Question: How do critics of the Church attempt to dismiss the literal experience of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon?

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Question: How do critics of the Church attempt to dismiss the experience of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon?

"A thousand things may be conjectured, but when a man declares openly, candidly, and seriously, of what he has seen, hefted and handled with his own hands, and taht in the presence of a God who sees and knows the secrets of the heart, no man possessed of common reason and common sense, can doubt, or will be so vain as to dispute."
—Oliver Cowdery, describing a testimony given by John Whitmer, one of the Eight Witnesses, June 1835.[1]

Some have tried to argue that the Eight witnesses only claimed a 'spiritual' or 'visionary' view of the plates, not a literal, physical one

Critics of the Church attempt to dismiss the experience of the Eight Witnesses by claiming that their view of the plates was not literal. The critics attempt to argue that the witnesses only 'saw' the plates in a spiritual state, and then were allowed to heft a covered box. This flatly contradicts their own reports, and those of others.[2] Richard Anderson has collected eight accounts of John Whitmer's that confirm the reality of his handling of the plates.[3] The critics ignore much documentary evidence in John Whitmer's case alone, simply because his witness is inconvenient for their speculations.

William Smith summarized the matter well when he said of all the Eight witnesses

that they not only Saw with their eyes but handled with their hands the said record . . . nor has either or any one of these witnesses ever to my knowledge Counteracted the testimony as given above Concerning the real existence of these Mormon tablets.[4]

The Eight witnesses consistently affirmed the accuracy of their published testimony, and the physical reality of their experience. The critics will have to seek elsewhere to support their speculations.

Notes

  1. Oliver Cowdery, "Conference Report," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1 (June 1835), 143. Reproduced in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:250.
  2. Many of the quotes collected here are found in Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005): 18–31. [{{{url}}} off-site] wiki (Key source)
  3. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005): 18–31. [{{{url}}} off-site] wiki. See especially Anderson's discussion of Dan Vogel's tendency to ignore contrary witnesses from Whitmer that do not fit his thesis here.
  4. William Smith, "Notes Written on 'Chambers' Life of Joseph Smith,'" 15; transcribed by Richard L. Anderson.