A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview

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The Three Witnesses


All who read this book ought to turn to one of the first pages of the Book of Moromon and read a paragraph signed by three men whose names are Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. You will notice in that paragraph that these men bear a most solemn witness that the book is true; that an angel of God came to them with the plates and laid them before their eyes; and that they were translated by the gift and power of God.

The three names signed to this testimony are so important that I wish to tell you something about these men. You have learned a little about them already, but here is a good place to tell you something more about their lives.

Martin Harris was a farmer who became acquainted with Joseph about the time he received the plates. You will remember that Martin visited Joseph in Pennsylvania and did some writing for him. Martin Harris was the man who took some of the writings copied from the plates, with their translation, to the city of New York, and showed them to a learned man named Professor Anthon. The professor seemed pleased with what was shown him, and gave Martin a certificate that the writings were true characters. He also offered to assist in translating the plates, but when Martin told him that an angel had given Joseph the plates, and that part of the book was sealed, he took back the certificate and tore it up, saying "I can not read a sealed book."

If you wish to read something in the Bible that will remind you of this incident you may find it in Isaiah, 29th chapter, beginning at the 10th verse.

Oliver Cowdery became acquainted with Joseph's family, while he boarded with them one winter when he was teaching school. Hearing of Joseph in Pennsylvania and the work he was there doing, Oliver prayed to the Lord for light regarding the matter. Receiving a testimony that it was true, Oliver went to visit Joseph, and there, as we have seen, he wrote for him.

David Whitmer was a friend of Oliver's, and the latter told David many things regarding Joseph. While he was in Pennsylvania, Oliver wrote to David telling him to come down and see them. David came, found everything as had been told him, and took the two young men back to his father's home.

While translating the plates, Joseph came to the passage where it says that there should be three witnesses to these things. (Book of Mormon, II Nephi 11:3; also 27:12.) On learning this Oliver, David, and Martin asked Joseph to enquire of the Lord if they might be these witnesses. Joseph did so, and their request was granted. They, with Joseph then went out into the woods and prayed so earnestly that an angel came and showed them the sacred treasure exactly as they have testified.

For some years these three men continued to take a prominent part in the affairs of the Church as you will see in future chapters.In April, 1838, Oliver Cowdery was cut off from the Church for a number of things that a Latter-day Saint should not do. He became a lawyer, and went to Michigan. For ten years he remained away from the Church; but during all that time he never once denied his testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. Often men tried to have him deny it, but he stood firm to that truth.

At a meeting held in Kanesville, Iowa, October 21, 1848, Oliver Cowdery spoke and bore a strong testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon and the work of God. Shortly after he asked to be baptized into the Church again. He did not ask for position or honor, he wanted simply to be a member of the Church. His wish was granted and he was baptized.

While on his way to Utah, Oliver stopped at Richmond, Missouri, to visit his friends, the Whitmers. While here he died. David Whitmer said of the event:

"Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw. After shaking hands with the family, and kissing his wife and daughter, he said, 'Now I lay me down for the last time; I am going to my Savior;' and he died immediately with a smile on his face."

Martin Harris also left the Church. He was rejected at Kirtland, in 1837, and remained away from the Church for over thirty years; but all this time he testified to the truth of the Book of Mormon. In 1870, through the labors of Elder Edward Stevenson, Martin Harris came to Utah and was again baptized into the Church of Christ. For five years he continued to tell of the truth of the work of God in the meetings of the Saints in Utah. He died July 10th, 1875, at Clarkston, Cache county, Utah. On the afternoon of his death, he sat propped up in his bed with a Book of Mormon in his hand bearing his testimony to its truth to those around him.

David Whitmer, after being with the Saints until 1838, apostatized in Missouri. He moved to Richmond, Ray county, and lived there to the day of his death, January 25, 1888. He never rejoined the Church; but he always bore a strong testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. On his death bed he said to those around him:

"I want to say to you all that the Bible and the record of the Nephites (Book of Mormon) are true, so that you can say that you heard me bear my testimony on my death-bed. God bless you all. My trust is in Christ forever, worlds without end. Amen."

The world can not deny these three men's testimony. Though they left the Church and in their darkness they opposed the prophet of the Lord, yet never did they deny what the angel had shown them. On the same page that the testimony of the three witnesses is recorded, you will also find the names of eight others who testify to having seen the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

Topics.—1. The testimony of the three witnesses. 2. Martin Harris. 3. Oliver Cowdery. 4. David Whitmer. 5. The eight witnesses.

Questions and Review.1. Where is the testimony of the three witnesses found? 2. What does that testimony say? 3. What other testimony is found in the Book of Mormon? 4. How did the three get their testimony? 5. Tell of Martin Harris. 6. Of Oliver Cowdery. 7. Of David Whitmer. 8. Name some things that make their testimony strong. 9. Name the eight witnesses.