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PAM - I had HEARD that one of the three witnesses “only saw the plates with an eye of faith”, but was he taken out of context? I’ll believe the actual official written version, first by the three & the eight…..
JOEL - Many things critics say are taken out of context. For example take the quote from Brigham Young, typically used by critics:
"Some of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterwards left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel." (Journal of Discourses, Vol 7, page 164, 1859, Brigham Young.)
Now read the entire quote in its context:
"Some of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterwards left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel. One of the Quorum of the Twelve—a young man full of faith and good works, prayed, and the vision of his mind was opened, and the angel of God came and laid the plates before him, and he saw and handled them, and saw the angel, and conversed with him as he would with one of his friends; but after all this, he was left to doubt, and plunged into apostasy, and has continued to contend against this work. There are hundreds in a similar condition." (Journal of Discourses Vol 7 page 164)
This quote is not talking about the three or eight official witnesses; it is talking about other witnesses(hundreds) who had similar visions(or at least thought they did), who later doubted. None of the original eleven witnesses were ever a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as the quote above refers to.
Consider also that the reliability of the Journal of Discourses is very questionable in many places.
According to David Whitmer in his article "An Address To all Believers in Christ":
"It is recorded in the American Cyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, that I, David Whitmer, have denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon; and that the other two witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, denied their testimony to that Book. I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery or Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died reaffirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I was present at the death bed of Oliver Cowdery, and his last words were, "Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon.'' He died here in Richmond, Mo., on March 3d, 1850. Many witnesses yet live in Richmond, who will testify to the truth of these facts, as well as to the good character of Oliver"
When Martin Harris said that he had seen the angel and the plates with his "spiritual eyes" or with an "eye of faith" as you refered to, he was simply employing some scriptural language that he was familiar with. Such as that from the Book of Moses:
"But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face." (Moses 1:11)
Such statements do not mean that the angel and the plates were imaginary, hallucinatory, or just an inner mental image. But rather they were seen by physical eyes that had been enhanced by the power of God to view more objects than a mortal could normally see.