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Orson Pratt

Orson Pratt knew personally and was well “acquainted” each one of the ‘Three Witnesses’, the ‘Eight Witnesses’ and also with the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The following is a discourse by Elder Orson Pratt,
Delivered in the Tabernacle,
Great Salt Lake City, January 2, 1859

“….four men, [Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris & Joseph Smith], actually beheld the original plates, saw an holy angel, and heard the voice of God. Are they the only witnesses? No: there are eight other men, whose names and testimony I have read before this congregation—persons with whom I am individually acquainted as well as with the translator and the three witnesses I have already named.
I have been at the house where this Church was organized. I have seen the place where the angel descended and showed them the plates. 
Eight other witnesses testify that Joseph Smith showed them the plates, and that they saw the engravings upon them, and that they had the appearance of ancient work and curious workmanship.
They describe these plates as being about the thickness of common tin, about eight inches in length, and from six to seven in breadth. Upon each side of the leaves of these plates there were fine engravings, which were stained with a black, hard stain, so as to make the letters more legible and easier to be read. Through the back of the plates were three rings, which held them together, and through which a rod might easily be passed, serving as a greater convenience for carrying them; the construction and form of the plates being similar to the gold, brass, and lead plates of the ancient Jews in Palestine.
 

 Thus we see that twelve individuals saw the plates before the contents were placed before the world, and before they were called upon to believe in them. Is not this a sufficient testimony and evidence? If the world would not believe twelve men who have seen the originals, handled them with their hands, beheld the engravings upon them—four of whom had seen the angel of God and heard his voice—if they would not believe this, would they believe the evidence and testimony of ten thousand individuals? Jesus declares—“In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”

When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and go into his presence, we are informed we shall be judged by his word. “My word shall judge you at the last day,” says Jesus. “The words that I speak unto you shall judge you.” If, then, the words which he spake, and which he inspired his Apostles and Prophets to declare to the people, are to be the laws by which mankind are to be judged at the last day, it is necessary that they should have some little evidence and testimony concerning his words.

We are presenting this evidence and testimony before you; and if the Lord gave four witnesses, and by them condemned the antediluvian world—namely, Noah and his three sons—if their preaching, their testimony, and works of righteousness condemned the antediluvians, and they were overthrown by the flood, why may we not suppose that four witnesses alone, if God did not see proper to send any more, would condemn any other generation?

We find that Lot was the only witness who was sent to warn the inhabitants of Sodom, and to call upon his kinsmen to flee from the midst of those cities, in order to escape the terrible judgments announced against them. He testified that an angel of God came to him and told him that the Lord was about to destroy those cities: he said that this angel lodged with him overnight, and that the Lord had sent him as a witness; and his testimony condemned his kinsmen and the inhabitants of Sodom, and they were overthrown and perished in their wickedness.

Who was sent to the inhabitants of Nineveh to warn them? Only one witness—namely, Jonah. He was sent to a strange nation—to a people that were unacquainted with him: they could not tell by any natural appearance whether he was a righteous man or an impostor. He had a curious story to tell them, that he came part of the way to their country in a ship, and part of the way in the belly of a whale. But how could they know that he came in the belly of a whale, or that he was not an impostor? Yet the Lord told them, through Jonah, that if they did not repent, they would all be destroyed in forty days. They concluded to repent, and the Lord spared them, which made Jonah angry.

When the Lord sent a preparatory message to prepare the way for his Son, he sent one witness, instead of raising up four. John the Baptist went forth into the wilderness, clothed himself in a curious style, living on locusts and wild honey, and began to preach repentance to the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem, and to the Jews throughout the land. How were they to know he was a messenger sent to prepare the way before the Most High? Yet they certainly would be condemned for not receiving his testimony; for Jesus himself said—“The scribes and Pharisees rejected the counsel of God against themselves in rejecting John.”

How did John convince the vast multitudes that he was sent to testify of the first advent of the Son of God? We are informed by one of the Evangelists that “John did no miracle,” as great a Prophet as he was; yet the people were condemned, because they rejected the counsel of God against their own souls, by rejecting his testimony. How much greater, then, will be the condemnation of individuals who reject four witnesses, instead of one!

If the present generation have the testimony of four witnesses sounded in their ears—if the Book of Mormon, containing their testimony, is published and sent forth in the different languages of the earth, and the people have the privilege of hearing and reading that testimony, will it not produce far greater condemnation upon them than what came upon the Jewish nation in ancient days, by rejecting the testimony of one witness only?

We see, then, that we have the advantage of this generation so far as evidence concerning the Book of Mormon is concerned. There are men now living that have seen the original of the Book of Mormon—that have heard the voice of God. Where is there a man who has heard the voice of God testifying concerning the truth

of King James' translation? Where is there a man on the face of the earth that ever had it confirmed to him by the administration of an angel? But here comes evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon such as any court of justice is obliged to receive.

But are we to receive the testimony of all individuals that may come and pretend to have heard the voice of God and to have seen angels? May not impostors come forth and say they have seen angels? I reply that there is this distinction to be made: A man that is sent of God, who has a true message, will always be able to present something connected with the nature of the message and the circumstances surrounding it, which will prove it to be true. If there should be a thousand individuals bearing witness that they had heard the voice of God and seen angels, we shall always be able to detect the impostor from the servant of God by examining the doctrine. There are evidences distinguishing a true message from a false one, that the whole world may be enabled to discern between the two.

For instance, there is no individual upon the face of the earth who can directly prove that Joseph Smith did not see the angel of God and obtain the plates: no individual upon the face of this earth can prove that the three witnesses did not see the angel and the plates: consequently, their evidence cannot be directly negatived, unless they deny their own testimony, which they have not done. The only possible way to condemn these men as impostors is to examine the nature of their testimony, to see whether it is reasonable and scriptural.

Is there anything unscriptural in hearing the voice of God, or in an angel's descending from heaven, bearing testimony to a book in which all nations are interested? It is a book sent to prepare the way of the Lord for his second coming. Was it unreasonable for the Lord to send angels to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Was it unreasonable for them to take dinner with Abraham, and for him to wash their feet? For Lot to lodge them in his house? For Joshua, Gideon, Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Peter, Paul, or the wise men and shepherds of Israel, or for Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Zacharias, or for various other holy men and women to see angels sent from heaven? It was neither unreasonable nor unscriptural.

….. May God bless all those who love the truth, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free—whether it be those who have received the Gospel and Book of Mormon, or those who are inquiring to know concerning its truth. If they desire to know the truth, may the God of heaven, who has sent forth his angel and confirmed the truth unto many, pour out his Holy Spirit upon them, and enlighten their minds, inasmuch as they go before God with an honest heart, that they may know, as the Latter-day Saints know, that this work is a message from the Almighty, to be proclaimed to every nation, kindred, and people upon the face of the whole earth. And when they know from God that this work is true, they will not be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, but they will be built upon a foundation upon which they can rest secure. Though the whirlwinds of persecution may beat upon them—though they may be hated, derided, and suffer the loss of all things, time after time—though they may be driven to and fro, and scattered from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue, and their Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles be put to death, yet, with all this distress and poverty brought upon them by being robbed and plundered of their lawful possessions, and with all the injury they may sustain from year to year, they will have something in the midst of it all that will give them joy, peace, and happiness; and that something is A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH—not merely a faith that the foundation on which they are built is of God, but a knowledge that they are established upon a rock that cannot be moved, which is as firm as the throne of Jehovah, and as secure as the eternal attributes of the Almighty.

May God bless us and prepare us for his heavenly kingdom, and save us therein, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
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Source of Information:
Evidences of the Bible and Book of Mormon Compared
JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES
Link to the complete Discourse: A Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt 
Delivered in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, January 2, 1859.
Reported by G. D. Watt.
Pages 31,32,33,& 38.