Book of Mormon/Witnesses/Hypnotism

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Did Joseph hypnotize the Book of Mormon witnesses?

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Question: Could Joseph Smith have hypnotized the witnesses to the Book of Mormon?

The Three Witnesses had the opportunity to qualify their testimony, but all of them insisted that their vision was literal and unmistakable

It is claimed that the Book of Mormon witnesses may have been sincere in their testimony, but were actually the victims of 'hallucination' or 'hypnosis' induced in them by Joseph Smith.

The Three Witnesses had the opportunity to qualify their testimony, but all of them insisted that their vision was literal and unmistakable. In addition, they each verified the literalness of the event by stating that their physical ears heard a heavenly voice. Critics twist the historical record in their effort to eliminate the troublesome witnesses but their testimonies cannot be convincingly dismissed.

(Note: All emphasis in the following quotes have been added.)

David Whitmer—like the other witnesses—had been charged with being deluded into thinking he had seen an angel and the plates. Joseph Smith III remembered when David was such accused, and said:

"How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height—a little over six feet—and said, in solemn and impressive tones: 'No sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes, and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!'."[1]

Martin Harris used the same qualifying statements to describe his experience in 1829:

"In introducing us, Mr. Godfrey said, 'Brother Harris, I have brought these young men to hear your statement as to whether or not you believe the Book of Mormon to be true.' His face was turned to the wall. He turned and faced us and said, 'Now I don't believe, but I know it to be true, for with these eyes I saw the angel and with these ears (pointing to them) I heard him say it was a true and correct record of an ancient people that dwelt upon this the American continent'."[2]

Oliver Cowdery was asked, “Was your testimony based on a dream, was it the imagination of your mind, was it an illusion”? He responded with the exact same qualifying statements as the other two Witnesses:

"My eyes saw, my ears heard, and my understanding was touched, and I know that whereof I testified is true. It was no dream, no vain imagination of the mind—it was real."[3]

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


  1. Joseph Smith III visited David Whitmer in 1884, along with a committee from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and several onlookers. According to Joseph III's memoirs, one of the non-believers there was a military officer, who suggested the possibility that Whitmer "had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance or hallucination, which had deceived him into thinking he saw" the angel and the plates. Joseph III's recollection of Whitmer's response is quoted above. See Memoirs of Joseph Smith III, cited in Mary Audentia Smith Anderson, Joseph Smith III and the Restoration (Independence, MO: 1952), pp. 311-12. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 88. ISBN 0877478465.
  2. Alma L. Jensen, attested statement, Dayton, Ohio, 1 June 1936, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
  3. Jacob F. Gates, "Testimony of Jacob Gates," Improvement Era no. 15 (March 1912), 418–419.
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