Taught by Becky S.
"Witness" means to testify of a fact or event. In our society today we see many situations where witnesses are needed--court, births, baptisms, marriages, and car accidents just to name a few. This is
not something new to society. It is a fixed law that has been known through all ages of time known as the "law of witnesses." It is a law that our Heavenly Father follows as well. He understands that more than one witness is necessary to establish truth.
For many years Joseph Smith was alone as a witness. He "was alone in the first vision, alone when Moroni brought the message to him, alone when he received the plates; but after that he was not alone."
While translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery noticed several scriptures that referred to the need for three witnesses.
2 Nephi 11:3
2 Nephi 27:12
Joseph Smith also received a revelation (Doctrine and Covenants Section 5) discussing the need of three witnesses and the roles they would play.
Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were chosen to be those three special witnesses.
They beheld an angel who stood before them and was holding the gold. The angel turned the leaves of the pages of the plates so they could see the engravings on them. They heard "they voice of God...declaring from the heavens that the translation was by the gift and power of God, and commanding them to bear record of it to all the world."
Joseph Smith was no longer alone. Lucy Mack Smith said "that the Prophet came home weeping for joy after the witnesses had beheld the plates under the direction of an angel of God, because, he said,'The load has been lifted and I am no longer alone.'"
All three of these witnesses played prominent roles in helping establish the gospel after this experience. But even so, all three eventually left the church for their own reasons.
During that time of being estranged from the church it would have been so easy for them to deny the truthfulness of their testimony if their experience of in the woods was not true. But it is true and never once did they deny their testimonies. Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris did return and were rebaptized into the church, but David Whitmer did not return. Up to their dying days all three bore testimony of their experience and it's truthfulness.