Source:John Whitmer:I now say I handled those plates

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Turley claimed that John Whitmer said: "I now say I handled those plates. there was fine engravings on both sides. I handled them...and they were shown to me by a supernatural power"

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.[1] Theodore Turley claimed that John Whitmer said:

[Theodore] Turley said, ‘Gentlemen, I presume there are men here who have heard [John] Corrill say, that Mormonism was true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and inspired of God. I now call upon you, John Whitmer: you say Corrill is a moral and a good man; do you believe him when he says the Book of Mormon is true, or when he says it is not true? There are many things published that they say are true, and again turn around and say they are false.’ Whitmer asked, ‘Do you hint at me?’ Turley replied, ‘If the cap fits you, wear it; all I know is that you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith.’ Whitmer replied: ‘I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. I handled them;’ and he described how they were hung [on rings], and [said] ‘they were shown to me by a supernatural power;’ he acknowledged all.[2]

So, the apostate Whitmer insists that he physically handled the plates, and attests to having seen fine engraving "on both sides." The critics grasp at straws, and ignore the very clear implication that Whitmer (at this time a bitter enemy of Joseph Smith) claims to have actually seen and handled the plates. The "supernatural power" citation seems to be the imposition of the interviewers' bias (it appears in none of Whitmer's first person accounts or in the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses—see further discussion in main article above).

It is also possible that Whitmer was insisting that Joseph Smith could not have showed him the plates without divine aid; this perspective is not present in any of his other statements, however. The Three witnesses likewise insisted on the physical reality of their experience with the angel, despite the supernatural trappings of their witness experience.

Why, then, did John Whitmer apostatize? He rationalized his choice to disbelieve the translation of the Book of Mormon (despite knowing that the plates were literal and physical) thusly:

I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.[3]

Notes

  1. 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)
  2. "Theodore Turley's Memorandums," Church Archives, handwriting of Thomas Bullock, who began clerking in late 1843; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:241.; see also with minor editing in Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:307–308. Volume 3 link
  3. "Theodore Turley's Memorandums," Church Archives, handwriting of Thomas Bullock, who began clerking in late 1843; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:241.; see also with minor editing in Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:307–308. Volume 3 link