Other Witnesses

Other people beside these eleven witnesses also claimed to have seen Joseph Smith's golden plates.

Josiah Stowell

Josiah Stowell

December 19, 1843

According to himself, Josiah Stowell was the very first person to ever see the plates. In a letter from Martha Campbell to Joseph Smith, written on December 19, 1843 she wrote:

“..if I under stood him wright he was the first person that took the Plates out of your hands the mornig morning you brough[t] them in & he observed blessed is he that seeth & believeeth & more blessed is he that believeeth without seeing & says he has seen & believeed..”

[Letter from Martha Campbell, December 19, 1843]

Josiah Stowell

November 7, 1832

In the New England Christian Herald on November 7, 1832 one of Joseph Smith’s court trials was published (sumer 1830) and in it we learn more about Josiah Stowell’s observation of the plates. It read:

“Smith, the prisoner, went in the night, and brought the Bible, (as Smith said;) witness saw a corner of it; it resembled a stone of a greenish caste; should judge it to have been about one foot square and six inches thick; he would not let it be seen by any one; the Lord had commanded him not; it was unknown to Smith, that witness saw a corner of the Bible, so called by Smith; told the witness the leaves were of gold; there were written characters on the leaves;”

There are some problems with this testimony:

  • Joseph had said that if anyone were to look upon the plates they would instantly die, yet Stowell did not.
  • Stowell described the plates as being “greenish,” yet no one else describes them this way.
  • Joseph was unaware that Stowell saw the plates
  • Stowell had to be told that the leaves were gold and that there were characters written on them.

 

In March 1829 Joseph Smith received the following revelation from the Lord (which is modern day D&C 5):

“Behold I say unto you that my servant hath desired A witness that my Servant Joseph hath got the things which he hath testified that he hath got and now Behold thus shall ye say unto him I the Lord am God I have given these things unto him & I have commanded him that he should stand as A witness of these things nevertheless I have caused him that he should enter into A covenant with me that he should not show them except I Command him…”

[Revelation, March 1829]

 

In the History of the Church, Joseph Smith recorded that:

“Again he [the Lord] told me that when I got those plates of which he had spoken (for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled) I should not show <​them​> to any person, neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummin only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them, If I did I should be destroyed.”

[History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 (23 December 1805-30 August 1834), pg. 6] Also found in [History of the Church volume 1, pg, 13]

Lucy Mack Smith

Lucy Mack Smith

1842

Reverend Henry Caswall published a book in 1842 in which he interviewed Lucy Mack Smith. He had gone to her house to see the mummies. Lucy stated:

I have myself seen and handled the golden plates; they are about eight inches long, and six wide; some of them are sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose. They are all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate, and are covered with letters beautifully engraved. I have seen and felt also the Urim and Thummim. They resemble two large bright diamonds set in a bow like a pair of spectacles. My son puts these over his eyes when he reads unknown languages, and they enable him to interpret them in English. I have likewise carried in my hands the sacred breastplate. It is composed of pure gold, and is made to fit the breast very exactly."

The following paragraph from Caswall is noteworthy. 

“While the old woman was thus delivering herself, I fixed my eyes steadily upon her. She faltered, and seemed unwilling to meet my glance; but gradually recovered her self-possession. The melancholy thought entered my mind, that this poor old creature was not simply a dupe of her son’s knavery; but that she had taken an active part in the deception.”

[Reverend Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons, or, Three days at Nauvoo, pg. 27] 

Lucy Mack Smith

On the church's own website they do not claim that Lucy Mack Smith ever saw the golden plates. They say only that "

In her autobiography Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors published in 1853, Lucy says nothing about having seen the golden plates, though she does describe the various place where Joseph hid them. 

Lucy Mack Smith

1831; 1845 (1853)

In her autobiography Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors written in 1845 and published in 1853, Lucy says nothing about having seen the golden plates. 

[Lucy Mack Smith, History 1845]

Even in a letter written to her brother Solomon Mack on January 6, 1831, she does not mention handling the plates (nor does she mention the first vision).

[Lucy Mack Smith letter to Solomon Mack, January 6, 1831]

Lucy Mack Smith

Letter from Sally Parker
August 26, 1838

In a letter written by a woman named Sally Parker on August 26th, 1838 she says, “I asked her [Lucy Smith] if she saw the plates. She said no, it was not for her to see them, but she hefted and handled them and I believed all she said for I lived by her eight months and she was one of the best women.” 

[“The Scripture is a Fulfilling”: Sally Parker’s Weave]

Catharine Smith

The Saints' Herald

January 11, 1954

In 1954 a woman named Mary Salisbury Hancock published a story titled “The Three Sisters of the Prophet Joseph Smith” in which she relayed this story:

“When Joseph was bringing the plates home from their hiding place to work on the translation he was followed to his father’s very door at one time by some men who were determined to get ‘Joe Smith’s Gold Plates’ as they were called. Ever watchful for her brother’s safety and hearing an unusual commotion outside Catherine flew to the door and threw it open just as Joseph came rushing up, panting for breath. He thrust a bundle into her arms, and in a gasping voice whispered hoarsely, “These these quickly and hide them,” then he disappeared quickly into the darkness. Closing the door Catherine ran hurriedly to the bedroom where she and Sophronia slept. Sophronia threw back the bedding and Catherine put the bundle on the bed, quickly replacing the bedding. Both of them lay down on the bed and pretended sleep. The mob, failing to find Joseph outside, returned to the house to search, but they did not disturb the girls since they appeared to be sleeping.”

[The Saints’ Herald, January 11, 1954, pg 12]

William Smith

William Smith

May 1, 1921

In an interview with William Smith, it was recorded:

“He [William] said he had hefted the plates as they lay on the table wrapped in an old frock or jacket in which Joseph <h>ad brought them home. That he had thum[b]ed them through the cloth and ascertained that they were thin sheets of some kind of metal. When asked why he had not uncovered them he said they were told not to do so unless the Lord would give permission, that they were the property of an angel and had received strict commandments] with regard to that matter. Bro. Pender remarked that most people would ha[v]e examined them any way. The old man suddenly straightened [straightened] up and leek looked intently at him and said. The Lord knew he could trust Joseph and as for the rest of the family we had no desire to transgress the commandment of the Lord but on the other hand was exceeding anxious to do al<l> we we were commanded to do.” [“Statement of J. W. Peterson Concerning William Smith,” 1 May 1921, Miscellaneous Letters and Papers, RLDS Church Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri]

Mary Whitmer

Mary Whitmer

Deseret News, November 27, 1878

In the "Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith" we find an interview they had with David Whitmer, part of which says the following:

"Sometime after this, my mother was going to milk the cows, when she was met out near the yard by the same old man (judging by her description of him) who said to her, 'You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tried because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened?' Thereupon he showed her the plates. My father and mother had a large family of their own, the addition to it therefore of Joseph, his wife Emma and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother. And although she had never complained she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much, or at least she was perhaps beginning to feel so. This circumstance, however, completely removed all such feelings, and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities."

The "old man" David references comes earlier in the interview, when he and Oliver and Joseph passed a man on the way to the Whitmer home. The man said he was heading to Cumorah (which David did not understand at the time). David described the man as being "about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches tall and heavy set, about such a man as James Vancleave there, but heavier, his face was as large, he was dressed in a suit of brown woolen clothes, his hair and bear were white like Brother Pratt's, but his beard was not so heavy." David feels certain that the old man was Moroni, despite Mary Whitmer always calling him "Brother Nephi." If it was indeed Moroni, why did Joseph Smith never describe him that way? 

[Deseret News, November 27, 1878, pg. 674]

Mary Whitmer

The Historical Record, 1888

Still another witness.

If the statements of persons who have always been considered reliable and truthful can be taken as authority, there is, besides the eleven witnesses of the Book of Mormon, still another one, who testifies to having seen the plates. This person is a woman, and if her statement is reliable, she is the only woman on earth who has ever enjoyed the privilege of seeing the holy treasure. Her name is Mary Musselman Whitmer, familiarly known as Mother Whitmer, she being the wife of Peter Whitmer, sen., and mother of five of the witnesses. Her son, David Whitmer, before his death, testified on several occasions that his mother had seen the plates, and when the writer visited Richmond, Missouri, a few weeks ago, John C. Whitmer, a grandson of the lady in question testified in the following language:

 

“I have heard my grandmother (Mary M. Whitmer) say on several occasion that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by an holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi. (She undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge.) It was at the time, she said, when the translation was going on at the house of the elder Peter Whitmer, her husband, Joseph Smith and his wife and Oliver Cowdery, whom David Whitmer a short time previous had brought up from Harmony, Pennsylvania, were all boarding with the Whitmers, and my grandmother in having so many extra persons to care for, besides her own large household, was often overloaded with work to such an extent that she felt it to be quite a burden. One evening, when  (after having done her usual day’s work in the house) she went to the barn to milk the cows, she met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone, and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house, she was filled with unexpressible joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which we hold her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell. From that moment my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, and she felt no more inclination to murmur because her lot was hard. I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death.”

[The Historical Record, vol. 7:621, Edited by Andrew Jensen]

Mary Whitmer

Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, 1901

WHITMER, Mary Musselman, the only woman who saw the plates of the Book of Mormon… Her son, David Whitmer. before his death, testified on several occasions that his mother had seen the plates, and when Elders Edward Stevenson and Andrew Jenson visited Richmond, Missouri, in ISSS, John C. Whitmer, a grandson of the lady in question, testified in the following language: 

"I have heard my grandmother (Mary Musselman Whitmer) say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi. (She undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge.) It was at the time, she said, when the translation was going on at the house of the elder Peter Whitmer, her husband. Joseph Smith with his wife and Oliver Cowdery. whom David Whitmer a short time previous had brought up from Harmony, Pennsylvania, were all boarding with the Whitmers, and my grandmother in having so many extra persons to care for, besides her own large household, was often overloaded with work to such an extent that she felt it to be quite a burden. 

One evening when (after having done her usual day's work in the house) she went to the barn to milk the cows, she met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house, she was filled with unexpressible joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where be went, she could not tell. From that moment my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, and she felt no more inclination to murmur because her lot was hard. I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death." Mother Whitmer died in Richmond, Ray county, Missouri, in January, 1856. (See also sketch of David Whitmer and Peter Whitmer; "Historical Record," Vol. 7, p. 621; "Juvenile Instructor," Vol 24 p. 22.)

[LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 283]

Whitmer Family History

Retold by Mary's granddaughter in 1958

The experience of Mother Whitmer would have been known by family members, and Elvira was an interested teenager at that time. This is the way the story appears in our family history:

“Elvira Pamela Mills”, Cox Bulletin II (1958), written by Orville Cox Day (O C Day): Grandma stopped telling a story of Mother Whitmer till 1900 when B. H. Roberts printed it in his “New Witness for God.” Then she said, “I’m so glad I can tell it again.”

David Whitmer had invited Joseph and Oliver to live in his father’s home while translating the Book of Mormon. When Oliver’s hand and Joseph’s eye grew tired they went to the woods for a rest. There they often skated rocks on the pond.

Mary Whitmer, with five grown sons and a husband to care for, besides visitors, often grew tired. She thought they might just as well carry her bucket of water or chop a bit of wood as to skate rocks on a pond.

She was about to order them out of her home.

One morning, just at daybreak, she came out of her cow stable with two full buckets of milk in her hands, when a short, heavy-set, gray haired man carrying a package met her and said, “My name is Moroni. You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do. The Lord has given me permission to show you this record:” turning the golden leaves one by one!

[Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates]

Church History Video

On Mar 19, 2018, the Church posted a video describing Mary Whitmer's witness of the golden plates:

Mary Whitmer hosted many early Saints during the translation of the Book of Mormon and when the Church was formally organized at a meeting in her home. Elisabeth Westwood introduces Mary's story and explains how it's spoken to her as a Latter-day Saint dealing with depression.

Mary Whitmer

Mary Whitmer’s story of seeing the golden plates while working in the barn (see the film clip below), has been recorded multiple times and is shared often by the Church to promote the literal existence of the plates.

1958 - Mary’s granddaughter retold the story and it was recorded in their family’s records

1901 - The Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia

1886 - Historical Record

1878 - Deseret News

The Deseret News story was the earliest accounting of this story, 49 years after the event would have taken place. [Note: Mary Whitmer always called the angel “Nephi.”

E. L. Kelley & Clark Braden

1884

On page 509 Moroni prophecies that the one who finds these plates shall show them to three persons. Joe showed them to eleven. David Whitmer, says Moroni, showed them to his mother, and Emma Smith says she saw them for days on the table and handled them only covered with a thin cloth, and, strange daughter of Eve that she was, she never "peeked" under that cloth. With all our respect for the "Elect Lady" we can not swallow such a miracle as that

[Link to original source]

Lucy Harris

Lucy Harris

1853

In Lucy Mack Smith’s autobiography she tells of an experience that Martin Harris’ wife, Lucy Harris, had concerning the golden plates.

“The next morning, soon after she arose, she related a very remarkable dream which she said she had had during the night. It ran about as follows. She said that a personage appeared to her, who told her, that as she had disputed the servant of the Lord, and said his word was not to be believed, and had also asked him many improper questions, she had done that which was not right in the sight of God. After which he said to her, “Behold, here are the plates, look upon them, and believe.”

After giving us an account of her dream, she described the Record very minutely, then told us that she had made up her mind in relation to the course which she intended to pursue, namely that she had in her possession twenty-eight dollars which she received from her mother just before she died, while she was on her death bed, and that Joseph should accept of it. If he would he might give his note, but he should certainly take it upon some terms. 

[Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph Smith the Prophet, and his Progenitors” 1852, p. 112]

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