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ERIC - There seems to be conflicting accounts on what the three witnesses actually saw when the Angle Moroni came and showed them the gold plates. Did they only see the plates or did they also see a table with other plates and things on it?

JOEL - Regarding the visit of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith and the three witnesses, according to Joseph Smith's account of what happened:

"...an angel stood before us. In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of, he turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discover the engravings thereon distinctly."
Then the voice of the Lord said to them, “These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear” (History of the Church, 1:55).

The following painting depicts this experience:


Then there is the experience as recorded by David Whitmer in two places:
"We then kneeled down and prayed. Joseph prayed. We then got up and sat on the log and were talking, when all at once a light came down from above us and encircled us for quite a little distance around; and the angel stood before us. He was dressed in white, and spoke and called me by name and said, “Blessed is he that keepeth His commandments.” This is all that I heard the angel say. A table was set before us and on it the records were placed. The Records of the Nephites, from which the Book of Mormon was translated, the brass plates, the Ball of Directors, the record of Laban and the other plates. While we were viewing them the voice of God spoke out of heaven saying that the Book was true and the translation correct. (“Letter from Elder W.H. Kelley,” Saints’ Herald (Plano, Ill.), March 1, 1882, p. 68, col. 3)


"there appeared, as it were, a table with many records or plates upon it, besides the plates of the Book of Mormon, also the sword of Laban, the directors--i. e., the ball which Lehi had, and the interpreters. "David Whitmer Interview" (Millennial Star, vol. 40, nos. 49, 50, report of Pratt and Smith, is signed by them and bears date of Sept. 17, 1878.)

There seems to be a few inconsistencies in these two reports where one includes the "record of Laban" instead of the sword of Laban. I would assume the record of Laban is the same as the brass plates so there may have been some kind of misrecording of what he actually said in the first report.There is the following painting by an unknown author that depicts his description:


One must remember that paintings made of such events are only artist's conceptions of what happened and may not represent what actually happened.
It is interesting that Whitmer's description closely resembles that which they were promised by God in the D&C:

"Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea.
And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them, by the power of God;" (D&C 17 1-3)

David Whitmer's report is the only one of the witnesses that mentions seeing the other things on a table.

So the question is did the angel Moroni only stand there holding the plates and show them to the witnesses or was there also a table that had all those other things for their view as well? Because of what they were promised to see in the D&C scripture chances are that they all saw the other things laying on the table also but there just aren't any other reports of the event.The main purpose of Moroni's visit was to show them the plates as described in their signed testimony of the event so perhaps that is why the other things are not mentioned in other reports.

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