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them. Marsh and ‘another,’ whose hearts are full of corruption, whose cloak of hypocrisy was not sufficient to shield them or to hold them up in the hour of trouble, who after having escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, became again entangled and overcome—their latter end is worse than the first. But it has happened unto them according to the word of the Scripture: ‘The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.'” (History of the Church 3:232)
Oliver Cowdery Accused Of Counterfeiting? – CES Letter says:
“This is what First Counselor of the First Presidency and once close associate Sidney Rigdon had to say about Oliver Cowdery: ‘…a lying, thieving, counterfeiting man who was ‘united with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs in the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the saints out of their property, by every art and stratagem which wickedness could invent…” — February 15, 1 841 Letter and Testimony , p. 6-9′” (CES Letter)
CES Letter‘s quote is fabricated. It is a fake quote. Sigdney Rigdon never called Cowdery a “lying, thieving, counterfeiting man.” What he said was that Cowdery was associated with such people. Cowdery had split from the church and associated with people who were ripping off Mormons, it is true. Then in 1848 he repented, rejoined the Saints, and was rebaptized into the Mormon church.
Sigdney Rigdon’s charge of counterfeiting had to do with the “bogus business” that some accused Oliver Cowdery of being associated with. Elder Seymour Branson charged Cowdery at the High Council at Far West of “retaining notes after they had been paid.”
Never Denied Their Testimony – If they were excommunicated and suffered accusations from Joseph Smith of being “mean” to him, why did none of the Three Witnesses repudiate the testimony of the Book of Mormon? Why would Joseph Smith risk excommunicating them if they were co-conspirators of a con-job? Why risk making them enemies if they could easily have blown the lid on the whole thing? In fact, they would have been handsomely rewarded financially for doing so. The anti-Mormon counterfeiters that Oliver Cowdery was palling around with would have worshiped him for it. Why didn’t he repudiate the Book of Mormon or priesthood restoration?
CES Letter Logical Fallacies
|Falsehood||Part of CES Letter‘s quote of Sigdney Rigdon is fabricated. He only accused Cowdery of associating with lying, thieving, counterfeiting men.|
|Argument From Ignorance||CES Letter snips Joseph Smith’s quote out of context. He only said the three witnesses were saying some mean things about him and he didn’t care to think about it.|
|Ad Hominem||This entire argument is an attack on the witnesses’ characters.|
|Repetition||CES Letter‘s fabricated quote repeats the “lying, thieving, counterfeiting” accusation.|
Contradiction Strategy – Following the Marxist strategy of contradiction, CES Letter uses fellow Mormons to attack the Mormon church. The attack is always more powerful when it comes from an alleged member, which is why anti-Mormons so often pretend to be faithful latter day saints and sow dissension inside the church. Skeptics often try to turn Mormons against each other to tear each other down, and then point to the dissension in the church as evidence that it must be false.
Luckily, Joseph Smith did not fall into this trap. Despite the three witnesses turning against him, he never did anything more than defend his character. The witnesses never wavered from their testimony of the Book of Mormon, and they never lost credibility.
As for the testimony of the witnesses, you just have to take it for what it’s worth. Someone who picks up the Book of Mormon for the first time has no idea who these witnesses are, so they just think, “Oh, here are some people who say this book is true.” That’s fine. They don’t need to blindly believe what 11 random people have to say to start reading the book.
A testimony of truth does not happen because of someone’ s stories, whether they are true stories or not. People often tell stories to explain what their testimony means to them, but bearing testimony is about gospel principles that they know to be true. The “seed of faith” is planted when a person hears those fundamental truths and it stirs them to begin the knowledge process of testing faith for themselves. The point of these witnesses is to give people a tiny push to read the book.
Use Opponent As Authority Tactic – This is a popular Marxist tactic that anti-Mormons use. They use Mormonism’s own authorities to discredit the faith, such as an alleged Mormon scholar. What makes this argument powerful is:
- Deceptively discredits the vast libraries of study on Book of Mormon theology by LDS professionals.
- Gives more focus to a phony frame that attacks the Mormon church.
- Divides the ranks of the church.
- Establishes a frame that demands a clear, modern explanation in the Book of Mormon for every religious issue in existence, and that it be exactly corroborated by every other Mormon source.