David Whitmer

David Whitmer was one of the three witnesses. Much like Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer had a magic worldview and believed in divining rods, seer stones, and other magic items.

Seer Stones

David Whitmer’s had at least 2 seer stones.  One was oval shape and flat with two round marks placed symmetrically on the left/right of the main surface.  A picture is available here. The second stone had a similar shape and hole configuration and can be viewed here.

The Palmyra Reflector

March 19, 1831

“Whitmar's description of the Book of Mormon, differs entirely from that given by Harris; both of whom it would seem have been of late permitted, not only to see and handle it, but to examine its contents. Whitmar relates that he was led by Smith into an open field, on his father's farm near Waterloo, when they found the book lying on the ground; Smith took it up and requested him to examine it, which he did for the space of half an hour or more, when he returned it to Smith who placed it in its former position, alledging that the book was in the custody of another, intimating that some Divine agent would have it in safe keeping.”

[Gold Bible No 6, The Reflector, Palmyra, NY, March 19, 1831, pg 126]

David Whitmer Interview with Orson Pratt

Millennial Star, 1878

Elder O. P. Do you remember what time you saw the plates?

D.W. It was in June, 1829 –the latter part of the month, and the eight witnesses saw them, I think, the next day or the day after. (i.e. one or two days after). Joseph showed them the plates himself, but the angel showed us (the three witnesses) the plates, as I suppose to fulfil the words of the book itself. Martin Harris was not with us at this time; he obtained a view of them afterwards, (the same day). Joseph, Oliver and myself were together when I saw them. We not only saw the plates of the Book of Mormon but also the brass plates, the plates of the Book of Ether, the plates containing the records of the wickedness and secret combinations of the people of the world down to the time of their being engraved, and many other plates. The fact is, it was just as though Joseph, Oliver and I were sitting just here on a log, when we were overshadowed by a light. It was not like the light of the sun nor like that of a fire, but more glorious and beautiful. It extended away round us, I cannot tell how far, but in the midst of this light about as far as he sits (pointing to John C. Whitmer, sitting a few feet from him), there appeared as it were, a table with many records or plates upon it, besides the plates of the Book of Mormon, also 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 (striking the bed beside him with this hand), and I heard the voice of the Lord, as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life, declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God.”

Elder O.P. Did you see the Angel at this time?

D.W. Yes; he stood before us. Our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon is strictly and absolutely true, as as it is there written.” [pg. 771-772]

In this interview David Whitmer testifies that they (himself, Oliver Cowdery, and Joseph Smith, NOT Martin Harris) saw the following:

  • Golden plates
  • Brass plates
  • Plates of Ether
  • Plates of wickedness and secret combinations
  • Many other plates
  • A table (a few feet from him)
  • Sword of Laban
  • Directors (Liahona)
  • Interpreters (Urim and Thummim/spectacles)
  • The angel (almost as an afterthought)

Based on this testimony, and others from the three witnesses, they did not handle any of the objects. They only saw them. 

David Whitmer's Interview with John Murphy

June 1880

In an 1880 interview with John Murphy, David Whitmer was asked about what the angel looked like. David Whitmer responded: 

Whitmer: “It had no appearance or shape.”
Murphy: “Then you saw nothing nor heard nothing?”
Whitmer: “Nothing, in the way you understand it.”
Murphy: “How, then, could you have borne testimony that you saw and heard an angel?”
Whitmer: “Have you never had impressions?”
Murphy: “Then you had impressions as the quaker when the spirit moves, or as a good Methodist in giving a happy experience, a feeling?”
Whitmer: “Just so.”

In concluding his interview to his audience (the editor of the Hamilton, Missouri newspaper), John Murphy stated:

“My impression, which I think to be as good as his or his angel, is that he ought to reconsider and contradict his former testimony to a delusion or perhaps a cunning scheme being a fact which has resulted in so much woe to many, and as he seems to be nearly 80 years old, he ought not to delay.”

[Interview with John Murphy, June 1880, Early Mormon Documents, vol. 5, 63]

David Whitmer's Interview with Joseph Smith III

The Saints Herald, January 28, 1936

The portion of memoirs with the interview was dictated by Joseph Smith III to his son, Israel A., on 13 October 1913. Following the former's death in 1914, his memoirs were published serially in the Saints Herald. This portion was published on January 28, 1939.

“Whitmer was interviewed by Joseph Smith III, in the presence of others, not all of whom were disposed to believe his account. Significantly, he listed several items that he had seen, besides the golden plates:

Rather suggestively [Colonel Giles] asked if it might not have been possible that he, Mr. Whitmer, had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance, or hallucination, which had deceived them into thinking he saw the Personage, the Angel, the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the sword of Laban. How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height—a little over six feet—and said, in solemn and impressive tones: "No, sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!"

[Interview with Joseph Smith III et al. (Richmond, Missouri, July 1884), originally published in The Saints' Herald (28 January 1936) and reprinted in Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews, 134—35, emphasis in the original.] See also [EMD, vol 5, 123]

E. L. Kelley & Clark Braden

1884

David Whitmer next. He destroys his testimony by the yarns he tells, and his contradictious. He tells that Joe took him into a field, on Whitmer's father's farm, and showed him the plates lying on the ground. He tells us that the angel showed them to his (Whitmer's) mother. That the angels sowed eleven acres of plaster to enable him to go to Pennsylvania to move Joe (Lucy Smith's history, pp. 144, 145). That he was miraculously enabled to do two heavy days' work in less than one day (id.) That the angels plowed seven acres for him in the night (autobiography of Joe Smith, p. 740). That Moroni trudged alongside of the wagon as he was moving Smith, sweating like an old tramp, lugging the plates. 

The person who will be fool enough to have any confidence in the story of such a man after reading such monstrous and silly lies, may do so, people of sense will not. In Times and Seasons, Vol. I., pages 81 , 82, 83, 84 as quoted above. Imposter Joe declares that Cowdery and Whitmer were studiously engaged in circulating false and slanderous reports and plotting to rob the Saints, Rigdon and 83 other leading Mormons, as quoted above, denounce Whitmer as beinga member of a gang of thieves, counterfeiters and blacklegs of the deepest dye. Page 83 of the Times and Seasons Imposter Joe says: "Poor Phelps, who professes to be much of a prophet, has no other dumb beast to ride but David Whitmer, or to forbid his madness when he goes up to curse Israel. Bub this ass (not being of the same kind as Baalam's), therefore notwithstanding the angel appeared unto him, yet he cannot sufficiently penetrate his understanding, but that he (Whitmer) brays out curses instead of blessings. Poor ass, whoever lives will see him and his rider perish like those who perished in the gainsaying of Noah." A sweet scented witness, according- to God's vicegerent Imposter Joe. Whitmer has repeatedly stated to his neighbors in Richmond, Mo., that his statement was a lie. That the only angel he saw was a man by the name of Angell.

[Link to original source]

David Whitmer's Interview with Zenas H. Gurley

14 January 1885

Questions asked of David Whitmer at his home in Richmond Ray County Mo – January 14 – 1885. relating to Book of Mormon, and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of L D. S. by Elder Z H Gurley.

Zenas: Do you know that the plates seen with the Angel (on the table) were real metal, did you touch them?

David: We did not touch nor handle the plates.

Zenas: Was the table literal wood; or was the whole a vision such as often occurs in dreams &c?

David: The table had the appearance of literal wood as shown in the vision, in the glory of God.

Zenas: Did you see the Urim and Thummim, what was it?

David: I saw the “Interpreters” in the holy vision, They looked like whitish stones put in the rim of a bow, looked like spectacles only much larger.

Zenas: Who was the Angel that showed the plates to you and Cowdery and have these plates been seen since?

David: I do not know as no name was given. I have never seen the plates since.

An Address to All Believers in Christ

1887

In his own publication titled An Address to All Believers in Christ, David Whitmer had a perfect opportunity to give his own personal recollection of seeing the golden plates, however, he does not do this. 

Instead, he copied both witnesses statements as they stood in the Book of Mormon (pg 13) and in another place he quotes a Richmond, Missouri newspaper that stated: “There is no doubt that Mr. Whitmer, who was one of the three witnesses of the authenticity of the gold plates, from which he asserts that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon… is firmly convinced of its divine origin…” {pg. 10)

Without expounding on his experience, in this same pamphlet, David Whitmer proclaimed the following:

“It is recorded in the American Cyclopaedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, that I, David Whitmer, have denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon; and that the other two witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, denied their testimony to that Book. I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery or Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died reaffirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I was present at the death bed of Oliver Cowdery, and his last words were, "Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Booh of Mormon” (pg. 8)

 

On March, 1881, David Whitmer responded to John Murphy’s claims. 

“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 I What is written is written, and he that readeth let him understand.” [The Richmond Conservator, 24, March, 1881; published in An Address To All Believers in Christ]

"We do not indorse the teachings of any of the so-called Mormons or Latter Day Saints, which are in conflict with the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as taught in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. They have departed in a great measure from the faith of the Church of Christ as it was first established, by heeding revelations given through Joseph Smith, who, after being called of God to translate his sacred word — the Book of Mormon — drifted into many errors and gave many revelations to introduce doctrines, ordinances and offices in the church, which are in conflict with Christ's teachings."

[Link to original source]

In Early Mormon Documents vol. 5, Dan Vogel pointed out that, “as the editor of the Kingston Times subsequently noted, ‘the studious reader will fail to see wherein Mr. Murphy alleges that Elder Whitmer denies being a witness’ (April 1881, as cited in Saints' Herald 35 [21 January 1888]: 35).”

David Whitmer Interview with Anthony Metcalf

1888

In response to a question by Anthony Metcalf, Whitmer attempted to clarify the "spiritual" versus "natural" viewing of the plates:

“In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us Three Witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: 

Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time. Martin Harris, you say, called it 'being in vision.' We read in the Scriptures, Cornelius saw, in a vision, an angel of God. Daniel saw an angel in a vision, also in other places it states they saw an angel in the spirit. A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled at noon day, and there in a vision, or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon. I am now passed eighty-two years old, and I have a brother, J. J. Snyder, to do my writing for me, at my dictation. [Signed] David Whitmer.”

[Letter of David Whitmer to Anthony Metcalf, March 1887, cit. Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast (Malad, Idaho, 1888) p. 74]

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