A critic just posted an out-of-context statement in an online discussion. An accusation is simple to make, but often takes much time to research and refute. Here’s what was stated:
They claimed to see the plates in a visionary state. Some held them through a pillow, etc. They didn’t claim to actually physically hold them.
Here’s my response after doing lots of looking around:
I’ll read from you link (he referenced a critical source, which I’ve seen before). Do you ever quote the 3 or 8 witnesses themselves? They didn’t change their stories. Why use other sources? Should I listen to you or go to your detractors or others to understand your side of the story?
Below is a link to quotes from William Smith (JS’s younger brother) the critics often use to claim that the Book of Mormon witnesses only saw the plates through a frock. The issue here is that it’s a fact William Smith never saw the plates. That is because he wasn’t one of the 3 or 8 witnesses. Instead, William only held the plates while they were covered in a frock — soon after Joseph brought the plates down from the hill.
So, William wasn’t lying. He simply reported the truth: he held them covered (within a frock) during the first few months they were in Joseph’s possession in Palmyra (1827). But he wasn’t speaking for the experience of others. He wasn’t speaking for the 3 and 8 witnesses.
Indeed, William’s testimony was very limited. He was not one of the 3 witnesses who saw the angel along with plates (golden and brass), Liahona, Sword of Laban, etc. in 1829. And he was not present when the Golden Plates were openly displayed for the 8 witnesses who then lifted and inspect these plates. Also in 1829.So, context matters.
A few minutes later I posted this (after doing a quick search for “plates pillow” on FAIR Mormon):
Just found the source for your reference to the pillow. These quotes come from interviews with William Smith in the 1880s and 1890s. William never says that his father & brothers never saw the plates. Your earlier statements are factually incorrect. You and those at Mormon Think take William’s quote out of context. Far out of context.
Immediately after securing the plates (Sept of 1827) and entering the Smith home, father Smith put the plates (already wrapped in a frock) inside a pillow. The goal was to further hide them. They weren’t allowed to see the plates at this time. Nobody was. No debate there. This was September of 1827. The witnesses saw the plates in 1829. Two different years, Ken. Very poor scholarship on your part & for those at Mormon Think.
Referring to what occurred after the work of translation (in 1829), William says:
“He then showed the plates to my father and my brothers Hyrum and Samuel, who were witnesses to the truth of the book which was translated from them. I was permitted to lift them as they laid in a pillow-case; but not to see them, as it was contrary to the commands he had received.”
The list of 8 witnesses. Note that William is not on the list.
- Hiram Page.
- Hyrum Smith.
- Joseph Smith Sr.
- Samuel H. Smith.
- Christian Whitmer.
- Jacob Whitmer.
- John Whitmer.
- Peter Whitmer Jr.
Indeed, this same William whom you quote out of context, clearly reports that his father & 2 brothers were shown the plates by Joseph.
Summary: A frequent claim is that a Book of Mormon witnesses said that he only handled the plates while they were covered in a “tow frock.” However, this report is from William Smith, one of Joseph’s brothers who was not a Book of Mormon witness. In fact, William insisted in the same statement that he was convinced Joseph was not lying about the plates. William also dismissed the Spalding hypothesis as nonsense.
Read more about William Smith here: http://ldsmag.com/joseph-smiths-challenging-brother/
And here: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/william-b-smith