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|Accusation: No one ever saw Joseph Smith's gold plates.|
After the translation was finished, Joseph Smith assembled two committees of witnesses to view the plates. The first group of three men saw the plates exhibited by an angel and knew by revelation that the book had God's full endorsement. The second group, 8 men, saw the plates under ordinary circumstances, by daylight. They handled them, hefted them, turned the pages, held them for half an hour while they discussed them. They drew up a statement and signed it.
The Bible is fragmentary, but the law of witnesses can be gotten from it, and it's one of the foundations of our legal system: Nothing really important should be accepted as proven except by at least two reliable witnesses to the same specific thing; the more witnesses the better. These 11 men, plus Joseph Smith himself, plus one other lady who also saw them, make thirteen witnesses that the plates existed.
None of these witnesses ever changed their story, insisting on it even in spite of ridicule, expense, professional risk, threats of violence and death. Several of them were expelled from the church. You would think that if it were a scam, when they were out they'd expose it, but they all continued to maintain their testimony. Most of them reiterated it on their deathbeds. Testimony like this would legally prove the existence of something in any court on earth.
The Lord understands how this whole thing looks to us - that some of us rely too much on scientific thinking, and some rely too much on the Bible. In giving us the book in this way, the Lord made it so that people who are very scientific, who aren't ready to investigate a vision can at least consider the ordinary witnesses' inspection, and find enough to trust that they will at least read the translation. Those who think the Bible is paramount can realize that the Law of Witnesses has been followed, a token that this is the Lord working.
People often avoid reading the book because other people tell them it's evil, or fake. Conclusions like that, however, depend on what's in or what's not in the book.
From a first edition copy of the Book of Mormon.:
The testimony of the three witnesses
The Law of Witnesses in the Bible: Num. 35:30, Deut. 17:6, 19:15-21; Matt. 18:15-16, Mark 14:55-59, Matt. 26:59-62, 2Cor. 13:1 (Paul makes small joke.) See also Ether 5:4; DC 6:28, 128:3.
Next: Were the Plates Fake?