Sorry for the delay. I want to focus on where I think we might be speaking past each other. The two issues I see are:
mikwut: It is still significant that they purport to see the seemingly to them angel of God, to hear God's voice purport to them of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon as claimed by J.S. and the work of J.S.
DJ: You mean their purporting that someone else told them the Book of Mormon is true, which they could not have known for themselves. You can't be a witness to something you don't know. Unless you are willing to grant that I am a witness to Elvis Presley murdering several prostitutes in London because I think God told me it happened---as opposed to, say, I saw it happen. Or I did forensic testing that shows it happened.
I am not sure were understanding each other. I don't find your analogy apt. Are you making it because Deutero Isaiah concerns or something I am just dense and not seeing from the testimony of the three witnesses? All I was saying is that it is significant that they had the supernatural experience of seeing and talking with a what seemed to them to be an actual angel of God at all! If I trust someone and have confidence in someone and they explain that same experience, if I believe them, it is certainly evidence to me as well. It is simply trusting in someone else. I would trust an angel of God telling me the Book of Mormon is a record of the ancient Nephites and therefore if someone else whom I believe had the same experience it is just a level down but doesn't cease to be evidence. Now I understand a skeptic might not, a skeptic might say I was hallucinating or that the angel of God was really a luciferian imposter or an alien being that is lying to me.
The Three Witnesses are purporting to be witnesses of certain objective facts.
1. That Joseph Smith had in his possession metal plates that were an ancient record of the Nephites and Jaredites.
2. A fortiori from #1, that the Nephite and Jaredite civilizations described in the Book of Mormon really existed.
3. That the manuscript of the Book of Mormon was the translation of what was enscribed on those metal plates.
They did not know any of this. They could not possibly have known any of this. The knowledge they purport to attest to comes from God, not from their own experience or observations. They were not witnesses to the truthfulness to the Book of Mormon at all.witness6. an individual who, being present, personally sees or perceives a thing; a beholder, spectator, or eyewitness.
7. a person or thing that affords evidence.
8. a person who gives testimony, as in a court of law.
9. a person who signs a document attesting the genuineness of its execution.
10. testimony or evidence: to bear witness to her suffering.
Under definition 6, they are not witnesses to the factual claims to which they purport to testify. The other definitions beg the question, because it is their qualification as witnesses to those factual claims that is at issue.
Believing the Three Witnesses were telling the truth is not the same as believing they were correct. They may very well have been honest in believing they had a supernatural visionary experience, but that does not mean the knowledge they claim to have received from God was accurate. Accepting their story as ontologically true means that you believe they accurately related what God told them, which means the knowledge came from God, which means that God is the witness to the claimed authenticity of the Book of Mormon. It's the same with my example of telling you God said to me that Elvis was Jack the Ripper. If you believe the substance of what I said, it does not mean you believe I am a witness to the claimed fact. It means that you believe God really said that, and I am accurately reporting him having said that.
The reason it also doesn't cease to be evidence just because I could seek my own testimony via Moroni's promise is because the objective and subjective differences in the two experiences. They both can confirm each other.
But they don't confirm each other, because it is self-referential. It's God who is always the witness. The Three Witnesses are not independent witnesses for the Book of Mormon's authenticity. The only reason they would confirm each other is if you believe God really told them the Book of Mormon is true. But if you believe God really said that, you're relying on religious faith, which is the same basis for your own belief that the Book of Mormon is true.
Einstein understood relativity from a personal intuition he first had, he then confirmed that subjective intellectual experience with data. If someone subjectively read the Book of Mormon and had what seemed to them to be a subjective spiritual experience that it was from God, the 3 witnesses could act as confirmation that that experience could be properly trusted as a basic reliable subjective perception.
And now we're back to the fallacy of appeal to authority. The Three Witnesses provide no empirical data analogous to scientific confirmation of the theory of relativity. They don't have any knowledge independent of God. Data would be things like confirming the plates were ancient, confirming there was a written language on them, archaeological evidence that the Nephites or Jaredites ever existed, etc.
Which of these provides data to support my claim that God revealed to me the fact that Elvis was Jack the Ripper?
1. Another person says, "Yeah, he told me that, too!"
2. Birth records showing Elvis Presley was born in the 19th century; contemporary witnesses who saw him in London; documentation that shows he had training either as a surgeon or a butcher.
Or maybe the evidence that it is not possible that Elvis was Jack the Ripper is equally balanced with the evidence consisting of my assertion that God told me he was. And since the evidence is equally balanced, I am justified in filling in this ambiguity in human knowledge by accepting it on faith that Elvis Presley was in fact Jack the Ripper.
Which leads to:
Yes, mikwut. That's what confirmation bias is. "I find the Three Witnesses to be credible because they are saying something I already believe."
That isn't what confirmation bias is.
That's exactly what confirmation bias is.
We all do what your describing above. It is how we keep a rationale understanding of our everyday experience of the empirical and social worlds.
What we don't do is choose to find someone credible based on no criterion other than they say something I already believe, unless we are engaged in confirmation bias. As in, "I believe God really said the Book of Mormon is true and the Three Witnesses are accurately reporting that because I already believe that the Book of Mormon is true."
One of the indicators of confirmation bias is that ambiguous evidence is used to support their position. I think you could be properly criticized for that possibility.
You're welcome to think that, but you are incorrect. My premise is based on taking their story at face value, not rejecting it.
I don't believe in Mormonism or the veridicality of the three witnesses. So my position isn't needing a bias.
The OP is not about whether one does or does not believe in Mormonism. The OP is about whether the Testimony of the Three Witnesses on its face constitutes independent evidence that the Book of Mormon is true.
I simply find it axiomatic that if what the three witnesses described as their experience in reality and objectively actually occurred not only as they describe it but veridically occurred - they would clearly have authority from an angel of god and confirmation from the voice of god that the Book of Mormon is real - that is evidence for a seeker of truth that could override other credibility concerns, such as we don't have a college professor to confirm the characters. That seems nearly axiomatic to me. Why? Because I believe we could trust an angel of god as a proper authority on that. That at least allows for the principle of credulity to initially allow for it as evidence. Then the evidence can be defeated by the weight of other discrediting evidence.
Just my take,
See the underlined part? That means you are relying on the authority of supernatural beings, not the authority of these three men. You would be not be relying on the knowledge of these three guys. You would be relying on religious faith that God or an angel really said that, and trusting the Three Amigos (oops, I meant Three Witnesses) in accurately conveying a divine message to you. The source of knowledge is not David Whitmer and Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery. The source of knowledge is God.
Would you be willing to consider me as a witness to the fact that Elvis Presley lived in Victorian London and murdered prostitutes, on the sole basis that I claim that God told me so? Would you therefore count my claimed revelation from God as evidence in favor of this historical fact? What if you thought I was a totally honest person and that I sincerely believed God told me this information? Now
does my testimony count as evidence in favor of that claimed fact?