Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plates

steve benson Feb 2014

Martin Harris confessed that he didn't actually, really or literally see the Book of Mormon gold plates (and, as we shall see, that's not the only "Witness" problem).

But let's start (and ultimately end) with the fact that what Harris finally admitted to was this: Instead of "seeing" the gold plates with his actual, physical eyes, he just got a peek at them with his "spiritual eyes."

Whatever the hell that means.

Let's go through some inconveniently-truthful examinations of what really went on with those gold plates at the expense of the facts--information that TBMs secretly lurking here won't find in their criminally-concoted-and-correlated LDS propaganda manuals.

*The first examination is provided by Janis Hutchinson, entitled, "The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon: What Did They Really See?. It drills a holelin Book of Mormon "Witnesses" stories so big that you can drive an entire herd of cureloms through it. Not to sweat, however. At least you can ultimately use as a chunk of rancid Swiss cheese:

"The printed statement of the 'Three Witnesses,' as contained in the front of the Book of Mormon, states that they saw the plates and the engravings. Another statement of eight witnesses adds that they 'hefted' the plates.

"Many ask, 'Certainly, they wouldn’t testify to something unless it was true! Or, would they?'


"Where did the printed statement of the 'Three Witnesses'--Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer--come from? Did they actually write the testimony themselves? No!

"It is believed that Joseph Smith wrote the statement for them to sign. This appears to be evident since, at that time, he knew none of the witnesses had ever seen the plates with their natural eyes, as they themselves later admitted. Yet, when he worded it, he deliberately gave the impression they had.

"Stretching or misrepresenting the truth was no problem for Smith, for he had altered other revelations. According to Apostle William E. McLellin, the testimony of the Twelve Apostles contained in the Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants, was a 'base forgery' and Smith had seriously altered other revelations. David Whitmer, one of the Three witnesses, accused Joseph of the same thing.


"Whatever they saw and by whatever means, it was not in the dimension of physical reality.

"Martin Harris admitted he never saw anything with his natural eyes. He stated: 'I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state.'

"Further, he admitted the same to the printer who was working on the first edition of the Book of Mormon:

"'During the printing of the first edition of the Book of Mormon, he (Harris) was in the print shop while the type was being set for the testimony of the three witnesses. The printer, John Gilbert, asked him if he had seen the plates with his naked eye. “Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, ‘No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.”

"He further told a Palmyra lawyer, who asked him: 'Did you see the plates and the engravings upon them with your bodily eyes?' He responded:

"'I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me--though at the time they were covered with a cloth.'

"Harris further let the cat out of the bag when he revealed that the other eight witnesses saw no plates either. On April 15, 1838, Stephen Burnett gave the following report:

"'I have reflected long and deliberately upon the history of this church & weighed the evidence for & against it - loth to give it up - but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave away . . . . I therefore three weeks since in the Stone Chapel gave . . . the reasons why I took the course which I was resolved to do, and renounced the Book of Mormon. . . .

"'I was followed by W. Parrish, Luke Johnson & John Boynton, all of who concurred with me, (sic) after we were done speaking M. Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them, only as he saw a city through a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of (him) but should have let it passed as it was.'

"So, in reality, the witnesses saw nothing!

“'Well,' some might insist, 'Doesn’t the "eye of faith" count? Harris and the eight wouldn’t have signed a statement if they hadn’t seen something!'

"What they saw, was a product of their own mind. Remember, by Harris’ own admission, everything he and the others saw, came as a vision. Historical accounts reflect that the witnesses were effectively induced to see the plates in a vision because of Smith’s mesmerizing methods.

"First, Smith persisted in badgering them by telling them that only the faithful could see them. That kind of remark would intimidate the best of men.

"Persuasion of this nature is similar to the ploy Mormon missionaries presently use. to the investigator (potential convert), they read Moroni’s promise at the end of the Book of Mormon, which says that if one asks God in the name of Christ, with a sincere heart, the truth will be manifest by the Holy Ghost.

"This can’t help but suggest to the investigator that if he doesn’t get an answer, he or she is not sincere. It doesn’t take much for the investigator to be intimidated, especially when the missionaries say others have received an answer. “What’s wrong with me,” the Investigator asks of himself. 'Why won’t God give me a confirmation?'

"As a result of this kind of pressure, many Investigators keep praying until they do get some kind of manifestation. It may be goose bumps or some kind of sensation; but, they finally take it as an answer, even if it is produced by their own psyche.

"However, for Mormons, that’s okay. The Mormon Church teaches that feelings are the way God authenticates truth. That should sound an alarm, for that is not what the Bible teaches!

"One should use a combination of methods. First, pray to initiate guidance in (1) researching the facts; (2) comparing the facts with God’s Word; (3) receiving counsel from other Christians; then, (4) pray to confirm what has been gleaned. Decision making must utilize every avenue at one’s disposal. In other words, God gave us a brain to use. He doesn’t expect us, as Josh McDowell [a Christian apologist, for the record] says, to commit 'intellectual suicide.'

"Similarly, Smith used the same devious manipulative method of intimidation. Playing upon the witnesses’ emotions, he engineered them into conjuring up a vision by telling them God was not allowing them to see the plates because they were 'unworthy' and needed to 'repent.' With that kind of pressure, individuals will see exactly what they are expected to see.

"An example of how Smith coerced the Eight Witnesses to see a vision, was told to the Governor of Illinois, Thomas Ford, by more than one of Smith’s key men:

"'They [Smith’s men] told Ford that the witnesses were “set to continual prayer, and other spiritual exercises.” Then at last “he assembled them in a room, and produced a box which he said contained the precious treasure. The lid was opened; the witnesses peeped into it, but making no discovery, for the box was empty, they said, "Brother Joseph, we do not see the plates." The prophet answered them, "O ye of little faith! how long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation? Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven." The disciples dropped to their knees, and began to pray in the fervency of their spirit, supplicating God for more than two hours with fanatical earnestness; at the end of which time, looking again into the box, they were now persuaded that they saw the plates.'

"That they saw the plates with their spiritual eyes instead of natural, accounts for newspaper reports which said that all Three Witnesses told different versions. This 'makes it all the more likely,' author Fawn Brodie notes in her book 'No Man Knows My History,' 'that the men were not conspirators but victims of Joseph’s unconscious but positive talent at hypnosis.'


"If the plates really existed, then it would not have been necessary for Smith to force 'the witnesses' to pray until they conjured up a vision of plates in an “empty” box.

"If the plates had been a physical reality, it certainly would have provided all eleven witnesses with a stronger testimony that Mormonism was indeed God’s work.

"In view of this, it is not surprising that all of the witnesses, with the exception of Smith’s father, his two brothers and two who died, left the church. Not very impressive.


"The Mormon Church, of course, claims that none of the 'Three Witnesses' ever denied their testimony. But, Oliver Cowdery, according to the Mormon publication 'Times and Seasons,' did deny. Published in 1841, J.H. Johnson reflected the sentiments of the community by writing a poem attempting to reflect the fact that men may be untrue to the truth. The last stanza reads:

"'Or prove that Christ was not the Lord
Because that Peter cursed and swore?
Or Book of Mormon not his word
Because denied, by Oliver?'

"Oliver Cowdery, indeed, left the Mormon Church and joined the Methodist Church. He also said he was willing to make a public recantation and that he was 'sorry and ashamed of his connection with Mormonism.'

"The Mormon Church, however, claims Cowdery came back to the Church. But, if he did, he must have left again, because when he died he was buried by a Methodist minister in Richmond, Missouri.

"David Whitmer, still believing in the Book of Mormon (probably because of the many Biblical passages in it), became a member of the Church of Christ and died rejecting the LDS Church.

"Martin Harris joined Anna Lee’s church, the Shakers, saying that his testimony of Shakerism was greater than that of the Book of Mormon. Although later in life he came back to the Mormon Church and took out his temple endowments, he admitted it was just to find out 'what was going on in there.'

"Interestingly, as often happens with time and celebrity status, there are accounts in 'the witnesses’' later years, where they greatly enlarged their testimony. They are quoted as giving very different and exaggerated accounts--much different than during their earlier years. Fawn Brodie notes, in 'No Man Knows My History,' that David Whitmer’s testimony, given 49 years later, was too 'richly embellished.' Whitmer added a long list of things he supposedly saw, which were not mentioned in his earlier account: 'the Brass Plates, the plates of the Book of Ether . , . . a table with many records or plates upon it . . . also the Sword of Laban, the directors - i.e., the ball which Lehi had, and the Interpreters.'

"Martin Harris, in the last five years of his life, also gave an extraordinary testimony.

"Considering that 'the witnesses' admitted years earlier to seeing the plates in a “vision” or 'entranced state,' rather than as a physical reality, one must conclude that the embellishments of their testimony in later years was received in the same manner.

"Their motive? Mormon writer Richard L. Anderson says, 'Martin Harris, like all 'the witnesses,' was especially desirous at the end of his life to have people hear and repeat his testimony.' Why not? By that time, they had become celebrities!


"Why would 'the witnesses' persevere in their testimony about the plates, even though they left the Mormon Church?

"There are five possible reasons:

"· They didn’t want to disillusion and destroy the faith of those who were converted to the Book of Mormon because of their testimony.

"· They may have retained a special feeling for the Book of Mormon because of its many Biblical passages.

"· Since their declaration is stated in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, they would not only be guilty of perjury, but their credibility would be suspect the rest of their life.

"· They would look pretty silly telling people that what they testified to and allowed to appear in print, really didn’t happen.

"· They began to enjoy their celebrity status and, so, in time, embellished their story.


"'The Eight Witnesses' stated they actually hefted the gold plates. They described them as 'weighing between 40 and 60 pounds and being approximately eight inches long, five or six inches wide, and five or six inches thick.'

"In the first place, there is no way they could have lifted them in the casual manner they describe. According to the measurements these plates of gold would have weighed nearly 230 pounds!

"Nevertheless, they must have hefted something. Therefore, it is believed that Smith may have duped them in the same way he duped two friends, William T. Hussey and Azel Vandruver.

"Showing them the supposed plates concealed beneath a canvas, Smith convinced them they were so sacred that if they looked directly upon them they would die.

"One of the friends, however, was so anxious that he ripped off the canvas, saying 'Egad, I’ll see the critter, live or die!'

What did he see?--Nothing but 'a large tile brick.'

"Bold as that individual was, it would be safe to assume that 'the Eight Witnesses' were not so bold. Defy Smith and risk immediate death? But, whatever it was they hefted, covered with a cloth, canvas or otherwise, Smith was able to persuade them it was the original plates which were delivered by an angel.

"Smith, however, was always pulling tricks like this and took great delight in fooling people. Once, after a rain shower, Smith discovered some white sand. He 'tied up several quarts of it [in his ‘frock’] and then went home.' His family was eager to know what he had. Smith later told Peter Ingersol:

"'At that moment I happened to think about a history found in Canada, called the Golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the Golden Bible. To my surprise they were credulous enough to believe what I said.'


"What about the engravings the later witnesses claimed they saw on the plates? Their first account states a 'vision,' but later a reality.

"At a later point, many feel that Smith concocted some kind of plates of his own. Oliver Cowdery could certainly have made such a set, engravings and all, since he’d been a blacksmith in his youth. Fawn Brodie, in her book, also suggests that Joseph built a makeshift set of plates.

"By making real plates, Smith hoped to make money by exhibiting them. John C. Bennett, a close associate, said that Smith asked him to go to New York and obtain some falsely engraved plates so that he could exhibit them, at '25 cents a sight.' While anything Bennett could say might be suspect considering his reputation, nevertheless, in this instance, his story was backed up by Sarah, the wife of Mormon historian and Apostle, Orson Pratt.

"When one researches the facts (instead of relying on feelings), one can only reach one conclusion: the plates were an elaborate hoax.

"One has to pity 'the witnesses' who, at first, may not have wished to testify to something that wasn’t true. They were manipulated and intimidated by a man they believed was a prophet of God to the point where they finally induced a vision.

"It is also thought by some, that they were influenced further because of the family connections. Four of 'the eight witnesses' were Whitmers; Hiram Page married a Whitmer daughter; and three were members of Joseph’s own family. Mark Twain later observed: I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.

"What did 'the witnesses' of the Book of Mormon really see? Plates, which admittedly were always covered with a cloth. Plates which they only saw in a 'vision' or 'entranced state'--never with their 'natural' eyes.

"These 'witnesses’' testimony of the gold plates has attracted over nine million converts to the Mormon Church (as of 1996), which doubles its population every 10 to 12 years at the rate of 840 new members a day.

"Mormons continue to be deceived, along with many unsuspecting converts, who accept this story without investigating the facts. . . .


"--It is believed that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon Statement for 'the witnesses' and induced them to sign.

"--Smith knew that none of 'the witnesses' had ever seen the plates with their natural eyes, yet worded the statement as if they had.

"--Historical accounts reveal that 'the three witnesses' never saw the gold plates with their natural eyes. They were always covered with a cloth.

"--'The witnesses' were pressured to conjure up their own personal vision after Smith intimidated and hounded them over their lack of faith. They finally envisioned the plates in an 'empty' box.

"--All of the witnesses were manipulated and pressured by Smith into seeing something that didn’t physically exist, because they believed he was a Prophet of God.

"--The gold plates the eight witnesses later claimed to heft in such a casual manner, would have been impossible because of the weight. This suggests that some other kind of plates were provided by Smith.

"--That Smith forged false plates with inscriptions, was stated by John C. Bennett and Sarah Pratt, wife of Apostle Orson Pratt.

"--All 'three witnesses,' plus many of the eight, left the church and embraced another faith.

"--The testimony of 'the witnesses' in their old age, proved to be embellished and exaggerated. . . .

"Many believe Joseph Smith drew it up, spinning it off from Doctrine & Covenants (D&C) 5:11-14 and Section 17. In the D&C, Smith claims that God told him he would provide him with 'witnesses.' Therefore, Smith set about to find them."

[Sources and further comments from the above essay's author]

"See Jerald and Sandra Tanner, 'Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?' (Salt Lake, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1972), p. 31.

"David Whitmer stated this in his 'An Address to All Believers in Christ.' (See Tanner, p. 49).

"David Persuitte, 'Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon,' 2nd ed. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Pub., 1991), p. 97.

"Persuitte, p. 96. His quote is from Wilford C. Wood, 'Joseph Smith Begins His work,' Vol. 1, forepart, 'Memorandum made by John H. Gilbert, Esq.'

"Interview with Ole Jensen in Clarkston, Utah, published in J.M. Sjodahl, 'Introduction to the Study of the Book of Mormon,' pp. 58-60, as quoted in Fawn Brodie’s 'No Man Knows My History,' 2nd ed. (New York New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), p. 78. . . .

"Letter from Stephen Burnett to Lyman E. Johnson. . . . A copy of this letter is in the Joseph Smith Collection in the LDS Church Archives. Cited in Persuitte, p. 96.

"See 'The Mormon Missionaries: An Inside Look at Their Real Message and Methods,' by Janis Hutchinson (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Pub., 1995), Chapter 4.

"See Hutchinson, 'The Mormon Missionaries,' pp. 204-05.

"Josh McDowell, 'Evidence that Demands a Verdict,' rev. ed. (San Bernardino, Californai: Here’s Life Pub. 1979), p. 3.

"'History of Illinois' (Chicago, 1854), p. 257. . . . Cited in Brodie, pp. 79-80.

"Brodie, p. 77. . . .

"In David Whitmer’s 'Address to All Believers in Christ,' he stated: “All of 'the eight witnesses' who were then living (except the three Smiths) came out [of the LDS Church]. Peter and Christian Whitmer were dead. Oliver Cowdery came out also. (28). Cited in Marvin W. Cowan’s 'Mormon Claims Answered' (Marvin W. Cowan, 1989), p. 57.

"From 'Times and Seasons' (2:482). Also quoted in 'Oliver Cowdery: The Man Outstanding,' by Joseph Hyrum Greehalgh, (Phoenix, Arizona: 1965), p. 28, as cited in Tanner, p. 55.

"Affidavit by G.J. Keen. See also, Tanner, 54.

"'Martin Harris: 'Witness' and Benefactor of the Book of Mormon,' 1955, p. 52. Cited in Cowan, 56. Martin Harris was well known for his religious instability and that he changed his religious affiliation at least thirteen times in his life. In addition, he gave false prophecies and became carried away with his own visions. In one vision he saw Jesus in the form of a deer. In another, he said the Devil looked like a jackass and had short smooth hair like a mouse. (See Tanner, 'Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?,' p. 56.)

"Tanner, p. 58.

"Brodie, p. 78. Compare the 'Palmyra Reflector,' March 19, 1831, and David Whitmer’s interview with Orson Pratt 49 years later, as published in the 'Millennial Star,' Vol. XL, pp. 771-72.

"Richard L. Anderson, 'Book of Mormon Witnesses," transcript of F.A.R.M.S. Book of Mormon Lecture Series, p. 11.

"Anderson, 9.

"James H. Snowden, 'The Truth About Mormonism' (New York, New York: George H. Doran Co., 1926), p. 60.

"Snowden, 60.

"'Palmyra Reflector,' February 28, 1831. See also Snowden, p. 57, citing an affidavit given in 'Mormonism Unveiled,' by Howe, 235-36.

"Tanner, p. 59.

"Brodie, p. 80.

"Brodie, pp. 316-17.

"See Hutchinson, 'Mormon Missionaries,' Chapter 7 entitled 'Magic and Masonry: How Joseph Smith Put It All Together.'

"Brodie, p. 79. . . . "

("'THE WITNESSES' OF THE BOOK OF MORMON©: What did they really see?," by Janis Hutchinson, original emphasis, at:

*Spiritual-Eyed "Eyewitnesses" to the Book of Mormon: Trippin'
Down Mormon "OBE" (Oh, Bull Experience) Memory Lane

Bill McKeever, in his article, “Did the Eleven Witnesses Actually See the Gold Plates?,” provides an outline for demonstrating that a belief in (and purported memories of) so-called “out-of-body experiences”--allegedly involving a disembodied mind that “sees” the physical world--closely aligns with how Mormonism’s early inventors conjured up “reality” by claiming to have had experiences of “seeing" real objects through their non-physical, so-called “spiritual eyes.”

Mormon or non-Mormon: When it comes to "OBEs," it's different disembodied strokes for different disembodied folks.

In the end, however, the two share a common thread: They're both not rooted in any sort of "out-of-body" reality. If they were, then why reject Mormonism for its supposedly factually-grounded "OBE" tales? And, conversely, why cling to non-Mormon "OBE" stories when they are interchangeable with the Mormon ones in terms of their reliance on all-seeing non-physical eyes?

--The Background: Seeing is Believing--and It's Unbelievable What I'm "Seeing"

“Joseph Smith claimed that in 1823 he was visited by an angel named Moroni and that this angel told him that ‘there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang’ (‘Joseph Smith History’ 1:34). The gold plates were said to be buried in a stone box not far from the Smith family home. Smith had to wait another four years before he was allowed to retrieve the record. Once he received the plates, he was commanded not to allow just anybody to view them. He carefully chose eleven men who believed in his divine calling to become ‘eyewitnesses’ to this grand event. Their ‘testimonies’ are found in the front of every modern edition of the Book of Mormon and are broken down into two categories:

“'The Three Witnesses' . . . : Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, David Whitmer

“'The Eight Witnesses': Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel Smith

“Of the eleven men, three were directly related to Smith (his father and two brothers). Oliver Cowdery was a distant cousin to Joseph Smith. The four Whitmers were brothers to David Whitmer.”

--Mormons Claim that “Eyewitnesses” Directly and Physically Saw the Purported Book of Mormon Gold Plates

“Mormons generally believe that these eleven men actually saw the plates in question, and given what they said in their testimonies, it is easy to see why they draw that conclusion.
“'The three witnesses' stated that they ‘beheld and saw the plates and the engravings thereon.’

“'The eight witnesses,' in a similar fashion, stated they ‘saw the engravings,’ and that they had also ‘seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.’

--Problems with the Testimonies: These Alleged “Eyewitnesses Didn’t Literally View the Plates with Their Physical Eyes

“Despite the rather lucid description given by these men, it appears that their familiarity with the plates is not as it first appears. Did 'the witnesses' actually see physical plates with their naked eyes? Or was this some sort of mystical experience that involved ‘seeing’ an object that was not really there?

“According to the ‘History of the Church’ (Vol. 1, p. 52), Smith stated:

“’In the course of the work of translation, we ascertained that three special witnesses were to be provided by the Lord, to whom He would grant that they should see the plates from which this work (the Book of Mormon) should be translated; and that these witnesses should bear record of the same, as will be found recorded, Book of Mormon, p. 581; Book of Ether, Chapter 5, vs. 2-4, p. 487, edition 1920]; also p. 86 [2 Nephi, Chapter 11, v. 3, p. 73, edition 1920)’

“As a result, he obtained a revelation from the Lord that can be found in ‘The Doctrine and Covenants’ 17. It reads:

“’1. 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.

“’2. 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.

“’3. And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them, by the power of God;

“4. And this you shall do that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., may not be destroyed, that I may bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men in this work.

“’5. And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith.’”

--The Catch: “Seeing” the Gold Plates Came Only With Believing--and Martin Harris Wasn’t Sufficiently Believing

“Reading these passages, one can’t help but notice that the only way the three men would see the plates at all is if they had faith. While it seems clear that faith was a prerequisite to be allowed to see the plates, can we not also conclude that “seeing” the plates also took an act of faith?

“Smith continued his narrative on p. 54:

“’Not many days after the above commandment was given, we four, viz., Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself, agreed to retire into the woods, and try to obtain, by fervent and humble prayer, the fulfillment of the promises given in the above revelation-that they should have a view of the plates. We accordingly made choice of a piece of woods convenient to Mr. Whitmer's house, to which we retired, and having knelt down, we began to pray in much faith to Almighty God to bestow upon us a realization of these promises.

“’According to previous arrangement, I commenced prayer to our Heavenly Father, and was followed by each of the others in succession. We did not at the first trial, however, obtain any answer or manifestation of divine favor in our behalf. We again observed the same order of prayer, each calling on and praying fervently to God in rotation, but with the same result as before.

“’Upon this, our second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he should withdraw himself from us, believing, as he expressed himself, that his presence was the cause of our not obtaining what we wished for. He accordingly with drew from us, and we knelt down again, and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air, of exceeding brightness; and behold, 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 discern the engravings thereon distinctly.’”

--Problems with the “Seeing Comes Through Believing” Story: Why Pray to See the Plates If They’re Already Physically Available to See?

“Praying to see the gold plates out in the woods seems rather odd. After all, Smith had already commenced translating the plates. Why not just allow the three men to see the gold record at that location? Why was prayer necessary to see the plates if they were in fact, tangible? Harris’ behavior also seems strange if the plates actually existed. How would his doubt be a detriment to seeing a physical object?

“Author Dan Vogel offers an interesting point when he writes:

“’If the printed testimony were all that was available, one would assume that 'the three witnesses' saw the angel and the plates together in a single vision” (Vogel, ‘American Apocrypha,’ in ‘The Validity of the Witnesses Testimony,’ p. 82).”

--Another Problem with the “Seeing Comes Through Believing” Story: Smith Didn’t Have the Gold Plates With Him When He “Showed” Them

“Delving deeper into Martin Harris’ reluctance to hinder the others from seeing the plates due to his doubts, Vogel notes that Smith, Whitmer, and Cowdery saw both an angel and the plates after Harris withdrew from the group. ‘The History of the Church’ (vol. 1, p. 55) recounts how Smith ‘left David and Oliver and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance fervently engaged in prayer.’

“Both men [Smith and Harris] joined in prayer, and according to Smith, ‘the same vision was opened to our view.’

“It is important to note that Smith never claimed to have carried the plates to either the woods where he, Cowdery, and Whitmer prayed, nor does he say he carried them the “considerable distance” to where Harris was praying, yet he and Harris were still able to ‘see’ them, but only via a vision.”

--How Then Did These “Eyewitnesses” See Non-Available Gold Plates?: Call in “Out-of-Body” Visionary Mysteries

“Mormon historian Marvin S. Hill discusses the controversies surrounding 'the witnesses' testimonies in his review of Fawn McKay Brodie’s classic book titled ‘No Man Knows My History.’

In his article “Brodie Revisited: A Reappraisal,” published in ‘Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,’ Hill states;

“’What of the prophet's story about gold plates, and what about his 'witnesses'? Given Brodie's assumptions, was there not deception here, if not collusion? Brodie maintains that the Prophet exercised some mysterious influence upon 'the witnesses' which caused them to see the plates, thus making Joseph Smith once more the perpetrator of a religious fraud.

“’The evidence is extremely contradictory in this area, but there is a possibility that 'the three witnesses' saw the plates in vision only, for Stephen Burnett in a letter written in 1838, a few weeks after the event, described Martin Harris' testimony to this effect: “When I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David . . . the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations.”’

--Harris Claims He “Hefted” a Covered Set of Plates That He Never Physically Saw--Only Plates That He Supposedly “Spiritually Saw”

“Hill goes on to note:

“’Burnett reported Harris saying that he had “hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain.”

“’Nonetheless, Harris said he believed the Book of Mormon to be true. In the revelation given 'the three witnesses' before they viewed the plates they were told, “It is by your faith that you shall view them” and “Ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith Jr. has seen them, for it is by my power that he has seen them.”

“There is testimony from several independent interviewers, all non-Mormon, that Martin Harris and David Whitmer said they saw the plates with their ‘spiritual eyes’ only. Among others, A. Metcalf and John Gilbert, as well as Reuben P. Harmon and Jesse Townsend, gave testimonies to this effect. This is contradicted, however, by statements like that of David Whitmer in the ‘Saints Herald’ in 1882, ‘These hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel.’

“But Z. H. Gurley elicited from Whitmer a not so positive response to the question, “Did you touch them?” His answer was, “We did not touch nor handle the plates.”’ (‘Dialogue,’ Vol. 7, No.4, pp. 83-84)

Mormon Spin: “Seeing” the Gold Plates in a Vision Proves They Were Physically Real

“Mormon apologists like Milton Backman point to Whitmer’s steadfast insistence in his printed testimony and somehow sees this as a validation for actual, physical plates:

“’Although there is no reliable evidence that David Whitmer repudiated his testimony as published in the Book of Mormon, a few interviewers assumed that he was contradicting his published declaration when he told them that he saw the plates with his spiritual rather than his natural eyes. Explaining what he meant by this statement, David Whitmer wrote in 1887:

“’Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time. Martin Harris . . . called it ‘being in vision’. . . .A bright light enveloped us where we were . . . and there in a vision, or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon.’ (Milton V. Backman, Jr., ‘Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration,’ pp. 138-39. ellipses his).

--In Reality: The Book of Mormon “Eyewitnesses” Did Not Actually See the Gold Plates, Except in an Imaginary “Out-of-Body” Experience

"All this really proves is that Whitmer equated a 'spiritual view' as being as natural to him 'as it is at any time.' Language that equates things that are 'natural' with things seen in a vision should caution any thoughtful person to pause before assuming that any of 'the witnesses' saw physical plates."

--Other Alleged “Eyewitnesses” to the Gold Plates Have Similar “Out-of-Body” Credibility Problems

" . . . [S]everal historians and researchers recount a statement made by John Whitmer that makes their experience sound similar to 'the three witnesses.'

“Whitmer was excommunicated from the LDS Church on March 10, 1838, along with W.W. Phelps. Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer would also be excommunicated a month later.

"On April 5, 1839 Theodore Turley challenged John Whitmer to either affirm or deny his testimony regarding the gold plates. Whitmer responded by saying the plates ‘were shown to me by a supernatural power' ('History of the Church,' Vol. 3, p. 307). Why would supernatural power be necessary if the plates actually existed?

"Hill commented on a letter written by Hiram Page to the 'Ensign of Liberty' in 1848. In it Page defended his belief that the Book of Mormon was a work of the Lord. However, Hill conceded that Page did not actually say he saw the plates:

"'With only a veiled reference to "what I saw," Page does not say he saw the plates but that angels confirmed him in his faith. Neither does he say that any coercion was placed upon him to secure his testimony. Despite Page's inconsistencies, it is difficult to know what to make of Harris' affirmation that the eight saw no plates in the face of John Whitmer's testimony.

"'The original testimony of these eight men in the Book of Mormon reads somewhat ambiguously, not making clear whether they handled the plates or the "leaves" of the translated manuscript. Thus there are some puzzling aspects to the testimonies of 'the witnesses.'

"'If Burnett's statement is given credence it would appear that Joseph Smith extorted a deceptive testimony from 'the eight witnesses.' But why should John Whitmer and Hiram Page adhere to Mormonism and the Book of Mormon so long if they only gave their testimony reluctantly? It may be that like 'the three witnesses' they expressed a genuine religious conviction. The particulars may not have seemed as important as the ultimate truth of the work.' ('Dialogue,' Vol.7, No.4, pp.84-85)

--Mormon Apologists Demand That the Lack of Physical Evidence for Existence of the Gold Plates Be Ignored and That, Instead, Reliance Be Placed on the “Eyewitnesses” Sincere Claims of Non-Physically “Seeing” the Gold Plates

"Richard L. Anderson, in his faith-promoting book titled 'Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses,' insists that readers must take the testimony of 'the eleven witnesses' at 'face value.' William D. Russell, a member of the Community of Christ and professor of history of the LDS movement at Graceland University, strongly disagrees:

“'Perhaps one should not expect that a book about 'the witnesses' to the Book of Mormon published by Deseret Book Company would be anything other than an attempt to strengthen the reader's faith in the Book of Mormon. This book will be convincing to those already certain that the gold plates actually existed and that 'the eleven witnesses' saw them. And even the detached reader will probably be convinced by Anderson's research that 'the witnesses' were honest men who sincerely believed their signed testimony and probably stuck by their story as long as they lived.

"'But Anderson is really trying to have us conclude more than this. He would have the reader be convinced that because these men were honest and reaffirmed their testimony when asked, they actually saw and handled plates which contained the records of an ancient people.

"'I believe that Anderson--like 'the eleven witnesses'--is an honest and sincere man when he writes: "After years of working with their lives and their words, I am deeply convinced that their printed testimonies must be taken at face value" (p. xii). But I don't believe that his research by itself requires this conclusion. As he admits, "[S]piritual truths must be spiritually verified" (p. 82). Believers must make a "leap of faith," apprehending with their "spiritual eyes" rather than their "natural eyes." ('Investigating the Investigation,' in 'Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,' Vol.16, No.2, pp.132-33)

--Accepting “Spiritual” Eyewitness Testimony on the Purported Existence of the Gold Plates Is Irrational and Unjustified, Given the Available Evidence

"It seems foolish to take the testimony of 'the witnesses' at face value if there is further information available that helps us to understand how certain key words were understood and used by the writer/speaker.

"For example, if a person took the stand in a court room and said he saw the defendant use a gun to steal another person’s wallet, such an account would tend to carry significant weight with the jury. However, if the same person said he saw the defendant 'in a vision' using a gun to steal a wallet, the strength of the testimony is incredibly weakened. Why? Because rational people do not equate visionary experiences with tangible, physical objects."

--Testimony That An Object (Supposedly the Gold Plates) Were Hidden from View But Nonetheless Were Still “Seen” by Faithful “Eyewitnesses”

"There is no denying that Smith did have in his possession something that resembled what could be plates of some sort. However, whatever it was he had was kept from view, usually covered up with a cloth or placed in a box. Mormon historian Richard L. Bushman speaks of Smith’s father-in-law, Isaac Hale, who said, 'I was allowed to feel the weight of the box and they gave me to understand, that the plates was then in the box--into which I was not allowed to look.' (Bushman, 'Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling,' p. 63)

"Bushman also notes that during the brief time Martin Harris was Smith’s scribe, a curtain was hung between Joseph and Martin 'to prevent Harris from seeing the plates.” (Bushman, 'Rough Stone Rolling,' p.66)

"Hill records that William Smith said his father 'never saw the plates except under a frock” ('Brodie Revisited,' in 'Dialogue,' Vol.7, No.4, p .84). William said, 'In consequence of his vision, and his having the golden plates and refusing to show them, a great persecution arose against the whole family, and he was compelled to remove into Pennsylvania with the plates. He went on to say that his brother translated the plates using the “Urim and Thummim” placed in a hat, the plates were “lying nearby covered up.”' ('A New Witness for Christ in America,' Vol. 2, pp. 416-17).

"This concurs with the description given by his sister-in-law Emma Smith.

"Writes Bushman:

“'Emma said she sat at the same table with Joseph, writing as he dictated, with nothing between them, and the plates wrapped in a linen cloth on the table. When Cowdery took up the job of scribe, he and Joseph translated in the same room where Emma was working. Joseph looked into the seer stone, and the plates lay covered on the table.' (Bushman, 'Rough Stone Rolling,' p.71).

"Emma said she 'felt the plates as they lay on a table' wrapped in a linen tablecloth. She said the plates were pliable like thick paper and that they “would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb” (Bushman, 'Rough Stone Rolling,' p. 70). If that is true, then it is certain that the plates were not made of gold since soft metal pages made of gold would not make such a sound."

--Supposed “Witnesses” to the Gold Plates Who Never Actually Saw Them (Including Some Who Nonetheless Described What They Supposedly Looked Like)

"Several LDS sources give the 11 men who bore their testimony to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon the special title of eyewitness; however, it appears doubtful that any of them actually saw the plates apart from a supernatural and subjective experience. . . .

"Such persons include Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Lucy admitted she never saw the plates, but she claimed to have handled what she was told were plates of 'pure gold.' As mentioned earlier, Joseph Smith’s wife Emma also claimed that she handled the plates when she moved them to 'do her work' in the Smith home, though she insisted that she never uncovered them."

"While they all claimed to have handled what they were told were ancient plates, they did so while the plates were covered up and not visible. That being case, how is their experience any different from others who also claimed to handle the plates? Such persons include Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith. Lucy admitted she never saw the plates, but she claimed to have handled what she was told were plates of 'pure gold.' . . . . Joseph Smith’s wife Emma also claimed that she handled the plates when she moved them to 'do her work' in the Smith home, though she insisted that she never uncovered them.

". . . [I]f the 11 are called eyewitnesses, why not Lucy and Emma as well? After all, their experiences with what they thought were gold plates are really not much different than that of the 11.

"Mormons might find this conclusion troubling since it tends to take away some of the mysterious sensation associated with the accepted folklore, but it is a consistent conclusion when it comes to comparing the experiences of those involved. If Mormons want to insist that a person can’t be considered an eyewitness to the authenticity of the gold plates unless they actually saw them, then there were no eyewitnesses to Joseph Smith’s gold plates.”

--Another Problem: Smith Indicates That, In Fact, No One Saw the Gold Plates Until After He Had Allegedly “Translated” Them

"An account by Joseph's mother ('Joseph Smith, The Prophet And His Progenitors For Many Generations,' by Lucy Smith, 1853, pp. 138-9 . . . ) makes it apparent that Joseph himself did not believe anyone had seen the plates until after the translation was complete:

"'As soon as the Book of Mormon was translated, Joseph dispatched a messenger to Mr. Smith, bearing intelligence of the completion of the work, and a request that Mr. Smith and myself should come immediately to Waterloo . . .

"'Joseph, Martin, Oliver and David repaired to a grove a short distance from the house, where they commenced calling upon the Lord, and continued in earnest supplication, until He permitted an angel to come down from His presence, and declare to them, that all which Joseph had testified of concerning the plates was true.

"'When they returned to the house, it was between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. Mrs. Whitmer, Mr. Smith and myself were sitting in a bedroom at the time. On coming in, Joseph threw himself down beside me and exclaimed, 'Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am; the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. . .'"

--B.H. Roberts Claims That the "11 Eyewitnesses” Actually “Saw” the Gold Plates As Either Part of a Spectacular Heavenly Display, 0r As a Matter-of-Fact Show and Tell

"The Annotation by B.H. Roberts:

"'The difference between the testimony given the Three Witnesses and that given to 'the Eight' is that the former was attended by a splendid display of the glory and power of God and the ministration of an angel, while the latter was attended by no such display but was a plain, matter-of-fact exhibition of the plates by the Prophet to his friends; and they not only saw the plates, but handled them and examined the engravings upon them.' (annotation in 'History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,' p. 58)

(Source: Bill McKeever, "Did the Eleven Witnesses Actually See the Gold Plates?," at: http://www.mrm.org/eleven-witnesses)

*Mormon “OBEs” As the ancient philosopher Demosthenes observed:

"Nothing is easier than self-deceit, for what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true."

--Finally (Again, for Inconvenient Emphasis), Martin Harris's Own Book-of-Mormon Torpedoing Metaphysical Confession: "Seeing" the Truth Without the Need for an Optic Nerve (Harris' Own Version of a NDE: "New Divine Experience")

Recall what Mormon metaphysical guru Martin Harris eventually confessed to: He really didn't see the gold plates with his physical eyes because, you see, you don't need eyes to see.

He used his "spiritual eyes" ones, instead (maybe he just, you know, closed his in-the-skull ones and imagined stuff):

"[BYU professor] Marvin Hill refers to a letter written by Stephen Burnett. This document has been suppressed by the Mormon church until just recently. In this letter we find the following:

"'. . . [W]hen I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundation was sapped & the entire superstructure fell in heap of ruins, I therefore three week since in the Stone Chapel . . . renounced the Book of Mormon ... after we were done speaking M Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city throught [sic] a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of—–—[him/me?] but should have let it passed as it was . . . '"

(letter from Stephen Burnett to "Br Johnson," 15 April 1838, Joseph Smith papers, Letter book, 20 April 1837--9 February 1843, pp. 64-66, typed copy, as quoted in Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "The Changing World of Mormonism," Chapter 5, Part 1, "The Book of Mormon," at: http://www.utlm.org/onlinebooks/changech5a.htm)


Welcome to the "spiritual reality" of the religiously-deterred mind. No physical eyes required--and no actual evidence, either.

Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 02/25/2014 02:46AM by steve benson.

get her done
Re: Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plates

get her done
Re: Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plates

Re: Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plates
"Franz Anton Mesmer (May 23, 1734 – March 5, 1815) sometimes incorrectly[citation needed] referred to as Friedrich Anton Mesmer, was a German physician with an interest in astronomy, who theorised that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism, sometimes later referred to as mesmerism. The theory attracted a wide following between about 1780 and 1850, and continued to have some influence until the end of the century" - this is just some food for thought....
I thought it was interesting. I wonder if the Smith family had any knowledge of Mesmer's ideas on animal magnetism.


Re: Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plates
Great post!

Re: Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plat
hmmmm guess he wasn't "the man who knew..." lol

Re: Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plates

I have read of suspicions that Mesmer had great influence on a certain Luman Walter(s) who coinkydentally was a figure in the early life of our Horny Joe.

Re: Harris Knew How to Embarrass: His Admission of Not Seeing the Gold Plates
Epic, Steve, really. This is your time.

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