Yea, they saw the plates and "handled" them. That sounds pretty physical to me.
What do you think the phrase "I saw them with spiritual eyes" means?
I dunno. Maybe something like this?:It was no delusion
Because Oliver Cowdery died in 1850 at age 43 and Martin Harris died in 1875 at age 91, David Whitmer was the only survivor of the Three Witnesses for 13 years. At Richmond, Missouri, he sometimes received several inquirers daily asking about his connection to the Book of Mormon, including Mormon missionaries who were traveling from Utah to the eastern United States and Europe. Despite his hostility toward the LDS Church, Whitmer always stood by his claim that he had actually seen the Golden Plates.
Nevertheless, his testimonies were recorded differently from one retelling to another. Recounting the vision to Orson Pratt in 1878, Whitmer claimed to have seen not only the Golden Plates but the "Brass Plates, the plates containing the record of the wickedness of the people of the world....the sword of Laban, the Directors (i.e. the ball which Lehi had) and the Interpreters. I saw them just as plain as I see this bed...."
In 1880, John Murphy interviewed Whitmer and later published an account suggesting that perhaps Whitmer's experience was a "delusion or perhaps a cunning scheme." Murphy's account said that Whitmer had not been able to describe the appearance of an angel and had likened Whitmer's experience to the "impressions as the quaker [receives] when the spirit moves, or as a good Methodist in giving a happy experience." Whitmer responded by publishing A Proclamation, reaffirming his testimony and saying,
"It having been represented by one John Murphy, of Polo, Caldwell County, Mo., that I, in a conversation with him last summer, denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the BOOK OF Mormon. To the end, therefore, that he may understand me now, if he did not then; and that the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once for all to make this public statement: That I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that Book, as one of the three witnesses. Those who know me best, well know that I have always adhered to that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do again affirm the truth of all of my statements, as then made and published. He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear; it was no delusion!"
To the Proclamation Whitmer attached an affidavit attesting to his honesty and standing in the community. Whitmer ordered that his testimony to the Book of Mormon be placed on his tombstone.