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Home Scripture CRITICISM Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

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The Bible prescribe at least two or three witnesses for everything. The book of Mormon has 12 official witnesses. It is very interesting how the Lord decided to have those special witnesses of His work of the last days.  He gave Joseph like first witness, but one according to the scriptures is not enough so God provided three new witnesses: David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris. Three witnesses according to the Bible are a perfect testimony given to the world. After that God gave other eight witnesses, because eight is the number representing a new cycle, and the new church of Jesus Christ was just doing that: a restoration of the old Church built from Jesus was starting a new beginning. The sum of all, Joseph Smith included, gives 12 people, representing the leadership of the church of twelve apostles. Obviously being those people special witnesses of the new church the people against it was scrutinizing their life at the microscope trying to find even some little details to prove their wrong. This tactic is used today largely against the opponent politicians. If you are able to destroy their credibility, probably you are able to destroy their testimony, this is their idea. Since that somebody said in the past that each one of them, specially of the first three special witnesses at a certain point they denied their testimony, I would like to point out my attention to those three persons, their life, their background and their official declarations. I wrote official declarations not just gossips or second or third hand declarations.

The first person who came in contact with Joseph Smith was a prosperous farmer; Martin Harris. According to his personal declaration he was not so easy accepting the words of Joseph Smith. Before to scrutinize his personal declarations I'd like to point out that Martin Harris was well known in his area before to accept the Mormon religion. His conversion to the claims of the prophet Joseph Smith caused his former friends to mock him and to ridicule him and produced difficult domestic conflict that resulted in separation. Why this honorable person was able to sell part of his farm, endure this  domestic conflict and loose the friendship of many?

Before to answer those questions I want to write what was the opinion of his townsmen about him. "Mormonism unveiled" a book anti Mormon p. 13 declares

"He was considered an honest, industrious citizen, by his neighbors." This is very significant because who was saying this were people  that didn't display sympathy with his beliefs.

The Palmyra Courier May 24 1872 quotes

"Martin Harris was universally honored by his neighbors for his kindness of heart and willingness to assist those in need" before to join the Church of Jesus Christ lds Martin" was an industrious, hard working farmer, shrewd in his business calculation, frugal in his habits, and what was termed a prosperous man in the world.

He was elected by his neighbors as overseer of highway for his district in 1811, 1813, 1814, 1815, 1825, 1827 and 1829

When he joined Joseph Smith in 1829 this farmer did his personal research before to accept the words of Joseph Smith.

He talked to them (Joseph's family) separately, to see if their stories agreed. After that, being satisfied from their accounts he had the opportunity to lift the box containing the plates, and by that he was sure that the plates were of metal heavy as "lead or gold" and  he declared that "He knew that Joseph had not credit enough to buy so much lead" obviously he didn't mention gold. After this he was not satisfied he wanted to make sure that the record was ancient, so he asked a copy of the characters transcribed from the plates to the famous, at that time, Charles Anthon of Columbia College. So Martin Harris didn't give his money for the publication in an easy way. Further he had the opportunity to be a scribe for Joseph during the first part of the translation and still was careful in every detail. He saw the urim an thummim or at least the stone of the seer because in an occasion he found a stone very resembling to it and he made a substitution without Joseph Smith's knowledge. Joseph became confused and then frustrated , exclaiming, "Martin! what is the matter?" Edward Stevenson, "One of the three witnesses. His scribe's guilty expression revealed the situation to the prophet, who demanded an explanation. Martin's answer shows how constantly the secretary was on guard against deception: "To stop the mouths of fools, who had told him that the prophet had learned those sentences and was merely repeating them." Deseret News, Dec 13,1881

Consider this: Martin had to take a loan on his farm to pay for the publication of the Book of Mormon, a lot of money for his time. If Joseph Smith was deceiving him how could he be able to make an angel to appear to him? Think about he could have make another choice for another person instead of Martin Harris. When Martin Harris went in the grove to be a witness at the beginning he DIDN'T receive the visitation of the angel and he said. When he had the visitation and saw the plates he cry out of conviction:" This enough; mine eyes have beheld!"

Surely this farmer saw the angel otherwise should have said like the first time:" I saw nothing" He had money involved in the publication it would have been very stupid to say " I saw the angel and the plates" if it was not true. His reaction and joy was not over after the visitation when he came back in the house of Joseph, mother Smith recalled:" He seemed almost overcome with joy, and testified boldly to what he had both seen and heard."

He lived until 1875 and always his testimony was given in power.

Why then there were rumors that he changed his testimony?

Simple because he was excommunicated from the church in December of 1837.

On my opinion this is another proof of his personal testimony, at that point he could tell  the "Truth" if what declared before was a "lie".  When he was excommunicated with other people from the church, they maintained that the Book of Mormon was a fraud. He could have done and said many things against Joseph Smith instead there is a letter from George Albert Smith to Josiah Fleming mar. 30 1838 Kirtland, Ohio in which is written "Martin Harris then bore testimony of its (Book of Mormon) truth and said all would be damned that rejected it."

Martin Harris remained in Kirtland about 30 years and even though he went through several different affiliation with other churches always in connection with the Mormon church (just once was affiliated with Shakers, a position not basically contrary to his book of Mormon testimony because the foundation of that movement was acceptance of personal revelation from heavenly beings) we have to consider that Martin Harris was a religious person and he wanted in some way to have an affiliation with some religious group instead to be aside from religion.

To George Mantle declared when was asked if the Book of Mormon was true:

"Do you know that is the sun shining on us? Because as sure as you know that, I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that he translated that book by the power of God"

In the 1870 he was rebaptized in Utah. Once he was interviewed  from a reporter of Iowa state register, August 28 1870 this is his report:

"Mr. Harris is now in his 88th year, though still quite vigorous and sprightly, and he is a Mormon, soul and body. The old gentleman evidently loves to relate the incidents with witch he was personally connected, and he does it with wonderful enthusiasm....Joseph Smith was the first to handle the tables, and Martin Harris, one of the appointed witnesses, the second. Mr. Harris describes the plates as being of thin leaves of gold, measuring seven by eight inches, and weighing altogether, from forty to sixty pounds....He believes in the visitations of angels in bodily form, for he has seen and conversed with them, as he thinks, and is satisfied."

According to this report is clear that is was well aware of what he saw and handled

He lived five more years in Utah and gave his personal testimony many times, some people recorded it in their journals, those are some extracts

"I saw the angel and saw the plates from which the book of Mormon was translated and heard the voice of God declare it was translated correctly."

"It is not a mere belief, but is a matter of knowledge. I saw the plates and the inscriptions thereon. I saw the angel, and he showed them unto me.

"Gentlemen, do you see that hand? Are you sure you see it? Are your eyes playing you a trick or something? No. Well, as sure you see my hand so sure did I see the angel and the plates."

George Godfrey attended Mr. Harris when was in his last illness and was awaiting or him to be in a semiconscious moment asking if possibly his testimony was based on a trick.

"I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen, and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates..  an angel appeared to me and others." Affidavit to George Godfrey Oct.29 1921.

In a private letter to Hanna B. Emerson Jan 1871, cit. Saints Herald (1875):630

"No man ever heard me in any way deny the truth of the Book of Mormon, the administration of the angel that showed me the plates, nor the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints under the administration of Joseph Smith Jun, the prophet whom the Lord raised up for that purpose in these the latter days, that he may show forth this power and glory."

So if somebody tells you that Martin Harris denied his personal testimony of the book of Mormon is just lying or kidding.

Let's go now to the second witness of the book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery.

Oliver Cowdery came in when Martin Harris lost the 116 pages and was not again allowed to write for the work. If Joseph Smith was just working a fake, he should have had considered that Martin Harris was going to pay for the publication and punish him for his mistake to lose 116 pages of a fake, it would have been very unwise a stupid, instead Joseph was just following the direction received by the Lord and was careless of possible consequences  that could have disturbed Mr. Harris. For a while Emma and Samuel Smith were helping in the translation. Oliver Cowdery was a teacher in that district and he heard the rumors about the plates. Oliver was very different  from Martin, he was a very well educated person, Joseph was the very opposite to him.

His testimony of the Book of Mormon was just the beginning of many others visitation of heavenly beings, like Peter James and John, John, the Baptist and so on. To think that he was tricked all the times it means to ask too much. Some people like to maintain that he was the real author of the Book of Mormon, because Joseph Smith was just an illiterate, but to write the book and leave the prophet to have the copyright it doesn't make any sense. Even Oliver was excommunicated from the church but he always defined his controversy with leaders not in terms of basic beliefs, but only" the outward government of this church.. History of the church 3:18.

Even for him the antis would like to say that he denied his testimony but this is not true.

While practicing law in Michigan, a gentleman, on a certain occasion, addressed him as follows: "Mr. Cowdery, I see your name attached to this book (Book of Mormon). If you believe it to be true, why are you in Michigan?" The gentleman then read the names of the Three Witnesses and asked. "Mr. Cowdery, do you believe this book?" "No, sir," was the reply. "Very well," continued the gentleman, "but your name is attached to it, and you declare here (pointing to the book) that you saw an angel, and also the plates, from which the book purports to be translated; and now you say you don't believe it. Which time did you tell the truth?" Oliver Cowdery replied with emphasis, "My name is attached to that book, and what I there have said is true. I did see this; I know I saw it, and faith has nothing to do with it, as a perfect knowledge has swallowed up the faith which I had in the work, knowing, as I do, that it is true." At a special conference held at Kanesville, Iowa, Oct. 21, 1848, and presided over by Apostle Orson Hyde. Oliver Cowdery was present and made the following remarks: "Friends and Brethren,—My name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this Church I stood identified with her, and one in her councils. True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called; but, to fulfill the purposes of God. He called me to a high and holy calling. I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters.' I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the 'holy interpreters.' That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it; Mr. Spaulding did not write it; I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. It contains the everlasting gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfillment of the revelations of John, where he says he saw an angel come with the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be [p.250] saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high, Brother Hyde has just said that it is very important that we keep and walk in the true channel, in order to avoid the sand-bars. This is true. The channel is here. The holy Priesthood is here. I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred on us, or restored, the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, and said to us, at the same time, that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands. I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by holy angels from on high. This Priesthood we then conferred on each other, by the will and commandment of God. This Priesthood, as was then declared, is also to remain upon the earth until the last remnant of time. This holy Priesthood, or authority, we then conferred upon many, and is just as good and valid as though God had done it in person. I laid my hands upon that man—yes, I laid my right hand upon his head (pointing to Brother Hyde), and I conferred upon him this Priesthood, and he holds that Priesthood now. He was also called through me, by the prayer of faith, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ." In the early part of November following Elder Hyde called a High Council in the Log Tabernacle, to consider the case of Oliver Cowdery. Having been cut off by the voice of a High Council, it was thought that, if he was restored, he should be restored by the voice of a similar body. Before this body Brother Cowdery said: "Brethren, for a number of years I have been separated from you. I now desire to come back. I wish to come humbly and to be one in your midst. I seek no station. I only wish to be identified with you. I am out of the Church. I am not a member of the Church, but I wish to become a member of it. I wish to come in at the door. I know the door. I have not come here to seek precedence. I come humbly and throw myself upon the decisions of this body, knowing, as I do, that its decisions are right, and should be obeyed." Brother George W. Harris, president of the Council, moved that Brother Cowdery be received. Considerable discussion took place in relation to a certain letter which, it was alleged, Brother Cowdery had written to David Whitmer. Brother Cowdery again rose and said: "If there be any person that has aught against me, let him declare it. My coming back and humbly asking to become a member through the door, covers the whole ground. I acknowledge this authority." Brother Hyde moved that Brother Oliver Cowdery be received into the Church by baptism, and that all old things be dropped and forgotten, which was seconded and carried unanimously. Soon afterwards he was re-baptized. Elder Samuel W. Richards relates the following: "The arrival of Oliver Cowdery and his family at Council Bluffs from the east in the winter of 1848-49 was an interesting event in the history of the Church. With his family, he was on his way to the body of the Church located in Utah, but as some time must elapse before emigrant trains could venture upon the plains, he determined to visit his wife's friends, the Whitmers, in Missouri. While making that journey, a severe snow storm made it convenient for his family to spend several days with Elder Samuel W. Richards and family, who were temporarily residing in upper Missouri, awaiting the opening of the emigration season. That favorable opportunity was made the most of to discuss all matters of interest connected with the early history of the Church, with which Elder Cowdery was personally acquainted and Elder Richards was not. His relation of events was of no ordinary character, maintaining unequivocally all those written testimonies he had furnished to the Church and world in earlier days. Moroni, Peter, James and John, and other heavenly messengers, who had ministered to him in connection with the prophet Joseph Smith, were familiarly but sacredly spoken of, and all seemed fresh upon the memory as though but events of yesterday.

Oliver was rebaptized in the winter of 1848. If he was aware of some tricks or fakes he had the opportunity to unveil them during the time between his excommunication and rebaptism and best of all, why he asked to be baptized again if he was aware or some kind of fraud? The first time he was a leader in the new church the second time he was just a member.

While he was away from the church he met Reuben Miller who recorded in his journal his testimony:

I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon ( save few pages) as it fell from the lips of the prophet, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by that book, Holy interpreters. I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the Interpreters. That Book is true."

21 October 1848 journal of Reuben Miller.

There is a letter of Elizabeth Cowdery, his wife, to David Whitmer Mar 8 1887 Southwest City, Mo. published by George W. L. Swich in The return 3 (1892)

"From the hour when the glorious vision of the Holy Messenger revealed to mortal eyes the hidden prophecies which God had promised his faithful followers should come forth in due time, until the moment when he passed away from earth, he always without one doubt or (shadow) of turning affirmed the divinity and truth of the Book of Mormon."

President Joseph Fielding Smith told the following story of Oliver's return, as recorded in Essentials in Church History:

For some time the Spirit of the Lord had been striving with Oliver Cowdery. Finally he decided to accept the admonition of the Apostles given November 22 1847, and again unite with the church. He came to Kanesville with his family, in October 1848, and asked to be received as a member in the Church. He had been absent for over ten years. A special conference was held October 21, 1848, at which Oliver Cowdery arose and confessed the error of his ways and gave his testimony as follows:

"Friends and brethren:- my name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this church I stood identified with her, and one in her councils. True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called; but, to fulfill the purposes of God, He called me to a high and holy calling. "I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, "holy interpreters". I beheld with MY EYES, AND HANDLED WITH MY HANDS, THE GOLD PLATES from which it was transcribed. I also SAW WITH MY EYES AND HANDLED WITH MY HANDS, the "holy interpreters." That book is true. Sydney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the prophet. It contains the everlasting Gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfillment of the revelation of John, where it says he saw an angel come with the everlasting Gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high. Brother Hyde has just said that it is very important that we keep and walk in the true channel, in order to avoid the sand-bars. This is true. The channel is here. The Holy priesthood is here.

"I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred on us, or restored the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, and said to us at the same time, that it should remain upon earth while the earth stands.

"I was also present with Joseph when the higher of Melchizedeck Priesthood was conferred by holy angels from on high. This Priesthood, as was then declared, is also to remain upon earth until the last remnant of time. This Holy Priesthood, or authority, we then conferred upon many, and is just as good and valid as though God had done it in person."

A few days later Oliver Cowdery appeared before the high council at Kanesville and requested that he be received into the Church. In this occasion he declared:

"Brethren, for a number of years I have been separated from you. I now desire to come back. I wish to come humbly and to be one in your midst. I seek no station. I only wish to be identified with you. I am out of the Church. I am not a member of the Church, but I wish to come in at the door. I know the door> I have not come here to seek precedence, I come humbly, and throw myself upon the decisions of this body, knowing, as I do, that its decisions are right, and should be obeyed."

So even for Oliver Cowdery like for Martin Harris not only they were baptized again but also they never denied their testimony.

David Whitmer.
He lived about 200 miles away from Palmyra. He heard rumors about the "Gold Bible" He was in contact with Oliver Cowdery who sent two letters to him in which expressed the firm conviction that Joseph Smith had the tables and some samples of the translation and later a third letter requesting his hospitality.

This is the account:

The following is David Whitmer's own statement to a reporter of the Kansas City "Journal;" published June 5, 1881: "I first heard of what is now termed Mormonism, in the year 1828. I made a business trip to Palmyra, N. Y., and while there stopped with one Oliver Cowdery. A great many people in the neighborhood were talking about the finding of [p.264] certain golden plates by one Joseph Smith, jun., a young man of the neighborhood. Cowdery and I, as well as many others, talked about the matter, but at that time I paid but little attention to it, supposing it to be only the idle gossip of the neighborhood. Mr. Cowdery said he was acquainted with the Smith family, and he believed there must be some truth in the story of the plates, and that he intended to investigate the matter. I had conversation with several young men, who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates, and that before he had obtained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so, and they were very much incensed with him. Said I, 'How do you know that Joe Smith has the plates?' They replied, 'We saw the plates in the hill that he took them out of, just as he described it to us before he had obtained them.' These parties were so positive in their statements that I began to believe there must be some foundation for the stories then in circulation all over that part of the country. I had never seen any of the Smith family up to that time, and I began to enquire of the people in regard to them, and learned that one night during the year 1823, Joseph Smith, jun., had a vision, and an angel of God appeared to him and told him where certain plates were to be found, and pointed out the spot to him, and that shortly afterward he went to that place and found the plates, which were still in his possession. After thinking over the matter for a long time, and talking with Cowdery, who also gave me a history of the finding of the plates, I went home, and after several months, Cowdery told me he was going to Harmony, Penn., whither Joseph Smith had gone with the plates, on account of the persecutions of his neighbors, and see him about the matter. He did go, and on his way he stopped at my father's house and told me that as soon as he found out anything, either truth or untruth, he would let me know. After he got there he became acquainted with Joseph Smith, and shortly after wrote to me, telling me that he was convinced that Smith had the records, and that he (Smith) had told him that it was the will of heaven that he (Cowdery) should be his scribe to assist in the translation of the plates. He went on and Joseph translated from the plates, and he wrote it down. Shortly after this Mr. Cowdery wrote me another letter, in which he gave me a few lines of what they had translated, and he assured me that he knew of a certainty that he had a record of a people that inhabited this continent, and that the plates they were translating from gave a complete history of these people. When Cowdery wrote me these things, and told me that he had revealed knowledge concerning the truth of them, I showed these letters to my parents, and brothers and sisters.

David Whitmer gave his house and hospitality for the translation.  Like Oliver and Martin he was excommunicated from the church in 1838. But he was always faithful to his original testimony. He lived until 1888 and many people went to him to ask about the truth of his testimony. I will put here the most important declaration that he made about his experience as witness of the book of Mormon.

Is your testimony accurate?

As you read my testimony given many years ago, so it stands as my own existence, the same as when I gave it. (Letter of David Whitmer to Dr. James N. Seymor December 8, 1875

What were the circumstances of the vision?

We went out into the woods nearby, and sat down on a log and talked a while. We then kneeled down and prayed. Joseph prayed. We then got up and sat on the log and were talking, when all at once a light came down from above us and encircled us for quite a little distance around, and the angel stood before us. (Letter of William H. Kelley to Saints' Herald January 16 1882, Coldwater Michigan

Describe the angel

He was dressed in white, and spoke and called me by name and said, "blessed is he that keepeth His commandments." This is all I heard the angel say." (Letter of William H. Kelley to Saints' Herald January 16 1882, Coldwater Michigan)

Did the angel have the Book of Mormon plates?

He showed to us the plates, the sword of Laban, the Directors, the Urim and Thummim, and other records. Human language could not describe heavenly things and that which we saw.  George Q. Cannon journal February 27 1884, instructor 80 (1945):520

Did the vision take place under natural circumstances?

The fact is, it was just as though Joseph, Oliver and I were sitting right there on a log, when we were overshadowed by a light. It was not like the light of the sun, nor like that of a fire, but more glorious and beautiful. It extended away round us, I cannot tell how far, but in the midst of this light, immediately before us, about as far off as he sits (pointing to John C. Withmer, who was sitting 2 or 3 feet from him) there appeared, as it were, a table, with many records on it. Besides the plates of the Book of Mormon, also the sword of Laban, the Directors, and the Interpreters. I saw them as plain as I see this bed (striking his hand upon the bed beside him), and I heard the voice of the Lord as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life declaring that they were translated by the gift and power of God."

Can you explain the supernatural power that surrounded you?

All of a sudden I beheld a dazzlingly brilliant light that surpassed in brightness even the sun at noonday, and which seemed to envelop the woods for a considerable distance around. Simultaneous with the light came a strange entrancing influence which permeated me so powerfully that I felt chained to the spot, while I also experienced a sensation of joy absolutely indescribable. (Omaha Herald October 17 1886)

Did you see the Urim and Thummim?

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. (Interview notes of Zenas H. Gurley, January 14 1885. Also cit. Autumn Leaves 5 (1892) : 452.

Did you handle the plates?

I did not handle the plates, only saw them. Joseph, and I think Oliver and Emma told me about the plates, and described them to me, and I believed them, but did not see except at the time testified of." Journal of Nathan Tanner Jr, Aprile 13 1886

How clearly could you see the plates?

The angel stood before us, and he turned the leaves one by one. (Letter of Wilhelm Poulson to Deseret News 23 August 1878. Ogden Utah, Cit Deseret evening news August 16 1878)

He held the plates and turned them over with his hands, so that they could be plainly visible. (Chicago Times, October 17  1881)

Did the angel turn all the leaves before you as you looked on it?

No, not all, only that part of the book which was not sealed, and what there was sealed appeared as solid to my view as wood. (Letter of Wilhelm Poulson to Deseret News 23 August 1878. Ogden Utah, Cit Deseret evening news August 16 1878)

Can you describe the plates?

They appeared to be of gold, about six by nine inches in size, about as thick as parchment, a great many in number and bound together like the leaves of a book by massive rings passing through the back edges. The engraving upon them was very plain and of very curious appearance. (Kansa city daily  Journal, 5 June 1881)

Is it possible that you imagined this experience?

Our testimony is true. And if these things are not true, then there is no truth, and if there is no truth, there is no God; and if there is no God, there is no existence. But I know there is a God, for I have heard His voice and witnessed the manifestation of His power. ( Letter James H. Hart to Deseret News 23 August 1883, Seneca, cit. Deseret evening News, 4 September 1883)

Do you remember the peculiar sensation experienced upon that occasion?

Yes! I remember it very distinctly. And I never think of it, from that day to this, but what that spirit is present with me. (Letter of William H. Kelley to Saints' Herald January 16 1882, Coldwater Michigan)

David occasionally alluded to an ultimatum that he received from many armed men to force him to repudiate his testimony. This incident happened in 1833 at Independence, Missouri. This story was recorded from John P. Green a convert of New York

When the mob again assembled they went to the houses of several of the leading Mormons. And taking Isaac Morley, David Withmer, and others, they told them to bid their families farewell, for they would never see them again. Then driving them at the point of the bayonet to the public square, they stripped and tarred and feathered them, amidst menaces and insults. The commanding officer then called twelve of his men. And ordering them to cock their guns and present them at the prisoners' breasts, and to be ready to fire when he gave the word, he addressed the prisoners, threatening them with instant death unless they denied the Book of Mormon and confessed it to be a fraud; at the same time adding that if they did so, they might enjoy the privileges of citizens. David Whitmer, hereupon, lifted up his hands and bore witness that the Book of Mormon was the Word of God. The mob then let them go. (John P. Greene, Facts relative to the expulsion of the Mormons, Cincinnati 1839)

The testimony I gave to that mob made them fear and tremble, and I escaped from them. One gentleman, a doctor, an unbeliever, told me afterwards that the bold and fearless testimony borne on that occasion and the fear that seemed to take hold of the mob had made him a believer in the Book of Mormon. ( Letter James H. Hart to Deseret News 23 August 1883, Seneca, cit. Deseret evening News, 4 September 1883)

Another incident was

"We followed him in the street, and I told him that the gentleman with me had come to hear what he had to say with regard to the Book of Mormon. I told Mr.  Whitmer I had been reading the testimony of the witnesses to Mr. Lefler, and....he was anxious to hear..... for himself. Now Mr. Whitmer, here is the gentleman. What have you to say to him? Mr. Whitmer turned towards Mr. Lefler and said:" Well, God Almighty requires at my hand to bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon. It is the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, translated from the plates by the gift and power of God by Joseph Smith....I know I tell the truth. (Letter of Henry Moon to Joseph F. Smith, Mar 7 1872, Farmington Utah. Deseret Evening News April 10 1872.

His grandson George W. Sweich was also a private secretary for him and was present at many interviews and wrote many letters dictated from him. He wrote about this topic:

"I have begged him to unfold the fraud in the case, and he had all to gain and nothing to lose, but speak the word if he thought so. But he has described the scene to me many times, of his vision about noon in an open pasture. There is only one explanation barring an actual miracle, and that is this: if that vision was not real, it was hypnotism, it was real to grandfather in fact." Letter of George W. Sweich 22 September 1899 Richmond, Mo

At the end of his life there were rumors that he denied his testimony and David Whitmer went to the newspaper of his town and made a public declaration that those rumors were just lies.

Before to go ahead and write something about on several not official witnesses of the plates. I want to put here the biography of those three remarkable people, they were normal people, like me and you, full of weakness, but still able to be willing to keep their testimony even in the face of death until the death came.

Martin Harris

Son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham. Born 18 May 1783 in Easttown, Saratoga County, New York. Married first cousin Lucy Harris. Three children: Duty L., George W., and Lucy. Owned 240 acres of land in Palmyra. Served as scribe to Joseph Smith during translation of Book of Mormon. One of Three Witnesses of Book of Mormon June 1829. Assisted financially in publication of Book of Mormon. Baptized 6 April 1830. Ordained priest by June 1830. Ordained high priest 3 June 1831. Member of Literary and United firms. Member of Kirtland high council 1834. Member of Zion's Camp. Assisted in choosing twelve apostles in 1835. Married Caroline Young in 1837 after death of first wife. Five children: Martin Jr., John, Julia, Solomon, and Ida Mae. Excommunicated December 1837. Rebaptized 6 November 1842. Did not gather with Saints in Nauvoo. Did not follow Brigham Young after Prophet's death. Joined James Strang movement and served a mission for Strangites in England 1846. Joined William E. McLellan in organizing new church January 1847. Wife, Caroline, left him 1856 to gather with the Saints in Utah. Joined William Smith in organizing new church about 1858 in Kirtland. Served as custodian of Kirtland Temple. Arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah, August 1870. Rebaptized and received endowment September 1870. Died 9 July 1875 in Clarkston, Cache County, Utah

He also financed the first publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 at a cost of $3,000 and later helped finance publication of the Book of Commandments.

Oliver Cowdery

Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Born 3 October 1806 at Wells, Rutland County, Vermont. Became acquainted with and began writing for Joseph Smith as scribe on translation of gold plates April 1829. With Joseph Smith received Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods in spring of 1829. One of Three Witnesses to Book of Mormon June 1829. Charter member of Church 6 April 1830. First scribe to assist Joseph Smith in translating Bible. Led Lamanite mission to Missouri in winter of 1830. Returned to Ohio August 1831. Ordained to High Priesthood 28 August 1831 by Sidney Rigdon. Accompanied by John Whitmer to Missouri November-December 1831 with manuscript revelations for printing. Member of Literary and United firms. Married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer 18 December 1832. Six children: Maria Louise, Elizabeth Ann, Josephine Rebecca, Oliver Peter, Adeline Fuller, and Julia Olive. No grandchildren. Left Missouri for Ohio in July 1833 to confer with Joseph Smith concerning persecution in Jackson County. Arrived in Kirtland before 18 August 1833. Traveled to New York October 1833 to purchase printing materials. Member of Kirtland high council. Assisted in administering Church affairs during summer of 1834 while Joseph Smith was in Missouri. Ordained Assistant President of Church 5 December 1834. Assisted in choosing twelve apostles 1835. Appointed Church recorder 1835. Participated in dedication of Kirtland Temple 1836. With Joseph Smith received priesthood keys from Elijah, Elias, and Moses 3 April 1836. Returned to Missouri 1837. Arrived in Far West 20 October 1837. Excommunicated from Church for apostasy 12 April 1838 at Far West, Missouri. Practiced law in Tiffin, Ohio, and Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Ran unsuccessfully for state legislature in Wisconsin 1848. Rebaptized by Orson Hyde 12 November 1848 at Kanesville, Iowa. Died 3 March 1850 in Richmond, Ray County Missouri.

David Whitmer

Son of Peter Whitmer and Mary Musselman. Born 7 January 1805 near Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. One of Three Witnesses of Book of Mormon 1829. Baptized, and possibly ordained apostle, June 1829. Married Julia Ann Jolly, daughter of William Jolly, 9 January 1831 at Seneca County, New York. Two Children: David J. (born in Missouri), and Julia A.E. (born in Ohio). Ordained elder 6 April 1830. Moved to Kirtland, Ohio, [p.25] by June 1831. Ordained high priest 25 October 1831. Moved to Jackson County, Missouri, by October 1832. Chosen and ordained successor to Joseph Smith and President of the Church in Missouri 7 July 1834. Chosen to receive "endowment" in Kirtland Temple 23 June 1834. Left Missouri for Kirtland by September 1834. Assisted in choosing twelve apostles 1835. Appointed as general agent for Literary Firm September 1835. Participated in Kirtland Temple dedication 1836. Paid personal property tax on one horse and one cow in Kirtland 1836. Expressed sympathy to apostate sentiments in Kirtland 1837. Returned to Missouri before 29 July 1837. Rejected by Missouri Saints as president of Church in Missouri 5 February 1838. Excommunicated from Church 13 April 1838 at Far West, Missouri, for apostasy. After leaving Church, located in Richmond, Ray County, Missouri; operated a livery stable. For fifty years maintained strict separation from Church. Recognized by peers as prominent citizen and businessman. Elected to fill unexpired term of mayor in Richmond 1867-68. Died 25 January 1888 at Richmond, Ray County, Missouri

Other people who saw the plates were

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.
CHRISTIAN WHITMER HIRAM PAGE
JACOB WHITMER JOSEPH SMITH, SEN.
PETER WHITMER, JUN. HYRUM SMITH
JOHN WHITMER SAMUEL H. SMITH

Other people who didn't see the plates uncovered

Emma Smith declared:" The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen table cloth, 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... . I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work."

Whitmer, Mary Musselman


LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, p.283
Whitmer, Mary Musselman, the only woman who saw the plates of the Book of Mormon, was born Aug. 27, 1778, and became the wife of Peter Whitmer. Together with her husband she was baptized by Oliver Cowdery in Seneca lake, April 18, 1830. Among the early members of the Church she was familiarly known as Mother Whitmer, she being the wife of Peter Whitmer, sen., and mother of five of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Her son, David Whitmer, before his death, testified on several occasions that his mother had seen the plates, and when Elders Edward Stevenson and Andrew Jenson visited Richmond, Missouri, in 1888, John C. Whitmer, a grandson of the lady in question, testified in the following language: "I have heard my grandmother (Mary Musselman Whitmer) say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi. (She undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge.) It was at the time, she said, when the translation was going on at the house of the elder Peter Whitmer, her husband. Joseph Smith with his wife and Oliver Cowdery, whom David Whitmer a short time previous had brought up from Harmony, Pennsylvania, were all boarding with the Whitmers, and my grandmother in having so many extra persons to care for, besides her own large household, was often overloaded with work to such an extent that she felt it to be quite a burden. One evening, when (after having done her usual day's work in the house) she went to the barn to milk the cows, she met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house, she was filled with inexpressible joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell. From that moment my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, and she felt no more inclination to murmur because her lot was hard. I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death." Mother Whitmer died in Richmond, Ray county, Missouri, in January, 1856. (See also sketch of David Whitmer and Peter Whitmer: "Historical Record," Vol. 7, p. 621; "Juvenile Instructor," Vol. 24, p. 22.)

Now many people are questioning about the plates, surely at his time the prophet had an hard time trying to protect them from a constant harassment from his neighbors determined to get them. They were not believers but they believed that Joseph had a Golden Bible.

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