While we Latter-day Saints have our apologists and reason-based arguments for faith and defenses against attacks on the faith, those are, by our own admission, to help create a place for faith or respond to criticisms that attack that faith, we are careful to formally base our religious epistemology in the numinous, personal spiritual experience.
In contrast, there is a line of thinking in some Christian circles that the resurrection’s eyewitness accounts are compelling enough to force any reasonable person to accept the reality of the resurrection based on sound historical evidence alone. I’ve heard these arguments a number of times from a number of sources, and while I (rather conventionally and boringly) ultimately don’t find them compelling from a historiographical point of view, they are interesting.
Where Mormonism comes into these debates is that a common skeptical rejoinder has become “well, if we are forced into believing in the resurrection because of these eyewitness accounts, what about the Book of Mormon witnesses?” And then the response often tends to devolve into distorting what the witnesses were or did, because ultimately the point is a good one. (One of the Protestants making this argument is renowned apologist William Lane Craig, and Stephen Smoot has already done a more thorough analysis of Craig’s views on the Church.) Protestants aren’t the only ones whose truth claims have eyewitnesses, and once you step outside of their theological world there are other examples of what they claim is unique to Christianity, and in my opinion the Book of Mormon witness testimonies are more robust historiographically than the New Testament resurrection witnesses. IMO, the Book of Mormon witnesses win on the criteria of recency, embarrassment, and multiple attestations.
So much time has passed between the resurrection and now that the gospel accounts of the resurrection aren’t worth enough in terms of historical evidence to force one into some kind of epistemological corner. And this is the point made by the rejoinders. A particularly interesting debate has New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman sounding like a Mopologist (at about thirteen minutes) for a good five minutes while talking about the witnesses while discussing the resurrection. Now, to be clear, Bart Ehrman is not a believer, and is very open about his atheism. Still, he more or less (with a few hiccups) knows his stuff when it comes to Latter-day Saint history (and, apropos of nothing, I’ve heard through the grapevine that he actually has a lot of Latter-day Saint contacts).
I am a fellow believer in the resurrection. However, even if they were recorded a few years ago, the witness of more than one person is enough to make me consider whether something is true, but even that isn’t a high enough bar to force my belief in something, as people can sometimes be delusional (Einstein famously said that he wouldn’t believe in ghosts even if he saw one).
And the same goes, ultimately, for the Book of Mormon witnesses. On one hand, some people try to Jedi mind-trick, hand wave the Book of Mormon witnesses away as if they aren’t a big deal. They are, and it is hard to just explain them away. However, as Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and a claim about the universe, our purpose in it, and ultimately what I should be doing with my life is a pretty extraordinary claim, so if we’re going to base it off of empirical verification I don’t think the witness testimony is high enough to clear that bar by itself, but it does help carve out a space for faith, for that Alma 32 seed of faith, for those quiet moments in a testimony’s journey when we open up our mind to the possibility that it might actually be true.