When Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, received the gold plates to translate, he was under strict instructions not to show anyone. It was a heavy wight to bear for the young prophet Joseph Smith.
Joseph received a revelation, (Doctrine and Covenants 17) that he would be able to show three people the gold plates and he was so excited! He said “The Lord has caused the plates to be shown to three more besides me. . . They will know for themselves that I do not go about to deceive the people.”
Joseph was thrilled to share this book with three others and not feel so alone in this mission from the Lord. Joseph even said “I am no longer to be entirely alone in the world.”
Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer pleaded with Joseph to be the witnesses. Joseph prayed and the Lord answered that if they “relied on Him wholeheartedly and committed to testify of the truth, they could see the plates.”(p.73)
Joseph and the three men went into the woods near the Whitmer home. They knelt and each took turns praying to be shown the plates, but nothing happened. They tried again, and still nothing happened. After a bit, Martin Harris walked away from the others saying he was the reason they had not received and answer.
Joseph, Oliver and David started praying again after Martin had left. An angel appeared to the three men in a “brilliant light above them.” Joseph’s account said “He had the plates in his hands and turned them over one by one, showing the men the symbols engraved on each page. A table appeared beside him, and on it were ancient artifacts described in the Book of Mormon: the interpreters, the breastplate, a sword, and the miraculous compass that guided Nephi’s family from Jerusalem to the promised land.”
It gets ever more amazing because the three men said they even heard the voice of God say “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.”(p. 74)
After Joseph’s experience with Oliver and David, he walked deeper into the woods and found Martin Harris and had a similar experience with him and the angel.
Saints Volume 1, “The Standard of Truth” p. 73-74