Hey guys, so at the beginning of every Book of Mormon is the testimony of the 3 and the 8 witnesses. The 3 witnesses claimed that “an angel came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon.”
This is a big deal, because previously Joseph had been commanded not to show the ancient Book of Mormon record to anyone. But suddenly, these 3 witnesses and several others are all saying “Yeah, they’re real. We’ve seen them.” What are we supposed to do with that? Did Joseph somehow trick them? Were they lying, and co-conspirators with Joseph? Or, could it be possible that they were just telling the truth? In the next few episodes we’re going to take a closer look at each of the three witnesses, starting with a man named David Whitmer.
David Whitmer was introduced to the prophet Joseph Smith in 1829 through Oliver Cowdery, who was a schoolteacher and Joseph’s scribe. As persecution increased in Pennsylvania, Joseph and his wife moved into David’s home in Fayette New York, where Joseph finished translating The Book of Mormon.
In June of the same year, the witnesses saw the plates. David Whitmer fell away from the Church in Far West over disagreements with Joseph in 1838. He soon moved to Richmond, Missouri, where he operated a successful livery stable. He was a member of the city council and was even elected mayor of Richmond. In 1884 the St. Louis Republican wrote, “The honesty and excellent character of the Whitmer family are substantiated by the people of Richmond without exception.”
In 1847, a few years after Joseph died, David started an offshoot of the Church which quickly dissolved. He resurrected it in the 1870s. And he died in 1888. Throughout David’s life he went to great lengths to make it absolutely clear that his testimony of seeing the angel and the Book of Mormon plates was absolutely true. You’ll be able to read those later on in this video.
Instead of grappling with his many, many statements, many critics of our faith attempt to brush them off by giving you reason to doubt his character or experience with whatever sources they can find, which aren’t many. For example you might run into this quote from David, “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints…’”
People often misunderstand this quote as David saying that God told him to leave the Church. But in context we see that’s not at all what this quote is referring to. David was no longer considered a member of the church by April, 1838. But he still lived with the saints in Far West, Missouri. Unfortunately, a vigilante group arose among the saints known as the Danites, led by a man named Sampson Avard (I need to do an episode on them). Anyway, in June, 1838, Avard sent David a letter, telling him to leave “or else a more fatal calamity shall befall you.”
He’s not claiming God told him to leave the church, but rather to leave town to escape Danite persecution. The quote holds no bearing on the validity of David’s witness of the Book of Mormon. Another influential quote critics cite comes from a guy named John Murphy, in which he calls into question the reality of David’s witness. Again, what you don’t hear is that when David heard about what had been published, he was livid, and he published a response which you can pause and read:
While some of the details of David’s recollections varied slightly over the course of 60 years, his testimony of the angel and the plates is incredibly solid. He testified of its truthfulness after being tarred, feathered, and threatened by a mob at gunpoint. He testified of it on his deathbed and the guy even had his testimony carved into his gravestone. So, he was either tricked, lying, or telling the truth. The witness of David and others is so strong that even some of the most popular antagonistic authors from Joseph’s day until now seem convinced that the witnesses at least thought they were telling the truth.
Their theories are that Joseph was a skilled magician or wizard. OR Joseph hypnotized the witnesses, or unconsciously induced hallucinations. OR contrary to plenty of witness statements, the witnesses only imagined their experience—that it was a dreamlike vision, and not physical reality. You are free to believe as you see fit. Personally, I just think he was telling the truth. Check out the links in the description for more info on this, and enjoy this montage of statements from and about David Whitmer. Feel free to pause and read as many as you’d like. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites.
- Tons of statements from/about David Whitmer’s witness, via FairMormon: http://bit.ly/39TDLF8
- Documentation of Whitmer’s separation from the Church: https://bit.ly/2M7MqJT
- Letter from Sampson Avard: https://bit.ly/2rNIAyJ
- Info about Whitmer from Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/38Lw2bL
- Whitmer bio from JosephSmithPapers.org: https://bit.ly/34vxQCd
A sampling of quotes from and about David Whitmer’s witness:
“My testimony to the world is written concerning the Book of Mormon, and it is the same that I gave at first and it is the same as shall stand to my latest hour in life, linger with me in death and shine as Gospel Truth beyond the limits of life, among the Tribunals of Heaven, and [that] the Nations of the Earth will have known to[o] late the divine truth written on the pages of that book is the only sorrow of this servant of the Almighty Father.”
-David Whitmer to Mark H. Frorscutt, 2 March 1875, Scrapbook, 16-17; First-hand account.
“My testimony to the Book of Mormon is true and I am admonished neither to add to nor take from my testimony already appended to the Book. And if I should do so must be extremely guarded under the risk of being misunderstood.”
-David Whitmer, to Heman C. Smith, 5 December 1876, Community of Christ Library-Archives; First-hand account.
“As you read my testimony given many years ago, so it stands as my own existence; the same as when I gave it, and so shall stand throughout the cycles of eternity.”
-David Whitmer in letter to James N. Seymond, cited in Saints’ Herald 26 (15 July 1879): 223-24; cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols, 5:219. First-hand account.
“My testimony as published in connection with the Book of Mormon is true—And why Should men ask to know more in regard to all the particulars connected with that all Overshadowing truth—If they will not believe the three and 8 witnesses would they believe though one Should arise from the dead, testify to its truth again?”
-David Whitmer, to S. T. Mouch, 18 November 1882, Richmond, Missouri, Whitmer Papers, Communty of Christ LIbrary-Archives; First-hand account.
“In June, 1829, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and myself as the three witnesses, to behold the vision of the Angel, as recorded in the fore part of the Book of Mormon, and to bear testimony to the world that the Book of Mormon is true. I was not called to bear testimony to the mission of Brother Joseph Smith any farther than his work of translating the Book of Mormon, as you can see by reading the testimony of us three witnesses.”
-David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon, 31; First-hand account.
“[O]f course [I] would tell you about my vision of the Angel. You ask me if I saw the Angel when he brought the plates. I saw the angel when he brought the plates, and the Angel told us that we must bear testimony to the world, as contained in my testimony written in the Book of Mormon. Doubt not—sister—the Book of Mormon is the Word of God.”
-David Whitmer, to Sister Gates, 11 February 1887, Richmond, Missouri, David Whitmer Papers, Community of Christ Library-Archives; First-hand account.
“I did see the Angel as it is recorded in my testimony in the Book of Mormon. The Book is true.”
-David Whitmer, to Robert Nelson, 15 February 1887, Richmond, Missouri, David Whitmer Papers, Community of Christ Library-Archives; First-hand account.
“In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time… A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled [the woods as] at noon day, and there in a vision or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon.”
-David Whitmer, to Anthony Metcalf, 2 April 1887; Ten Years before the Mast, 73-74; First-hand account.
“It is recorded in the American Cyclopedia and the Encyclopedia 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 two other 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 affirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”
-David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon. First-hand account.
“Taking Isaac Morley, David Whitmer, and others, [the mob] 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… The commanding officer…then order[ed] them to cock their guns and present them at the prisoners’ breasts…he addresses the prisoners, threatening them with instant death unless they denied the Book of Mormon and confessed it to be a fraud… 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, p. 17. Second-hand account.
“[T]he 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 of James H. Hart to Deseret News, Aug. 23, 1883, Seneca, Mo. Second-hand account.
“Kind reader, … beware how you hastily condemn that book which I know to be the word of God; for his own voice and an angel from heaven declared that truth of it unto me, and to two other witnesses who testified on their deathbed that it was true.”
-Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, p. 43. First-hand account.
After Elder J.J. Thayne returns from his mission: “He brought twenty-two persons back with him … among them is Mr. John Lefler, who, it will be remembered, inquired of Bishop Moon, while the latter was on his mission last year, concerning of the Book of Mormon, and to satisfy himself, he in company with Bro. Moon, visited Mr. David Whitmer, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and heard him bear testimony that he saw the angel of God and heard him declare that the plates were a divine record.”
–Deseret News 21/37 (Wednesday, 16 October 1872): 557d. Third-hand account.
“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.
“D[avid] Whitmer then arose and bore testimony to having seen an Holy Angel who had made known the truth of this record to him. [A]ll these strange things I pondered in my heart.”
-William E. McLellin, journal, 18 July 1831. Second-hand account.
James H. Moyle was later Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in two U.S. administrations. Graduating with legal training at the University of Michigan in 1885, he determined to cross-examine the remaining Book of Mormon witness before returning to Utah. He…contrasted Whitmer’s situation of not being far from death with his own commencement of a life’s career: ‘And so I begged of him not to let me go through life believing in a vital falsehood.’ The law student requested disclosure: ‘Was there any possibility that he might have been deceived?’ All of his life Moyle remembered the ‘unequivocal’ affirmation of the testimony: ‘There was no question about its truthfulness.’ Entries made in his diary at the time show that David Whitmer gave the young man the same information that he related to scores of others… Moyle could not accept the view that David Whitmer misrepresented: ‘To have been insincere seems impossible, would have made him a hideous, soulless, mental deformity.’”
-Quoted in Richarl Lloyd Anderson’s Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, pg. 85. See citations on pg. 91-92.
“I did see the angel of God, and was commanded to testify of these things, and they are true.”
-David Whitmer, to E.C. Brand, 8 February 1885 in Kingston [Missouri] Times (23 December 1887); First-hand account.
“…no one seems to have been closer to the witness in his closing years that George W. Sweich, a partner in the Whitmer stables and private secretary to David. He had been personally present at numerous interviews and had written many dictated letters reaffirming his grandfather’s story. Through all of this he formed his personal appraisal of the man based in large part on private conversation:
“‘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.’”
-Quoted in Richarl Lloyd Anderson’s Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, pg. 86. Letter of George W. Sweich, Sept. 22, 1899, Richmond Mo., cit. I. Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism (London, 1903), pp. 219-20.
“…no man could hear him make his affirmation, as he has to us in there, and doubt for one moment the honesty and sincerity of the man himself. He fully believes he saw and heard, just as he stated he did.”
-Quoted in Richarl Lloyd Anderson’s Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, pg. 88. See citation on pg. 92.
“I have frequently placed it [the seer stone] to my eyes but could see nothing through it. I have seen Joseph, however, place it to his eyes and instantly read signs 160 miles distant and tell exactly what was transpiring there. When I went to Harmony after him he told me the names of every hotel at which I had stopped on the road, read the signs, and described various scenes without having ever received any information from me.”
-David Whitmer, interview with Chicago Times (August 1875); cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols, 5:21-22. Second-hand account.
“I personally heard him [David Whitmer] state in Jan. 1876 in his own house…in most positive language, that he did truly see in broad day light, a bright, and most beautiful being, an ‘Angel from Heaven,’ who did hold in his hands the golden plates, which he turned over leaf by leaf, explaining the contents, here and there. He also described the size and general appearance of the plates….
-David Whitmer, reported by Thomas Wood Smith to the Editor, Fall River (MA) Herald, 28 March 1879; reprinted in the Saints’ Herald 26 (15 April 1879): 128; Second-hand account.
“Bro. David please relate your feelings in regard to the testimony of yours in the Book of Mormon, and the origin of the gospel through Joseph Smith.”
“Well as I know that the sun shines, so do I know that I was plowing one forenoon and I heard a voice and saw a personage who said, ‘Blessed is the Lord and he that keepeth his commandments,’ and the very next round Bro Joseph [Smith] and Oliver [Cowdery] came along and said, ‘Come David and be one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon’. We walked through a clearing and all sat on a log. It was about 11 a.m., when a light appeared and it grew brighter until an angel stood before us and on the appearance of a table was laid the plates, urim and thummim, ball or director, sword of lab, etc., and a voice declared and bore record of the truth of the translation turning the leaves over, and thus the vision ended.”
-David Whitmer, in Edward Stevenson, Journal, 14:10-18, entry of 22-23 December 1877, LDS Church Archives; Second-hand account.
“I was plowing in my field, when I heard a voice saying, ‘Blessed is the name of the Lord and those that keep his commandments.’ After I had plowed one more round, the prophet and Oliver Cowdery came along, and said, ‘Come and be one of the witnesses.’ We passed through a clearing and sat on a log. While there, a light appeared, which grew brighter, until an angel stood before them with the plates and other things. The angel turned the leaves so that we could see the engravings, etc. We then heard a voice, saying that those things were true and that the translation was correct. This was about 11 o’clock a.m.”
-David Whitmer, in Edward Stevenson, letter to Salt Lake Herald (21 January 1878); cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols, 5:34. Second-hand account.
“And no man can look at David Whitmer’s face for a half-hour, while he charit[abl]y and modestly speaks of what he has seen, and then boldly and earnestly confesses the faith that is in him, and say that he is a bigot or an enthusiast.”
-David Whitmer, interview with Chicago Times (August 1875). Second-hand account.
David Whitmer interview with P. Wilhelm Poulson:
“I–Martin Harris…gave a testimony in Salt Lake City Tabernacle that he saw the plates by [the] faith and power of God.
“He–Martin Harris is correct….we saw it, and our testimony, which we give to the world, is true exactly as you read it, we saw by the gift and power of God. As we were praying the angel stood before us in his glory, and all those things were before us, as they were laid before us on a table, and we heard the testimony about the plates, and we were commanded to bear that testimony to the world, and our testimony is true. And when the angel had finished his words, and shown us the plates, one by one, which were to be translated, then the vision was closed at once, and exactly as it came even so did the sight disappear.
“I–But those things which you saw were material things, how could they come and vanish away again?
“He–It is the power of God. He does those things, and his angels know how to do it. It was wonderful to us, but it was by the power of God. He had appointed his angels to be the guardians of the plates and other things, and the angels knew how it was done.
“I–Did the eight witnesses not handle the plates as a material substance?
“He–We did not, but they did, because the faith of Joseph became so great that the angel, the guardian of the plates, gave the plates up to Joseph for a time, that those eight witnesses could see and handle them.”
-David Whitmer interview with P. Wilhelm Poulson, circa April 1878, letter to the editor, Deseret Evening News (16 August 1878); Second-hand account.
“I have heard the same from the mouth of Father Whitmer, more than once; and every time I ever heard him tell the particulars of that glorious scene, he always told it just the same; and as far as I have ever heard, from reliable witnesses, he has always told the same story—’straight as a nail.’”
-David Whitmer, J.L. Traughber to the editor, 13 October 1879, Saints’ Herald 26 (15 November 1879): 341; Second-hand account.
“Did you see the angel?”
“Yes; he stood before us [Whitmer, Joseph, and Oliver]. Our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon is absolutely true, just as it is written there.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with Kansas City Journal (1 June 1881). Second-hand account.
“It was in June 1829, the very last part of the month… We (the Three Witnesses) not only saw the plates of the book of Mormon, but the Brass Plates, the plates containing the record of the wickedness of the people of the world, and many other plates… It was just as though Joseph, Oliver and I were sitting right here on a log, when we were overshadowed by a light… In the midst of this light, immediately before us, about as far off as he sits (pointing to John C. Whitmer 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 (i.e. the ball which Lehi had) and the Interpreters. I saw them just 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 the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated [‘]by the gift and power of God.’
“Orson Pratt: ‘Did you see the Angel at this time?’
“David Whitmer: ‘Yes, he stood before us. Martin Harris was not with us at this time. I don’t think he saw all that we did, but our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon is strictly and absolutely true just as it is there written.’
“When the question was asked David Whitmer if he and the other witnesses did not subscribe their own names to the respective testimonies, he replied that they did. Then he was asked, ‘Where are the original documents?’ That he did not know, but supposed Oliver had copied them, but this was an exact copy. Someone suggested that he ought to certify to it, he being the only witness left, but the lawyer, Mr. David C. Whitmer, son of Jacob, thought he had better take time to reflect about it.”
-David Whitmer, interview with Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, 7-8 September 1878; Joseph F. Smith, Diary, 7-8 September 1878, LDS Church Archives; Second-hand account.
(Context: Some critics claim the witnesses never actually signed their names to their official statements because the earliest record we have comes from the printer’s manuscript, which was a copy of the original created by Oliver Cowdery for the printer. The original Book of Mormon manuscript was mostly destroyed due to water damage, hence why originals are not extant.)
“At that time Mr. Whitmer saw the tablet, gazed with awe on the celestial messenger, heard him speak and say: ‘Blessed is the Lord and he that keeps His commandments;’ and then, as he held the plates and turned them over with his hands, so that they could be plainly visible, a voice that seemed to fill all space, musical as the sighing of a wind through the forest, was heard, saying: ‘What you see is true: testify to the same.’ And Oliver Cowdrey and David Whitmer, standing there, felt, as the white garments of the angel faded from their vision and the heavenly voice still rang in their ears, that it was no delusion—that it was a fact; and they so recorded it. In a day or two after the same spirit appeared to Martin Harris while he was in company with Smith, and told him also to bear witness to its truth, which he did, as can be seen in the book. Harris described the visitant to Whitmer, who recognized it as the same that he and Cowdrey had seen.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with Chicago Times (14 October 1881). Second-hand account.
“‘I was plowing in the field one morning, and Joseph and Oliver came along with a revelation stating that I was to be one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. I got over the fence and we went out into the woods, near by, and sat down on a log and talked awhile. 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. He was dressed in white, and spoke and called me by name and said “Blessed is he that keepeth His commandments.” This is all that I heard the angel say. A table was set before us and on it the records were placed….While we were viewing them the voice of God spoke out of heaven saying that the Book was true and the translation correct.’
“We then asked him, ‘Do you remember the peculiar sensation experienced upon that occasion?’
“He answered very slowly and definitely. ‘Yes; I remember it very distinctly; and I never think of it, from that day to this but what that same spirit is present with me.’
“How did you know it was the voice of God?
“We knew it was the voice of God. I knew it was the voice of God just as well as I knew any thing.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with William H. Kelley and George A. Blakeslee, 15 December 1881; published in William H. Kelley to the Editor, 16 January 1882, Saints’ Herald 29 (1 March 1882): 68-69; Second-hand account.
“We asked him if his testimony was the same now as it was at the time the Book of Mormon was published, regarding seeing the plates and the angel. He rose to his feet, stretched out his hands and said, ‘These hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel, and these ears heard his voice; and I know it was of God.’
“That was the strongest testimony I ever heard, and I felt that he was telling the truth….”
-David Whitmer, interview with Jonas W. Chatburn, Saints’ Herald (15 June 1882): 189; Second-hand account.
“In answer to questions by the brethren he recited with graphic distinctness the scene in which he received the testimony he bore any years past and still bears to the Book of Mormon; and averred anew that the statement made by him as published in the book is true. No one who listens to him can doubt the sincerity and truthfulness of the man.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with Joseph Smith III and others on 4 April 1882, Saints’ Herald 29 (1 May 1882): 141; Second-hand account.
“I have been visited by thousands of people, believers and unbelievers, men and ladies of all degrees, sometimes as many as 15 in one day, and have never failed in my testimony. And they will know some day that my testimony is true….I heard the voice of the Angel just as stated in said Book, and the engravings on the plates were shown to us, and we were commanded to bear record of them; and if they are not true, then there is no truth, and if there is no truth there is no God; if there is no God then there is no existence. But there is a God, and I know it.
“When we were first told to publish our statement, we felt sure the people would not believe it, for the Book told of a people who were refined and dwelt in large cities; but the Lord told us that He would make it known to the people, and people should discover the ruins of the lost cities and abundant evidence of the truth of what is written in the Book.”
-David Whitmer, interview with James H. Hart on 21 August 1883, Journal-Notebook, 21 August 1883, Special Collections and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, BYU ; Second-hand account.
“Persons may attempt to describe the presentation of the plates as shown to himself and other witnesses, but there was a glory attending it that no one could describe, no human tongue could tell the glorious scenes that were presented to them. Joseph Smith was there and Oliver Cowdery and himself—Martin Harris did not come as expected, but they were shown to him a short time after.”
-David Whitmer, interview with James H. Hart on 21 August 1883, Letter to Deseret News (23 August 1883); Second-hand account.
What David said when he was asked if he “had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance, or hallucination, which had deceived them into thinking he saw the Personage, the Angel, the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the sword of Laban.”
“Whitmer was interviewed by Joseph Smith III, in the presence of others, not all of whom were disposed to believe his account. Significantly, he listed several items that he had seen, besides the golden plates:
“Rather suggestively [Colonel Giles] asked if it might not have been possible that he, Mr. Whitmer, had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance, or hallucination, which had deceived them into thinking he saw the Personage, the Angel, the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the sword of Laban. How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height—a little over six feet—and said, in solemn and impressive tones: ‘No, sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!’
-Interview with Joseph Smith III et al. (Richmond, Missouri, July 1884), originally published in The Saints’ Herald (28 January 1936).
“I saw the angel as plainly as I see you; he was surrounded by the glory of God, which overshadowed us, and we heard his voice, and we saw the records of the Book of Mormon…My testimony is the same as at the beginning, as is true.”
-David Whitmer, interview with J. Frank McDowell on 8 May 1884, Saints’ Herald 31 (9 August 1884): 508; Second-hand account.
“Mr Whitmer felt very indignant while speaking of certain statements published recently to the effect that he and Oliver Cowdery had denied their statement as published in the Book of Mormon. This he denounced as false in every particular. He said: ‘Oliver never wavered in his testimony, and when he was on his death bed, I was there, with many of his friends, until he passed away. He bore the same testimony on his dying bed that he had always borne through life, and earnestly called upon all to cleave to the truth revealed through the Prophet Joseph, and to serve the Lord. As for myself, I have never denied my testimony that is published in the Book of Mormon, for I know that God has revealed these things for the salvation of the children of men, and to Him belongs all the honor, the power and the glory.’”
-David Whitmer, interview with James H. Hart on 10 March 1884, Letter to Deseret News (18 March 1884); Second-hand account.
“He was plowing when Joseph and Oliver came to him and the former told him that he was chosen to be one of the three witnesses to whom the angel would show the plates. He also told him that the Lord had promised to make this manifest and now was the time.
They went out and sat upon a log conversing upon the things to be revealed when they were surrounded by a glorious light which overshadowed them. A glorious personage appeared and he showed to them the plates…. Human language could not, he said, describe heavenly things and that which they saw. The language of the angel was: Blessed is he that believed and remaineth faithful to the end. He had his hours of darkness and trial and difficulty, but however dark upon other things[,] that had ever been a bright scene in his mind and he had never wavered in regard to it; he had testified fearlessly always of it, even when his life was threatened. Martin Harris was not with them at the time that he and Oliver saw the angel, but he and Joseph afterwards saw the same, and he thus became a witness also.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with George Q. Cannon, Journal, 27 February 1884, LDS Church Archives; Second-hand account.
“In June, 1829, [when] I [David Whitmer] saw the angel by the power of God, Joseph, Oliver and I were alone, and a light from heaven shone round us, and solemnity pervaded our minds. The angel appeared in the light, as near as that young man. [Within five or six feet – note in original] Between us and the angel there appeared a table, and there lay upon it the sword of Laban, the Ball of [sic] Directors, the Record, and Interpreters. The angel took the Record, and turned the leaves, and showed it to us by the power of God….My testimony in the Book of Mormon is true; I can’t deviate from it.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with E.C. Briggs, 1884; recorded in E.C. Briggs to Joseph Smith III, 4 June 1884, Saints’ Herald 31 (21 June 1884): 396-97; Second-hand account.
“Mr. Whitmer on being asked if he saw the angel, as stated in some accounts, opened the book and pointing to a section said, ‘there is my testimony. Read it; that tells all that is necessary for me to say about it. That contains the solemn testimony of myself and the other persons named.’”
-David Whitmer, interview with St. Louis Republican 77 (16 July 1884): 7; Second-hand account.
“I saw this apparition [the angel] myself and gazed with awe on the celestial messenger and heard him say, ‘Blessed is the Lord and he that keeps his commandments.’ Then, as he held the plates and turned them over with his hands so that we could see them plainly, a voice that seemed to fill all space was heard, saying: ‘What you see is true. Testify to the same.’ Oliver Cowdrey and I, standing there, felt, as the white garments of the angel faded from view, that we had received a message from God, and we have so recorded it. Two or three days later the same angel appeared to Martin Harris while he was in company with [Joseph] Smith, and placed the same injunction upon him. He described the sight and his sensations to me, and they corresponded exactly with what I had seen and heard.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with Unknown Reporter, around July 1884, unidentified and undated newspaper clipping, William H. Samson, Scrapbook, 18:76-77, Rochester Public Library, Local History Room, Rochester, New York; Second-hand account.
“Mr. Whitmer turned his large, kind, but penetrating eyes upon me and, in a very pleasant and considerate, but firm and steady voice said: ‘Read the printed testimony of the three witnesses, which you will find on one of the front pages of the Book of Mormon—and I say to you that every word of it is true.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with Franklin D. Richards and Charles C. Richards, 22 May 1885; Second-hand account.
“Now, as eight years ago, he [Whitmer] says “As I live and stand upon the earth so sure did I see the angel who stood before us. While we were sitting upon a log (that is Joseph and I and Oliver Cowdery) we were talking when a bright light began to shine around us. It grew bright and brighter until an angel stood before us. A table [was] in front of him on which was the [gold] plates and the other plates, the sword of Laban, ball or compass, etc. The plates were shown [to] us [and the] leaves turned over. A portion of them were sealed. We also heard a voice commanding us to bear a testimony of these things to the world….”
-David Whitmer, interview with Edward Stevenson, Journal, 24:30-37, entry of 9 February 1886, LDS Church Archives (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation modernized); Second-hand account.
“I asked him if the table, which the angel brought, and upon which the plates lay when he viewed them was a tangible one, and he said that he did not touch it, it had the semblance of a table. [H]e then explained that he saw the plates and with his natural eyes, but he had to be prepared for it—that he and the other witnesses were overshadowed by the power of God and a halo of brightness indescribable.”
-David Whitmer, interview with Nathan Tanner, Jr., Journal, 13 May 1886, [50-61], LDS Church Archives; Second-hand account.
“David bore his testimony of standing in the presence of the angel….
David said to Mrs S[tevenson], ‘My testimony as found in the Book of Mormon is verily true and I cannot deny it.’ ‘I know,’ he said, ‘that the Book of Mormon is as true as the Bible.’ He relates seeing a messenger while plowing who said ‘Blessed is the name of the Lord and they who keep his Commandments.’ Soon after Joseph Smith and O[liver] Cowdery came along. David tied his team to the fence. The three were about 40 rods from his father’s. While sitting on a log an angel appeared in the midst of a brightness that preceded him. On a table in front of him was the ball or compass…sword of Laban, Urim and Thummim or Interpreters. Also the plates, which was shown to them and they were commanded to bear testimony of these things, and he said as he lived those things were true. He fired up with zeal.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with Edward Stevenson, Journal, 28:123-130, entry of 2 January 1887, LDS Church Archives (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation modernized); Second-hand account.
“He [David Whitmer] stated that the Book of Mormon was true, that his statement in connection with that of Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris was strictly correct, he had nothing to add to it, nor to diminish from it.”
-David Whitmer, reported by B.H. Roberts, Contributor 9 (March 1888): 169 and Millennial Star 50 (20 February 1888): 120; Second-hand account.
“During our interview, Mr. Whitmer reiterated his testimony as given at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, saying that all he testified to there was true; that he had seen the plates and the Heavenly messenger, as he had stated.”
-David Whitmer, Interview with Edwin G. Woolley, Diary, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; Second-hand account.
“Throughout Richmond, Missouri, the non-Mormons knew David Whitmer as an honest and trustworthy citizen. When one anti-Mormon lectured in David’s hometown, branding David as disreputable, the local (non-Mormon) paper responded with “a spirited front-page editorial unsympathetic with Mormonism but insistent on ‘the forty six years of private citizenship on the part of David Whitmer, in Richmond, without stain or blemish.’”
-Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 74.
“…The following year the editor penned a tribute on the eightieth birthday of David Whitmer, who ‘with no regrets for the past’ still ‘reiterates that he saw the glory of the angel.’
“This is the critical issue of the life of David Whitmer. During fifty years in non-Mormon society, he insisted with the fervor of his youth that he knew that the Book of Mormon was divinely revealed. Relatively few people in Richmond could wholly accept such testimony, but none doubted his intelligence or complete honesty.”
-Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 74.
“I saw him [David Whitmer] June 1879, and heard him bear his solemn testimony to the truth of the book—as sincerely and solemnly as when he bore it to me in Paris, Ill. in July 1831.”
-William E. McLellin to Cobb, 14 August 1880; cited by Larry C. Porter, “The Odyssey of William Earl McLellin: Man of Diversity, 1806–83,” in The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836, edited by Jan Shipps and John W. Welch (Urbana: Brigham Young University Studies and University of Illinois Press, 1994), 296. Second-hand account.
“Following Whitmer’s death the Richmond Conservator wrote:
‘On Sunday evening before his death he called the family and his attending physician, Dr. George W. Buchanan, to his bedside and said, “Doctor do you consider that I am in my right mind?” to which the Doctor replied, “Yes, you are in your right mind, I have just had a conversation with you.” He then addressed himself to all present and said: “I want to give my dying testimony. You must be faithful in Christ. I want to say to you all that the Bible and the record of the Nephites, (The Book of Mormon) are true, so you can say that you have heard me bear my testimony on my death bed….”
‘“On Monday morning he again called those present to his bedside, and told them that he had seen another vision which reconfirmed the divinity of the ‘Book of Mormon,’ and said that he had seen Christ in the fullness of his glory and majesty, sitting upon his great white throne in heaven waiting to receive his children.”’
-Richmond Conservator Report (26 January 1888); quoted in Lyndon W. Cook ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Grandin Book Company, 1993), 226. Second-hand account.
“The Richmond Democrat also added this comment: ‘Skeptics may laugh and scoff if they will, but no man can listen to Mr. Whitmer as he talks of his interview with the Angel of the Lord, without being most forcibly convinced that he has heard an honest man tell what he honestly believes to be true.’”
-Richmond Democrat 16/6 (2 February 1888), quoted in Eldin Ricks, The Case of the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1971), 16. Second-hand account.
“After talking as he did, so fully and freely he said ‘I have been asked if we saw those things with our natural eyes. Of course they were our natural eyes There is no doubt that our eyes were prepared for the sight, but they were our natural eyes nevertheless.’
“I asked him if the table was a tangible one, and he said it appeared to be, but they did not touch it.”
-David Whitmer, interview with Nathan Tanner, Jr., Letter to Nathan A. Tanner, 17 February 1909, typed copy, LDS Church Archives; Second-hand account.
“The thing which impressed me most of all was, as we stood beside the grave of Oliver Cowdery the other Witness, who had come back into the Church before his death, and [David Whitmer] in describing Oliver[‘]s action, when bearing his testimony, said to the people in his room, placing his hands like this upon his head, saying ‘I know the Gospel to be true and upon this head has Peter[,] James and John laid their hands and confer[r]ed the Holy Melchisedic Priesthood.’”
-David H. Cannon, Autobiography, 13 March 1917, p. 5; cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols, 5:218. Second-hand account.
“When Martin Harris came back to them [Joseph, Oliver, and David Whitmer], they knew he had also seen the angel, because his face was radiant and he declared he had received the testimony. David Whitmer told me they knew he had also seen the vision which they had, because he explained what they had themselves seen.”
-David Whitmer, cited by Joseph F. Smith, Brian H. Stuy (editor), Collected Discourses: Delivered by Wilford Woodruff, his two counselors, the twelve apostles, and others, 1868–1898, 5 vols., (Woodland Hills, Utah: B.H.S. Publishing, 1987–1989), 2:1987-1982. [Discourse given on 21 February 1892.] ; Second-hand account.