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How do we know about the reality of things we cannot see? How do we know about God whose face we can’t remember? How do we develop faith in spiritual things that are real, but invisible to our eye? We begin to learn these things because of the witness of others.
How do we know about the reality of things we cannot see? How do we know about God whose face we can’t remember? How do we develop faith in spiritual things that are real, but invisible to our eye? We begin to learn these things because of the witness of others. Today we are going to talk about the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and tell you things you may not know about how firmly they stood in their testimonies against the toughest opposition. These are amazing stories.
Hello, dear friends, and welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Today we’ll be talking about Doctrine and Covenants 14-17, “Stand as a Witness”. You can find all of our podcasts and the transcript for this one at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast and while you are there read Meridian Magazine. It’s updated daily for Latter-day Saints and we have some of the best writers anywhere. It will give you an uplift to your day. These have been some hard days, so we need it.
In Lectures on Faith, these questions are asked, “Were this class to go back and reflect upon the history of their lives, from the period of their first recollection, and ask themselves what principle excited them to action, or what gave them energy and activity in all their lawful avocations, callings, and pursuits, what would be the answer? Would it not be that it was the assurance which they had of the existence of things which they had not seen as yet? Was it not the hope which you had, in consequence of your belief in the existence of unseen things, which stimulated you to action and exertion in order to obtain them? Are you not dependent on your faith, or belief, for the acquisition of all knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence? Would you exert yourselves to obtain wisdom and intelligence, unless you did believe that you could obtain them? Would you have ever sown, if you had not believed that you would reap? Would you have ever planted, if you had not believed that you would gather? Would you have ever asked, unless you had believed that you would receive? Would you have ever sought unless you had believed that you would have found? Or, would you have ever knocked, unless you had believed that it would have been opened unto you? In a word, is there anything that you would have done, either physical or mental, if you had not previously believed? Are not all your exertions of every kind, dependent on your faith?”
Where do we get that faith in things we have not seen? In part it is because of witnesses. There are our own spiritual witnesses, which mean everything to us, those times when the Spirit testifies to us and we know. There are scriptural witnesses—prophets who have had dealings with God who write down their witness of the event. The Lord, not wanting to leave us in ignorance gives us what Paul calls “a cloud of witnesses”.
We also learn in Lectures on Faith how humanity first learned of God. “Adam, thus being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God, which laid the foundation for the exercise of their faith, through which they could obtain a knowledge of his character and also of his glory.”
Latter-day Saint scholar Richard Lloyd Anderson noted, “Measuring a prophet is not unlike other serious decisions of life. Mosaic law required solid proof: “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deut. 19:15.) Prophets independently substantiate other prophets. Even Jesus had the comfort and strength of the testimony of John the Baptist, to whom he referred as a second witness on more than one occasion. (Matt. 11, John 5:33.) And nothing is more dominant in the early chapters of Acts than the force of many witnesses, the united testimony of apostles who had seen the resurrection for themselves.,,
“As Luke said in reviewing earliest Christianity, the founding events rest on reports of those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses’” (Luke 1:2.) (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses. Deseret Book, 1981).
We were not there in the grove with Joseph to witness the radiance of God’s glory, but so many of the other events of the restoration were witnessed by others who have left their clear testimonies in a way that it is hard to deny.
Since today we are talking about the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, you would have to deny everything they were and said to believe the Book of Mormon was not an ancient record. You’d have to believe in group delusion. In fact, when you consider all the things people were witnesses to in the restoration, not to believe that they saw what they said they saw is to be implacably stubborn in the face of witnesses.
James B. Allen, a former Assistant Church Historian and BYU Professor notes: The testimonies of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon make Joseph Smith’s account much harder to dismiss than it would otherwise be. Plainly, since others announced that they, too, had seen and “hefted” and heard, this means that, whatever else it was, Joseph’s account must reflect more than merely private imagination or simple personal dishonesty. If the witnesses are judged to be reliable men of good character, their declarations pose a serious challenge to anyone who considers the claims of the Restoration.
Richard Lloyd Anderson notes, “Thousands of authorized copies of the Book of Mormon have reprinted the signed experience of the eleven Book or Mormon witnesses, three who described that an angel held and turned the individual plates of an ancient New World Bible and Eight who narrated how they were given an ordinary experience of “hefting” the record and examining the carefully crafted characters on it. About 200 reported interviews with these eleven are collected, which report the constant affirmation of these witnesses of seeing and lifting this historic, prophetic record, with its independent account of Christ visiting America.
Richard L. Bushman said, “The testimonies of the three witnesses is the closest we come to rational evidence for Mormon belief. Three men attest to a sensory encounter with the gold plates and a divine being. In an age of skepticism, when all religious belief is under attack, their statement becomes more relevant every day.”
Let’s get to the story. Joseph and Oliver had been working on the translation of the Book of Mormon at the Whitmer cabin in Fayette, New York in an upstairs room where the heat rose and the hours were long. After facing so much persecution both in Palmyra and in Harmony, these were peaceful days. With the protection and support of the Whitmers and their neighbors, who were not hostile, the work progressed and by the end of June they were finished.
Two places in the Book of Mormon made it clear that there would be witnesses. 2 Nephi 27:14 states: “Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good will he establish his word.”
In Ether 5:1-3, we read, “And now, I Moroni, have written the words which were commanded me, according to their memory, and I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for the thing is forbidden you, except it shall be wisdom in God.
“And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work;
“And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that they are true.”
So the plates would be shown to those who had assisted to bring forth the work. Who had done more to assist to bring forth the work and also had an emotional investment in it than Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery, who in their capacities as secretaries had contributed more personal time than anyone else? David Whitmer’s work had been critical in coming to get them in Harmony and bringing them to the protection and support of his parents’ house where the translation was finished.
Lucy Mack Smith recorded: As soon as the Book of Mormon was translated, Joseph dispatched a messenger to Mr. Smith, bearing intelligence of the completion of the work and a request that Mr. Smith and myself should come immediately to Waterloo [the town adjacent to the Whitmer cabin.]
“That same evening we communicated this intelligence to Martin Harris, for we loved the man although his weakness had cost us much unnecessary trouble. He seemed to have a heart that designed no evil, and we felt a commiseration for the disappointment which his misguided zeal had brought upon him in an evil hour. When he heard that the translation was finally completed, he seemed as greatly rejoiced as if he knew that it affected his salvation, and determined to go straightway to Waterloo as soon as he could get away. The next morning, we accordingly set off together, and before sunset we met Joseph and Oliver at Waterloo.”
Lucy writes: “The evening was spent in reading the manuscript, and it would be superfluous for me to say to anyone who has read these pages that we were greatly rejoiced. It then appeared to us, who did not realize the magnitude of the work, as though the greatest difficulty was then surmounted. But with Joseph it was not so, for he knew that a dispensation of the gospel had been committed to him, of which the starting bud had scarcely yet made its appearance.
“The next morning after breakfast, we repaired to the sitting room, and after attending the morning service, namely reading, singing, and praying, Joseph arose from his knees and approached Martin with a solemnity which thrills through my veins to this day, whenever it comes to my recollection. ‘Martin Harris,’ he said, ‘you have got to humble yourself before your God this day and obtain, if possible, a forgiveness of your sins. If you will do this, it is God’s will that you and Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer should look upon the plates.’” (Smith, Lucy Mack, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996).
Joseph received Section 17 of the Doctrine and Covenants, “Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a aview of the bplates, and also of the cbreastplate, the dsword of Laban, the eUrim and Thummim, which were given to the fbrother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord gface to face, and the hmiraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the iRed Sea.
“And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old” (Doctrine and Covenants 17: 1,2).
Notice that it is not just the plates they are going to see, but these many sacred, Nephite relics.
So Joseph Smith records, “”Not many days after the above commandment was given, we four—viz., Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself—agreed to retire into the woods, and try to obtain by fervent and humble prayer the fulfilment of the promises given in the revelation that they should have a view of the plates, etc. We accordingly made choice of a piece of woods convenient to Mr. Whitmer’s house, to which we retired. And having knelt down we began to pray in much faith to Almighty God to bestow upon us a realization of these promises. According to previous arrangements I commenced by vocal prayer to our heavenly Father, and was followed by each of the rest in succession. We did not yet however obtain any answer or manifestation of the divine favor in our behalf. We again observed the same order of prayer, each calling on, and praying fervently to God in rotation, but with the same result as before. Upon this our second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he would withdraw himself from us, believing as he expressed himself that his presence was the cause of our not obtaining what we wished for.
Joseph continued, “”He accordingly withdrew from us, and we knelt down again and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer when presently we beheld a light above us in the air of exceeding brightness. And behold, an angel stood before us. In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. He turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discover the engravings thereon distinctly. He addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said, ‘David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps his commandments.’ When immediately afterwards, we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying: ‘These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear.’
“I now left David and Oliver, and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance, fervently engaged in prayer. He soon told me, however, that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me to join him in prayer that he also might realize the same blessings which we had just received. We accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view—at least it was again to me. And I once more beheld, and heard the same things, whilst at the same moment, Martin Harris cried out, apparently in ecstacy of joy, ‘Tis enough; mine eyes have beheld,’ and jumping up he shouted, hosannah, blessing God, and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 1:54-55, in the form first published in Times and Seasons 3 :897-98.)
Lucy said, “When they returned to the house, it was between three and four o’clock. Mrs. Whitmer, Mr. Smith, and myself were sitting in a bedroom, myself on a bedside. When Joseph came in, he threw himself down beside me and exclaimed, “Father! Mother! You do not know how happy I am. The Lord has caused the plates to be shown to three more besides me. They have also seen an angel and will have to testify to the truth of what I have said, for they know for themselves that I do not go about to deceive the people. I do feel as though I was relieved of a dreadful burden which was almost too much for me to endure. But they will now have to bear a part, and it does rejoice my soul that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.” (Smith, Lucy Mack, Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1996).
What a glimpse this is into Joseph’s soul when he says, “I was relieved of a dreadful burden which was almost too much for me to endure.” We think of the kind of communications that Joseph received from the heavens as an inconceivable privilege, but we forget that he had to bear those burdens, at first alone. He was called to bear the heavy weight of being the head of this dispensation. He was very young. He had plates that he could show to no one and was hated for it. Now, at last he had someone who could say, “I have seen.”
Richard Lloyd Anderson notes: “No testimony of direct revelation in the world’s history is better documented than the testimony of the Book of Mormon witnesses. Since David Whitmer was widely known as ‘the last-surviving witness’ prior to his death in 1888, he was interviewed far more extensively than the others. He said that thousands came to inquire, and over fifty of these conversations are reported in reasonable detail in contemporary diaries, letters, and newspapers, supplemented by later recollections. This examination and cross-examination of the reports furnishes a detailed historical record.”
He wrote, “One may reconstruct a line of questioning on the central points of the revelation that came to [Whitmer]. The following replies are taken from the better recorded interviews of about the last decade of his life. Since these responses can be documented in multiple situations, such a composite interview gives a fair idea of the impact of a private talk with David Whitmer.”
Wouldn’t we all love a private talk with David Whitmer? So here’s a composite of the reporter’s questions and David’s actual answers. I’ll be the reporter, Scot, and you be David.
Q: Is your published testimony accurate?
A: “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.” 2
Q: When did this event take place?
A: “It was in June, 1829, the very last part of the month.” 3
Q: What was the approximate time of day?
A: “It was about 11 A.M.” 4
Q: What were the circumstances of the vision?
A: “[We] went out into the woods nearby, 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.” 5
Q: Describe the angel.
A: “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.” 6
Q: Did the angel have the Book of Mormon plates?
A: “[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.” 7
Q: Did the vision take place under natural circumstances?
A: “The fact is, it was just as though Joseph, Oliver and I were sitting right here 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. 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, 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.” 8
Q: Can you explain the supernatural power that surrounded you?
A: “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.” 9
Q: “Did you see the Urim and Thummim?”
A: “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.” 10
Q: Did you see an actual table?
A: “You see that small table by the wall? . . . Well, there was a table about that size, and the heavenly messenger brought the several plates and laid them on the table before our eyes, and we saw them.” 11
Q: Did you handle the plates?
A: “I did not handle the plates—only saw them.” 12 “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.” 13
Q: How clearly could you see the plates?
Q: “Did the angel turn all the leaves before you as you looked on it?”
A: “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.” 16
Q: “Can you describe the plates?”
A: “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.” 17
Q: Is it possible that you imagined this experience?
A: “[O]ur 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.” 18
Q: “Do you remember the peculiar sensation experienced upon that occasion?”
A: “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.” 19 (Anderson)
In another interview David said, “While we were viewing them the voice of God spoke out of heaven saying that the Book was true and the translation correct.”
He was asked,’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.’
The interviewer said, “This narration was delivered in a mild, but fervent voice and as he spoke and bore witness, and we listened, the Spirit of God rested in great power upon us like a flame of glory, or burning coal from the altar of God. It enveloped our beings and glowed in our hearts while tears of gratitude and joy flowed down our cheeks.“ (Lyndon Cook, David Whitmer Interviews. Grandin Book Company, 1991)
So we have three witnesses—David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris—and all three of them leave the church, but none of them ever deny their witness of the Book of Mormon—even at peril of their lives. Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris come back, but David Whitmer never does, which makes their witness all the more powerful. It wasn’t convenient or popular or safe to be a witness. For this witness they would be reviled as fools and lose opportunities, but they never caved. They knew what they had seen and took very seriously these words from Section 17: “And if you do these last commandments of mine, which I have given you, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; for my grace is sufficient for you, and you shall be lifted up at the last day.
Let’s look at each of their stories.
David Whitmer was a leader. Joseph Smith’s opinion of him was recorded in a 1835 blessing that David cherished his entire life. Beloved as “a faithful friend to mankind,” his integrity causes “all his words” to be as “steadfast as the pillars of heaven.” A journalist who did not admire his theology could not help but admire the man. “If a life of probity, of unobtrusive benevolence and well doing for well nigh a half century, marks a man as a good citizen, then David Whitmer should enjoy the confidence and esteem of his fellowmen.”
So what happened? David Whitmer presided over the Missouri Church but by 1838, just before the Missouri expulsion, he was excommunicated. He had begun to be disaffected by some of the problems in Kirtland, including the failure of the Kirtland Safety society and rumors of polygamy. He had joined in the spirit of dissent against the prophet. Some wanted to depose Joseph Smith and put David Whitmer in his place. He alienated many Missouri church members in what seemed like profiteering in land sales over what was supposed to be consecrated property.
When the Saints left for Illinois, David Whitmer was left to spend the rest of his life in Missouri, which was, as we know, a place completely hostile to the Church. He had already had practice defying a hostile mob of vigilantes in 1833 in Jackson County.
John P. Green wrote, “[W]hen the mob again assembled they went to the houses of several of the leading Mormons. And taking Isaac Morley, David Whitmer, 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.”
David Whitmer described that same event this way, “I had a mob of from four to five hundred surrounding me at one time, demanding that I should deny my published statement of the Book of Mormon; but the testimony I bore the mob made them tremble before me. 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.”
Even when he was no longer a member of the Church, he was no less valiant. In the close of his life, when one John Murphy had misconstrued David Whitmer’s testimony, he sat down and wrote it out.
“That the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing, as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God once for all, to make this public statement:
“That I have never in my life denied that testimony, or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that Book, as one of those three witnesses. Those who know me best, well know that I have always adhered to that testimony. And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do again affirm the truth of all of my statements, as then made and published.
“He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear,” it was no delusion! What is written is written–and let he that readeth let him understand. (Cook).
It seems heartbreaking that Oliver Cowdery, who had been so closely associated with Joseph in translation of the Book of Mormon and the reception of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood and in seeing the Lord in the Kirtland Temple should have left the Church, but his reasons were similar to David Whitmer, who was his brother-in-law. He was excommunicated April 11 1838 in part because of his concern about Joseph Smith and polygamy and in part because of selling lands in Missouri for personal gain.
I always say that if Missouri hadn’t been so far from Ohio and there had been cell phones so Oliver and Joseph could have talked, this could have been avoided.
Oliver was rebaptized in November of 1848 by apostle Orson Hyde and was the culmination of six years of desire on his part and many efforts by the leadership of the church to bring about this reconciliation.
In or out of the church he was true to the testimony he bore as one of the three witnesses. Here’s a testimony from one who saw Oliver.
“My father, Jacob Gates, while on his way to England, in 1849, stopped at the town of Richmond, where lived at that time Oliver Cowdery. Hearing that Oliver was in poor health, and wishing to renew old acquaintance, as they had been friends in earlier days, father called on him at his home. Their conversation, during the visit drifted to early Church history, and to their mutual experiences during the troublous times in Missouri and Illinois. Finally father put this question to him: “Oliver,” said he, “I want you to tell me the whole truth about your testimony concerning the Book of Mormon—the testimony sent forth to the world over your signature and found in the front of that book. Was your testimony based on a dream, was it the imagination of your mind, was it an illusion, a myth—tell me truthfully?”
“To question him thus seemed to touch Oliver very deeply. He answered not a word, but arose from his easy chair, went to the book case, took down a Book of Mormon of the first edition, turned to the testimony of the Three Witnesses, and read in the most solemn manner the words to which he had subscribed his name, nearly twenty years before. Facing my father, he said: ‘Jacob, I want you to remember what I say to you. I am a dying man, and what would it profit me to tell you a lie? I know,” said he, “that this Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God. My eyes saw, my ears heard, and my understanding was touched, and I know that whereof I testified is true. It was no dream, no vain imagination of the mind—it was real.’
“Then father asked him about the angel under whose hands he received the priesthood, to which he made answer thus: ‘Jacob, I felt the hand of the angel on my head as plainly as I could feel yours, and could hear his voice as I now hear yours.’
Then father asked this question: “If all that you tell me is true, why did you leave the Church?” Oliver made only this explanation; said he: “When I left the Church, I felt wicked, I felt like shedding blood, but I have got all over that now.” https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon/Witnesses/Oliver_Cowdery_joined_the_Methodists#Oliver_Cowdery:_.22My_eyes_saw.2C_my_ears_heard…It_was_no_dream.2C_no_vain_imagination_of_the_mind.E2.80.94it_was_real.22
Finally, Martin Harris. He, too, was rankled during the 1837 Kirtland period when so many trials fell upon the Church at once. He explained later that he “lost confidence in Joseph Smith” and “his mind became darkened”. When the Latter-day Saints moved from Kirtland, he stayed behind where he became increasingly “a solitary figure in non-Mormon society, which only ridiculed him for his persistence in declaring that he had seen the angel and the plates.
This did not stop him from declaring his witness. Here’s one account of that:
“When we came out of the meeting Martin Harris was beset with a crowd in the street, expecting that he would furnish them with material to war against Mormonism; but when he was asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, he answered yes; and when asked if the Book of Mormon was true, this was his answer: ‘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.’ ”
We’re happy to say that Martin Harris finally came to Utah and rejoined with the Saints and died July 10, 1875 “with his lifelong testimony of the Book of Mormon upon his lips.” (Anderson).
One last word, when Joseph Smith was translating the plates at the Whitmer home, so much of the burden of having these extra guests in her home, fell on the mother of the home, Mary Whitmer. She, too, became a witness of the Book of Mormon, in her own right, when Moroni showed her the plates.
Mary Whitmer’s encounter is described in three separate accounts. The most famous is from her son, David:
“…my mother was going to milk the cows, when she was met out near the yard by the same old man (judging by her description of him) [whom David had seen on the roadside in a prior incident] who said to her, ‘You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tired because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.’ Thereupon he showed her the plates.
John C. Whitmer recalled this further tidbit from his grandmother’s story:
[The personage] turned the 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.
“More insights are offered by another granddaughter, who said Mary Whitmer was irritated when Joseph and Oliver took breaks from translating and ‘skated rocks on a pond.’ ‘[She] thought they might just as well carry her a bucket of water or chop a bit of wood . . .’ and planned to order them out of her house. Such anxieties were relieved by Moroni’s timely visitation.”
That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to our producer Michaela Proctor Hutchins. Next week we’ll study Doctrine and Covenants 18,19 called “The Worth of Souls is Great”. See you then.