Testimony of Three Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
- - - - - - - - - - -
Testimony of Eight Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
Peter Whitmer, Jun.
Joseph Smith, Sen.
Samuel H. Smith
- - - - - - - - -
Here we have 2 different testimonies of the Book of Mormon-- one being a spiritual witness and one being a very physical description. I think we really need both, one touches and mind and one touches the heart. If we have one without the other it won't be long lasting. But that's just my opinion. When times get tough and I don't feel the Spirit strong, I rely on my physical witness. The restored gospel just makes a whole lot more sense than the other churches I have been to. Other times when I question if things make sense. I might hear of a deeper doctrine that I am not ready for. I cling to the spiritual manifestation that I felt in my heart all those years ago and similar ones I have felt since. I like that the Testimony of the 3 recognized that it was by the grace of God that they had been given such a powerful experience--seeing an angel! It is a gift of God to have a testimony. Upon further investigation the 3 witnesses asked Joseph Smith that they be considered for a special witness. They had to pray and have faith to do so.
If I begin to doubt my spiritual witness of the restored gospel, then I can lean on my physical witness that the restored gospel makes sense. If I get confused and part of all of the restored gospel doesn't seem to make sense then I can lean on my spiritual witness that I felt it my heart that Jesus Christ really did visit the people in America. I know it and I know God knows it.
Below is a further account of events leading up to the 3 and 8 witnesses
taken from the Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual Chapter 5...
CHURCH HISTORY IN THE FULNESS OF TIMES STUDENT MANUAL CHAPTER FIVE: COMING FORTH OF THE BOOK OF MORMON AND RESTORATION OF THE PRIESTHOOD
Witnesses to the Book of Mormon
Very soon after Joseph Smith translated Nephi’s writings about the need for witnesses (see 2 Nephi 27:12–14; Ether 5), Martin Harris went to Fayette from Palmyra to ask about the progress of the translation. Martin along with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer asked Joseph to pray and ask the Lord if they could be the promised witnesses. He did so and obtained a revelation in which they were told that if they exercised faith “with full purpose of heart” they would be granted the privilege of beholding the sacred plates, the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim used by the brother of Jared, and the Liahona—“the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness” (D&C 17:1). The Lord declared, “It is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old” (D&C 17:2). The Lord also told them that after viewing these items, they would be bound to testify of them to the world.
As soon as the translation was completed, Joseph Smith sent word to his parents in Manchester to come to the Whitmer home in Fayette. When they arrived, bringing Martin Harris, they spent a joyful evening reading from the manuscript. The next morning the prospective witnesses and the others who were staying with the Whitmers gathered in their usual morning devotional to read the scriptures and to sing and pray. Lucy Smith wrote, “Joseph arose from his knees, and approaching Martin Harris with a solemnity that thrills through my veins to this day, when it occurs to my recollection, said, ‘Martin Harris, you have got to humble yourself before God this day, that you may obtain a forgiveness of your sins. If you do, it is the will of God that you should look upon the plates, in company with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer.’”19
Thereafter the four men retired to the woods and sought for the promised fulfillment of the revelation. After two unsuccessful attempts, however, Martin Harris felt that his presence was the reason for their failure to receive an answer. He withdrew a distance and offered his private prayers. The other three had no sooner resumed their prayers when Moroni appeared in glory holding the plates in his hands. Joseph recorded, “He turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discern the engravings thereon distinctly. … We heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, ‘These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear.’
“I now left David and Oliver, and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance, fervently engaged in prayer. He soon told me, however, that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me to join him in prayer, that he might also realize the same blessings which we had just received. We accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view, at least it was again opened to me, and I once more beheld and heard the same things; whilst at the same moment, Martin Harris cried out, apparently in an ecstasy of joy, ‘’Tis enough; ’tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have beheld.’”20
When Joseph returned to the Whitmer home, he told his parents of his relief that others had now seen the angel and the plates and would have to bear witness of these truths, saying, “Now they know for themselves, that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul, that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.”21The Three Witnesses testified of their experience: “We, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record. … And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.”22They went on to testify that the angel showed them the engravings on the plates. Their testimony has been included in each edition of the Book of Mormon since that time.
A few days later eight additional witnesses—faithful men who were close to the Prophet during the translation—were also chosen to see the plates. These eight men were Joseph Smith’s father, Joseph Smith, Sr.; Joseph’s brothers, Hyrum and Samuel; four of the Whitmer brothers—Christian, Jacob, Peter, and John; and a brother-in-law to the Whitmers, Hiram Page. Joseph was permitted to show them the plates near the Smith residence in Manchester when he was making arrangements for the printing of the book.23The Eight Witnesses testified that they handled and lifted the plates and saw the engravings on the individual leaves. Their testimony is also contained in all published editions of the Book of Mormon. Thus, according to the divine law of witnesses, the truth of the Book of Mormon is further substantiated and the inhabitants of the earth are held accountable for what is contained in it.
Each of the eleven special witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates went on to serve in important ecclesiastical positions in the restored Church. Five of them, the three Smiths and Christian and Peter Whitmer, Jr., died while they were actively involved in Church service. But each of the Three Witnesses—Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer—later turned away from the Church. John and Jacob Whitmer and Hiram Page of the Eight Witnesses also fell away from the faith. None of these six, however, ever denied his witness, although they had many opportunities to do so. Each pointedly maintained the truthfulness of his testimony whenever asked about it. Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris eventually returned to the Church and died in full fellowship.