The Three Witnesses statements are consistent and unequivocal regarding what they believed they experienced.

Oliver Cowdery Click here

  • Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to a skeptical author in November 1829, and spoke for both himself and Harris on the question of whether there was some trickery or "juggling" at work:

"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, [who] ascend [descended I suppose] out of the midst of heaven. Now if this is human juggling—judge ye".

Martin Harris Click here

  • "He [Martin Harris] believes in the visitation of angels in bodily form, for he has seen and conversed with them, as he thinks, and is satisfied."
  • Martin visited many of the wards, continuing to bear his testimony both of what he had beheld with his own eyes, and verily knew to be true. He publicly said that many years ago, in Ohio, a number of persons combined [and] sought to get Martin to drink wine for the purpose of crossing him in his testimony. At the conclusion they asked him if he really believed the testimony that he had signed in the Book of Mormon to be true; he replied, no he did not believe it, but, much to their surprise, he said he knew it to be true (italics in original).

David Whitmer Click here

  • I personally heard him [David Whitmer] state in Jan. 1876 in his own house...in most positive language, that he did truly see in broad day light, a bright, and most beautiful being, an 'Angel from Heaven," who did hold in his hands the golden plates, which he turned over leaf by leaf, explaining the contents, here and there. He also described the size and general appearance of the plates.

Additional Sources:

  • 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.
  • "Eye of Faith" and "Spiritual Eye" statements by Martin Harris—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.”
  • John Whitmer states that the plates were "shown to me by a supernatural power"—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.
  • Martin Harris repeatedly sought empirical proof—Some claim that Martin Harris was a gullible believer in the supernatural. But, in fact, Martin repeatedly performed empirical tests to confirm Joseph Smith's claims. He came away convinced.
  • Did Joseph hypnotize the Book of Mormon witnesses?—Some grant that the Book of Mormon witnesses may have been sincere in their testimony, but claim that they were actually the victims of 'hallucination' or 'hypnosis' induced in them by Joseph Smith. The accusation that Joseph Smith was somehow able to hypnotize the witnesses—not individually, but en mass—is simply too preposterous to be true. This accusation vastly overstates the nature of hypnotism and the abilities of those able to practice it.