Some representative quotes from the Eight Witnesses show how literal and physical their experience was:

  • John Whitmer when in apostasy, and challenged stated: “I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. I handled them.”[1] [O]ld Father Whitmer told me last winter, with tears in his eyes, that he knew as well as he knew he had an existence that Joseph translated the ancient writing which was upon the plates, which he 'saw and handled,' and which, as one of the scribes, he helped to copy, as the words fell from Joseph's lips, by supernatural or almighty power."[2]
  • Hirum Page: “I knew my father to be true and faithful to his testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon until the very last. Whenever he had an opportunity to bear his testimony to this effect, he would always do so, and seemed to rejoice exceedingly in having been privileged to see the plates.”[3]
  • Hyrum Smith: [W]ee wass talking about the Book of Mormon which he is one of the witnesses he said he had but too hands and too eyes he said he had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands.[4]
  • Samuel Smith: “He knew his brother Joseph had the plates, for the prophet had shown them to him, and he had handled them and seen the engravings thereon.”[5]
  • Peter Whitmer, Jr.: Lyman Wight remembered Whitmer saying “that he had seen the plates.”[6]
  • Christian and Peter Whitmer: “Among those who have gone home to rest, we mention the names of our two brothers-in-law, Christian and Peter Whitmer, jr. the former died on the 27th of November 1835, and the other the 22nd of September last, in Clay county, Missouri. By many in this church, our brothers were personally known: they were the first to embrace the new covenant, on hearing it, and during a constant scene of persecution and perplexity, to their last moments, maintained its truth -- they were both included in the list of the eight witnesses in the book of Mormon, and though they have departed, it is with great satisfaction that we reflect, that they proclaimed to their last moments, the certainty of their former testimony: The testament is in force after the death of the testator. May all who read remember the fact, that the Lord has given men a witness of himself in the last days, and that they, have faithfully declared it till called away.”[7]
  • Jacob Whitmer: “Jacob Whitmer, was always faithful and true to his testimony to the Book of Mormon, and confirmed it on his death bed."[8]
  • Joseph Smith, Sr.: Bore testimony in public repeatedly confirming his written testimony. Click here
  • For fuller accounts from all of the Eight Witnesses and other witnesses of the Book of Mormon Click here

Additional Resources:

John Whitmer states that the plates were "shown to me by a supernatural power"
Brief Summary: Some critics of the Restoration have focused on a single statement reportedly made by John Whitmer in 1839 to make it appear as though the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon did not have a physical encounter with the golden plates (as they so testified on the pages of the book itself), but rather a spiritual or visionary experience only. (Click here for full article

Eight witnesses
Brief Summary: Some have tried to argue that the Eight witnesses only claimed a 'spiritual' or 'visionary' view of the plates, not a literal, physical one. The witnesses left concrete statements regarding the physical nature of the plates. There were others besides the eleven who saw and felt the plates, and testified that they were real. (Click here for full article)

Were the experiences of the witnesses spiritual or literal?
Brief Summary: It is claimed that the witnesses’ encounter with the angel and the plates took place solely in their minds. They claim that witnesses saw the angel in a “vision” and equate “vision” with imagination. (Click here for full article)

Did the Book of Mormon witnesses ever recant?
Brief Summary: Some have tried to argue that some or all of the Witnesses recanted concerning their testimony. They were all faithful to their testimonies to the end of their lives, even though many of them had personal disagreements with Joseph Smith that caused them to leave the Church. (Click here for full article)

Witness statements by David Whitmer

Faith and Reason 7: Book of Mormon Witnesses, Michael R. Ash, 0:15:32

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses, Martin Tanner, 0:19:20

Explaining Away the Book of Mormon Witnesses (2004 FAIR Conference) by Richard L. Anderson

Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced (PDF) (2006 FAIR Conference) by Daniel C. Peterson

Tangible Restoration: The Eye Witnesses of The Book of Mormon

pt 1, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 2, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 3, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 4, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 5, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address


[1] "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.

[2] Myron H. Bond to Editors, 2 August 1878 in Saints' Herald 25 (15 August 1878): 253 in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:251.

[3] Andrew Jenson, Historical Record (Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson, 1888), 7:614.

[4] Joseph Fielding, "Letter to Parley P. Pratt," Millennial Star 4 (August 1841): 52.

[5] Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 148.

[6] Lyman Wight, Journal, cited in Saints’ Herald 29 (1882): 192; in Anderson, Investigation the Book of Mormon Witnesses,

[7] Oliver Cowdery, "The Closing Year," Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3 no. 3 (December 1836), 426.

[8] Cited in Letter of Andrew Jenson to Deseret News (13 September 1888) from Richmond, Mo.,; cited in Deseret News (17 September 1888).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]