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[Regarding the Book of Mormon Witnesses], of the eight other witnesses, four
were related to the original witness, David Whitmer, and a fifth married a whitmer
daughter. The other three are members of Joseph smiths family. Of these 8,
three of them later left the mormom church. What kind of validaty can be given to
people of this character, and the lack of impartiality amoung the 2nd group of witnesses?
by W. John Walsh
As most lawyers and judges will tell you, it is always preferable to have unrelated witnesses when collaborating testimony. If someone's friend or family member testifies on behalf of somoene, their testimony is always more suspect than if the person is totally unrelated to the defendent (e.g., no personal bias and nothing to gain). Likewise, if somoene has a grudge against the defendent, then his or her testimony is also more suspect. Given these issues, the quesiton might be legitamately asked: Why did the Lord use witnesses who knew of one another?
Before I answer the question, let me point out a few facts that may provide some insight:
(1) When the Lord sent Moses to free the children of Israel from bandage in Egypt, he chose Moses' brother Aaron as a spokesman and second witness for Moses:
"Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land." (Exodus 7:2)
Would it not have been more persuasive to Pharaoh if the Lord had chosen someone else? Someone unrelated? For example, wouldn't choosing one of Pharaoh's Egyptian magicians have been more convincing than two Hebrew brothers?
(2) When Jesus chose his apostles during his mortal ministry, he chose not one, but two sets of brothers:
" Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James [the son] of Zebedee, and John his brother...." (Matthew 10:2)
Again the question can be asked, if the Lord wanted impartial witnesses to spread the gospel, why didn't he choose twelve people who were totally unrelated? Would this not have been of greater evidence?
Given the above examples, we can say that the Lord often uses witnesses that are affiliated with one another (i.e., witnesses that would be considered biased in a court of law). Please note that while it is reasonable to evaluate possible bias in witnesses who have a previous relationship, the previous relationship does not automatically mean the testimony is not true.
Now, as to why the Lord often uses related witnesses, let me simply say that the relationship of witnesses is irrelevant to the Lord's method of proving the gospel which is a personal spiritual manifestation. For more information on this topic, see The Lord's Way of Proving the Gospel
(See The Book of Mormon home page; Book of Mormon Witnesses; Comments on Book of Mormon Witnesses; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)
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