Second Sight & Anthony Metcalf Quote

People believed they could see things as a vision in their mind. They called it “second sight.” We call it “imagination.” (non-believers call it imagination. Apostate Ezra Booth in 1831 may have been the first to equate faith with imagination.) It made no difference to these people if they saw with their natural eyes or their spiritual eyes (editorial note: a phrase is only used by Jesse Townsend and John Gilbert) as both were one and the same.

As mentioned previously, people believed they could see spirits and their dwelling places in the local hills along with seeing buried treasure deep in the ground. This supernatural way of seeing the world is also referred in Doctrine & Covenants as “the eyes of our understanding.”


CES Letter, Page 93

Quote 1 & 2 - Anthony Metcalf on Martin Harris (1873-74)

I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state.

— EARLY MORMON DOCUMENTS 2:346-347

While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates.

— EARLY MORMON DOCUMENTS 2:346-347

CES Letter, Page 93

These two statements are from the same quotation recorded in Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast ([Malad City, Idaho]: n.p. [1888]), 73-74. The CES Letter excerpts are in red:

Following is the history as related to me, including all his connections with Joseph Smith, the pretended prophet and the founder of the Mormon church: He told me all about the translating of the Book of Mormon, and said he had give $5,000 towards its publication. He said "I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state. I wrote a great deal of the Book of Mormon myself, as Joseph Smith translated or spelled the words out in English. Sometimes the plates would be on a table in the room in which Smith did the translating, covered over with cloth. I was told by Joseph Smith that God would strike him dead if he attempted to look at them, and I believed it. When the time came for the three witnesses to see the plates, Joseph Smith, myself, David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, went into the woods to pray. When they had all engaged in prayer, they failed at that time to see the plates or the angel who should have been on hand to exhibit them. They all believed it was because I was not good enough, or, in other words, not sufficiently sanctified. I withdrew. As soon as I had gone away, the three others saw the angel and the plates. In about three days I went into the woods to pray that I might see the plates. While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates."

All three witnesses agree that the plates were shown to them in a vision that was presented by an angel during the daytime. 

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."

Martin Harris died 10 July 1875 so he was not alive to rebut the claims. 

The posthumous article contradicts a multitude of Harris’ public statements. Click here

In the year of his death, Harris said:

"The Prophet Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer and myself, went into a little grove to pray to obtain a promise that we should behold it with our eyes natural eyes, that we could testify of it to the world” (EMD 2:375).

The CES Letter is guilty of “quote-mining” where they search until they find a statement that is consistent with their views and then promote it as they ignore its context and other more reliable quotations that contradict their position.

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.

This is an example of one of the more egregious misrepresentations in The CES Letter. It quotes a few statements from 9 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.


Additional Resources:

"Eye of Faith" and "Spiritual Eye" statements by Martin Harris
Brief Summary: Martin Harris frequently told people that he did not see the golden plates and the angel with his natural eyes but rather with “spiritual eyes” or the “eye of faith.” (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)

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

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