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Why were there so many witnesses to the Book of Mormon? Wouldn’t it have been safer for Joseph Smith to have only shown the plates to a few people?

To put a fine point on it, what difference would it have made if only five witnesses handled and saw the plates rather than eight? 

It is important to acknowledge how risky it was to enlist each witness if it was a fraud. Quite a number of people were witnesses to the Book of Mormon translation or the gold plates: 

  1. Christian Whitmer
  2. Jacob Whitmer
  3. Peter Whitmer, Jun.
  4. John Whitmer
  5. Hiram Page
  6. Joseph Smith, Sen.
  7. Hyrum Smith
  8. Samuel H. Smith
  9. Martin Harris
  10. David Whitmer
  11. Oliver Cowdery
  12. Josiah Stowell
  13. Michael Bartlett Morse
  14. Mary Musselman Whitmer
  15. Lucy Mack Smith
  16. Emma Hale Smith 
  17. Lucy Harris

Who can you trust to never let slip your secret? It is difficult to imagine Joseph dedicating his whole life to the cause knowing that at any point one of his witnesses could have called him out as a fraud. 

Why did Joseph choose to show the goldplates to eight people? Why not just two or three? Why did Joseph use multiple scribes rather than one the whole way through? When creating a fraud as big as Joseph would have needed to create, every witness is a liability. The greater the number of witnesses the greater the risk.


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