The Three Witnesses hold a distinctive place in the history of the Book of Mormon as individuals who were called to bear testimony of its truthfulness and divine origin. Their roles were prophesied by ancient prophets in the Book of Mormon, with specific references made by Nephi, who spoke of the coming forth of a book which three witnesses would see by the power of God and to which they would bear testimony (2 Nephi 27:12). Moroni also spoke of three individuals to whom the plates would be shown, enabling them to know of a certainty that the record was true (Ether 5:2-3).
Consistent with these ancient prophecies, in the early 19th century, the Lord confirmed to Joseph Smith that he would be permitted to show the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated to three individuals. These witnesses were Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. They were granted the divine privilege of viewing not only the plates themselves but additional sacred relics such as the sword of Laban, the interpreters or Urim and Thummim, and the Liahona. Their experience was further sanctified by the presence of an angel and the voice of God affirming the veracity of the records before them (Doctrine and Covenants 17:1).
Despite the profound nature of their experience, all three witnesses eventually separated from the Church for a period of time. Nevertheless, their testimonials of the Book of Mormon remained steadfast throughout their lives. After their disaffection, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris returned to the Church, reaffirming their earlier witness. The impact of their testimonies continues to influence the faith of millions, exemplifying an exceptional commitment to the spiritual confirmations they received pertaining to the Book of Mormon.