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The Three Witness

The Testimony of the Witnesses.

There were three witnesses of the golden plates who received the ministration of the angel Moroni, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and David Whitmer. In addition, there were eight that viewed the plates when Joseph Smith, with permission of Moroni, showed them the ancient record. There is not space in this posting to consider the eleven witness, so just information about the three is included here.

OLIVER COWDERY

Oliver Cowdery was born in Wells, Rutland, Vermont, on October 3, 1806. His family lived in Vermont until 1825 when they moved to western New York. Initially, Cowdery worked as a clerk in a store in New York, but he became a school teacher in the winter of 1828 and 1829. As a school teacher he boarded with the parents of his students, boarding eventually with the Smith family where he learned of the efforts of Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon.

He became interested in meeting Joseph Smith, so he traveled with Samuel Smith to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he met Joseph and became, after two days, his scribe. He, himself, had a great interest in translating, sections eight and nine of the Doctrine and Covenants being the direct result.

He was the first to be baptized in this dispensation after the visit of John the Baptist on the banks of the Susquehanna River. With Joseph Smith he was also the first to receive the priesthood.

Because of persecution, Oliver had his friend, David Whitmer convey the prophet and the sacred record to his father’s home in Fayette, New York, where the work was completed. It was within a few days of this completion that the vision saying there would be three witnesses occurred.

Oliver was the one charged with the supervision of the printer’s copy of the manuscript and the details of the publication. When the church was organized, Oliver was one of the first six members, and it was he who gave the first public address in the church a few days after it was organized. Oliver was among the first group of missionaries to the Indians in Missouri in 1830, and he was at Independence when the prophet designated it as the gathering place for the saints in the last days.

Cowdery was in charge of the Evening and Morning Star published in Independence, and he was selected as a member of the first high council of the church, a council chosen before the first quorum of the twelve. It was Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery who were left in charge of the church in Kirtland when the prophet traveled with Zion’s camp, and Cowdery and the prophet made a covenant to give a tenth of whatever came into their hands upon the prophet’s return to Kirtland following the march of Zion’s Camp, this being the precursor to tithing.

Oliver Cowdery and the other of the three witnesses were the ones who chose the first quorum of the twelve. Cowdery was intimately involved in the dedication of the Kirtland temple and was present at the vision when Moses, Elias and Elijah appeared in the temple. 1
Notwithstanding the many important callings and visions and responsibilities that were Cowdery’s, he was excommunicated from the church on April 12, 1838. The record of the charges and proceedings against him from the History of the Church is as follows:

Wednesday, April 11.–Elder Seymour Brunson preferred the following charges against Oliver Cowdery, to the High Council at Far West:

To the Bishop and Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I prefer the following charges against President Oliver Cowdery.

“First–For persecuting the brethren by urging on vexatious law suits against them, and thus distressing the innocent.

“Second–For seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith, Jun., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery.

“Third–For treating the Church with contempt by not attending meetings.

“Fourth–For virtually denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority or revelations whatever, in his temporal affairs.

“Fifth–For selling his lands in Jackson county, contrary to the revelations.

“Sixth–For writing and sending an insulting letter to President Thomas B. Marsh, while the latter was on the High Council, attending to the duties of his office as President of the Council, and by insulting the High Council with the contents of said letter.

“Seventh–For leaving his calling to which God had appointed him by revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre, and turning to the practice of law.

Eighth–For disgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says.

“Ninth–For dishonestly retaining notes after they had been paid; and finally, for leaving and forsaking the cause of God, and returning to the beggarly elements of the world, and neglecting his high and holy calling, according to his profession.”

The Bishop and High Council assembled at the Bishop’s office, April 12, 1838. After the organization of the Council, the above charges of the 11th instant were read, also a letter from Oliver Cowdery, as will be found record in the Church record of the city of Far West, Book A. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 9th charges were sustained. The 4th and 5th charges were rejected, and the 6th was withdrawn. Consequently he (Oliver Cowdery) was considered no longer a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Also voted by the High Council that Oliver Cowdery be no longer a committee to select locations for the gathering of the Saints.2

Although Oliver Cowdery did not attend this high council, he did write a letter that expressed his opinions regarding the charges against him, but those opinions, as appears from his letter, dealt with issues the council did not consider worthy of excommunication:

FAR WEST, Missouri, April 12, 1838.

DEAR SIR:–I received your note of the 9th inst., on the day of its date, containing a copy of nine charges preferred before yourself and Council against me, by Elder Seymour Brunson. I could have wished that those charges might have been deferred until after my interview with President Smith; but as they are not, I must waive the anticipated pleasure with which I had flattered myself of an understanding on those points which are grounds of different opinions on some Church regulations, and others which personally interest myself.

The fifth charge reads as follows: “For selling his lands in Jackson County contrary to the revelations.” So much of this charge, “for selling his lands in Jackson County,” I acknowledge to be true, and believe that a large majority of this Church have already spent their judgment on that act, and pronounced it sufficient to warrant a disfellowship; and also that you have concurred in its correctness, consequently, have no good reason for supposing you would give any decision contrary.

Now, sir, the lands in our country are allodial in the strictest construction of that term, and have not the least shadow of feudal tenures attached to them, consequently, they may be disposed of by deeds of conveyance without the consent or even approbation of a superior.

The fourth charge is in the following words, “For virtually denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority nor revelation whatever in his temporal affairs.”
With regard to this, I think I am warranted in saying, the judgment is also passed as on the matter of the fifth charge, consequently, I have no disposition to contend with the Council; this charge covers simply the doctrine of the fifth, and if I were to be controlled by other than my own judgment, in a compulsory manner, in my temporal interests, of course, could not buy or sell without the consent of some real or supposed authority. Whether that clause contains the precise words, I am not certain—I think however they were these, “I will not be influenced, governed, or controlled, in my temporal interests by any ecclesiastical authority or pretended revelation whatever, contrary to my own judgment.” Such being still my opinion shall only remark that the three great principles of English liberty, as laid down in the books, are “the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right of private property.” My venerable ancestor was among the little band, who landed on the rocks of Plymouth in 1620—with him he brought those maxims, and a body of those laws which were the result and experience of many centuries, on the basis of which now stands our great and happy government; and they are so interwoven in my nature, have so long been inculcated into my mind by a liberal and intelligent ancestry that I am wholly unwilling to exchange them for anything less liberal, less benevolent, or less free.

The very principle of which I conceive to be couched in an attempt to set up a kind of petty government, controlled and dictated by ecclesiastical influence, in the midst of this national and state government. You will, no doubt, say this is not correct; but the bare notice of these charges, over which you assume a right to decide, is, in my opinion, a direct attempt to make the secular power subservient to Church direction—to the correctness of which I cannot in conscience subscribe—I believe that principle never did fail to produce anarchy and confusion.
This attempt to control me in my temporal interests, I conceive to be a disposition to take from me a portion of my Constitutional privileges and inherent right–I only, respectfully, ask leave, therefore, to withdraw from a society assuming they have such right.

So far as relates to the other seven charges, I shall lay them carefully away, and take such a course with regard to them, as I may feel bound by my honor, to answer to my rising posterity.

I beg you, sir, to take no view of the foregoing remarks, other than my belief in the outward government of this Church. I do not charge you, or any other person who differs with me on these points, of not being sincere, but such difference does exist, which I sincerely regret.

With considerations of the highest respect, I am, your obedient servant,

[Signed.] OLIVER COWDERY.3

B. H. Roberts makes the following observations concerning the excommunication of Cowdery and Whitmer, David being cut off from the church the next day:

These troubles at Far West grew out of the unhappy conditions that had existed in Kirtland for some time. Oliver Cowdery had been in transgression at Kirtland, as publicly announced by the Prophet; both he and David Whitmer, while in Kirtland, had been in sympathy with the dissenters, which sympathy continued after their return to Missouri. Besides these leaders there were many others in upper Missouri who were disaffected, some for one cause and some for another. Many had made sacrifices for the sake of the church in Kirtland, loaning money to the presidency for the erection of the temple, and for the establishment of the various industries and mercantile establishments started in that place. Some of these persistently demanded a reimbursement, and because that was impossible on the part of the presidency, under conditions then existing, they became disaffected, and charged that to dishonesty which ought to have been assigned to a common misfortune in which the whole church was involved. Vexatious law suits were instituted among the saints, and systematic efforts made, apparently, to undermine and destroy the influence of the presidency of the church. Naturally these conditions called for protest on the part of the presidency, and under date of Sunday, May the 6th, the Prophet writes in his journal—speaking of a discourse he that day delivered:

I cautioned the saints against men who came amongst them whining and growling about their money, because they had kept the saints, and borne some of the burden with others, and thus thinking that others, who are still poorer than themselves, and have borne greater burdens ought to make up their losses. I cautioned the saints to beware of such, for they were throwing out insinuations here and there, to level a dart at the best interests of the church, and if possible destroy the character of its presidency.”4

Whatever else may be said of Cowdery’s excommunication, there is something obscure about it and, perhaps, intentionally obfuscated. The charge that Cowdery accused the prophet of adultery may be the gravamen of the complaint, the result of Joseph Smith’s confiding in Oliver with respect to this doctrine, a doctrine that Cowdery probably found offensive. However, there are records from the early church suggesting that Cowdery, himself, began to practice this polygamy before the Lord was ready to have it practiced, but these statements are not consistent with the fact that Joseph Smith, himself, was practicing polygamy surreptitiously at the time. It seems more likely that Oliver Cowdery discovered what Joseph Smith was doing, was repulsed by it, and became, as a result, accusatory and, eventually, excommunicated.

After his excommunication Cowdery, and some of the other dissenters were run out of Missouri by the Mormons, Sidney Rigdon’s “Salt Sermon” being the provocation for eviction of these former members from Missouri. He continued to practice law for ten years in both Ohio and Wisconsin, and there are stories of him testifying in court proceedings about the truthfulness of his testimony during attempts to impeach him because of his belief in angels.

Whether these are apocryphal stories is unknown, but he did approach the church and was re-admitted in October, 1848, at Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the saints were gathering before crossing the plains. Orson Hyde was the presiding elder, and he granted Oliver’s request to be re-baptized into the church. At the time of his readmission to the church George Albert Smith wrote the following to Orson Pratt concerning the event.

Oliver Cowdery, who had just arrived from Wisconsin with his family, on being invited, addressed the meeting. He bore testimony in the most positive terms of the truth of the Book of Mormon—the restoration of the priesthood to the earth, and the mission of Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the last days; and told the people if they wanted to follow the right path, to keep the main channel of the stream—where the body of the Church goes, there is the authority; and all these lo here’s and lo there’s have no authority; but this people have the true and holy priesthood; “for the angel said unto Joseph Smith, Jr., in my hearing, that this priesthood shall remain on the earth unto the end.” His testimony produced quite a sensation among the gentlemen present, who did not belong to the Church, and it was gratefully received by all the Saints. Last evening (Oct. 30th) President Hyde and myself spent the evening with Brother Cowdery. He told us he had come to listen to our counsel and would do as we told him. He had been cut off from the Church by a council; had withdrawn himself from it; stayed away eleven years; and now came back, not expecting to be a leader, but wished to be a member and have part among us. He considered that he ought to be baptized; and did not expect to return without it. He said that Joseph Smith had fulfilled his mission faithfully before God until death; he was determined to rise with the Church, and if it went down he was willing to go down with it. I saw him today, told him I was going to write you. He sends his respects to you; he says, “Tell Brother Orson I am advised by the brethren to remain here this winter, and assist Brother Hyde in the printing office, and as soon as I get settled I will write him a letter.” I remain, as ever your brother in the kingdom of patience.
(Signed) George A. Smith.5

In the spring of 1849 he returned to Richmond, Missouri, to visit Peter Whitmer, his father-in-law. While there he died of consumption. David Whitmer reports:

I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery or Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died reaffirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I was present at the death bed of Oliver Cowdery, and his last words were, “Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon.” He died here in Richmond, Mo., on March 3d, 1850. Many witnesses yet live in Richmond, who will testify to the truth of these facts, as well as to the good character of Oliver Cowdery.6

MARTIN HARRIS

Martin Harris was a witness of the divinity of the Book of Mormon along with David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, these three having witnessed the plates and heard the testimony of Moroni. Like the others, though, Martin left the church, not rejoining until late in his life. A short biography follows.

He was born in New York in 1783, moving to the Palmyra area around 1793 where he remained until 1831. He became a successful farmer and respected member of the community. He was a veteran of the War of 1812.

He became acquainted with the Joseph Smith Sr. family after their arrival in Palmyra in 1816. At the time Harris was 33 years old and often hired the junior Joseph Smith to work on his farm. He gained a respect for the family and was informed of the boys visions and revelations as a close confidant of the family.

He was a believer and the early financial supporter of the church. He had heard about the plates and visited Joseph Smith at his father’s house to see them, but he was only allowed to heft the box which contained them. But he prayed about them, decided Joseph Smith did have them and wanted to help with the work. He gave Joseph Smith $50 (equivalent to more than $1,000 in 2018 dollars) in the fall of 1827 to assist him in the Lord’s work and later became his scribe for part of the Book of Mormon. His communications with Professor Charles Anthon are well-known and, perhaps, somewhat mythologized in the church, but his interview with Anthon had an astonishing effect upon him, so much so that he began to assist with the translation of the record, mortgaging and ultimately selling his farm to pay the cost of printing the book.

His wife, apparently, was not happy about her husband’s conversion; the loss of the one-hundred sixteen pages is probably the result of a contest between the Harrises: his desire to convert her by convincing her of the divinity of the work and her equal intent to convince him of the vanity of his work.

Although Harris was not allowed to continue with the translation of the work following his gaffe, he remained friendly to the prophet, traveling to Waterloo to congratulate him when the translation was completed. It was during this visit that he was allowed to be one of the three witnesses, another startling event which, when combined with his other experiences, left him so converted him to the divinity of the work that he would never deny his experiences.

Harris was baptized shortly after the church was organized. he left his home in New York for Kirtland in 1831. He was member of the first quorum of the twelve, traveled with the prophet to Missouri when it was designated as the gathering place, and was otherwise an important member of the church until 1838, the year he and Oliver were excommunicated from the church. Why he was excommunicated is something to be researched, but I suspect it had something to do with the polygamy issue.

Martin Harris remained in Kirtland until 1870. He was the caretaker of the Kirtland temple. He removed to Utah in 1870, remaining there until his death in 1875. He was re-baptized into the church upon his arrival in Utah, remaining faithful to his testimony throughout his life. There are many testimonies and interviews recorded involving Martin Harris, and he is the most often quoted as he was the most often interviewed of the three witnesses.

DAVID WHITMER

David Whitmer was born January 7, 1805, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His father, Peter Whitmer, had five sons and two daughters. One of the daughters, Catherine, married Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses, and another, Elizabeth, married Oliver Cowdery. Thus, all five of Peter Whitmer’s sons and both his sons-in-law were witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

The Whitmers’ acquaintance with the work of Joseph Smith was the result of Oliver Cowdery. On a trip to Palmyra, David Whitmer met with Oliver, apparently a friend of his, and learned about the rumors of Joseph Smith’s work, something Cowdery intended to investigate by going to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to interview Joseph Smith. It was a short time after this that Oliver wrote to David Whitmer confirming the truthfulness of the rumors. Later, Oliver wrote to David again to request refuge from the persecution mounting in Pennsylvania, a refuge the prophet and Cowdery found in Peter Whitmer’s home where the work of the translation was finished. The witnesses saw the plates while the prophet was living in the Whitmer home, and the church was organized there as well.

During 1831, David Whitmer moved to Ohio and then, in 1832, he settled near Independence, Missouri, where he intended to be involved with the church. He was subjected to mob violence in 1833, so he moved his residence to Clay County. He had been ordained a high priest by Oliver Cowdery, and he was the head of the church in the Missouri area. He became disaffected starting about the summer of 1837, finally being excommunicated at Far West on April 13, 1838, the day after Oliver Cowdery had been removed from the church. Although, somewhat cryptic, the account of his excommunication is as follows:

April 13.—The following charges were preferred against David Whitmer, before the High Council at Far West, in council assembled.

First—For not observing the Word of Wisdom.

Second—For unchristian-like conduct in neglecting to attend meetings, in uniting with and possessing the same spirit as the dissenters.

Third—In writing letters to the dissenters in Kirtland unfavorable to the cause, and to the character of Joseph Smith, Jun.

Fourth—In neglecting the duties of his calling, and separating himself from the Church, while he had a name among us.

Fifth—For signing himself President of the Church of Christ in an insulting letter to the High Council after he had been cut off from the Presidency.”

After reading the above charges, together with a letter sent to the President of said Council, the Council held that the charges were sustained, and consequently considered David Whitmer no longer a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints.7

David Whitmer’s response to these charges was a letter:

Far West, Mo., April 13, 1838.

John Murdock:

Sir:—I received a line from you bearing date the 9th inst. requesting me as a high priest to appear before the high council and answer to five several charges on this day at 12 o’clock.

You, sir, with a majority of this church have decided that certain councils were legal by which it is said I have been deprived of my office as one of the presidents of this church. I have thought, and still think, they were not agreeable [legal] to the revelations of God, which I believe; and by now attending this council, and answering to charges, as a high priest, would be acknowledging the correctness and legality of those former assumed councils–which I shall not do.

Believing as I verily do, that you and the leaders of the councils have a determination to pursue your unlawful course at all hazards, and to bring others to your standard in violation of the revelations, to spare you any further trouble I hereby withdraw from your fellow-humble, where the revelations of heaven will be observed and the rights of men regarded.
(Signed.) “DAVID WHITMER.8

Since May 1837 adherence to the word of wisdom had been required of all ordained members of the church as a condition of continuing fellowship. There had been a council called in Far West in February 1838 that purported to deprive Whitmer and Cowdery of their callings in the church, the constitution of these councils being questionable. The full extent of Whitmer’s dissent from the church and his criticism of Joseph Smith need to be researched, but they certainly parallel the views and opinions of Cowdery, discussed above. Like Cowdery, Whitmer was abused because of Rigdon’s “Salt Sermon” and forced to leave the community of the saints. He moved to Richmond, Missouri, where he resided for the rest of his life. He never rejoined the church. He died on January 25, 1888.

He was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune in August, 1875, the interview follows:

Whitmer: The Only Living Witness
to the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon
The Old Man Interviewed on What He Saw and Heard
The Past, Present and Future
S.L. Herald, 12 Aug 1875

David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses who testified to “all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people,” that they had seen the golden plates upon which were engraved the hieroglyphics, that were translated into the Book of Mormon, has been interviewed by a reporter of the Chicago Times, and the result is given in four columns of that paper on August 7th. We reproduce the sujoined [sic] from the published interview:

DAVID WHITMER

was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and when he was but four years old his parents removed to New York, settling at a point midway between the northern extremities of Lakes Cayuga and Seneca, two miles from Waterloo, two miles from Seneca River, four miles from Seneca Falls, seven miles from Geneva, and twenty-two miles from Palmyra. He is now 70 years of age, but as hale and hearty as most men at 50. In person he is above the medium height, stoutly built though not corpulent, his shoulders inclining to stoop as it from so long supporting his massive head rather than from the weight of years, his frank, manly and benevolent face closely shaven, and his whole exterior betokening him to be one of nature’s gentlemen. The rudiments of education he learned in school, and a lifetime of thought and research have served to expand and store his mind with vast funds of information. The Times reporter found him at his pleasant two-story white frame residence near the center of the town of Richmond, Missouri, and in company with Honorable J. T. Child, editor of the Conservator, was admitted, introduced, and received a cordial greeting. When the object of the call was made known, Mr. [page 157] Whitmer smilingly and meditatively remarked that it was true that he had in his possession the original records, and was conversant with the history of the Church of Christ from the beginning, but was under obligation to hold both history and records sacred until such time as the interests of truth and true religion might demand their aid to combat error. Presently he became quite animated, rose to his feet and with great earnestness and good nature spoke for half an hour on the harmony between the Bible and the original Book of Mormon, showing how the finding of the plates had been predicted, referring to the innumerable evidences, in the shape of ruins of great cities existing on this continent, of its former occupation by a highly civilized race, reverently declared his solemn conviction of the authenticity of the records in his possession, and closed by DENOUNCING THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS OF UTAH as an abomination in the sight of the Lord. While he believed implicitly in the original book, he protested against the Book of Covenants, which was simply a compilation of special revelations that [Joseph] Smith and his successors had pretended to have received. Joe [Joseph] Smith, he said, was generally opposed to these revelations, but was frequently importuned by individuals to reveal their duty, and oftimes he was virtually compelled to yield, and in this way the original purity of the faith was tarnished by human invention, and the accepted records of today cumbered with a mass of worse than useless rubbish. Should Brigham Young, or any of his infatuated satelites [sic], ever dare to declare any of their interpretations to be from the original tablets, or proclaim that their pernicious doctrines or practices were authorized by the true version, then he, David Whitmer, would bring forth the records and confound them. Until that time he alone would be the custodian of the sacred documents.

When THE QUESTION OF POLYGAMY was broached, and it was asked if the original Book of Mormon justified that practice, Mr. Whitmer most emphatically replied: “No! it is even much more antagonistic to both polygamy and concubinage than is the Bible. Joe [Joseph] Smith never, to my knowledge advocated it, though I have heard that he virtually sanctioned it at Nauvoo. However, as I cut loose from him in 1837, I can’t speak intelligently of what transpired thereafter. . . .9

The Journal History of the Church records the following:

David Whitmer believes in the Bible as implicitly as any devotee alive; and he believes in the Book of Mormon as much as he does in the Bible. The one is but a supplement to the other according to his idea, and neither would be complete were the other lacking. And no man can look at David Whitmer’s face for half an hour, while he carily 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. While he shrinks from unnecessary public promulgations of creed, and keenly feels that the Brighamites and Danites and numerous other ites have disgraced it, yet he would not hesitate, in emergency, to STAKE HIS HONOR AND EVEN HIS LIFE upon its reliability. His is the stern faith of the Puritans, modified by half a century of benevolent thought and quiet observation. He might have been a martyr had he lacked sense and shrewdness to escape [page 158] the death sentence that was pronounced against him by the high priests of the church he had helped to build. As it is, he is the only living witness of the wondrous revelation made to Joseph Smith, [Jr.], the founder of Mormonism.

David Whitmer was married in Seneca County, New York, in 1830, and was for a number of years an elder in the Church of Christ. Today he is the proprietor of a livery stable in Richmond, Missouri, owns some real estate, has a handsome balance in the bank, is universally respected by all who know him, and surrounded by children and grandchildren, is pleasantly gliding toward the gates of sunset, confident that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was also the God of Nephi, whose faithful disciple he has been and is. He does not believe that all believing in the Book of Mormon or all adherents to any other faith will be found among the elect, but that the truly good of every faith will be gathered in fulfillment of prophecy. Neither does he believe that the Book of Mormon is the only record of the lost tribes hidden in the earth, but on the contrary, that the caves hold other records that will not come forth till all is peace and the lion shall eat straw with the lamb. Three times he has been at the Hill Cumorah and seen the casket that contained the tablets and seerstone. Eventually the casket has been washed down to the foot of the hill, but it was to be seen when he last visited the historic place. He declares that he has never been a Mormon, as the term is commonly interpreted, but is a firm believer in the book, in the faith of Christ, and the fulfillment of the prophecies in due time. Some of them have ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED; for instance, that which declares that the Saints shall be driven from city to city, and also the prediction that the Twelve Apostles shall lead them to the devil.

In 1837 David and his brother John, then living in Far West, Missouri, were warned that they must make a confession of their apostasy or be killed, as the leaders of the Church were conspiring against them. They determined to accept neither horn of the dilemma, and arranged for flight. At an appointed time John emerged from the backdoor of his house, gave the preconcerted signal by raising his hat, and hastily mounting horses in waiting, they rode away. John, as clerk of the Church, had its records, and Oliver Cowdery bore off the original translation, and eventually transferred it to the keeping of David. Since that memorable day both John and David Whitmer have kept aloof from the so-called Latter-day Saints, although firm as ever in the faith as taught by the Book of Mormon. John is a man of fine education, and abundantly able to defend his faith from assaults from any quarter.10

Ebbie L. V. Richardson wrote a master’s thesis in 1952 entitled “David Whitmer, A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”11The thesis gives a history of Whitmer and is worth reading for additional background on this very interesting, important man. She was able to interview individuals who knew the man.

Endnotes

  1. D&C 110.
  2. History of the Church, vol.3, ch.2, p.16—18 (emphasis, the sustained charges, added).
  3. Id., n. 17.
  4. B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.33, p.438.
  5. 31 Oct 1848, in Millennial Star 11 (1 Feb 1849):14.
  6. B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, Vol.1, Ch.33, p.438.
  7. History of the Church, Vol.3, Ch.2, p.19.
  8. B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, vol.1, ch.33, p.435.
  9. S.L. Herald, 12 Aug 1875 in Ebbie Richardson, “David Whitmer,” pp.157-58
  10. History of the Church, vol.3, ch.2, p.19.
  11. Ebbie L. V. Richardson,“David Whitmer, A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon.” (Provo, UT: August 1952) https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=6071&context=etd.

1 thought on “The Three Witness

    • Author gravatar

      Having been involved in several situations involving Church discipline, I know they are often difficult and seldom straightforward. As a litigator, you know more about ‘both sides of the same coin’ than most and I appreciate you showing both sides.

      I thought it fascinating that in his interview with the Times, he believes himself to essentially be a defender of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and I can understand why he might feel otherwise about the Doctrine and Covenants.

      They were certainly faithful witnesses to the end, I can see why they were chosen.

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