Quotes 3 & 9 – John H. Gilbert

Quote #3 & #9 - John H. Gilbert Quoting Martin Harris (1892)

He only saw the plates with a spiritual eye

— JOSEPH SMITH BEGINS HIS WORK, VOL. 1, 1958

CES Letter, Page 93


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John H. Gilbert, the typesetter for most of the Book of Mormon, said that he had asked Harris, “Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?” According to Gilbert, Harris “looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, ‘No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.”

– EMD 2:548

CES Letter, Page 94


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or “with a spiritual eye.”

CES Letter quotes John H. Gilbert for the 5th of 5 times)

CES Letter, Page 100

This quote is from John H. Gilbert, "Memorandum, made by John H. Gilbert Esq, Sept[ember]. 8th, 1892[,] Palmyra, N.Y.," Palmyra King's Daughters Free Library, Palmyra, New York. The CES Letter excerpts are in red with page 55 underlined and page 61 italicized:

Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses,--(Harris--Cowdery and Whitmer--) I said to him, "Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, "No, I saw them with a spir[i]tual eye."

John H. Gilbert learned the printer's trade in the late 1820s and established himself in business at Palmyra. After a short newspaper experience, he sold out to E. B. Grandin, and continued in his employment as a journeyman printer. He was interviewed many times regarding his role in the printing of the Book of Mormon and his disbelief in Joseph Smith is always evident.

On page 55 The CES Letter misquotes this: “He only saw the plates with a spiritual eye.” It is a small point, but demonstrates a lack of attention to accuracy. It is correctly quoted on page 56 of The CES Letter.

The reference listed on page 55 is: "Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 1, 1958," which fails to disclose the actual source, neither when Martin allegedly spoke it, nor when the statement was recorded. 

This is a very late recollection recorded in 1892 claiming to be an accurate verbatim quotation.

This quotation contradicts other statements from Martin Harris. To a questioner in in 1870 Martin said: 

“Young man, I had the privilege of being with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and with these eyes of mine," pointing to his eyes, "I saw the angel of the Lord and I saw the plates and the Urim and Thummim and the sword of Laban, and with these ears," pointing to his ears, "I heard the voice of the angel, and with these hands, "Holding out his hands, "I handled the plates containing the record of the Book of Mormon.”[25]

The reference to “spiritual eyes” is ambiguous. Since was seeing a heavenly vision in the daytime, it would have constituted a different viewing experience from that which he was accustomed to. For natural eyes to view such spiritual things could be described as a spiritual experience rather than a natural one.

Gilbert was antagonistic to the Church and was highly biased.

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.