Question: Did the Three Witnesses consider Joseph Smith a "fallen prophet" after they left the Church?

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Question: Did the Three Witnesses consider Joseph Smith a "fallen prophet" after they left the Church?

Some of the Three Witnesses considered Joseph Smith to be a "fallen prophet" after they left the Church

The Three Witnesses left the Church for a variety of reasons, among with was the initiation of the practice of polygamy. David Whitmer felt that Joseph had restored the true Church, but that he had ultimately taken the Church in directions that he shouldn't have. Yet, all three of the witnesses never denied their testimony of the plates and the angel.

If the witnesses felt that Joseph had perpetuated a scam, they would have exposed it after their falling out with him

Just following their excommunication from the Church, Thomas B. Marsh approached Cowdery and Whitmer about their witness. If there was any time for them to deny their witness, this was it:

I enquired seriously at David if it was true that he had seen the angel, according to the testimony as one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He replied, as sure as there is a God in heaven, he saw the angel, according to his testimony in that book. I asked him, if so, how did he not stand by Joseph? He answered, in the days when Joseph received the Book of Mormon, and brought it forth, he was a good man filled with the Holy Ghost, but he considered he had now fallen. I interrogated Oliver Cowdery in the same manner, who answered me similarly.[1]

The witnesses had every reason to recant their experience, and no reason to lie to support either themselves, or Joseph Smith, with whom they were at odds for many years. The only compelling reason for persisting with their story was their essential honesty and honor, and their conviction that they had indeed seen the angel and the plates, and heard the voice of God.

The charge that the witnesses abandoned their testimonies is groundless: they did not recant their story, even when given ample opportunity to do so. There is abundant evidence that the witnesses remained faithful to their testimonies. It is even more impressive that all of them left the Church, and for many years expressed extremely bitter feelings toward Joseph Smith and the Church. Despite this, they continued to insist that their experience was real and undeniable.


  1. "History of Thomas Baldwin Marsh," Deseret News (24 March 1858).