Question: Regarding the gold plates, did Martin Harris claim that "the eight witnesses never saw them and hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but they were persuaded to do it"?

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Question: Regarding the gold plates, did Martin Harris claim that "the eight witnesses never saw them and hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but they were persuaded to do it"?

"So those men said they stood by their testimony and so the testimony said they saw and handled, and I’m supposed to believe on this secondhand statement of a very hostile and angry man in Kirtland that Martin Harris said the eight witnesses admitted that they didn’t see or they only saw in a vision?"

Richard Lloyd Anderson responds to this claim,

I’m going to switch the subject to the eight witnesses. And the eight witnesses of the Book of Mormon said that they had handled–the word is “hefted.” That’s interesting because in 1828 it probably has the connotation of measuring a weight, in other words, estimating the weight of something you’re lifting. They saw the curious characters–that had a connotation in a generation that knew Latin better than we do–curae in Latin is “care,” and curious actually has, as one of its senses in the nineteenth or eighteenth century, of being “carefully made” or “made with care.” So they said “we saw those engravings, we looked at them carefully, saw that they were made with care, lifted the plates, turned over the leaves,” etc.

This is what Burnett says about that experience, and I want you to keep in mind what I said about first and second-hand. He says “Martin Harris said that he saw the plates only with his natural eyes in vision…never saw the plates with his natural eyes, only in vision or imagination, and that the eight witnesses never saw them and hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but they were persuaded to do it.”

There’s a lot of ways to interpret that. One of them is that they never saw the plates the at all; others that they saw the plates in a vision and didn’t really handle them and they were persuaded to make that statement.

I’m not sure that the eight witnesses made that statement. All eight of them never made that statement, I’ve got something like sixty times when those witnesses say essentially, “yes, what I wrote in the Book of Mormon was true.”

And I’m told by some of the books on this subject now, “oh, well, those statements are just pro forma public statements and we have to go find what really happened.” Well you know that’s like telling your teenage kid “what part of no do you not understand?” What part of ‘hefted’ and ‘seeing the curious characters’ don’t you understand?

And John Whitmer one time when he was asked, Joseph III did this, wrote to him and said “I want you to reiterate your testimony of seeing the plates.” According to the family John Whitmer wrote back and said “I’m not going to reiterate my testimony because I never quit bearing it,” in other words, “go see what I’ve said before.” Another missionary came to John Whitmer and he wrote this, that “what I have said in my testimony was true, is true and will be true for eternities to come.”

So those men said they stood by their testimony and so the testimony said they saw and handled, and I’m supposed to believe on this secondhand statement of a very hostile and angry man in Kirtland that Martin Harris said the eight witnesses admitted that they didn’t see or they only saw in a vision? [1]

Notes

  1. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Explaining Away the Book of Mormon Witnesses," Proceedings of the 2004 FAIR Conference.