Quote #4 - John A. Clark Quoting a Palmyra Gentleman Quoting Martin Harris (1840)

I saw them with the eye of faith.

— JOHN A. CLARK TO DEAR BRETHREN, 31 AUG. 1840, EPISCOPAL RECORDER (PHILADELPHIA) 18 (12 SEPT. 1840): 98
CES Letter, Page 93

Next Relevant Quote

When Martin Harris was asked, “But did you see them [plates] with your natural, your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this.” Martin answered, “I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see anything around me, though at the time they were covered over with a cloth.” – Origin and History of the Mormonites, p.406

Why couldn’t Martin just simply answer “yes”?

CES Letter, Page 94

This is from a letter from John A. Clark, Letter to Dear Brethren, 31 August 1840, The Episcopal Recorder (Philadelphia) 18 (12 September 1840): 98-99. Reprinted in John A. Clark, Gleanings By the Way (Philadelphia: W. J. & J. K. Simon, 1842), 256-58; The Visitor, or Monthly Instructor, for 1841 (London: Religious Tract Society, 1841), 237-39. It is quoted twice in The CES Letter, all in red and underlined.

To know how much this testimony [of three witnesses] is worth I will state one fact. A gentleman in Palmyra, bred to the law, a professor of religion, and of undoubted veracity told me that on one occasion, he appealed to Harris and asked him directly,--"Did you see those plates?" Harris replied, he did. "Did you see the plates, and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes?" Harris replied, "Yes, I saw them with my eyes,--they were shown unto me by the power of God and not of man." "But did you see them with your natural,--your bodily eyes, just as you see this pencil-case in my hand? Now say no or yes to this." Harris replied,--"Why I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me,--though at the time they were covered over with a cloth

This letter is a recollection at least ten years after the reported event would have occurred.

John A. Clark possessed obvious biases against Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  Elected pastor of Palmyra's Zion's Episcopal Church in 1824, he resigned in 1826 but was still living in the area in 1827 and 1828, when Martin Harris came to his home and they they reportedly conversed. By 1840 Clark had become one of the editors of the Episcopal Recorder and rector of St. Andrew's Church in Philadelphia. After visiting friends in Palmyra in August 1840, he began writing a series of letters to the Episcopal Recorder in Philadelphia "detailing some facts connected with the rise and origin of Mormonism.”

All three witnesses agree that the plates were shown to them in a vision that was presented by an angel during the daytime so it was a spiritual experiences their eyes perceived.

David Whitmer related: “A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled [the woods as] at noon day, and there in a vision or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon.”[75]

Oliver Cowdery described it: “It was a clear, open beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record, of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us, by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, ascend out of the midst of heaven.”

“Spiritual eyes” is an ambiguous term. The Apostle Paul described one of his visionary experience saying:  “whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth” (2 Cor.12:2-3). The CES Letter seems to demand a precise description of an interaction that is beyond the experience of almost all listeners. 

Of the eleven “evidences” given here in The CES Letter, two (like this) are cited twice.  Another three are simply references to John H. Gilbert’s writings. The CES Letter gives the appearance of eleven statements supporting its view, but in reality there are only seven.

This is an example of one of the more egregious misrepresentations in The CES Letter.It quotes a few statements from 8 of the 68 accounts and ignores the rest. Virtually all of them affirm that the Three Witnesses did see and angel and the plates. Click here.

68 separate references to the testimonies of the Three witnesses have been accumulated. There are no denials but there are six denials that they ever denied their testimonies. Click here.


Additional Resources:

Were the experiences of the witnesses spiritual or literal? 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.

Did the Book of Mormon witnesses ever recant? 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.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Book of Mormon Witnesses,” byu.edu

FAIRMORMON: Book of Mormon Witnesses

Faith and Reason 39: Hidden Records, Michael R. Ash

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

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

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses,

The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project and Mary Whitmer Witness to the Gold Plates by Royal Skousen

pt 1 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

pt 2 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

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

pt 1, The Cowdery Controversies

pt 2, The Cowdery Controversies

pt 3, The Cowdery Controversies

pt 4, The Cowdery Controversies

Tangible Restoration: The Eye Witnesses of The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon Witnesses: Evidence for The Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 1: Motives (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 2: Oliver Cowdery (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 3: Martin Harris (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 4: David Whitmer (PFD) by Michael Ash

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

The Cowdery Controversies (PDF) (2007 FAIR Conference) by Larry Morris

The Testimony of Eight by Scott Gordon

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005): 18–31.

Kenneth W. Godfrey, “David Whitmer and the Shaping of Latter-day Saint History,” in The Disciple As Witness: Essays on Latter-Day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),223–256.

Kirk B. Henrichsen, “How Witnesses Described the “Gold Plates,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies10/1 (2001): 16–21.

Jeff Lindsay, “Circumstantial Evidence and the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon: Can They Be Ignored Any Longer?, jefflindsay.com

Matthew Roper, “Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 164–193.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Credibility of the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds and Charles D. Tate (eds.), (Provo, Utah : Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University ; Salt Lake City, Utah : Distributed by Bookcraft, 1996 [1982]),Chapter 9, 213–232.

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

Richard L. Anderson, “Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), Chapter 3.

Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1983).

Matthew B. Brown, Plates of Gold: The Book of Mormon Comes Forth (American Fork UT: Covenant, 2007).

John W. Welch and Larry E. Morris, editors, Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2006).

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 1: Motives (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 2: Oliver Cowdery (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 3: Martin Harris (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 4: David Whitmer (PDF) by Michael Ash

The Book of Mormon Witnesses: Evidence for The Book of Mormon

pt 1 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

pt 2 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

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

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

Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses–  by Richard Lloyd Anderson

Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner–  byMatthew Roper

David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness–  by Daniel C. Peterson

Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard Lloyd Anderson

Articles of Faith 2: Royal Skousen on Book of Mormon Critical Text Project and Mary Whitmer Witness to the Gold Plates, Royal Skousen, 0:38:05

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

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses

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