David Whitmer’s Reminiscences
Edward Stevenson Diary 1 (Dec. 1877)
Edward Stevenson, Diary, December 23, 1877, in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, UT: Grandin Book Company, 1991), 13.
I wish to mention an Item of conversation with David Whitmer in regard to Seeing one of the Nephites. Zina Young, Desired me to ask about it. David Said. Oliver, & The Prophet, & I were riding in a wagon, & an aged man about 5 feet 10 heavey Set & on his back an old fashioned Armey knapsack Straped over his Shoulders & Something Square in it, & he walked alongside of the Wagon & Wiped the Sweat off his face, Smileing very Pleasant. David asked him to ride and he replied I am going across to the hill Comorah. Soon after they passed they felt strangely & Stoped, but could See nothing of him all arround was clear & they asked the Lord about it he Said the Prophet Looked as White as a Sheet & Said that it was one of the Nephites & that he had the Plates. on arriving at home they were impressed that the Same Person was under the bed & again it was So. they Saw whare he had been & the next Morning Davids Mother Saw the Person at the Shed and he took the Plates from A Box & Showed them to her She Said that they Were fastened with Rings thus D he turned the leaves over this was a Sattisfaction to her. She Died in the room ware Wee visited Sitting up in her chair without a Strugle.
Joseph F. Smith Diary (Sept. 1878)
Joseph F. Smith, Diary, September 7–8, 1878, in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5:51–52.
[David Whitmer: “]When I was returning to Fayette with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, we were suddenly approached by a very pleasant, nice looking old man in a clear open place, who saluted us with ‘Good morning, it is very warm,’ at the same instant wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way, but he said very pleasantly, ‘No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant, and as I looked enquiringly at Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared so that I did not see him again.”
Joseph F. Smith: “Did you notice his appearance?”
David Whitmer: “I should think I did. He was, I should think, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches and heavy set, about such a man as James Vancleave, there, but heavier. His face was as large. He was dressed in a suit of brown, woolen clothes; his hair and beard were white, about like Brother Pratt’s, but his beard was not so heavy. I also remember that he had a sort of knapsack on his back, and something was in it which was shaped like a book. It was the messenger who had the plates.
“Soon after our arrival home, I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father’s barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was.
“Sometime after this my mother was going to milk the cows when she was met out near the barn by this same old man, (as I suppose from her description of him) who said to her ‘you have been very faithful and diligent in your labours but you are tried because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness, that your faith may be strengthened’ and thereupon he showed her the plates. My Father and Mother had a large family of their own. The addition to it therefore of Joseph, Emma and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother and altho she had never complained she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much or at least she was beginning to feel so. This circumstance however completely removed all such feelings and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities.”
Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith Deseret News (Nov. 1878)
“Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Deseret News, 16 November 1878, in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5:51–52.
[D.W.:] When I was returning to Fayette with Joseph and Oliver all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, while traveling along in a clear open place, a very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon who saluted us with, “good morning, it is very warm,” at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way. But he said very pleasantly, “No, I am going to Cumorah.” This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked round inquiringly of Joseph the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.
J.F.S.—Did you notice his appearance?
D.W.—I should think I did, he was, I should think, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches tall and heavy set, about such a man as James Vancleave there, but heavier, his face was as large, he was dressed in a suit of brown woolen clothes, his hair and beard were white, like Brother Pratt’s, but his beard was not so heavy. I also remember that he had on his back a sort of knapsack with something in [it], shaped like a book. It was the messenger who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting from Harmony. Soon after our arrival home, I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father’s barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was. Sometime after this, my mother was going to milk the cows, when she was met out near the yard by the same old man (judging by her description of him) who said to her, “You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tried because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.” Thereupon he showed her the plates. My father and mother had a large family of their own, the addition to it therefore of Joseph, his wife Emma and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother. And although she had never complained she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much, or at least she was perhaps beginning to feel so. This circumstance, however, completely removed all such feelings, and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities.
Edward Stevenson Dairy 2 (Feb. 1886)
Edward Stevenson, Diary, February 9, 1886, in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, UT: Grandin Book Company, 1991), 181–182.
He also relates a little very interesting Incident that occurred in June 1829, David, Oliver, & Joseph, were riding from Harmony, Pa.—the 2 former in front & Joseph back sitting in the bed on hay or straw David had bin down with his team over 100 miles to fetch Joseph up to his mothers to translate the Book of Mormon about 2 1/2 days drive. while thus rideing an aged looking old man came walking along putting his hand on the wagon bed, he had on his back a knapsack & the Strap crossed on his breast he took his handkerchief and wiped his face to remove the sweat as it seemed to them David who was driveing his team said to the man will you get up and ride No said he I am only going over to Comorah & Suddenly disapeared they stoped the team amazed at the Sudden disapearance of the fine looking stranger he says that they all felt so strangely—
that they asked the Prophet to enquire of the Lord who this stranger was. Soon David said they turned around & Joseph looked pale almost transparent & said that was one of the Nephites and he had the plates of the Book of Mormon in the knapsack—
After their arival home the[y] felt the influence of this same personage around them for he said thare was a Heavenly feeling with this Nephite.
Mother Whitmer said and told them that she had see[n] this same man the Nephite & he showed her the Plates and that a portion of them were Sealed together. This was a great privalige to her but She was good to Joseph the Prophet and here was her reward.
Edward Stevenson Diary 3 (Jan. 1887)
Edward Stevenson, Diary, January 2, 1887, in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, UT: Grandin Book Company, 1991), 214
on their way from Palmyra they saw a strange looking man, with a knapsack on his strap crossing his breast he came up alongside of the wagon David asked him to ride, no I am going to Cumorah & suddenly disappeared by request of the Brethren Joseph asked the Lord who this mysterious stranger was, who said it was one of the 3 Nephites, with the Plates. David mother also had see[n] him. & he had shown the plates to her.
Edward Stevenson Juvenile Instructor 1 (Feb. 1887)
Edward Stevenson, “A Visit to David Whitmer,” Juvenile Instructor 22, no. 4, February 15, 1887, 55
While on the return journey from Palmyra, David noticed a somewhat aged-looking man who approached them on the road. He had a very pleasant face, about which, however, there seemed something peculiar, and he carried a knapsack on his back fastened with straps which crossed his breast. David asked him to take a ride, but he declined, saying: “I am going over to Cumorah,” and then disappeared very suddenly, though there was no chance for him to secrete himself in the open country through which the party was then passing. All felt very strange concerning this personage and the Prophet was besought to inquire of the Lord concerning him. Shortly afterwards, David relates, the Prophet looked very white but with a heavenly appearance and said their visitor was one of the three Nephites to whom the Savior gave the promise of life on earth until He should come in power. After arriving home, David again saw this personage, and Mother Whitmer, who was very kind to Joseph Smith, is said to have seen not only this Nephite, but to have also been shown by him the sealed and unsealed portions of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.
Edward Stevenson Juvenile Instructor 2 (Jan. 1889)
Edward Stevenson, “The Thirteenth Witness to the Plates of the Book of Mormon,” Juvenile Instructor 24, no. 1, 1 January 1889, 22
In 1887, we had the pleasure of visiting Uncle David Whitmer, as he is so familiarly known, and at other times since we have visited him, and held many familiar conversations with him on the subject of the coming forth of the plates, the translation of them, and the visit of angel, which never failed to inspire him with enthusiastic delight. …
While in this mood of conversation he related to me, a visit of the angel Moroni to his mother. Uncle David said: “My mother went to the barn to milk the cows, where she met a mysterious personage who showed her the golden plates, turning them over leaf by leaf, with the exception of a portion of them which were fastened together with rings (sealed part of the plates).
David said this occurred after he had seen the same messenger on the way from Harmony to Fayette. When he brought Joseph and Oliver in his wagon from Harmony, Pa., he appeared walking with a knapsack on his back with the straps crossed on his breast. Uncle David asked him to ride with them, to which he replied, ‘No, I am going over to Cumorah,’ and suddenly disappeared in the midst of a plain.
David said that they felt a very strange feeling come over them, and Joseph, the Prophet, inquired of the Lord concerning it, and then said to the brethren that the mysterious stranger was Moroni with the plates of gold.
Joseph F. Smith Reminiscence (ca. 1918)
Joseph F. Smith, Statement, 25 April 1918, in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5:51–52.
The last meeting I attended at Los Angeles, the theme in the Sunday School, just previous to the meeting, had been the early history of the Church, involving the testimonies of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, the organization of the twelve, and the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Missouri and Illinois, the Martyrdom, and all that sort of thing. When they asked me to talk, I told them that I had been impressed by what I had heard in the Sunday School, and, if it were agreeable, I felt a little reminiscent myself, and would give them a little of my remembrance. … When they started for New York Joseph told them how they would travel over the rolling country and over the prairie. He came to one of those rolling parries as they were driving along and he [David] described his wagon just as an ordinary wagon with two long poles in it at each end across the end gates of the wagon box, and then two boards laid across that for seats on those hickory poles. Joseph and Emma were on the hind seat and Oliver and David on the front seat. In the middle of this prairie, all of a sudden, there appeared a man walking along the road, and David said he raised his
headhat and rubbed his brow like that, as if he were a little warm, and said, good morning to them, and they said good morning. Oliver and David looked at each other and began to marvel and wonder: Where did he come form, what does it mean? David described him saying he had on something like an old-fashioned knapsack, but of course a little differently formed, right across his shoulders, and on his back he was carrying something of considerable weight. They looked round to Joseph inquiringly: What does it mean? And Joseph said, “Ask him to ride.” So David, who was teamster, asked him if he would get in and ride with them. He said, “No, I am just going over to Cumorah.” David said, “Cumorah? Cumorah? What does that mean?” He had never heard of Cumorah, and he said, “I thought I knew this country all around here, but I never heard of Cumorah” and he inquired about it. While he was looking around and trying to ascertain what the mystery was, the man was gone, and when he looked back he did not see him any more. Then he demanded, “What does it mean?” Joseph informed him that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susquehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer’s home. There was a long talk about this. David gave us a description also of what occurred when Joseph and Oliver and Emma reached his mother’s home. His mother had a large family of boys, only one girl. It was fashionablecustomary for the women to do all the milking and all the hard work, and she was feeling rather down-hearted and discouraged, and she wondered how she was going to provide for all her own family and for this additional number to be taken care of. She went down to milk the cow and was feeling very gloomy about it, she hardly thought it would be possible for her to take care of them all. David said that when she came back she was full of joy. He did not know the reason for her rejoicing until she said, “I have seen the messenger.” David said she described the very man they saw walking on the prairies and he told her who he was; said that Joseph had come there for safety and he was in their care and protection. He told her that her burdens would be lightened, and she would enjoy her service, and not to be bowed down or sorrowful, and David said after that she was the happiest woman in the world. She met her added obligations with such alacrity and pleasure that they were not trouble to her. She described the individual just as David and Oliver had seen him and they knew that she had seen the same messenger.
John C. Whitmer’s Reminiscences
Andrew Jenson Historical Record (1888)
Andrew Jensen, “Still Another Witness,” Historical Record 7 (October 1888): 621, in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5:261–262.
“I [John C. Whitmer] have heard my grandmother (Mary M[usselman]. Whitmer) say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by an holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi. (She undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge.) It was at the time, she said, when the translation was going on at the house of the elder Peter Whitmer, her husband. Joseph Smith and his wife and Oliver Cowdery, whom David Whitmer a short time previous had brought up from Harmony, Pennsylvania, were all boarding with the Whitmers, and my grandmother in having so many extra persons to care for, besides her own large household, was often overloaded with work to such an extent that she felt it to be quite a burden. One evening, when (after having done her usual day’s work in the house) she went to the barn to milk the cows, she met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone, and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house, she was filled with unexpressible joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witness to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell. From that moment my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, and she felt no more inclination to murmur because her lot was hard. I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death.”
Edward Stevenson Juvenile Instructor (1889)
Edward Stevenson, “The Thirteenth Witness to the Plates of the Book of Mormon,” Juvenile Instructor 24, no. 1, 1 January 1889, 23.
On the 11th of October, 1888, Elder A. Jenson and myself, called on John C. Whitmer, the grandson of Mother Whitmer, who after our inquiry of him regarding what he knew of the grandmother’s view of the plates said substantially as follows: “My grandmother told me that the strange visitor met her as she was going to milk the cows. At first she was afraid of him, but he spoke so kindly to her, explaining to her the nature of the work of translation to go on in her house, that she felt a thrill of inexpressible joy, which removed all fear from her. Comforting words were spoken promising her strength and pleasure in her increased labors, and salvation at the end. Moroni took from his knapsack the plates and exhibited them as already explained by David. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell. From that time my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, feeling no inclination to murmur because her lot was a hard one.”
John also said: “I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of the truth of her statement in regard to seeing the plates.”
She was a strong advocate of the Book of Mormon until the day of her death. This was the only favored female to gaze upon the plates.
Elvia Pamala Mills Cox Reminiscence (1958)
Orville Cox Day, “Elvira Pamela Mills,” Cox Bulletin II (1958), in Royal Skousen, “Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Gold Plates,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 10 (2014): 39.
Grandma stopped telling a story of Mother Whitmer till 1900 when B. H. Roberts printed it in his “New Witness for God.” Then she said, “I’m so glad I can tell it again.”
David Whitmer had invited Joseph and Oliver to live in his father’s home while translating the Book of Mormon. When Oliver’s hand and Joseph’s eyes grew tired they went to the woods for a rest. There they often skated rocks on a pond.
Mary Whitmer, with five grown sons and a husband to care for, besides visitors, often grew tired. She thought they might just as well carry her a bucket of water or chop a bit of wood as to skate rocks on a pond.
She was about to order them out of her home.
One morning, just at daybreak, she came out of her cow stable with two full buckets of milk in her hands, when a short, heavy-set, gray-haired man carrying a package met her and said,
“My name is Moroni. You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do. The Lord has given me permission to show you this record:” turning the golden leaves one by one!