The Gospel Doctrine lesson 1 manual objective is “to help class members understand how the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and how abiding by its precepts helps us draw nearer to God.”
To answer the gospel doctrine question: What other witnesses (besides the official 11) do we have that the Book of Mormon is true?
In The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith shares Joseph’s reaction to the golden plates being shown to others besides himself.
Father! Mother! You do not know how happy I am. The Lord has caused the plates to be shown to three more besides me. They have also seen an angel and will have to testify to the truth of what I have said, for they know for themselves that I do not go about to deceive the people. I do feel as though I was relieved of a dreadful burden which was almost too much for me to endure. But they will now have to bear a part, and it does rejoice my soul that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.
I’m struck by Joseph’s joy of no longer being alone in the work of testifying of truthfulness. I wonder if I may be able to capture that same joy this new year in fast and testimony meetings. Can I embrace the edifying power of a shared communal experience? When I’m annoyed that someone’s testimony has gone longer than I believe to be reasonable, can I rejoice in my soul that I’m not alone in the work of being a disciple of Jesus Christ?
That is going to be hard. But nevertheless, I do take joy in knowing that there are millions of other witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Perhaps my greatest joy in knowing that I’m one of these witnesses. I’m grateful for the Young Women leaders, Seminary teachers, family members, Apostles and Prophets who encouraged me to read the Book of Mormon that I too could become a witness of the Book of Mormon being another testament of Jesus Christ.
Knowing that the daughters of God have always been active participants in His great work has rooted my testimony. Mary Musselman Whitmer, Emma Hale Smith and Lucy Mack Smith played significant roles in bringing forth the Book of Mormon in this dispensation and stand as lasting witnesses of its truthfulness.
Mary Musselman Whitmer
Mary Musselman Whitmer was the wife of Peter Whitmer, mother of David Whitmer, and the 12th witness of the Book of Mormon. In the summer of 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery moved into the Whitmer house to translate the golden plates. Like Martha of the New Testament, Mary was feeling overwhelmed by the additional housework that was placed upon her. She recounted her experience to her grandson, John C. Whitmer:
She met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house (that is, the translation of the Book of Mormon), she was filled with unexpressible (sic) joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell.1
Jacob added: “I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death.”2
Emma Hale Smith
In addition to being Joseph’s wife, comforter, and confidant, Emma Hale Smith worked as scribe at various times during the translation of the golden plates. Shortly before her death, Emma bore her testimony of the Book of Mormon.
“My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity. I have not the slightest doubt of it…Though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates…and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, ‘a marvel and a wonder,’ as much as to anyone else…The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth which I had given him [Joseph] to fold them in. I once felt the plates as they lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book…I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction.” 3
In an interview with Parley P. Pratt, when he was visiting Nauvoo, Emma said, “I believe he [Joseph] was everything he professed to be.” 4
Lucy Mack Smith
Though Lucy Mack Smith never saw the golden plates, Joseph did show her the urim and thummim – “examining it with no covering but a silk handkerchief, found that it consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in
glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows connected with each other in much the same way that old-fashioned spectacles are made…”
Lucy was a fierce defender of her son, Joseph Smith, the restored gospel and the Book of Mormon. On one occasion she spent the night with manuscript of the Book of Mormon concealed in a trunk under her bed preventing it from being destroyed by “a group of religionists.”6
At last, as if led by an invisible spirit, I came to the time when the messenger from Waterloo informed me that the translation was actually completed. My soul swelled with a joy that could scarcely be heightened, except by the reflection that the record which had cost so much labor, suffering, and anxiety was now, in reality, lying beneath my own head-that this identical work had not only been the object which we as a family had pursued so eagerly, but that prophets of ancient days, angels, and even the great God had had his eye upon it.
“And,” said I to myself, “shall I fear what man can do? Will not the angels watch over the precious relic of the worthy dead and the hope of the living? And am I indeed the mother of a prophet of the God of heaven, the honored instrument in performing so great a work?” I felt that I was in the purview of angels, and my heart bounded at the thought of the great condescension of the Almighty. Thus I spent the night surrounded by enemies and yet in an ecstasy of happiness. Truly I can say that my soul did magnify and my spirit rejoiced in God, my Savior.
On the fourth day after they had met, the three men delegated by the council came to perform the work assigned them. They began, “Mrs. Smith, we hear you have a gold bible, and we came to see if you would be so kind as to show it to us?”
“No, gentlemen,” said I, “we have no gold bible, but we have a translation of some gold plates, which have been brought forth to bring to the world the plainness of the gospel and to give to the children of men a history of the people that used to inhabit this continent.”
I then proceeded to give them the substance of what is contained in the Book of Mormon, particularly the principles of religion which it contains. I endeavored to show them the similarity between these principles and the simplicity of the gospel taught by Jesus Christ in the New Testament…
“Well,” said the foremost gentleman with whom I was acquainted, “can we see the manuscript?”
“No, sir, you cannot see it. We have done exhibiting the manuscript altogether. I have told you what is in it, and that must suffice.”
He did not reply to this, but said, “Mrs. Smith, you, Hyrum, Sophronia, and Samuel have belonged to our church for some time, and we respect you very highly. You say a great deal about the book which your son has found and believe much of what he tells you, but we cannot bear the thoughts of losing you, and they do wish-I wish-that if you do believe those things, you never would proclaim anything about them. I do wish you would not.”
“Deacon Beckwith,” said I, “even if you should stick my body full of faggots and burn me at the stake, I would declare, as long as God should give me breath, that Joseph has that record, and that I know it to be true.”7
My soul is rejoicing! What other witnesses of the Book of Mormon have impacted your life?
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
To Always Serve and Love, Bérengère Doby
There were some preparatory things that were very necessary for me to receive. The only real testimony that I needed was to have a testimony of The Book of Mormon and that Christ came to the American continent. I already had a testimony that the Church was true and that The Book of Mormon was true, but it was not as strong as what I was able to receive just a few months before I left on my mission. In fact, that was a really an important experience for me. I’m someone who doesn’t like to read at all. But I decided to read The Book of Mormon. So I spent my days reading The Book of Mormon. My mom said, “This does not happen. You must be sick.” Page after page, I read for a month in order to know every line of this wonderful book. It was a need, an internal drive to read, to learn, to understand, and to receive what The Book of Mormon needed to give me. When I came to 3 Nephi when Christ arrives and he visits the children and all the people gather around him, I cried and cried. I was all alone in my bedroom and I thought, “I hope no one comes in right now. They’re going to think something is wrong with me!” It was that moment when I received a profound testimony of The Book of Mormon and of Christ coming to the American continent. I needed that in order to have strength during my mission, I think.
Her Version of Having It All, Marie-Laure Oscarson
So, the elders started teaching me in the library, and I felt the Spirit very strongly when I was with them. They would teach me the gospel, and I would feel so good. After I would return home, that feeling was gone. I shared my concerns with the missionaries. They gave me the Book of Mormon and said, “You’ve got to read.” My doubts lessened when I read the Book of Mormon. As I read, the book became my best companion. I read, and I cried. For the first time in my life I felt the deeper connection that I had been searching for. It got to the point where I could not depart from the Book of Mormon, and I would sleep with it right next to my pillow. It was a safety blanket for me–it was the law, the safety, the peace, the truth, and the light that I had been looking for. I could feel power in its pages. It was wonderful.
“You Pass”, Maria de Jesus Cristina
One time I was invited by some ward members to go on a trip to Nauvoo. I wasn’t very prepared for this trip, but I went anyway. Many members went together on this trip in large vans. I remember that it was raining, and it was very cold. We went to visit Nauvoo, and the other church history sites. We went to the jail where Joseph Smith was held prisoner, and it was there that I gained my real testimony of the church. When I entered into that jail I felt something strong–something beautiful. There was a tape recording with the voices of Joseph Smith and Hyrum, and while it was playing I felt a warmth inside of me. It was so strong! I began to cry, and I couldn’t stop. And I knew, I really knew, from that moment, that it was real. That God really can talk to us, that nothing is impossible, and that we can receive revelation. The Spirit testified to me that it was true, and that everything Joseph went through to give us the church, to give us the Book of Mormon, that all of this was real. It was so real. This is how I received my testimony.
Other Related Women’s Voices
My Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Emma Hale Smith, Gracia N. Jones
Finding [Emma’s] testimony reminded me how precious each soul is in the sight of our Savior, whose compassion and power to save is beyond all comprehension. All of us make mistakes and are in need of repentance. Whenever we withdraw from the fellowship of the Saints and cease to partake of the sacrament on a regular basis, we tend to lose our way and become subject to misunderstanding—especially if our course has been set by real or imagined injury to our feelings, or pride. This could happen to any of us, including my dear great-great-grandmother.As I reflect upon all I have learned from Emma’s life, I feel great reverence for the testimony she has borne of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon and for her precious vision of Joseph and her baby. Her legacy to us in her final witness is that she and all of us, through the ordinances restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith, have the opportunity to be with our families in eternity.
Glad Tidings from Cumorah, Susan W. Tanner
How grateful I am to live in this great and marvelous day when the gospel has been restored! I express my witness of and gratitude for the two great prophets, Moroni and Joseph Smith, who met in that upper bedroom and then worked together in bringing forth the Book of Mormon. Let me conclude by echoing the joyful exclamation of the Prophet Joseph about the restored gospel:
“Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! …
“… Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. …
“Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? … Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. …
“… Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, … offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” ( D&C 128:19, 20, 22, 24 ).
A God of Miracles, Sydney S. Reynolds
In this dispensation we witness the great miracle of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. It began when a young boy entered a grove of trees near Palmyra, New York, and poured out his heart and his questions to a God he believed could answer him—the God of miracles. And miracles have followed in this dispensation—mighty miracles—including the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, which is itself another testament of Jesus Christ.
1Daniel Peterson, Defending the Faith: Mary Whitmer, 12th witness to the Book of Mormon, Deseret News, July 18, 2013
2Richard Lloyd Anderson, The Whitmers: A Family that Nourished the Church, Ensign, August 1979
3Gracia N. Jones, My Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Emma Hale Smith, Ensign, August 1992
4Interview by Parley P. Pratt, Jr. recorded by Nels Madsen, 27 November 1931, LDS Archives; cited by Mormon Enigma, 2nd ed., 297–298.
5Lucy Mack Smith,History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, pg. 47
6Lucy Mack Smith,History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, pg. 69
7Lucy Mack Smith,History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, pg. 71-72