Life, Character and Testimonies of The Eight Witnesses to the Book of Mormon And Other Statements and Testimonies Relating To the Book of Mormon
Biographies in Preston Nibley Witnesses of the Book of Mormon Deseret Book Co., 1958
BIOGRAPHIES OF THE EIGHT WITNESSES TO THE BOOK OF MORMON
CHRISTIAN WHITMER One of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon was the eldest son of Peter Whitmer, Sen., and Mary Musselman, and was born January 18, 1798, in Pennsylvania. He removed while quite young, with his parents, from Pennsylvania to Seneca County, western New York, where he married Anne Schott, February 22, 1825.
He was among the number who first embraced the fullness of the gospel as revealed through the youthful Prophet, and was baptized, together with his wife in Seneca Lake, April 11, 1830, by Elder Oliver Cowdery. This was only five days after the Church was organized. As early as June, 1830, he held the office of teacher in the Church and was ordained an elder in 1831. In that year he removed with the rest of the Whitmer family and the Saints generally from New York State to Ohio, and the following year to Jackson County, Missouri, where, at a council meeting held September 15, 1832, he was appointed to preside over the elders in Jackson County. In a council of high priests held August 21, 1833, he was ordained a high priest by Simeon Carter. He passed through all the scenes of persecutions and mobbings which took place in that part of the country until, in connection with the rest of the Saints, he was driven out of Jackson County in November, 1833. He settled temporarily in Clay County, where he was chosen as one of the high councilors of the Church in Missouri, July 3, 1834. This position he occupied until his death, which occurred in Clay County, November 27, 1835.
He was faithful and true until the last, and always bore a strong testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. He left no children. After his demise his wife returned to her parents in New York State, where she married again, but was later divorced from her second husband. She died many years ago in Seneca County, New York. (See Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:276-283.)
JACOB WHITMER One of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon, was the second son of Peter Whitmer, Sen., and Mary Musselman, and was born in Pennsylvania January 27, 1800. He removed with his parents to New York State when a boy, and married Elizabeth Schott, September 29, 1825. They became the parents of nine children, of whom only two were alive in the year 1888.
Jacob Whitmer was one of the first of his father’s family to become convinced that the principles revealed by the Prophet Joseph Smith were true, and, together with his wife, he was baptized by Oliver Cowdery, in Seneca Lake, April 11, 1830, a few days after the Church was organized. With the other members of the Whitmer family he removed to Ohio in 1831, and subsequently settled in Jackson County, Missouri, from whence he was driven by a mob in 1833. He was also identified with the Church in Clay and Caldwell counties. In the latter county he acted a short time as a temporary high councilor and also as a member of the building committee for the erection of the Lord’s House at Far West.
He severed his connection with the Church in 1838, after which he settled near Richmond, Ray County, where he remained until his death on April 21, 1856. He was 56 years, 2 months and 26 days old at the time of his demise. He was a shoemaker by trade and also owned a small farm.
One of his sons, David P. Whitmer, was a lawyer of considerable prominence and served one or more terms as mayor of Richmond. One of his daughters, Mrs. Mary Ann Bisbee, widow of the late J. P. Bisbee, lived in 1888 near Richmond, Missouri, and had been a widow for a number of years. John C. Whitmer, his only remaining son, also lived about a mile south of Richmond in 1888. He was then the custodian of the original Church record which his uncle John Whitmer refused to give up to the proper authorities, and he also presided over the so-called “Whitmer Faction,” or the Church of Christ, which accepts some of the doctrines taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Jr.].
John C. Whitmer testified to Elder Andrew Jenson in September, 1888, as follows: “My father (Jacob Whitmer) was always faithful and true to his testimony in regard to the Book of Mormon, and confirmed it on his deathbed.” From other sources it is known that Jacob Whitmer ever remained firm and steadfast to his testimony of the divinity of that sacred record. [See Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, l:276.]
PETER WHITMER, JUNIOR One of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon was the fifth son of Peter Whitmer, Sen., and Mary Musselman, and was born September 27, 1809, in Fayette, Seneca County, New York. Soon after Joseph’s arrival at Fayette from Pennsylvania the summer of 1829, Peter became a zealous friend of the Prophet and an able assistant in the translation of the Book of Mormon. He earnestly desired that Joseph would inquire of the Lord for him in order that he might know his duties and the Lord’s will concerning him. The Prophet did so through the Urim and Thummim, and received a revelation commanding Peter to preach repentance to this generation (D&C 16). This was in June, 1829. About the same time he was baptized by Oliver Cowdery in Seneca Lake, being at that time less than twenty years of age.
In September, 1830, he was called by revelation (D&C 30) to preach the gospel, together with Oliver Cowdery, and in the following month he was chosen by revelation to accompany Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery and Ziba Peterson on a mission to the Lamanites (D&C 32). They started for the West soon afterwards, and had an eventful journey, fraught with many hardships and much suffering. In Kirtland, Ohio, they raised up a large branch, after which they traveled nearly one thousand miles through mud and snow, mostly on foot, to Jackson County, Missouri, where they arrived in the early part of 1831. While Parley P. Pratt and Oliver Cowdery commenced a mission among the Lamanites across the borders, Peter Whitmer, Jun., and another missionary companion, found employment as tailors in the town of Independence, remaining there until the arrival of Joseph Smith and a number of the brethren in July following. Subsequently Peter Whitmer, Jun., took an active part with the Saints in Jackson County, where he was ordained a high priest October 25, 1831, by Oliver Cowdery. He suffered together with the rest of the Saints during the Jackson County persecutions in 1833, and was among those who found a temporary home in Clay County.
He took sick and died on a farm about two miles from Liberty, Clay County, September 22, 1836, and was buried by the side of his brother Christian, who had died about ten months previously. He had been ill for a number of years previous to his demise. He left a wife and three children, all daughters, one of them being born after his death. Like all the other witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Peter Whitmer, Jun., was true and faithful to his testimony until his death. [See Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:277.]
JOHN WHITMER The third son of Peter Whitmer, Sen., and Mary Musselman, was born August 27, 1802. He was baptized by Oliver Cowdery in Seneca Lake in June, 1829, soon after Joseph Smith’s [Jr.] arrival in Seneca County from Pennsylvania. His brothers David and Peter were baptized about the same time.
John Whitmer assisted Joseph Smith [Jr.,] and Oliver Cowdery considerably in writing while they were translating the latter part of the Book of Mormon in his father’s house. In the meantime he became very zealous in the work, and according to his earnest desire, Joseph inquired concerning him through the Urim and Thummim, and received a revelation in which he was commanded to declare repentance and bring souls unto Christ (D&C 15). He was closely connected with the Prophet in his early administrations, and accompanied him on his first missionary trips to Colesville, Broome County, where a large branch of the Church was built up in the midst of considerable persecution. He was also present at the little meeting at Harmony, Pennsylvania, in August, 1830, when the revelation concerning the sacrament was given (D&C 27).
In September, 1830, he was called by revelation to preach the gospel and to labor continuously in the interest of Zion (D&C 30), and on March 8, 1831, he was chosen by revelation to labor as a historian for the Church (D&C 47). Again in November, 1831, he was called by revelation (D&C 69) to accompany Oliver Cowdery to Jackson County, Missouri, with the revelations which he had previously assisted Joseph [Smith, Jr.] in copying and preparing for printing. He was also one of the “seven high priests sent up from Kirtland to build up Zion” to stand at the head of the Church in Jackson County, Missouri, and at the time of the persecutions was a member of the committee who negotiated with the mob and agreed that the Saints should leave Jackson County. Later we find his name attached to petitions addressed to Governor Dunklin of Missouri, praying for redress and protection against mob violence.
In Clay County he was again quite active and his name appears in connection with several important documents and in the correspondence of the Church at that time. Next to his brother David, John was the most prominent and able man among the Whitmers, and rendered efficient service to the Church in various ways as long as he remained faithful. July 3, 1834, he was ordained one of the assistant-presidents of the Church in Clay County, his brother David being ordained president on the same occasion. Some time afterwards John paid a visit to Kirtland, Ohio, where he acted as a high councilor and took an active part in the affairs of the Church as one of the presiding officers from Missouri. He was present at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, and received his blessings and anointings under the hands of the First Presidency, after which he returned to Missouri. At a meeting of high priests held in Far West, Missouri, April 7, 1837, he was appointed to act as a member of a committee for the sale of town lots in Far West.
At a conference held in Far West, November 7, 1837, objections were made to John Whitmer as one of the assistant-presidents of the Church in Missouri, but after he had made confessions he was temporarily sustained in his position. On February 5, 1838, however, he was finally rejected, together with his brother David Whitmer and William W. Phelps, the other two presidents of the Church in Missouri. John was excommunicated from the Church by the high council at Far West, March 10, 1838, “for persisting in unchristian-like conduct.”
After his excommunication from the Church, John Whitmer refused to deliver the Church documents in his possession to the proper authorities, which gave occasion for quite a severe letter from Joseph Smith [Jr.] and Sidney Rigdon. The records, however, were never obtained; they are now (1888) in the custody of John C. Whitmer (a nephew of John Whitmer), who resides in Richmond, Missouri.
After the fall of Far West, John took advantage of the cheap rates at which the lands that the Saints were compelled to leave, could be bought, and succeeded in purchasing the principal part of the old townsite. When he died at his residence at Far West, July 11, 1878, he was known as an extensive farmer and stock-raiser. Although he never joined the Church again after his excommunication in 1838, he was always true to his testimony in regard to the Book of Mormon. Even in his darkest days, and at the time he first turned his back upon the Church and the Prophet Joseph, he declared in the presence of a number of Missourians–enemies to the work of God–that he knew the Book of Mormon was true. His nephew, John C. Whitmer, of Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, who was with him a few days before his death, testifies that he bore testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon until the last, which is corroborated by many others who visited him on various occasions previous to that time.
John Whitmer was the father of four children, three sons and one daughter. One of his sons died when about ten years old and another was killed in the Civil War. His only remaining son, Jacob D. Whitmer, lived on the old Far West site, and owned one of the best farms in that part of the country, including the temple block, which he inherited from his father. John’s only daughter also lived in Far West, on the old homestead, a little east of Jacob D. Whitmer’s residence. [See Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:251.]
HIRAM PAGE One of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon was born in the state of Vermont in the year 1800. He commenced the study of medicine when quite young, and later traveled considerably in the state of New York and in Canada as a physician. Finally he located in Seneca County, New York, where he became acquainted with the Whitmer family, and finally married Catherine Whitmer (a daughter of Peter Whitmer and Mary Musselman) November 10, 1825. Nine children were born to them.
Having become a firm believer in the fullness of the gospel as revealed through the Prophet Joseph [Smith, Jr.], he was baptized by Oliver Cowdery in Seneca Lake, on April 11, 1830. His wife was baptized at the same time. Soon afterwards he came in possession of a stone by which he obtained certain revelations concerning the order of the Church and other matters, which were entirely at variance with the New Testament and the revelations received by Joseph Smith. This happened at a time when Joseph was absent, and when he heard of it, it caused him much uneasiness, as a number of the Saints, including Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family, believed in the things revealed by Hiram Page. At a conference held in September, 1830, when Joseph presided, this matter was given close attention, and after considerable investigation Hiram Page, as well as all the other members who were present, renounced everything connected with the stone.
In 1831, Hiram Page removed to Kirtland, Ohio, where he remained until the following year, when he settled in Jackson County, Missouri, near the town of Independence. During the persecutions of the Saints in Jackson County in 1833, he was selected, together with three others, to go to Lexington to see the circuit judge and obtain a peace warrant. Upon their affidavits, Judge John F. Ryland issued writs against some of the ringleaders of the mob, to be placed in the hands of the Jackson County sheriff, but these writs never accomplished any good. After the expulsion from Jackson County, Brother Page took an active part with the Saints in Clay County, and in 1836 he became one of the founders of Far West, Caldwell County.
In 1838 he severed his connection with the Church and subsequently removed to Ray County, where he remained until the end of his earthly career. He died August 12, 1852, on his farm near the present site of Excelsior Springs, about fourteen miles northwest of Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, and near the boundary line between Ray and Clay Counties. Of his nine children, only four were living in 1888. His eldest living son, Philander Page, resided at that time two and a half miles south of Richmond. Another son lived nearby, and a daughter resided in Carroll County, Missouri.
JOSEPH SMITH, SENIOR The first Presiding Patriarch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and father of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Jr.,] was born July 12, 1771, in Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts. He was the second of the seven sons of Asael and Mary Smith. Asael was born in Topsfield, March 7, 1744; he was the youngest son of Samuel and Priscilla Smith. Samuel was born January 26, 1714, in Topsfield; he was the eldest son of Samuel and Rebecca Smith. Samuel was born in Topsfield, January 26, 1666, and was the son of Robert and Mary Smith, who emigrated from Old England.
Joseph Smith, Sen., removed with his father to Tunbridge, Orange County, Vermont, in 1791, and assisted in clearing a large farm of a heavy growth of timber. He married Lucy, daughter of Solomon and Lydia Mack, on January 24, 1796, by whom he had 10 children, namely:
Alvin Born February 11, 1798
Hyrum Born February 9, 1800
Sophronia Born May 16, 1803
Joseph Born December 23, 1805
Samuel Harrison Born March 13, 1808
Ephraim Born March 13, 1810
Born March 13, 1811
Catherine Born July 28, 1812
Don Carlos Born March 25, 1816
Lucy Born July 18, 1821
At his marriage he owned a substantial farm in Tunbridge. In 1802 he rented it and engaged in the mercantile business, and soon after embarked in a venture of ginseng to send to China, and was swindled out of the entire proceeds by the shipmaster and agent; he was consequently obliged to sell his farm and all of his effects to pay his debts.
. . . [In] the year 1816 he moved to Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, [and about 1818] bought a farm [in Manchester] and cleared one hundred acres, which he lost in consequence of not being able to pay the last installment of the purchase price at the time it was due. This was the case with a great number of farmers in New York who had cleared land under similar contracts. He afterwards moved to . . . Waterloo, New York, where he lived until he removed to Kirtland, Ohio.
He was the first person who heard his son Joseph’s testimony after he had seen the angel [in 1823], and exhorted him to be faithful and diligent in obeying the instructions he had received. He was baptized April 6, 1830. Prior to this time he had become one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.
In August, 1830, in company with his son, Don Carlos, he took a mission to St. Lawrence County, New York, touching on his route at several of the Canadian ports, where he distributed a few copies of the Book of Mormon, visited his father, brothers and sisters residing in St. Lawrence County, bore testimony to the truth, which resulted eventually in all the family coming into the Church, excepting his brother Jesse and sister Susan.
He removed with his family to Kirtland in 1831, was ordained patriarch and president of the high priesthood, under the hands of Joseph Smith, [Jr.], Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, on December 18, 1833, and was a member of the first high council, organized in Kirtland, Ohio, February 17, 1834.
In 1836 he traveled in company with his brother John, 2,400 miles in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and New Hampshire, visiting the branches of the Church in those states, and bestowing patriarchal blessings on several hundred persons, preaching the gospel to all who would hear, and baptizing many. They returned to Kirtland, October 2, 1836.
During the persecutions in Kirtland in 1837 [-1838], he was made a prisoner, but fortunately obtained his liberty, and after a very tedious journey in the spring and summer of 1838, he arrived at Far West, Missouri. After his sons Hyrum and Joseph were thrown into the Missouri jails by the mob, he fled from under the exterminating order of Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, and made his escape in midwinter to Quincy, Illinois, from whence he removed to Commerce in the spring of 1839, and thus became one of the founders of Nauvoo.
The exposures he suffered brought on consumption, of which he died September 14, 1840, aged 69 years, two months and two days. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall, very straight, and remarkably well proportioned. His ordinary weight was about 200 pounds, and he was very strong and active. In his younger days he was famed as a wrestler. He was one of the most benevolent of men, opening his house to all who were destitute. While at Quincy, Illinois, he fed hundreds of the poor Saints who were fleeing from the Missouri persecutions, although he had arrived there penniless himself. [See Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, l:181.]
HYRUM SMITH Patriarch of the whole Church and brother to the Prophet Joseph, [Smith, Jr.], was born in Tunbridge, Vermont, February 9, 1800, and married Jerusha Barden November 2, 1826, by whom he had six children: Lovina, Mary, John, Hyrum, Jerusha and Sarah.
Hyrum’s wife died on the 13th of October, 1837, while he was absent at Far West, Missouri. He was married to Mary Fielding the same year, by whom he had two children, Joseph F. and Martha. Like his brother Joseph, Hyrum spent his early years in agricultural labors, and nothing of particular note characterized that period of his life. He became a believer in his brother Joseph’s mission, and by him was baptized in Seneca Lake, in June, 1829. He was one of the eight persons permitted to view the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and his name is prefixed to it as a witness. On November 7, 1837, at a conference assembled in Far West, Missouri, he was appointed second counselor to President Joseph Smith, [Jr.] instead of Frederick G. Williams who was rejected.
On January 19, 1841, he was called by revelation to take the office of patriarch to the whole Church, to which he had been appointed by his deceased father by blessing and also by birthright, and was likewise appointed a prophet, seer and revelator. He was personally connected with many of the principal events of the Church up to the time of his death, and in the various offices he filled, won the love and esteem of all persons. In the revelation calling him to be the chief patriarch, the Lord thus spoke of him: “Blessed is my servant Hyrum Smith, for I the Lord love him, because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me, saith the Lord” (D&C 124:15). He was tenderly attached to his brother Joseph, whom he never left more than six months at one time during their lifetime. He was arrested with him at Far West, Missouri, and imprisoned with him at Liberty, and finally was assassinated with him at Carthage, Illinois, June 27, 1844. In this catastrophe he fell first, exclaiming, “I am a dead man,” and Joseph responding, “O, dear Brother Hyrum!”
In the Times and Seasons shortly after his death, there is the following beautiful eulogy: “He lived so far beyond the ordinary walk of man, that even the tongue of the vilest slanderer could not touch his reputation. He lived godly, and he died godly, and his murderers will yet have to confess that it would have been better for them to have had a millstone tied to them, and have been cast into the depths of the sea, and remain there while eternity goes and eternity comes, than to have robbed that noble man of heaven of his life.” At his death he held various military and civil offices in the Nauvoo Legion and in the municipality.
In 1901, his son, Joseph F. Smith, became the sixth president of the Church. [See Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:52.]
SAMUEL HARRISON SMITH The fourth son of Joseph Smith, [Sr.], and Lucy Mack, was born in the town of Tunbridge, Orange County, Vermont, March 13, 1808. In his early life he assisted his father in farming. He possessed a religious turn of mind, and at an early age joined the Presbyterian Church, to which sect he belonged until he visited his brother Joseph in Pennsylvania in May, 1829, when Joseph informed him that the Lord was about to commence his latter-day work. He also showed him that part of the Book of Mormon which he had translated, and labored to persuade him concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ, which was about to be revealed in its fullness.
Samuel was not, however, very easily persuaded of these things, but after much inquiry and explanation he retired and prayed that he might obtain from the Lord wisdom to enable him to judge for himself; the result was that he obtained revelation for himself sufficient to convince him of the truth of the testimony of his brother Joseph.
May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized, and as they were returning from the river to the house, they overheard Samuel engaged in secret prayer. Joseph said that he considered that a sufficient testimony of his being a fit subject for baptism; and as they had now received authority to baptize, they spoke to Samuel upon the subject, and he went straightway to the water with them, and was baptized by Oliver Cowdery, he being the third person baptized in the last dispensation. A short time later he became one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.
Samuel was present at the organization of the Church, April 6, 1830, and was one of the six who, at that time, constituted the first members of the Church. He was ordained to the priesthood on that day.
On the 30th of June, following the organization of the Church, Samuel took some Books of Mormon and started on his mission, to which he had been set apart by his brother Joseph, and on traveling twenty-five miles, which was his first day’s journey, he stopped at a number of places in order to sell his books, but was turned out-of-doors as soon as he declared his principles.
In December, 1830, Samuel was sent to preach in Kirtland, Ohio, and the surrounding country. In the beginning of 1831, Joseph, the Prophet, moved to Kirtland to preside, accompanied by Hyrum and many of the Saints, and soon after his father’s family and the Saints who were located in Fayette, near Waterloo, also moved to Kirtland.
In June, 1831, Samuel was called by revelation to go to Missouri on a mission, in company with Reynolds Cahoon. When they started for Missouri, about fifty brethren set out for the same place, and when they all arrived they met on the spot selected for the temple, in Jackson County.
Brothers [Samuel] Smith and [Reynolds] Cahoon spent several days in Jackson County, attended conferences, and were with Joseph when he received several revelations. While in Missouri they were requested to remain together on their mission until they reached home, which was in September following.
Soon after their arrival in Kirtland, they took a mission into the southern townships and counties of Ohio. Brother Cahoon returned after laboring about six weeks, but Samuel continued preaching through the winter, strengthening the churches and comforting the Saints.
In a revelation given in January, 1832, Orson Hyde and Samuel H. Smith were called to go on a mission to the Eastern country; accordingly they started in March, and traveled and preached the gospel through the states of Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. They returned to Kirtland in December.
February 17, 1834, Samuel was ordained and set apart as one of the high council in Kirtland, in which office he officiated until he went to Missouri in 1838.
On August 13, 1834, Samuel married Mary Bailey, who was born in Bedford, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, December 20, 1808.
In 1838 he traveled in company with his brother Joseph [Smith, Jr.] from Kirtland to Missouri. He passed through the mobbings of that year, in Far West and Adam-ondi-Ahman, Missouri, and his family suffered from exposure as they were driven out of the state by the mob.
Samuel arrived in Quincy, and was there to assist his father and mother over the river on their arrival. He rented a house for them, into which he also assisted four other families of the Saints.
Samuel’s wife died January 25, 1841. She was the mother of four children, namely: Susannah B., Mary B., Samuel Harrison B. and Lucy B.
In April, 1841, he was sent on a mission to preach the gospel in Scott and adjoining counties, Illinois.
May 3rd, he married Levira Clark, daughter of Gardner and Delecta Clark, born in Livonia, Livingston County, New York, July 30, 1815.
In the month of November he returned to Nauvoo, taking his family with him, where he remained during the winter and also the summer of 1842, during which time he worked mostly for Joseph, and harvested in the country.
In the fall of 1842 Samuel removed to his brother William’s tavern at Plymouth. In the summer of 1843 he was often at Nauvoo. In the fall he chopped wood, and prepared his farm by making fences and clearing off the timber, preaching the gospel in the vicinity as he had the opportunity.
In the spring of 1844 he cultivated his farm, and in June, having heard of the imprisonment of his brothers in Carthage Jail, he repaired thither on horseback to see them. While on the way he was pursued by the mobocrats; but in consequence of the fleetness of his horse, he was enabled to reach Carthage shortly after the tragedy. The following day he went to Nauvoo in company with the bodies of his martyred brothers.
About two weeks after the death of his brothers, Samuel suffered a severe illness and died on the 30th of July, 1844, aged 36 years.
The following extract is from his obituary notice, published in the Times and Seasons: “The exit of this worthy man, so soon after the horrible butchery of his brothers, Joseph and Hyrum, in Carthage Jail, is a matter of deep solemnity to the family, as well as a remediless loss to all. If ever there lived a good man upon the earth, Samuel H. Smith was that person. His labors in the Church from first to last, carrying glad tidings to the Eastern cities, and finally his steadfastness as one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and many saintly traits of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, shall be given of him hereafter, as a man of God.” [See Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:278.]
STATEMENT OF PRESIDENT BRIGHAMYOUNG REGARDING THE PLATESOF THE BOOK OF MORMONSource: Brigham Young in JofD 19:38.
[The following informative statement was made by President Young as part of a public address at Farmington, Utah, on 17 Jun 1877, two months prior to his death.]
I could relate many very singular circumstances. I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country. I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family. Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph [Smith, Jr.] when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.
When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than, probably, many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates–it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and His Christ.” I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. [Don] Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.
STATEMENT OF ORSON PRATT REGARDINGTHE WITNESSES OF THEBOOK OF MORMON Source: Orson Pratt in JofD 18:156-61. [Orson Pratt was baptized in the fall of 1830, the year in which the Book of Mormon was printed and the Church was organized. He was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph Smith and the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. The following remarks are from a sermon he delivered in 1877.]
In the first place, I will give you a very brief statement concerning the manner in which the Book of Mormon was found. In the year 1827, a young man, a farmer’s boy by the name of Joseph Smith, [Jr.] was visited by an holy angel, as he had been for several years prior to this time. But on this occasion, in the fall of 1827, he was permitted to take into his possession the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated–the angel gave them into his hands, permitted him to take them from the place of their deposit, and they were delivered to Mr. Smith by the angel of God. With this book, called the Book of Mormon, was a very curious instrument, such a one, probably, as no person had seen for many generations; it was called by the angel of God, the Urim and Thummim. We know that such an instrument existed in ancient times among the Jews and among the Israelites in the wilderness, and that it was used to inquire of the Lord. So sacred was that instrument in the days of Moses, that Aaron, the chief priest of the whole house of Israel, was commanded to place it within his breastplate, that when he should judge the tribes of the house of Israel, he should not judge by his own wisdom, but should inquire of the Lord by means of this instrument, and whatever decision the Lord, by aid of the Urim and Thummim, should give, all Israel should give heed to it. The same instrument was in use, many hundred years after the days of Aaron, by the Prophets of Israel. David inquired, by means of an instrument of that kind, concerning his enemies (who pursued him from city to city), asking the Lord certain questions–whether his enemies would come to the city where he happened to be, and whether he would be delivered up to them by the people of that city–and the Lord gave him all the necessary instruction, and by this means he was delivered out of the hands of his enemies from time to time.
But it seems that, before the coming of Christ, for some reason, probably through wickedness, the Urim and Thummim were taken away from the children of Israel, and a prophecy was uttered by one of the ancient prophets, before Christ, that they should be many days without a priest, without the Urim and Thummim, without the ephod, and without many things that God blessed them with in the days of their righteousness; but that in the latter days God would again restore all his blessings to the people of Israel, including their counselors and their judges as at the first.
With these plates that Joseph Smith, [Jr.] the Prophet, obtained through the instructions of the angel, he also obtained the Urim and Thummim, and by their aid he copied a few characters from the plates and translated them. He was not a learned man himself, but an ignorant farmer’s boy, scarcely having the first rudiments of an education. He could read and write a little, and that was about the amount of his educational acquirements. After having copied a few of the characters from these plates and translating them, he committed them into the hands of Martin Harris, a man with whom he was acquainted, who lived not far from his neighborhood. Martin Harris took these few characters and their translation to the city of New York to show them to the learned and, if possible, to get some information in regard to their meaning. This was in the year 1827. Martin Harris was then a middle-aged man, being about forty-six years of age.
On arriving in New York City, he visited the learned Dr. Mitchell, professor of languages, and obtained some information from him in relation to the manuscript which he held, and was recommended by Dr. Mitchell to see Mr. Anthon, professor of ancient and modern languages–probably one of the most learned men in ancient languages that ever lived in our nation. Mr. Harris went to see Mr. Anthon and showed him the characters. The professor examined them and the translation and, according to the testimony of Martin Harris given from this stand, he gave him a certificate that, so far as he could understand the characters, the translation seemed to be correct; but he wished further time and desired that the original plates should be brought to him. Mr. Harris then informed him how Mr. Smith came in possession of the plates–that he did not find them accidentally, but that an angel of God revealed to him the place of their deposit. This was after Martin Harris had obtained the certificate from Professor Anthon, and just before Mr. Harris took his leave of the learned gentleman. The latter, having ascertained how Mr. Smith came in possession of the plates–that part of them were sealed, and that the Lord had given a strict command that they should not be shown to the public, but only to certain witnesses–I say that the professor, having learned this, wished to see the certificate again. Mr. Harris returned it to him, and he tore it up, saying that there was no such thing as angels, or communications from the Lord in our day; and upon Mr. Harris’ telling him that a portion of the plates were sealed, he very sarcastically remarked that he could not read a sealed book.
Mr. [Martin] Harris left him, and returned some two hundred and fifty miles or more to the neighborhood where the plates were found, and informed Mr. [Joseph] Smith [Jr.] of his success with the learned; after which the Lord gave a special command to Joseph, unlearned as he was, that he should translate the record by the aid of the Urim and Thummim. Mr. Smith commenced the work of translation. Mr. Harris, acting as his scribe, wrote from his mouth one hundred and sixteen pages of the first translation, given by the Prophet.
The work was continued from time to time, until finally the unsealed portion of the Book of Mormon was all translated. In the meantime Martin Harris, Joseph Smith [Jr.] (the translator of the book), Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer (four persons) retired to a little grove– in the year 1829–not far from the house of old Father Whitmer, where this Church was organized. They retired to this grove for the special purpose of calling on the name of the Lord, and they all knelt down and commenced praying, one by one, and while thus engaged they saw an angel of God descend from the heavens, very bright and glorious in his appearance; and he came and stood in their midst, and he took the plates and turned over leaf after leaf of the unsealed portion, and showed to these four men the engravings upon them; and at the same time they heard a voice out of heaven saying unto them that the plates had been translated correctly and commanding them to bear testimony of the same to all nations, kindreds, tongues and people to whom the translation should be sent. In accordance with this command, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris have attached their testimony after the title page of the Book of Mormon, testifying to the appearance of the angel, signing their names and testifying to the correctness of the translation testifying to having seen the plates and the engravings upon them, and to the voice of the Lord, which they heard out of the heavens.
Now let me say a few words concerning the nature of this testimony. This testimony was given prior to the publication of the book and also previous to the organization of the Latter-day Saint Church. The book was printed early in 1830, with their testimony. Thus you perceive that this work, this marvelous work, was not presented to the inhabitants of the earth for their belief until God had favored them with four persons who could bear witness to what their eyes had seen, what their ears had heard, and what their hands had handled. Consequently there was no possibility, so far as these four men were concerned, that they themselves could be deceived. It would be impossible for four men to be together and all of them to be deceived in seeing an angel descend from heaven, and in regard to the brightness of his countenance and the glory of his person, hearing his voice, and seeing him lay his hands upon one of them, namely David Whitmer, and speaking these words: “Blessed be the Lord and they who keep His commandments.”
After seeing the plates, the engravings upon them, and the angel, and hearing the voice of the Lord out of heaven, every person will say that there was no possibility of either of these men being deceived in relation to this matter. In other words, if it were to be maintained that in their case it was an hallucination of the brain and that they were deceived, then with the same propriety might it be asserted that all other men, in every age, who profess to have seen angels, were also deceived–and this might be applied to the prophets, patriarchs, apostles, and others who lived in ancient times, who declared they saw angels, as well as to Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer. But, says the objector, “No, those who testify that they saw angels anciently were not deceived, but they who come testifying about such ministrations in the latter days may be deceived.”
Now let me ask, is there anything logical in such reasoning as this? If these, in the latter days, who testify to having seen angels, were deceived, all who testify to the same things in former days might have been deceived on the same grounds. And then, if these men, whose testimonies are attached to the Book of Mormon, were not deceived, it must be admitted that they were impostors of the most barefaced character, or else that the Book of Mormon is a divine record sent from heaven; one or the other must be admitted there–is no halfway in the matter. If they were not deceived–which they could not possibly have been according to the very nature of their testimony–then there are only two alternatives: they were impostors, or else the Book of Mormon is a divine revelation from heaven.
Now let us inquire what grounds there are to suppose that they were impostors. Forty-six years have passed away since this angel appeared and showed the plates to these individuals. Has anything transpired during this time that would give us any grounds to suppose that they were impostors? For instance, has either of these witnesses, or the translator of the engravings on the plates, ever, under any circumstances, denied his testimony? No. We have some accounts in the Bible of men of God, some of the greatest men that lived in ancient times, denying the things of God. We read of Peter cursing and swearing that he never knew Jesus, and yet he was one of the foremost of the apostles. His testimony was true so far as seeing and being acquainted with Jesus was concerned, and in regard to the divinity of Jesus. Why? Because God had revealed it to him and yet he denied it. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonah,” said Jesus, speaking to Peter, “for flesh and blood have not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” Peter knew, just as well as he knew that he had a being, that Jesus was the son of God; it had been revealed to him from the heavens, and though he afterwards, through fear, in the presence of the high priest, cursed and swore and denied it, yet the former testimony that he had given was true.
Now did either of these three men, or did the translator of the Book of Mormon, ever deny the truth, as Peter did? Did they ever in any way deny the divinity of the Book of Mormon? Never, no never. Whatever the circumstances they were placed in, however much they were mobbed and ridiculed, however much they suffered by the persecution of their enemies, their testimony all the time was: “We saw the angel of God, we beheld him in his glory, we saw the plates in his hands, and the engravings thereon, and we know that the Book of Mormon is true.” Joseph Smith continued to bear this testimony until the day of his death; he sealed his testimony as a martyr in this Church, being shot down by his enemies, who were blackened up and disguised, in order that they might not be known. Oliver Cowdery did not live his faith as he should have done, and he was excommunicated from this Church during Joseph’s lifetime. Did he still continue to hold fast to his testimony? He did. Never was he known to swerve from it in the least degree; and after being out of the Church several years, he returned to Council Bluffs, where there was a branch of the Church, and at a conference he acknowledged his sins and humbly asked the Church to forgive him, bearing his testimony to the sacred things recorded in the Book of Mormon–that he saw the angel and the plates, just according to the testimony to which he had appended his name. He was rebaptized a member of the Church, and soon after departed this life.
Martin Harris did not follow up this people to the state of Missouri, neither did he follow us up to the state of Illinois; but we often heard of him, and whenever we did so, we heard of him telling in public and in private of the great vision that God had shown to him concerning the divinity of the Book of Mormon. A few years ago he came to this territory, an old man between eighty and ninety years of age, and spoke from this stand, in the hearing of the people. He then located himself in Cache County, in the northern part of the [Utah] Territory, where he continued to live until last Saturday, when he departed this life in his ninety-third year–a good old age. Did he continue to bear testimony all that length of time–over forty-six years of life? Did he, at any time during that long period, waver in the least degree from his testimony? Not at all. He had a great many follies and imperfections, like all other people, like the ancient apostles, like Elijah the Prophet, but after all, he continued to testify to the very last concerning the truth of this work. Nothing seemed to delight him so much as to tell about the angel and the plates that he had seen.
It was only a short time prior to his death that one of our bishops went in to see the old man. His pulse was apparently sluggish in its movements and nearly gone, but the sight of the bishop seemed to revive him, and he said to him–“I am going.” The bishop related to him some things which he thought would be interesting, among them that the Book of Mormon had been translated into the Spanish language for the benefit of a great many of the descendants of Israel in this country, who understand the Spanish language (in Mexico and Central America). This intelligence seemed to revive the old man, and he began to talk about the Book of Mormon. New strength, apparently, was imparted to him, and he continued his conversation for some two hours; and in his last testimony he bore record concerning the divinity of the work, and was rejoiced to think that it was going forth in another language, that those who understood that language might be made acquainted with the wonderful works of God.
I will here state that Martin Harris, when he came to this [Utah] Territory a few years ago, was rebaptized, the same as every member of the Church from distant parts is on arriving here. That seems to be a kind of standing ordinance for all Latter-day Saints who emigrate here, from the First Presidency down; all are rebaptized and set out anew by renewing their covenants. There are thousands of Latter-day Saints who have gone forth into the baptismal font, and been baptized for their dead kindred and friends. Martin Harris requested this privilege, and he was baptized here in Salt Lake City for many of his kindred who are dead. I mention these things in order that the Saints may understand something concerning this man who has just left us, almost a hundred years old. God favored him, highly favored him. He was among the favored few who went up from the state of Ohio in the summer of 1831, and journeyed nearly a thousand miles to the western part of Missouri, to Jackson County. The Prophet went at the same time, and that was designated as the land where the Saints should eventually be gathered, and where a great city should be eventually reared, called the city of Zion or the New Jerusalem, and that the Saints should be located throughout all that region of country.
God gave many commandments in those days concerning what might be termed the United Order; in other words, concerning the consecration of the properties of the Church. These things were given by revelation through the Prophet. Martin Harris was the first man that the Lord called by name to consecrate his money and lay the same at the feet of the bishop in Jackson County, Missouri, according to the order of consecration. He willingly did it; he knew the work to be true; he knew that the word of the Lord through the Prophet Joseph [Smith, Jr.] was just as sacred as any word that ever came from the mouth of any prophet from the foundation of the world. He consecrated his money and his substance, according to the word of the Lord. What for? As the revelation states, as an example to the rest of the Church.
As I have already mentioned, one more witness remains who saw that angel and the plates. Who is it? David Whitmer, a younger man than Martin Harris, probably some seventy years of age–I do not recollect his age exactly. Where does he live? In the western part of Missouri. Does he still hold fast to his testimony? He does. Many of the elders of this Church, in going to and fro among the nations, have called upon him from time to time, and they all bear the same testimony–that Mr. David Whitmer still, in the most solemn manner, declares that he saw the angel and that he saw the plates in his hands. But he is not here with us; he has not gathered up with the people of God. That, however, does not prove that his testimony is not true, by any means.
TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM SMITH Source: William Smith, “The Old Soldier’s Testimony,” The Saint’s Herald 31(1884):643-44.
Sermon preach by William B. Smith, in the Saints’ chapel, Deloit, Iowa, June 8th, 1864. Reported by C. E. Butterworth.
Bro. Smith arose and said: Ladies, gentlemen, brothers, sisters and friends:–The subject I have under contemplation is the presentation of some particulars of history concerning the rise of Mormonism. While traveling among the Latter-day Saints, and others who are not of our faith, I am subjected to a great deal of criticism, or am asked a great many questions in regard to the opening of this new dispensation.
. . . I hold in my hand the Book of Mormon. In the past I have had some experience and personally know something about this matter. The world has been filled with articles for the purpose of making it appear a falsehood; and they have gathered these articles and statements together and printed them in books, in order that they might show to the world that it was not true, or worthy of their credit. I have examined these books, and have found that they have been pleased to have their assertions circulated far and near. The great effort of the Christians to advance science and increase knowledge, is commendable; but the great effort put forth in this direction is for the purpose of keeping the people in ignorance.
One of the great hobbies raised upon which to fight is the angel’s visit to Joseph Smith. They do not undertake to show that it is not the way God has dealt with his people from the beginning. God has always communed with his people, by dreams, vision, revelations, and the administering of angels. They have never undertaken to show that there are no such beings as angels, or that angels can not be seen by men. Is it impossible for God to send them? “Angels are ministering spirits.” God sent his angels at the birth of Christ. One appeared to Zachariah, to Elizabeth, and to Mary. Joseph was warned when to flee into Egypt, and was told when to return. This work came forth in fulfillment of the predictions made by the holy prophets.
Ministers take a great deal of pains to make it appear that this book was compiled from a manuscript written by one Solomon Spaulding. Many statements have been made and circulated far and wide, even printing some of them in books to be used in our schools. It has been printed and placed between the lids of the bible, in order that in time it might become sanctified. They could not tell bigger lies. Ministers of old called Christ a wine bibber. I know that this Spaulding story is a falsehood. I remember when Joseph called his father’s family together, and told them that he had seen an angel, and what this angel had told him. When Joseph received the plates, he did not say they were the Spaulding manuscript.
. . . I well remember the effect produced upon my father’s family, when he told them he was to receive the plates; how they looked forward with joy, and waited until the time should come. The circumstances that occurred, and the impressions made on my mind at that time, I can remember better than those which occurred two years ago. We were all looking forward for the time to come, father, mother, brothers and sisters. He did not receive the plates at the time he expected, but some four years afterward. He had not lived as directed. When he went to get the plates he found them as he was told he should. He took them from the stone box in which they were found, and placed them on the ground behind him, when the thought came into his mind that there might be a treasure hidden with them. While stooping forward to see, he was overpowered, so that he could not look farther. Turning to get the plates, he found they had gone; and on looking around found that they were in the box again; but he could not get them, and cried out, “Why can’t I get the plates as Moroni told me I could?” The angel then appeared to him, and told him it was because he had not done as directed. That the plates could not be had for the purpose of making money. That he could not have them for four years.
I remember how the family wept when they found Joseph could not get the plates at that time. It has generally been stated that my father’s family were lazy, shiftless and poor; but this was never said by their neighbors, or until after the angel appeared and the story of the golden Bible was told.
After my father’s family moved to New York State, in about five years they cleared sixty acres of land, and fenced it. The timber on this land was very heavy. Some of the elms were so large that we had to nigger them off. They were too large to be cut with a cross-cut saw. We built a frame dwelling house and out buildings. My brothers Joseph and Hyrum had to work. Joseph did not have time to make gold plates.
The time to receive the plates came at last. When Joseph received them, he came in and said: “Father, I have got the plates.” All believed it was true, father, mother, brothers and sisters. You can tell what a child is. Parents know whether their children are truthful or not. The proof of the pudding is not in chewing the string, but in eating the pudding. Father knew his child was telling the truth. When the plates were brought in they were wrapped in a tow frock. My father then put them into a pillow case. Father said, “What, Joseph, can we not see them?”
“No, I was disobedient the first time, but I intend to be faithful this time; for I was forbidden to show them until they are translated, but you can feel them.”
We handled them [the plates] and could tell what they were. They were not quite as large as this Bible. Could tell whether they were round or square. Could raise the leaves this way (raising a few leaves of the Bible before him). One could easily tell that they were not stone, hewn out to deceive, or even a block of wood. Being a mixture of gold and copper, they were much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood.
. . . Where is the Spaulding Story? I am a little too old a man to be telling stories. There is no money in telling this story. I expect to stand before angels and archangels and be judged for how I have told it. When Joseph received the plates he also received the Urim and Thummim, which he would place in a hat to exclude all light, and with the plates by his side he translated the characters, which were cut into the plates with some sharp instrument, into English. And thus, letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence, the whole book was translated. It was not written from the Spaulding Romance. That story is false. Some say this romance was stolen by Sidney Rigdon while at Pittsburg. This is false. Sidney Rigdon knew nothing about it. He never saw or heard tell of the Book of Mormon until it was presented to him by P. P. Pratt and others. He was never at my father’s house to see my brother until after the book was published. If he had wanted to see Joseph at that time and remained very long, he would have had to be in the field rolling logs or carrying brush.
I was too young to be as much concerned about this matter as the others, but all were anxious that I should obey the gospel. I have seen the three witnesses, and have questioned them closely. They all tell the same story. They are all dead but one. David Whitmer, the only living witness, still lives and may be found at Richmond, Missouri. Now is the time to go and see him and make a scientific examination of his physiognomy and see if he can see angels where there are none.
Why did all those who first believed this story continue to do so until they passed into the other world?
I am satisfied that all who have believed in this work and continue to the end, will have no cause to regret it. I am glad for the privilege I have in telling these things. Glad to find so many who believe with this people. May God bless you all. Amen.
A gentleman in the congregation asked, “Where are these plates?”
Ans.–“They were delivered to the angel again.”
Ques.–“How much did they weigh?”
Ans.–“As near as I could tell, about sixty pounds.” Source: William Smith, William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, Iowa, 1883)
[Following the visitations of Moroni to Joseph Smith,] we . . . all gathered. He [Joseph Smith] arose and told us how the angel appeared to him. . . He continued talking to us sometime. The whole family were melted to tears, and believed all he said. Knowing that he was very young, that he had not enjoyed the advantages of a common education; and knowing too, his whole character and disposition, they were convinced that he was totally incapable of arising before his aged parents, his brothers and sisters, and so solemnly giving utterance to anything but the truth. All of us, therefore, believed him and anxiously awaited the result of his visit to the hill Cumorah, in search of the plates containing the record of which the angel told him. He went, and upon his return told us that in consequence of his not obeying strictly the commandments which the angel had given him, he could not obtain the record until four years from that time.
During this four years, I spent my time working on the farm, and in the different amusements of the young men of my age in the vicinity. I was quite wild and inconsiderate, paying no attention to religion of any kind, for which I received frequent lectures from my mother and my brother Joseph. He occupied himself part of the time working on the farm, and part of the time in Pennsylvania where he courted a young lady by the name of Emma Hale, whom he afterwards married. At the end of the appointed time he went and obtained the plates which were pointed out to him by the angel. The story being noised abroad, he was pursued while on his way home with the plates, by two persons who desired to obtain the possession of the plates to convert them into money. However, he escaped to the house and brought the plates with him, wrapped up in a tow frock. He could not permit us to see them, because he said the angel told him not to do so, and he was determined to obey strictly this time; for he had disobeyed before and was compelled to wait four years before he could come into possession of the plates.
In consequence of his vision, and his having the golden plates and refusing to show them, a great persecution arose against the whole family, and he was compelled to remove into Pennsylvania with the plates, where he translated them by means of the Urim and Thummim, (which he obtained with the plates), and the power of God. The manner in which this was done was by looking into the Urim and Thummim, which was lying near by covered up), and reading off the translation, which appeared in the stone by the power of God. He was engaged in this business as he had opportunity for about two years and a half. In the winter of 1829 and thirty, the Book of Mormon, which is the translation of part of the plates he obtained, was published. 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. They [plates] weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgment.
We were all very much scoffed at and persecuted during all this time, while Joseph was receiving his vision and translating the plates. A particular account of his visions and life during this period, will be found in his biography, and therefore I omit it here. From the time that Joseph received his first vision until the completion of the translation of the Book of Mormon, I was engaged as a farmer boy in working on the farm of my father.
MARY WHITMER: WITNESS OF THE BOOK OF MORMON PLATES Source: “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” MS 40 (9 Dec 1878):772-73.
[According to David Whitmer,] soon after our [Joseph, Oliver, and David] arrival home [in Fayette], I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father’s barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was. 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 tired 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.
Source: Edward Stevenson, “The Thirteenth Witness to the Plates of the Book of Mormon,” MS 55 (1893):215.
[John C. Whitmer said that] my grandmother told me that the strange visitor met her as she was going to milk the cows. At first she was afraid of him, but he spoke so kindly to her, explaining to her the nature of the work of translation to go on in her house, that she felt a thrill of inexpressible joy, which removed all fear from her. Comforting words were spoken, promising her strength and pleasure in her increased labors, and salvation at the end. Moroni took from his knapsack the plates and exhibited them as already explained by David. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell. From that time my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, feeling no inclination to murmur because her lot was a hard one.
JOHN C. WHITMER REPORTS TESTIMONIES OF WITNESSES, 1888Source: Andrew Jenson, Edward Stevenson, and Joseph S. Black, “Historical Landmarks,” Deseret News, 17 Sep 1888, p. 2.
I [John C. Whitmer] was closely connected with Hiram Page in business transactions and other matters, he being married to my aunt. I knew him at all times and under all circumstances to be true to his testimony concerning the divinity of the Book of Mormon. I was also at the deathbed of Oliver Cowdery in 1850, and I heard him speak to my Uncle David (Whitmer) and say: “Brother David, be faithful to your testimony to the Book of Mormon, for we know that it is of God and that it is verily true.” He then closed his eyes in death. My father, Jacob Whitmer, was always faithful and true to his testimony to the Book of Mormon, and confirmed it on his deathbed. Of my Uncle John (Whitmer) I will say that I was with him a short time before he died at Far West, Missouri, when he confirmed to me what he had done so many times previously that he knew the Book of Mormon was true. I was also with Uncle David (Whitmer), who died here in January last, and heard him bear his last testimony in the presence of many witnesses whom he had called together for the occasion. He solemnly declared that the record of the Nephites, as he always called the Book of Mormon, was of God, and his testimony concerning it true. . . .
TESTIMONIES OF THE EIGHT WITNESSES
TESTIMONY OF JOHN WHITMER Source: John Whitmer, History, typescript, BYU.
David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, were the three witnesses whose names are attached to the Book of Mormon according to the prediction of the book, who knew and saw, for a surety, into whose presence the angel of God came and showed them the plates, the ball, the directors, etc. And also other witnesses even eight, viz., Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, John Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith, are the men to whom Joseph Smith, Junior, showed the plates. These witnesses’ names go forth also of the truth of this work in the last days, to the convincing or condemning of this generation in the last day.
Source: Oliver Cowdery, “New Portage Conference,” M&A 1 (June 1835):143.
During a conference held in the early 1830s in [New Portage,] Ohio, John Whitmer declared that he had “seen, hefted, and handled [the plates] with his own hands.” Commenting on this talk, Oliver Cowdery stated that “no man possessed of common reason and common sense, can doubt, or will be so vain as to dispute” John Whitmer’s testimony.
The meeting closed with a few remarks from Elder O. [Oliver] Cowdery upon the further truth of the Book of Mormon. Source: John Whitmer, “Address to the Patrons of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate,” M&A 2 (March 1836):286.
[John Whitmer was employed in Kirtland as editor of the Messenger and Advocate. In March 1836 he resigned from this position and wrote an article stating he was retiring from the editorial department in which he again bore his testimony of truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.]
To the patrons of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate: . . .
To say that the Book of Mormon is a revelation from God, I [John Whitmer] have no hesitance; but with all confidence have signed my name to it as such; and I hope that my patrons will indulge me in speaking freely on this subject, as I am about leaving the editorial department–Therefore I desire to testify to all that will come to the knowledge of this address; that I have most assuredly seen the plates from whence the book of of Mormon is translated, and that I have handled these plates and know of a surety that Joseph Smith, Jr., has translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and in this thing the wisdom of the wise most assuredly has perished. . . .
And I know that the Bible, Book of Mormon and book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, contain the revealed will of heaven.
E. C. BRAND REPORT OF INTERVIEW WITH JOHN WHITMER, 1845
Source: Visit of E. C. Brand with John Whitmer, RLDS Archives.
I visited Mr. John Whitmer at his residence at Far West, Caldwell Co., Mo., on the 18th of February, 1845. He also bore his testimony to me concerning the truth, and declared that his testimony, as found in the testimony of “Eight Witnesses,” in the Book of Mormon, is strictly true. He showed me a facsimile of plates, copied from the plates in the handwriting of Joseph Smith. Both of these men (David and John) are respectable, and looked up to as truthful, honorable men, in the vicinity where they live. The above is a brief and correct statement of my interview with them. . . .
DESCRIPTION OF CHARACTER OF JOHN WHITMER, 1878
Source: The Conservator (Richmond, Mo.), 26 July 1878, p. 2.
Mr. John Whitmer died at Far West on the 11th, aged 77 years. He came to Caldwell in 1836, to look out a home for the Mormons, who had been driven out of Jackson County. He selected Far West, which selection was confirmed by Joe Smith in a vision, and Far West soon became a flourishing town of over two thousand people.
When they were driven from Missouri by the state militia in 1838-9, Mr. Whitmer remained at Far West and has since been a highly respected and law abiding citizen. Mr. Whitmer was one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon or Mormon Bible, but like many other families of the sect, he “kicked” against polygamy.
WILLIAM LEWIS’ INTERVIEW WITH JOHN WHITMER, 1877
Source: William Lewis ltr cit. Saints’ Herald, 15 Dec 1877, pp. 381-82.
STEWARTSVILLE, DeKalb Co., Missouri, November 29th, 1877.
Dear Herald:–In company with Bro. Temme Hinderks and Charles Faul, I attended a meeting at Far West branch; and as we returned home, we called to see Father John Whitmer, one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon. He informed us that he is the only one of the eight living; and David, his brother, one of the three, is the only one; so they are the only two out of the eleven witnesses that now live; and their testimonies are still the same as that recorded in the Book of Mormon. Father Whitmer says that he hopes that God will give him strength to stand firm to the testimony.
We asked many questions; among them the following:
1. Had he ever made it a subject of prayer to try and find out who was the proper one to lead the Church, as there were so many claims made? He replied that he did not think it to be his duty to make such inquiry; that the Lord would reveal it when he saw proper.
We insisted on his making it a subject of prayer.
2. Did he believe in the gathering? He answered, Yes; and all that God has promised will be fulfilled. Jackson County, Missouri, is the place, and will be the final home of the saints.
3. Were not the Saints commanded to settle in this neighborhood of Far West, and to build a temple? To this he said, “Well, there was, I believe, some talk of that kind; and they did gather here in a large body, and lay the corner stone of the temple, which stone is there; some are taken off.”
4. Do you not think that when the Saints return to Jackson County, and to the regions from which they have been driven, that you will fall into the ranks? To this he replied, with tears running down his cheeks, and he could hardly speak from crying. At last he did say, wiping the tears off, that the day would come when we would see eye to eye.
He has been living in that locality since 1831; forty-six years. Was that when the Saints were mobbed and driven out? He also said that men you could not get near even fifteen years ago, are now anxious to learn and get all the information they can about Mormonism, and are friendly to the doctrine.
I can say this for Father Whitmer; that he manifested a good spirit, and did not try to discourage us, but to encourage. I believe that if the Saints in his neighborhood will flock around him, and invite him to their testimony meetings, and go up after him, that good will be done. I don’t believe in forcing any man, but I do think we should try every legal way to bring back the strayed sheep. We should remember the parables of the lost sheep and prodigal son. Father Whitmer is seventy-four years old and is quite smart.
We could stay only a few hours, so we bade them good day, and went on our way rejoicing, remarking one to the other, that now we could say that we had seen and talked with one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon, in hopes to see his brother David, one of the three.
I. C. FUNN’S REPORT OF TESTIMONY OF JOHN WHITMER, 1878
Source: I. C. Funn ltr in Saints’ Herald, 15 Feb 1878, p. 57.
Bro. O. P. Worden sends us a Kingston (Missouri) Sentinel, in which we find the following notice of a discourse by Elder John Whitmer. Mr. I. C. Funn may see some fun that will make him “laugh out of the other side of his mouth,” as the saying is, when the comparison asked for by Elder Whitmer is made. We are glad to learn that Elder Whitmer is in the field:
“We were down to the Whitmer school house to preaching on last Sabbath at eleven o’clock. Mr. John Whitmer delivered the discourse. It will be remembered by a great many readers, that Mr. Whitmer is one of only two now living that helped (were witnesses) to the translation of the Book of Mormon, or generally known as the Mormon Bible. Mr. Whitmer is considered a truthful, honest and law abiding citizen by this community, and consequentially, his appointment drew out a large audience. Mr. Whitmer stated that he had often handled the identical golden plates which Mr. Smith received from the hand of the angel, he said it was of pure gold, part of the book was sealed up solid, the other part was open and it was this part which was translated, and is termed today the Mormon Bible. This is the first time Mr. Whitmer has attempted to preach for a good many years; and time, who waits for no one, has written many a furrow upon his brow. He is upwards of sixty years old, and gave some good advice to both old and young. Before closing he asked the audience if they would take the Book of Mormon and the Bible and compare them, and to take Paul’s rule, “To prove all things and hold fast to that which is good,” in comparing them.
I. C. Funn. . . .
MYRON H. BOND’S INTERVIEW WITH JOHN WHITMER, 1878
Source: Letter of Myron H. Bond, cit. Saints’ Herald, 15 Aug 1878, p. 253.
I had an interview last winter, at Painesville, Ohio, with Eber D. Howe the author of “Mormonism Unvailed.” When asked by me what he knew of Joseph Smith or S. [Sidney] Rigdon’s connection with the Spaulding story, he said he didn’t know anything. But he did tell me that neither himself nor Hulburt ever saw the Spaulding manuscript. He did say that he sent Hulburt to Massachusetts to get the original manuscript of Spaulding’s widow; she didn’t know about it, but there were some of Spaulding’s old writings left in a trunk in York State, which he found, brought something to Howe, both went down to Conneaut, Ohio, to show to Spaulding’s neighbors, who told them that wasn’t the paper Spaulding used to read from, and which they thought contained names similar to those in the Book of Mormon. Mr. Spaulding’s widow didn’t get rich out of half the proceeds of the book that was to, “annihilate Mormonism,” but received word from Hulburt that the manuscript “didn’t read as they expected it.”
I wish that any one who thinks that there is a shadow of foundation for the story could interview Mr. Howe. He does not attempt to conceal the fact that the whole thing was gotten up for money speculation. . . .
. . . that record which old Father John Whitmer told me last winter with tears in his eyes, that he knew as well as he knew he had an existence that Joseph translated the ancient writing which was upon the plates which he “saw and handled.” . . .
TESTIMONY OF HYRUM SMITH
Source: Hyrum Smith, “Communications,” Times and Seasons 1 (Dec 1839):20-24.
To the Saints scattered abroad,
Having given my testimony to the world of the truth of the Book of Mormon . . . I [Hyrum Smith] thought that it might be strengthening to my beloved brethren, to give them a short account of my sufferings, for the truth’s sake, and the state of my mind and feelings, while under circumstances of the most trying and afflicting nature. . . .
Prior to my settlement in Missouri, [I] . . .endured almost all manner of abuse, which was poured out upon the church of Latter- day Saints, from its commencement . . . After enduring many privations and much fatigue, . . . I arrived with my family in Far West. . . .
[In the fall of 1838, I was imprisoned with my brethren] for about six months . . . and suffered much for want of proper food, and from the nauseous cell in which I was confined. . . .
How inadequate is language to express the feelings of my mind, knowing that I was innocent of crime, and that I had been dragged from my family at a time, when my assistance was most needed; that I had been abused and thrust into a dungeon, and confined for months on account of my faith, and the “testimony of Jesus Christ.” However I thank God that I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had bore testimony to . . . I can assure my beloved brethren that I was enabled to bear as strong a testimony, when nothing but death presented itself, as ever I did in my life. . . .
I yet feel a determination to do the will of God, in spite of persecutions, imprisonments or death.
TESTIMONY OF SAMUEL H. SMITH
Source: Autobiography of Phineas Young, cit. MS 25 (6 June 1863):360-61.
[This testimony was spoken during a conversation in 1830 between Samuel H. Smith and Phineas Howe Young (brother of Brigham Young) and was recorded in Phineas Young’s autobiography.]
“The Book of Mormon, or, as it is called by some, the Golden Bible . . . [is] a revelation from God . . .If you will read this book with a prayerful heart, and ask God to give you a witness, you will know of the truth of this work. . . . I [Samuel H. Smith am] one of the witnesses . . . I know the book to be a revelation from God, translated by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother, Joseph Smith, Jr., is a Prophet, Seer and Revelator . . .
TESTIMONY OF CHRISTIAN AND PETER WHITMER
Source: Oliver Cowdery, “The Closing Year,” M&A 3 (Dec 1836):425- 29.
Among those who have gone home to rest, we mention the names of our two brothers-in-law, Christian and Peter Whitmer, Jr., the former died on the 27th of November 1835, and the other the 22nd of September last , in Clay County, Missouri. By many in this church, our brothers were personally known: they were the first to embrace the new covenant, on hearing it, and during a constant scene of persecution and perplexity, to their last moments, maintained its truth – they were both included in the list of the eight witnesses in the Book of Mormon, and though they have departed, it is with great satisfaction that we reflect, that they have proclaimed to their last moments, the certainty of their former testimony. The testimony is in force after the death of the testator. May all who read remember the fact, that the Lord has given men a witness of himself in the last days, and that they, have faithfully declared it till called away.
FINAL TESTIMONIES OF JACOB AND JOHN WHITMER
(Reported by Jacob’s son, John C. Whitmer)
Source: Andrew Jenson, Edward Stevenson, and Joseph B. Black, “Historical Landmarks,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 17 Sep 1888, p.2.
My father, Jacob Whitmer, was always faithful and true to his testimony to the Book of Mormon, and confirmed it on his deathbed. Of my Uncle John [Whitmer] I will say that I was with him a short time before he died at Far West, Missouri, when he confirmed to me what he had done so many times previously that he knew the Book of Mormon was true.
TESTIMONY OF HIRAM PAGE AND OTHER WITNESSES
Source: Andrew Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:278.
Philader Page [son of Hiram Page] testified to Elder Andrew Jenson in September, 1888 as follows, “I knew my father to be true and faithful to his testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon until the very last. Whenever he had an opportunity to bear his testimony to this effect, he would always do so, and seemed to rejoice exceedingly in having been privileged to see the plates and thus become one of the Eight Witnesses. I can also testify that Jacob, John and David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery died in full faith in the divinity of the Book of Mormon. I was with all these witnesses on their deathbeds and heard each of them bear his last testimony.”
John C. Whitmer, a nephew of Hiram Page by marriage, testified in the presence of Elder Jenson: “I was closely connected with Hiram Page in business transactions and other matters, he being married to my aunt. I knew him at all times and under all circumstances to be true to his testimony concerning the divinity of the Book of Mormon.
TESTIMONY OF LUCY MACK SMITH
Source: Lucy Mack Smith to Solomon Mack, 6 Jan 1831, cit. Elders’ Journal (1 Nov 1906):60-62.
Waterloo, January 6, 1831.
Dear Brother and Sister:
Although we are at a great distance from each other and have not had the pleasure of seeing each other for many years, yet I feel a great anxiety in your welfare, and especially for the welfare of your souls; and you yourselves must know that it is a thing of greatest importance to be prepared to meet our God in peace, for it is not long before He is to make His appearance on the earth with all the hosts of heaven to take vengeance on the wicked and they that know not God. By searching the prophecies contained in the Old Testament we find it there prophesied that God will set His hand the second time to recover His people the house of Israel. He has now commenced this work; He hath sent forth a revelation in these last days, and this revelation is called the Book of Mormon. It contains the fullness of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and is sent forth to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things God hath done for their fathers; that they may know of the covenants of the Lord and that they are not cast of forever; and also of the convincing of both Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God and manifests Himself unto all nations.
It also contains the history of a people which were led out of Jerusalem six hundred years before the coming of Christ in the flesh. God seeing the wickedness of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, He sent out a prophet named Lehi and commanded him to declare unto the people that unless they repented of their sins that the city would be destroyed, but they would not hear him, but sought to take away his life, therefore the Lord commanded him to take his family, together with another man named Ishmael, and his family, and flee out of the city, and they were led by the hand of the Lord on to this continent and they became very numerous and were a people highly favored of the Lord; but there arose contentions among them and the more wicked part of them being led by one of the sons of Lehi named Laman, arose up in rebellion against their brethren, and would not keep the commandments of God, therefore he sent a curse upon them and caused a dark skin to come over them, and from Laman our Indians have descended. The more righteous part of them were led by another of the sons of Lehi named Nephi, he being a prophet of the Lord. I cannot give you much insight into these things, but I write this that when you have an opportunity of receiving one of the books that you may not reject it for God has pronounced a curse upon all those who have a chance to receive it and will not, for by it they will be judged at the last day.
There are many in these parts who profess to know God and to be His humble followers, but when this thing is offered them they say we have Bible enough and want no more; but such are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity and understand not the Bible which they love, for all the holy prophets spoke plainly of the gathering of the house of Israel and of the coming forth of this work, and God says He will give us line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; there are more nations than one, and if God would not reveal himself alike unto all nations he would be partial. We need not suppose that we have all His words in our Bible, neither need we think that because He has spoken once He cannot speak again.
Perhaps you will inquire how this revelation came forth. It has been hidden up in the earth fourteen hundred years, and was placed there by Moroni, one of the Nephites; it was engraven upon plates which have the appearance of gold. He being a prophet of the Lord, and seeing the wickedness of the people and knowing that they must be destroyed, and also knowing that if the plates fell into the hands of the Lamanites that they would destroy them, for they sought to destroy all sacred writings, therefore he hid them up in the earth, having obtained a promise of the Lord that they should come forth in His own due time unto the world; and I feel to thank my God that He hath spared my life to see this day.
Joseph, after repenting of his sins and humbling himself before God, was visited by an holy angel whose countenance was as lightning and whose garments were white above all whiteness, who gave unto him commandments which inspired him from on high; and who gave unto him, by the means of which was before prepared, that he should translate this book. And by reading this our eyes are opened that we can see the situation in which the world now stands; that the eyes of the whole world are blinded; that the churches have all become corrupted, yea every church upon the face of the earth; that the gospel of Christ is nowhere preached. This is the situation which the world is now in, and you can judge for yourselves if we did not need something more than the wisdom of man to show us the right way.
God, seeing our situation, had compassion upon us, and has sent us this revelation that the stumbling block might be removed, that whosoever would might enter. He now established His Church upon the earth as it was in the days of the apostles. He has now made a new and everlasting covenant, and all that will hear His voice and enter, He says they shall be gathered together into a land of promise, and He Himself will come and reign on earth with them a thousand years. He is now sending forth His servants to prune His vineyard for the last time, and woe be unto them that will not hear them. There are many who think hard when we tell them that the churches have all become corrupted, but the Lord hath spoke it, and who can deny His words? They are all lifted up in the pride of their hearts and think more of adorning their fine sanctuaries than they do of the poor and needy. The priests are going about preaching for money, and teaching false doctrines and leading men down to destruction by crying peace, peace, when the Lord Himself hath not spoken it.
When our Savior was upon the earth He sent forth His disciples and commanded them to preach His gospel, and these signs He said should follow them that believed: in my name they shall do many wonderful works; they shall cast out devils; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. Now where can we find these signs following them that call themselves preachers of the gospel, and why do they not follow? It surely must be because they do not believe and do not teach the true doctrine of Christ, for God is the same yesterday, today and forever and changeth not.
We read that at the day of Pentecost people being pricked in their hearts began to cry, saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” and Peter being filled with the Holy Ghost, stood up and said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost.” Now this promise was not to them alone, for he goes on to say, this “promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call;” therefore, the promise extends unto us if we will obey His commands. Peter did not tell them to go away and mourn over their sins weeks and months, and receive a remission of them and then come and be baptized, but he told them first to repent and be baptized, and the promise was that they should receive a remission of their sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost; and this is the gospel of Christ, and His church is established in this place and also in Ohio; there have been three hundred added to the Church in Ohio within a few weeks, and there are some added to this Church almost daily. The work is spreading very fast.
I must now close my letter by entreating you as one that feels for your souls to seek an interest in Christ, and when you have an opportunity to receive this work do not reject it, but read it and examine for yourselves. I will now bid you farewell, and I want some of you to come here or write immediately for we expect to go away to the Ohio early in the spring. If you write this winter you may direct your letters to Waterloo, Seneca County. I want you to think seriously of these things, for they are the truths of the living God.
Please to accept this from your sister, Lucy Smith.
LAST TESTIMONY OF SISTER EMMA Source: “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,”The Saints’ Herald 26 (Oct 1879):289-90.In a conversation held in the Herald office during the early days of the present year, between Bishop Rogers, Elders W. W. Blair, H.A. Stebbins and a few others, leading minds in the Church, it was thought advisable to secure from Mother Bidamon, (Sister Emma Smith), her testimony upon certain points upon which various opinions existed; and to do this, it was decided to present to her a few prominent questions, which were penned and agreed upon, the answers to which might, so far as she was concerned, settle these differences of opinion. In accordance with this understanding the senior editor of the Herald visited Nauvoo, in February last , arriving on the 4th and remaining until the 10th. Sister Emma answered the questions freely and in the presence of her husband, Major Lewis C. Bidamon, who was generally present in their sitting- room where the conversation took place. We were more particular in this because it had been frequently stated to us: “Ask your mother, she knows.” “Why don’t you ask your mother; she dare not deny these things.” “You do not dare to ask your mother!”
Our thought was, that if we had lacked courage to ask her, because we feared the answers she might give, we would put aside that fear; and, whatever the worst might be, we would hear it. The result is given below; it having been decided to give the statements to the readers of the Herald, in view of the death of Sister Emma having occurred so soon after she made them, thus giving them the character of a last testimony.
It is intended to incorporate these questions and answers in the forthcoming history of the reorganization.
We apologized to our mother for putting the questions respecting polygamy and plural wives, as we felt we ought to do.
Question. Who performed the marriage ceremony for Joseph Smith and Emma Hale? When? Where?
Answer. I was married at South Bainbridge, New York; at the house of Squire Tarbell, by him, when I was in my 22d or 23d year.
We here suggested that Mother Smith’s history gave the date of the marriage as January 18, 1827. To this she replied:
I think the date correct. My certificate of marriage was lost many years ago, in some of the marches we were forced to make.
In answer to a suggestion by us that she might mistake about who married father and herself; and that it was rumored that it was Sidney Rigdon, or a Presbyterian clergyman, she stated:
It was not Sidney Rigdon, for I did not see him for years after that. It was not a Presbyterian clergyman. I was visiting at Mr. Stowell’s who lived in Bainbridge, and saw your father there. I had no intention of marrying when I left home; but, during my visit at Mr. Stowell’s, your father visited me there. My folks were bitterly opposed to him; and, being importuned by your father, sided by Mr. Stowell, who urged me to marry him, and preferring to marry him [than] to any other man I knew, I consented. We went to Squire Tarbell’s and were married. Afterward, when father found that I was married, he sent for us. The account in Mother Smith’s history is substantially correct as to date and place. Your father bought your Uncle Jesse’s [Hale] place, off father’s farm, and we lived there until the Book of Mormon was translated; and I think published. I was not in Palmyra long.
Question. How many children did you lose, mother, before I was born?
Answer. There were three. I buried one in Pennsylvania, and a pair of twins in Ohio.
Question. Who were the twins that died?
Answer. They were not named.
Question. Who were the twins whom you took to raise?
Answer. I lost twins. Mrs. Murdock had twins and died. Brother Murdock came to me and asked me to take them, and I took the babes. Joseph died at 11 months. They were both sick when your father was mobbed. The mob who tarred and feathered him, left the door open when they went out with him, the child relapsed and died. Julia lived, though weaker than the boy.
Question. When did you first know Sidney Rigdon? Where?
Answer. I was residing at father Whitmer’s when I first saw Sidney Rigdon. I think he came there.
Question. Was this before or after the publication of the Book of Mormon?
Answer. The Book of Mormon had been translated and published some time before. Parley P. Pratt had united with the Church before I knew Sidney Rigdon, or heard of him. At the time of Book of Mormon was translated there was no church organized, and Rigdon did not become acquainted with Joseph and me till after the Church was established in 1830. How long after that I do not know, but it was some time.
Question. Who were scribes for father when translating the Book of Mormon?
Answer. Myself, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and my brother Reuben Hale.
Question. Was Alva Hale one?
Answer. I think not. He may have written some; but if he did, I do not remember it.
Question. What about the revelation on polygamy? Did Joseph Smith have anything like it? What of spiritual wifery?
Answer. There was no revelation on either polygamy or spiritual wives. There were some rumors of something of the sort, of which I asked my husband. He assured me that all there was of it was, that, in a chat about plural wives, he had said, “Well, such a system might possibly be, if everybody was agreed to it, and would behave as they should; but they would not; and besides, it was contrary to the will of heaven.”
No such thing as polygamy or spiritual wifery was taught, publicly or privately, before my husband’s death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of.
Question. Did he not have other wives than yourself?
Answer. He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have.
Question. Did he not hold marital relations with women other than yourself?
Answer. He did not have improper relations with any woman that ever came to my knowledge.
Question. Was there nothing about spiritual wives that you recollect?
Answer. At one time my husband came to me and asked me if I had heard certain rumors about spiritual marriages, or anything of the kind; and assured me that if I had, that they were without foundation; that there was no such doctrine, and never should be with his knowledge or consent. I know that he had no other wife or wives than myself, in any sense, either spiritual or otherwise.
Question. What of the truth of Mormonism?
Answer. I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the Church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Question. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
Answer. He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.
Question. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
Answer. If he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.
Question. Are you sure that he had the plates at the time you were writing for him?
Answer. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.
Question. Where did father and Oliver Cowdery write?
Answer. Oliver Cowdery and your father wrote in the room where I was at work.
Question. Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you, Oliver Cowdery and the others who wrote for him, after having first written it, or having first read it out of some book?
Answer. Joseph Smith [and for the first time she used his name direct, having usually used the words, “your father” or “my husband”] could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to anyone else.
Question. I should suppose that you would have uncovered the plates and examined them?
Answer. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so;
Major Bidamon here suggested: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?
Answer. I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.
Question. Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin, of the Book of Mormon?
Answer. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity – I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.
Question. What was the condition of feeling between you and father?
Answer. It was good.
Question. Were you in the habit of quarreling?
Answer. No. There was no necessity for any quarreling. He knew that I wished for nothing but what was right; and, as he wished for nothing else, we did not disagree. He usually gave some heed to what I had to say. It was quite a grievous thing to many that I had any influence with him.
Question. What do you think of David Whitmer?
Answer. David Whitmer I believe to be an honest and truthful man. I think what he states may be relied on.
Question. It has been stated sometimes that you apostatized at father’s death, and joined the Methodist Church. What do you say to this?
Answer. I have been called apostate; but I have never apostatized nor forsaken the faith I at first accepted; but was called so because I would not accept their new-fangled notion.
Question. By whom were you baptized? Do you remember?
Answer. I think by Oliver Cowdery, at Bainbridge.
Question. You say that you were married at South Bainbridge, and have used the word Bainbridge. Were they one and the same town?
Answer. No. There was Bainbridge and South Bainbridge; some distance apart, how far I don’t know. I was in South Bainbridge.
These questions and the answers she had given to them were read to my mother by me, the day before my leaving Nauvoo for home, and were affirmed by her. Major Bidamon stated that he had frequently conversed with her on the subject of the translation of the Book of Mormon, and her present answers were substantially what she had always stated in regard to it.
ZENAS H. GURLEY’S ACCOUNT OF THE TESTIMONIES OF WITNESSESOF THE BOOK OF MORMONSource: Zenas H. Gurley, “The Book of Mormon,”Autumn Leaves 5 (1892):451-54.
THE BOOK OF MORMON.–No. IV.BY ELDER ZENAS H. GURLEYSOME MARVELOUS EVIDENCE.As the testimony of the Eight Witnesses has been referred to several times in the preceding articles, it is but proper to give their testimony here in full.
TESTIMONY OF EIGHT WITNESSES
[Testimony was reproduced as cited in the Book of Mormon] . . . .
These witnesses are known to be reliable, and though after publishing this testimony they were widely separated in the earth, and in after years somewhat divided in spiritual faith, in their convictions of the gospel, yet they never denied this testimony; nor did they ever contradict it, but iterated and reiterated the same till death; than which no better proof could be offered of their competency according to the rules of evidence.
The plates referred to and from which the Book of Mormon was translated, are described as about seven by eight inches in width and length, not quite as thick as common tin, bound together as a book by three rings running through each, and altogether near six inches thick. They were discovered on the morning of September 22, 1823, to Joseph Smith by the angel who had appeared also to him the night previous.
“He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprung. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; also that there were two stones set in silver bows; and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim–deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted seers in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.:
These were all found in a stone box on the west side near the top of the largest hill in the neighborhood, near the village of Manchester, Ontario County, New York; but possession of them was not granted until four years from that day and date, or to give it in Joseph Smith’s own language:–
“On the 22d day of September 1827, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me, etc.; by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand; when, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him.”–History of Joseph Smith, Millennial Star, vol. 14 (supplement).
It would be very proper here to inquire after the Urim and Thummim; for of all instruments used in times past in the service of God, perhaps none are clothed with greater mystery and obscurity, and none endowed (if the term be permitted) with greater power. The Hebrew word Thummim–Tummim–means perfection, “symbolic figures in the high priest’s breastplate.” And the Hebrew word Urim means lights, “mentioned along with Thummim, as something in the high priest’s breastplate that gave an oracular response.”–Young’s Analytical Concordance. See also Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy] 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65.
Dr. Robinson in his Bible Encyclopedia says:–
“URIM AND THUMMIM, light and perfection, or doctrine and judgment, is supposed to have been an ornament in the high priest’s habit, which was consulted as an oracle upon particular and difficult public questions. Some think it was the precious stones in his breastplate which made known the divine will, by casting an extraordinary lustre. Others assert that they were the words of manifestation and truth, written upon two precious stones, or upon a plate of gold. Various, in fact, are the conjectures upon this subject; and Moses has nowhere spoken of the Urim and Thummim in such terms as to remove the difficulty. When the Urim and Thummim was to be consulted, the high priest put on his robes; and, going into the holy place, stood before the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place; and then, turning his face directly toward the ark and the mercy-seat, upon which the divine presence rested, he proposed what he wanted to be resolved upon; and directly behind him, at some distance without the holy place, stood the person at whose command or entreaty God was consulted; and there, with all humility and devotion, expected the answer. According to Josephus, this oracle ceased about one hundred and twelve years before Christ.”
Had the Book of Mormon been translated from “behind a blanket,” as its opponents assert, it would even then be in harmony with that kind of practice among the high priests, as seen from the above quotation.
We are here assured that this oracle continued till within one hundred and twelve years of Christ, and had thus been in use with Israel for some one thousand four hundred years; and yet, during all this time, a secret and a mystery. It was consulted upon all questions of great importance; its answers were considered correct, being made by the power of God. The precious stones were used to “make known the divine will, by casting an extraordinary lustre;” and yet the exact manner of using it, how the breastplate and stones were used, how worn at that particular time, are not known; perhaps were never made known to anyone except the high priest alone, as Moses has nowhere revealed it, of which we have an account, presumably for the reason as given by himself:–
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.”– Deut. 29:29.
All of which looks very marvelous to us, but simply proves that God’s ways are not man’s ways. In harmony with this rule of Moses is Joseph Smith’s statement of the angel’s words and instructions to him, to wit:–
“Again, he told me that when I got those plates, of which he had spoken, I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed.” Whatever the breastplate in this case, the Urim and Thummim was attached to it. (Ibid supplement.)
Again, Dr. Robinson says:–
“Breastplate, a piece of embroidery about ten inches square (Ex. 28:15, seq.), of very rich work, which the high priest wore on his breast. It was made of two pieces of the same rich embroidered stuff of which the ephod was made, having a front and a lining, and forming a kind of purse, or bag, in which, according to the rabbins, the Urim and Thummim were enclosed. The front of it was set with twelve precious stones, on each of which was engraved the name of one of the tribes. This ornament was never to be severed from the priestly garments; and it was called `the memorial.'” (See Ex. 28:12, 29.)
It was also named the “breastplate of judgment;” probably because by it was discovered the judgment and the will of God; or because the high priest who wore it was the fountain of justice, and put on this ornament when he exercised his judicial capacity in matters of great consequence, which concerned the whole nation. Compare Urim and Thummim.
Joseph Smith declares that he soon found out why he had received such strict charges from the angel, as “every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to,” to get the plates and Urim and Thummim away from him, even endangering his life, for that reason on the one hand, and still greater on the other–that no person except permitted by command of God should view them. That Joseph had another stone called seers’ stone, and “peep stone,” is quite certain. This stone was frequently exhibited to different ones and helped to assuage their awful curiosity; but the Urim and Thummim never, unless possibly to Oliver Cowdery who, as early as September 7, 1834, in writing upon this subject testified:–
“Day after day I continued, uninterruptedly, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or as the Nephites would have said, `Interpreters,’ the history, or record, called `The Book of Mormon.'”–See Letter 1.
This agrees with Joseph Smith’s account of the translation; and though Joseph lost the Urim and Thummim through transgression, the latter part of June (probably) 1828, yet they were returned to him in July of the same year; by which, according to his statement above, he accomplished by them what was required at his hand, when the heavenly messenger called for them, whereupon he delivered them all up.
Elder David Whitmer’s idea was that the translation was made by the seers’ stone, as he calls it, not the Interpreters, and Emma Smith’s (Bidamon) statement accords with Whitmer as published in Herald some years since. The only discrepancy between the statements of the witnesses is that relating to the detail of the translation; and, as shown above, David and Emma, in the nature of things, did not know just how the Urim and Thummim were used, as they had never seen them. The reader will please bear in mind that no one was allowed to see either the plates or the Urim and Thummim, except as God commanded. The Eight Witnesses were allowed to see the plates and handle them as shown above; none else.
In January 1885, the writer visited Elder David Whitmer at Richmond, Missouri, and among other questions asked: “Were the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated in Joseph Smith’s possession while translating, and seen and handled by several different persons? If not, where were they? Answer: “I do not know.” Question: Did you see the Urim and Thummim? Answer: “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.” Question: Had you seen the plates at any time before the angel showed them to you? Answer: “No.”
Except in the holy vision referred to by Brother Whitmer, the reader may be sure that the Urim and Thummim was never shown to any person, except possibly to Oliver Cowdery, as he had desired to translate, and received permission to do so; but he lost the gift, evidently from a lack of faith. (See Supplement, page 14.)
Also, Brother Whitmer stated to the writer in 1885, that “Joseph told him” that in the translation “the original characters appeared upon parchment, and under them the translation in English, which enabled him to read it readily.” While this is probably correct, or approximately so, it should be taken for just what it purports to be, and goes to show that the theory advanced above is correct, that David, and all others, must depend on Joseph’s statements as to how the translation was made.
Now we come to the marvelous manifestation to the Three Witnesses of which they can properly testify of what they saw and heard:–
Testimony of the Three Witnesses [Testimony was printed as cited as in Book of Mormon] . . .
Joseph Smith was in company with those three at the time the manifestation was received, in the woods near Father Whitmer’s house, Fayette, Seneca County, New York. And, be it remembered, that these very men years afterward became divided in their religious views, their conceptions of the gospel as contained in the Book of Mormon; David Whitmer withdrawing in 1838 with Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer. These stood aloof from the Church because of doctrinal differences, Oliver almost losing his hope entirely, but, recovering himself, bore faithful testimony to the Book of Mormon before his death, and which he had never denied, while David Whitmer never hesitated to bear his up to the time of his demise, a few years since, and never lost faith in God. Martin Harris died in Idaho some years since in the faith; and to properly label all the slanderous reports made against these witnesses, so that none shall be deceived by them, it is but necessary to quote the language of David Whitmer in 1887, in his Address, page eight:–
“It is recorded in the American Cyclopedia 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 nor 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 deathbed of Oliver Cowdery, and his last words were, `Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon.’ He died here in Richmond, Missouri, on March 3, 1850. Many witnesses yet live in Richmond, who will testify to these facts, as well as to the good character of Oliver Cowdery.”
It is remarkable that, after many years of persecutions and bitterest hatreds from without, intestine broils and discords from within, in a sense hated by friend and foe, these witnesses still bear faithful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Here, as late as 1887, the last of all the witnesses [David Whitmer] iterates his former testimony with his companions who testified that the translation was made “by the gift and power of God; for His voice hath declared it unto us.”
This fact in chief has never at any time been denied in part or in whole, direct nor indirectly, first made when they all were warm friends in religious views, but iterated and maintained to the death, though at that time, or had for years, been separated and estranged from each other. The writer doubts if the world can produce their equals as competent, faithful, undeviating witnesses, according to the accepted rules of evidence. The only discrepancy as noticed is in giving the detail of the manner in which the translation was made; and we have seen how easily that could be. But if the reader be not fully satisfied, then please turn and read the different statements of the evangelists about the resurrection of Christ. All agree in the fact in chief; but their account of the detail is different. (See Matt. 28th; Mark 16th; Luke 24th; John 20th.) And the writing on the cross. (Matt. 17:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19.)
This fact of difference is usually argued as proof of no collusion between the witnesses; that each wrote his account of the matter as he understood it; and, though differing from each other, yet all agree upon the main fact. That which is true of the writings of New Testament witnesses is equally true of writings of Book of Mormon witnesses; and it must be so accepted.