Prior to this, Dr. Peterson explains the Mopologetic issue:Richard Bushman wrote:Harris said he viewed the plates as a visionary sees “a city through a mountain.” Burnett understood the words to mean that Harris saw the plates only in his imagination. The admission, Burnett thought, destroyed everything. If the witnesses never saw the plates, “there can be nothing brought to prove that any such thing ever existed.” “The last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations was sapped & the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins.”
Martin Harris was among the defectors in 1837 and 1838; he turned on Joseph Smith for the same reasons as Burnett—the failed bank and a loss of confidence in Joseph Smith. But strangely, his statement about seeing the plates in a vision was not meant to undermine the Book of Mormon. Burnett also heard Harris say that “he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true.” Harris was actually warning his fellow apostates they would suffer if in rejecting Smith they relinquished faith in the book. Harris’s visionary description of the plates was not intended to undermine their reality. He spoke of not seeing the plates “with his natural eyes only in vision,” because he believed that was the only way a mortal could view heavenly things. Pomeroy Tucker, the Palmyra printer who later wrote a book on Mormonism, remembered Harris speaking “a good deal of his characteristic jargon about ‘seeing with the spiritual eye.’ ”
In Harris’s world, the plates were enchanted. He said he was “told by Joseph Smith that God would strike him dead if he attempted to look at them.” When Charles Anthon asked him to bring the plates to New York, Harris told him that the “human gaze was not to be permitted to rest on them.” Harris’s thinking was based on Bible passages suggesting that human eyes could not look upon God without preparation. He did not dare to look into Smith’s seer stones “because Moses said that ‘no man could see God and live.’ ” Though intensely curious, Harris had not snuck a peek of the plates while helping Smith translate. He feared that he, an unworthy mortal, would suffer if he did. When Joseph offered to show Harris the plates in return for his help, Harris refused “unless the Lord should do it.” He told Burnett’s audience that the three witnesses had seen the plates “only in vision” because that was the only safe way. He had no intention of undermining the reality of the plates or questioning the Book of Mormon. (60)
This is absolutely baffling. Did DCP not actually read the quote? Bushman is providing devastating evidence here that Harris *never saw the plates*! In fact—according to Bushman—Harris was *afraid* to look at them, fearing that he would no doubt suffer a fate similar to what happens to the Nazis as the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, after they look into the sands in the Ark of the Covenant.Among the more sophisticated critics of the Restoration, it has become popular to portray Martin Harris as denying the literal reality of the Book of Mormon plates, as saying, effectively, that he “saw” them only in his mind’s eye. They base their portrayal on two or three cherry-picked statements, ignoring the many occasions on which he testified to having seen them quite literally, with his physical eyes, and even to having held them on his lap and being impressed by their extraordinary weight. I think that Richard Lyman Bushman’s recent book Joseph Smith’s Gold Plates: A Cultural History correctly understands what was going on:
But Bushman completely affirms the critics’ argument: Harris never actually saw the plates. Of course, the Mopologists have for years been trying to spin-doctor this issue, claiming that, no, Harris actually *did* say that he saw real plates (so is Bushman wrong, then?). But if Bushman’s evidence is correct, Harris never saw the plates. He may have *thought* they were real. But his belief in their reality would have been due more to faith than due to having actually *seen* the actual plates. And is there anything more laughable than a “witness” who hasn’t actually seen the most important piece of evidence?
In any case: consider this yet another Mopologist chestnut blown to pieces!