Simple question: non-LDS Christians believe the testimonies of the apostles, yet they reject the testimonies of the 3 & 8 witnesses to the golden plates. Why? In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every matter be established (2 Cor 13:1) -- why is this reason not enough?

EDIT: Why should they? From a Latter-day Saint perspective, because this is one of the positive arguments for the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon -- which should be of the utmost importance if it happens to be the case. See this answer and this answer for example presentations of this argument.

Related: Is there anything close to a consensus on how to assess the credibility of eyewitness accounts as supportive evidence for supernatural beliefs?

For a defense of the credibility of the Book of Mormon witnesses (the opposite view), see According to Latter-day Saints, what are the strongest arguments for the credibility of the 3 & 8 witnesses to the golden plates?

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    You could ask the same of Mohammed's own testimony, as recorded in the Qur'an, and those of countless others, from many other faiths; it's basically the equivalent of asking why one believes one religion, but not another.
    – user46876
    Aug 19, 2021 at 4:15
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator For example, Mohammed's claims could be of the utmost importance if true. Claims about Baha'u'llah could be of the utmost importance. Claims about Krishna could be of the utmost importance. And so on. Aug 19, 2021 at 5:56
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    @OneGodtheFather - Exactly. But how many simultaneous eyewitnesses can be brought up to argue for Mohammed or Krishna? Latter-day Saints have 11.
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 11:56
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    @alephzero - that would be the definition of blind belief, in my opinion.
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 16:38
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    This is what baffles atheists: why do followers of religion X so easily accept extraordinary claims from religion X, and at the same time reject extraordinary claims from religions Y and Z. Be careful, if you conclude that there is no good answer to this question, you might become an atheist... ;)
    – user132647
    Aug 20, 2021 at 17:19

11 Answers 11


For those who have 'discovered' the Jesus of the Bible, resurrected from the dead and alive today, they swiftly spot that the Jesus of Joseph Smith is not the same Jesus. He is claimed to be the first spirit-baby born to the god Elohim and his wife in some other universe. They named him Jehovah and later, his plan of salvation was superior to his brother, Lucifer's, so this Jehovah became born as a baby on earth to carry it out. No Bible-believing Christian can accept any of that, which is why the testimonies of those witnesses to the golden plates are discounted. But there are more reasons for discounting them than that.

An interesting thing about the Book of Mormon (BofM), which claims Jesus visited the Americas centuries ago to establish the start of a religion that would lead to the religion Joseph Smith proposed in the early 1800s, is that this 19th century religion is dependent on the truth of the claim that the initial BofM was completed 1190 years before the King James Bible, from which the BofM quotes extensively (though not entirely accurately). Is that not suspicious? We also have to believe that Joseph Smith was given golden plates in the early 1800s. They had been laid in a stone chest at the beginning of the 5th century, and contained "the fulness of the everlasting gospel." These plates were apparently written in "Reformed Egyptian" characters, and needed to be translated into English (by Smith who had to wait 4 years before getting angelic permission to start that work). Thus came into being the English BofM, testified to as authentic by various witnesses. Let's check them out.

I have in front of me photo-copies of the "Testimony of Three Witnesses" 1830 original edition, and of the "Testimony of Eight Witnesses" 1830 original edition. The three were, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. Despite saying that they saw the plates and testified that the translation of them was "by the gift and power of God", later on thousands of changes had been made to the once-only translated text, thus invalidating their testimony. Further, all three of them later apostatized from the Mormon church. Joseph Smith accused Cowdery of having printed counterfeit money, and a denunciation of all three is found in the Mormon book, Doctrine and Covenants, page 232.

The eight witnesses were Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jnr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith Senior, Hyrum Smith and Samuel H. Smith. The original edition of their testimony calls "Joseph Smith Jr. the Author and Proprietor of this work" but later editions drop the "Author and Proprietor" claim, putting instead, "Joseph Smith Jr., the translator of this work." That invalidates the original testimony. Further, five of the eight later apostatized from the Mormon church.

Finally, consider evidence for where the BofM really came from. Around 1810 there was a Congregational preacher called Solomon Spaulding. He was an avid reader with a great interest in Indian folklore and archaeology. He had a master's degree and was totally familiar with the King James Bible. In his own handwriting he produced a book he called Manuscript Found. There is reason to believe this book was stolen from Patterson's Print Shop, Pittsburg. One reason is that, years later, some original, hand-written pages of the BofM were lost at the printers, at its first publication. Smith went home and came back with the missing pages, in long-hand writing. These pages are in Spaulding's own handwriting, but he was dead when the BofM was supposedly translated.

Eight people who read both Manuscript Found and The Book of Mormon have testified under oath that they are both the same. They were, John Spaulding, Martha Spaulding, John Miller, Henry Lake, Artemas Cunningham, Aaron Wright, Nahum Howard and Matilda (nee Spaulding) Davidson (Solomon Spaulding's widow).

I suggest that if you want to consider the testimony of eight people, you go by the ones who knew that Manuscript Found predated the later printed title The Book of Mormon.

Sources: The Book of Mormon - True or False? by Arthur Budvarson, pp25-28, 1959. The Facts of Mormonism are Stranger than Fiction, p13, Eric Clarke, 1986

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    This answer makes an excellent case for why we should be suspicious of the eyewitness accounts in the case of the BofM (+1 for that), but what about the testimonies of the apostles? Why shouldn't we be suspicious of their testimonies as well?
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:24
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator, they died for spreading a testimony they were in a position to know was false if it indeed was. None of them recanted. I appreciate your posts, by the way. Aug 19, 2021 at 12:38
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    The Spaulding manuscript? Seriously? That conspiracy theory was thoroughly debunked well over 100 years ago.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Aug 20, 2021 at 1:39
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator Why shouldn't we be suspicious of their testimonies as well? If there is anyone telling you that you SHOULDN'T be suspicious of them - like that it would be immoral to ask questions about them - that person is trying to sell something. You may believe them, you may not believe them, there are a plethora of good reasons for either position. If you feel certain suspicions about them, it is nobody's right to tell you you shouldn't be feeling or thinking those things. You should be allowed to question and investigate everything.
    – TKoL
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:34
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    @SamLiddicott Believing a thing is fiction is very different from believing a thing is unworthy of study. If you doubt this, I will introduce you to some Lord of the Rings fans. Aug 20, 2021 at 17:07

Even if we accept that Joseph Smith received the golden plates as LDS describes it, neither LDS adherents nor skeptics can verify the translation.

Contrast this with Bible believing Christians, any of whom can learn Greek or Hebrew to check the translation if they so desire from hundreds of copies or manuscripts. If one reads any of the English translations available on BibleGateway or BibleHub they are incredibly consistent, meaning in agreement, with each other.

The King James Bible can easily be verified to predate the book of Mormon and anyone who desires may check the translation of the Bible. It specifically says,

"6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert[a] the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be [b]accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."

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    Verification of the translation is not a witness of the truth of what has been translated. Aug 20, 2021 at 13:12
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    @SamLiddicott Yes it is. If you cannot understand a document and there is no valid, scholarly, lexical and historic evidence of a language to translate it, it remains unverifiable. But once one can sensibly translate a document and understand what it says, it can be verified in comparison to other known documents, in the way that multiple authors (not just one) and multiple manuscripts (not just one) can be cross-referenced and cross-verified, as is the truly vast documentation of the holy bible. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Aug 21, 2021 at 7:51
  • @NigelJ I think maybe I wasn't clear, or we are straying from the answer as given. I can verify the translation of fragments of "Planet of the Apes" or of "The Necronomicon" independently of verifying the message. The presence of the golden plates might verify the translation without confirming the truth or falsity of the message. Consistency of the message with other messages can be done without access to the golden plates. Aug 23, 2021 at 15:07

It is simplistic to suppose that a choice is being made by certain Christians to believe the testimony of twelve Israelites in the middle of the first century or to believe the testimony of eleven men in the early 1800s. This is not the choice being made.

The choice being made is to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the choice being made is not to follow Joseph Smith who uttered the following words :

I will preach on the plurality of gods. I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see” (King Follett Discourse).

Whether a document was found, or not, whether men other than Joseph Smith saw it, or not, whether it was written in a language that required translation, or not : is all irrelevant.

That one statement is enough for me to reject everything produced by the man and his followers.

In contrast, a voice was heard from heaven on two separate occasions, thirty years apart, and was witnessed to by several holy, devout and truthful men :

This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased . . . hear ye Him.

We choose to hear Jesus Christ the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, who testified of his Father, and called him : the only true God.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

All quotations and references are to the KJV

Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, 2 Peter 1:17, Matthew 17:5, Luke 9:35, John 17:3

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    The choice being made is to follow Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the choice being made is not to follow Joseph Smith who uttered the following words - Isn't this a textbook example of begging the question though? You believe in the testimony of the apostles because they preached that Jesus is the Son of God, and you believe that Jesus is the Son of God because of the testimony of the apostles. This is circular and requires you to assume that the conclusion is already true before you even assess the evidence for it.
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:03
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God because God has revealed Him in me. Galatians 1:16.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:16
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    @NigelJ so the only way to know the truth either way is via prayer and feeling where the Holy Ghost guides you. Most Mormons would agree. And most Mormons would testify that what the Holy Ghost has revealed in them is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Book of Mormon is true. So it still feels like begging the question.
    – TKoL
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:40
  • Why were my comments deleted? Aug 22, 2021 at 18:19

Me and my friend made an effort to read the Book of Mormon. Of the many things I could say, one is pretty strong. A miraculous translation should not produce bad grammar; neither should it produce grammar with a whiplash effect by changing through three hundred years of grammar in the same sentence.

The repeating "And it came to pass" suggests rather the printing press already existed when these were written down; nobody in the ancient world would dare to write excessively like that.

(References to the author are deliberately floating pronouns. It doesn't matter if Joseph Smith wrote it or it was dictated to him.)

But I need only go as far as 1:10 "and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament." No one who has seen from above could have written this fragment, for it is grave error. In old Hebrew, the stars are not in the firmament but rather in the heavens.

"they seek to take away thy life." Not idiomatic Hebrew.

"Laman, Lemuel, and Sam." Not named by a Hebrew speaker. There is no such name as Lemuel. It's like referring to the foundational statistics papers written by "Student" and telling me that's his name.

"Nephi" why does a Egyption loanword used as a name and transliterated into English bare the mark of being transliterated through the Greek; except for the author had read no Egyptian.

"And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church" Impossible. amature error; it's like he doesn't know there were no synagogues before the fall of Jerusalem.

"And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake. Now Zoram was the name of the servant; and he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth." Somebody can't be bothered to recopy and make corrections.

"And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies." Too new.

"he [father of Nephi] should baptize" before John? I don't think so.

11:13 "... white" no you didn't. This error could only be made by one who only saw Jews from Europe after the dispersion.

"that they rent;" rent what?

Point being; how far you get depends on how much tolerance you have. It's just bad and it shows. The writing is not true; of itself we can show that it was written first in English rather than any ancient language, and by someone whose native language was neither Hebrew nor Egyptian (but the writing carries the story of itself all the same). No number of witnesses can sign it so that it can be accepted. I'm not surprised it's rejected. I'm surprised it was accepted by enough people to not get squashed within one generation.

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    Though these are all relevant criticisms of the BoM itself, I think the OP question is fundamentally about the trustworthiness of religious witnesses, to the exclusion of other pieces of evidence that the BoM is true or false. Basically, the OP argument is, in my estimation, If we trust the apostlic witnesses, we should trust the BoM witnesses. If we don't trust the BoM witnesses, we shouldn't trust the apostlic witnesses. The question of the fundamental trustworthiness of witnesses is a worthwhile one.
    – TKoL
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:45
  • @TKoL: The question bare is unanswerable. I must rather argue one way or another from what we have that these witnesses are simply unreliable.
    – Joshua
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:12
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    Add Lucifer to that list. This Latin name does not exist in the Hebrew texts and is omitted from many Bible translations. It was introduced in the Latin Vulgate. If the BoM was translated from Egyptian to English, why is Lucifer in it?
    – rtaft
    Aug 20, 2021 at 15:06
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    The firmament is the Heavens, according to the KJV of the Bible, and that's where the stars are. Other translations call it the "vault of the Heavens", the "expanse of the Heavens", and so forth, but describe the stars as being in the same location. Regardless of what you might think the Hebrew says, the BoM is hardly the only book to make this "error". As for flowery writing, the KJV predates the BoM and has plenty of it. E.g., Exodus 1:7 says Israel had a large population ... five times in a row. And plenty of old writing was flowery and ostentatious.
    – MichaelS
    Aug 21, 2021 at 0:51
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    We accept that man has influenced and or mistranslated the Bible into it current English forms, that concept on its own forms part of the basis for the different branches of Christianity. BofM postulates that it is a divine inspired single translation from an original source. If that is the case there should be close to (or) zero errors, as we assume divine influence would impart total knowledge and understanding on the subject for the course of the work. So it shouldn't have the common errors that creep in through multiple translations through other languages unknown to Joseph Smith Jr. Aug 21, 2021 at 5:59

A Christian is one who has believed the testimony of the Scriptures concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and has thus received the testimony that God has given regarding his only begotten Son. By reception of said testimony (being born again), the very Spirit of that God enters such a one and the testimony becomes an internal validation of what has been written.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him....If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. - 1 John 5:1, 9-12

This is not circular reasoning as posited in a comment above:

You believe in the testimony of the apostles because they preached that Jesus is the Son of God, and you believe that Jesus is the Son of God because of the testimony of the apostles.

But it is a fulfillment of prophesy (which itself is evidence of veracity):

For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. - Ezekiel 36:24-28

A Christian, then, is one who has crossed over from believing that the Scriptural testimony of Almighty God is true to knowing that it is true because that one has the witness within, and this witness, the Holy Spirit, is the very same one who has inspired the authors of the Scriptures:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. - 2 Peter 1:16-21

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. - John 14:16-17

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: - John 15:26

Such a one, having the witness/testimony of Christ (the Holy Spirit) within, cannot accept any witness contradictory to what has been given and received because that would constitute making God a liar. The kingdom of God would revert to a house divided against itself and could not stand because God can neither lie nor deny Himself.

The testimony of Mormon witnesses as to the divine nature of the Book of Mormon and the golden plates cannot be accepted by a born again Christian (there is no other kind) because these are witnesses to a "revelation" that is contradictory to the witness that has been given by God to mankind and which lives within the Christian by the Spirit of God.

The Spirit of Truth will not step aside and accommodate error.

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    I'm afraid Latter-day Saints would make the same appeal to the "inner witness of the Holy Spirit" to defend their views. See this question.
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2021 at 14:03
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    @Spirit Realm Investigator Certainly the LDSs claim that you should experience "a burning in the bosom" when you start to believingly read the BofM. But that is to put the BofM above believing what the Bible says about putting faith in the Jesus of the Bible and then having the Spirit of Christ and of God 'indwell' you (Romans 8:9). The indwelling Spirit of Truth would not lead you to believe in the different Jesus of the BofM. That is why the Jesus of the Bible must be believed FIRST, then the Christian calls upon the Bible as proof, not subjective experiences.
    – Anne
    Aug 19, 2021 at 14:46
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator The question is addressed to non-LDS Christians. What LDS appeal to is irrelevant. Aug 20, 2021 at 12:20
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    This does not answer the question. It is circular reasoning. It says that the reason people accept traditional Christianity and not LDS is because they believe in traditional Christianity and not LDS. The claim "But it is a fulfillment of prophesy (which itself is evidence of veracity):" is also circular reasoning: you are saying that this happening shows that prophesy has been fulfilled, but you are also using the alleged fulfillment of prophesy as evidence that it happened. Aug 21, 2021 at 1:00
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator: It has come to my attention there is another very grave error here. It turns out that those who do not already posses a saving faith take a grave risk in attempting to call upon the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. There is no formula by which one may attempt this safely; rather the state of ones own spirit must be be willing and able enough to call upon God as he is rather than God as the mind perceives him to be. We have records of great successes, but also records of great failures.
    – Joshua
    Sep 27, 2021 at 2:01

because this is one of the positive arguments for the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon -- which should be of the utmost importance if it happens to be the case.

Over and over in the Bible there are warnings against adding to the God's Word (more books, more laws, more "holy" writs, etc etc.).

Do not add to His words
Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar. Proverbs 30:6

and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Matthew 24:11

For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:24

Therefore, if what the apostles say about Jesus is true, then the Book of Mormon isn't.

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    The main reason why this argument tends to fail is that the bible itself wasn't a single, unified, complete document when these words were written. The concept of the "new testament" wasn't known to the author who wrote "Do not add to His words", so he could not have possibly meant "Do not publish any more revelations after the New Testament". Or so the argument goes.
    – TKoL
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:48
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    Proverbs is from the Old Testament... So should we conclude that the new testament is a lie?
    – user132647
    Aug 20, 2021 at 14:17
  • Okay, maybe the Proverbs quote is undermining my point a little here :-). It seems to be talking about wicked talk generally, and is not specific to heretical talk. I'm not sure. I'll have to read it more closely. Aug 20, 2021 at 14:35
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    @user132647, Regarding the Matthew quotes, Matthew is directly quoting Jesus here. I would guess Jesus knows about the New Testament :-P For context, Jesus had just been asked about the end times, and there is a similar quote in Revelations somewhere. Aug 20, 2021 at 14:46
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    More circular reasoning. "We believe that what Joseph Smith said was false because he was a false prophet, and we believe that he was a false prophet because what he said was false." Aug 21, 2021 at 1:03

It would be safe to conclude that both sides heartily agree that this synchronicity is by no means coincidental:

  • to the believer, it is a clear and undeniable testimony of divine providence at work, preparing the world for the eternal truth of the Prophet's timeless revelations;

  • to the outsider, they seem to resemble more a faith-based world-building exercise, similar to those of Tolkien's Middle Earth or C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, but with a distinctly Middle Eastern — rather than European — focus.


Why do non-LDS Christians accept the testimonies of the apostles but reject the testimonies of the 3 & 8 witnesses to the golden plates?

As for Catholics and I suppose some other Christian denominations (in a similar, but not exact vein of theological thought), the response seems fairly straightforward: Public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle of Jesus (John the Apostle).

This is not a new stance within the Church, but has been made very clear since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Roman Catholic theology

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, public revelation was complete in New Testament times, but depends on interpretation and deepening understanding of this foundational or "definitive" revelation:

97 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God" in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.

66 "The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfilment. Divine revelation was fulfilled, completed, and perfected in Christ, the fullness and mediator, author and interpreter, purpose and center of public revelation. Hence, public revelation is the deposit of faith and rule of faith and must be lived by all Catholics. Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that all public revelation ended with the death of Saint John the Apostle. Private revelations cannot surpass, correct, improve, fulfill, complete, or perfect public revelation.

Divine revelation, since it is contained in the Word of God and in Christ, also includes the living tradition or sensus fidelium, the magisterium, the sacraments, and Catholic dogma. Because the living tradition and the magisterium are a part of divine revelation, they both have divine authority. Because the sacraments are a part of divine revelation, their natures cannot be changed (for example, receiving Holy Communion without mortal sin) but their ways of celebration can be changed (for example, receiving Holy Communion in the hand or on the tongue). Because Catholic dogma is a part of divine revelation, the saving truths of Christ are immutable. But what truths are dogmas has needed to be clarified by church councils, and the much more numerous doctrines have yielded to varied and increased understanding based on solid study of the Biblical roots and of the history of the topic. For this the work of theologians is indispensable, since the charism of the bishops is not to receive revelations but to determine what is Catholic teaching, the more so in doctrines that are more central to the faith and dogmatically taught. The Second Vatican Council of Bishops maintained a careful line between the "two source" (Scripture and the living tradition) and "one source" explanation of revelation, careful to acknowledge the ultimate priority of the original deposit of faith: "For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known."

The revelations in the Word of God – such as the apparition of the three angels to Abraham and the angel who wrestled Jacob; the burning bush; the theophany on Mount Sinai; the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire; the visions and prophecies of the prophets; Elijah's test at the cave, and his assumption; the revelation to Saint Peter ("You are the Christ"); the apparitions of the risen Christ to the Apostles, including the exceptional and unique apparition to Saint Paul; the various miracles recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles; and the entire Book of Revelation – are not private revelations but are public revelation, though their original meaning and relevance for the Church today are subject to interpretation. The apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar to Saint James the Greater is a private revelation, since it depends on facts not contained in the original deposit of faith. It, along with the canonization of saints, will never be dogmatically taught, but are taught as safe for Christian belief.

Because Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the church into every truth, the Lord leads the church into a deeper understanding of the original deposit. To suitably apply the truths of revelation to the needs of each age, the magisterium examines carefully private revelations, to assure that they are in accord with church doctrine. Christ warned that false prophets would come and that the tree will be known by its fruit.


I said in my first answer that I would say no more. Therefore I will leave that answer as it stands. You may not think 36 up-votes counts for anything, and I would agree. Nor will I respond further to the myriad, heated comments that my first answer engendered. You are correct to say that it was only a "half-answer". I did not deal with reasons why non-LDS Christians should accept the testimony of the apostles of the New Testament (though I showed why they disbelieve the testimony of the witnesses of "the golden plates"). So, please consider this the second-half to my answer, and that it is, by far, the most important argument.

  1. LUKE 6:12-13 Jesus Christ himself carefully selected 12 men who were to be designated 'apostles'. He did so after a night of prayer, seeking God's will as to who those men should be. After nearly 2,000 years of this testimony, nobody has disputed it. Nobody in the first century, or in the days of the rapidly expanding Church ever questioned if that was actually so. All LDS people agree with this statement in the N.T.

  2. MATT.16:13-19 The apostle Peter was given revelation from God the Father as to who Jesus Christ really is. Jesus rejoiced, saying he'd got this understand, not from men, but from the Father in heaven. All the other apostles who wrote in the NT agreed with Peter's testimony. All LDS people agree that Peter got direct understanding from the Father about this vital truth (though they may interpret who Jesus is differently to how the apostles did).

  3. ACTS 9:15 To Ananias, God directly told him that Saul of Tarsus had been converted to Christ, and that this one (then called the apostle Paul) was his chosen vessel to share the gospel of Christ to Gentiles, kings and Israelites. All LDS people agree with this.

  4. GAL.1:1-16 The apostle Paul's heavenly calling is confirmed, plus his warning about false gospels which has been proven true, even with claimed angelic messages being warned against. The need is to read all 16 verses. LDS people agree with Paul's heavenly calling, but they disagree that the angelic message to their Joseph Smith was a false gospel.

  5. REV.1:1 to 22:21 The resurrected Jesus Christ revealed to the apostle John, in his old age, what was ahead of the Church, right on into the still-future event of Christ's spectacular return. We have all of John's written testimony to this day, and those with eyes to see know how it is being fulfilled. LDS people have never disputed the authentic calling of John to be an apostle. But LDS people apparently disagree about "adding words" to that final, divine revelation.

  6. JUDE The brother of James stated that Christians near the end of the first century needed to earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (vs.3). That charge still applies, all the more-so as the return of Christ draws nearer, for there are many men who have since crept in unawares, and even angels had forsaken their place in heaven. That is why no words should be added to the last book of the N.T. Jude states, even to us today, "Beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vs.17). LDS people would not disagree with Jude vs.17.

  7. REV.21:14 The foundations of the heavenly great city, the new Jerusalem, have 12 foundations, "and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." Twelve apostles, no more and no less. The last apostle to die was the apostle John, and there have been no more God-appointed apostles since that time. The LDS people totally disagree with that, claiming that since the time of Joseph Smith, many modern-day apostles have been appointed to rule over their church.

But LDS people need not be surprised that non-LDS people disagree with that, sticking to all the scriptures I have already mentioned, which are but a small sample of the N.Ts own evidence for the authenticity of those twelve apostles of the Lamb. That is entirely sufficient for them, and they listen to the words of Christ, as detailed by the apostles in the N.T. and as fulfillment of the O.T. Neither the 12 apostles nor Christians who belong to Christ by faith have been, or will be detracted from following the Lamb, wherever he goes. We simply disregard all other claimants to divine apostleship, because the testimony of the N.T. is entirely united and sufficient for us.

  • @Matthew Well spotted! I was typing with woollen fingerless gloves on, as it's rather cold here. Have corrected it.
    – Anne
    Jan 30, 2022 at 10:53

Question 1 -- Book of Mormon witnesses

Far and away the most common reason given, as demonstrated by the 8 (currently) existing answers to this question, is that the testimony of the Book of Mormon witnesses is rejected because of what follows from it.

We can represent this approach via the logical proposition:

  • P => Q (if P then Q)
  • If the BoM witnesses are truthful then a variety of implications follow (for the book, for the teachings of the faith that upholds it, etc.)

The approach taken then, is to reject P by rejecting Q. If we add a second premise, we get an argument like this:

P1: P => Q

P2: ~Q

C: ~P

The proof is in the pudding: this approach is used by all 8 answers that preceded this one.

Note that only 1 of the aforementioned 8 answers endeavored to directly impeach the character of the witnesses themselves--this is not surprising, as none of the 11 ever denied the claims to which he signed his name in The Testimony of the Three Witnesses & The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses, even after multiple subsequent printings of the Book of Mormon text.

Conclusion: the testimony of the witnesses is generally rejected because it carries implications which conflict with people's existing beliefs. This approach to rejecting the witnesses does not directly engage with the arguments of Book of Mormon apologists.

Question 2 - The witness of the first-century apostles

Judas Iscariot is typically not used a character witness for Christ, but the other 11 are (plus Matthias, James the Lord's brother, Barnabas, and Paul). There are 3 common reasons given to support their credibility:

1. Their fruits

If the apostles did not sincerely believe their story, the meteoric rise of the Christian faith--in spite of intense opposition--is very difficult to explain.

Note that although a similar argument is sometimes used with respect to Islam, the early, meteoric growth of each religion occurred under very different circumstances.

2. Their willingness to die

There are 4 men, named as apostles in the New Testament, for whom we have first century attestation of their death as martyrs (others probably died as martyrs, but we lack early sources for this history):

  • James the son of Zebedee (Acts 12:1-2)
  • James the son of Joseph (Josephus, Antiquities 20.9.1)
  • Peter (1 Clement 5)
  • Paul (1 Clement 5)

It would be one thing to say they died for a fraud they had been misled to believe, but quite another to say they died for a fraud they knew was false. These men were in a position to know the truth (or falsehood) of what they said.

The New Testament, 1 Clement, and other early Christian writings also describe numerous additional persecutions & sufferings (not all the way to death) endured by first-generation Christians and their leaders.

3. The witness of the Holy Spirit

This appears to be the most widespread and enduring reason given for trusting the apostles: their words, preserved in the New Testament, have been ratified by the Holy Spirit in the hearts & minds of millions (if not billions).

Most Christians have probably never read 1 Clement chapter 5 (cited above); yet they believe the words of Peter & Paul based on their own personal experience engaging with the Divine.

Paul himself would doubtless be pleased:

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Cor. 2:4)

Conclusion: the apostles' testimony is corroborated by historical records and the living, abiding voice of Divine inspiration.

  • Hey HTTR, any thoughts on this question?
    – user50422
    Aug 16, 2022 at 18:05
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator well-played, you finally got me to write a post on the Philosophy site. The downside is that I got too lazy to stop.... =) Aug 19, 2022 at 4:11
  • Great answer. Here is a follow-up one :-)
    – user50422
    Aug 19, 2022 at 14:07
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator this is a very interesting question. While I have some thoughts on the first half of the question, I'm not sure how well I can contribute to the overview portion (It looks like the mods are cracking down on how overview questions are used). I can certainly offer a response from the viewpoint of someone who believes the Bible does preserve much genuine eyewitness testimony, or I could share what Latter-day Saints have said about the intersection between faith & science...but I have no idea what official positions have been taken on the matter among most denominations. Aug 19, 2022 at 16:19
  • 1
    Sure, every viewpoint is valuable in my opinion. When I ask overview questions, I'm essentially asking for opinions without being off-topic :-)
    – user50422
    Aug 20, 2022 at 17:31

The apostles were hand selected by Jesus the son of God. They wrote the New Testament, created the early church, ordained the first bishops and priests and established the Sees like Rome and Antioch etc. Their disciples became the Church Fathers and wrote many books on theology etc. There is a continuous tradition called Apostolic Succession whereby each Bishops in turn ordains each successive bishop down to today. We trust the apostles and accept their testimony because we know people who know people who them back 2,000 years of continuous history.

The Book of Mormon is not part of the traditions of the majority of Christianity. The Old Testament starts with Genesis, ends with Malachi and the New Testament starts with Matthew, it ends in Revelations. The Canon is complete there is nothing more that needs to be added.

There are many books that didn't make it into the Bible, there are many Gnostic Gospels etc and then you have the Book of Enoch. While Enoch is held to be Scripture by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,it isn't considered inspired by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox.

  • How does this answer the question? How do we know that the canon is complete? What does this have to do with the credibility of witnesses?
    – user50422
    Jan 31, 2022 at 22:55
  • Right so, I've added a clarifying paragraph to the start.
    – Xartoon
    Feb 1, 2022 at 13:28

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