John Whitmer discussed Oliver Cowdery’s willingness to suffer death
In 1876, John Whitmer, one of the Eight Witnesses, wrote a lengthy letter to Mark Forscutt, and discussed Oliver Cowdery’s willingness to suffer death:
Oliver Cowdery lived in Richmond, Mo., some 40 from here, at the time of his death. I went to see him and was with him for some days previous to his demise. I have never heard him deny the truth of his testimony of the Book of Mormon under any circumstances whatever. . . . Neither do I believe that he would have denied, at the peril of his life; so firm was he that he could not be made to deny what he has affirmed to be a divine revelation from God. . . .
I have never heard that any one of the three or eight witnesses ever denied the testimony that they have borne to the Book as published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon. There are only two of the witnesses to that book now living, to wit., David Whitmer, one of the three, and John Wh[itmer], one of the eight. Our names have gone forth to all nations, tongues and people as a divine revelation from God. And it will bring to pass the designs of God according to the declaration therein contained.
Hyrum Smith: “I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen”
After being in Liberty Jail for months under horrific conditions, Hyrum Smith reported,
“I felt a determination to die, rather than deny the things which my eyes had seen, which my hands had handled, and which I had borne testimony to, wherever my lot had been cast.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time?”
Hyrum was later murdered in Carthage jail for his testimony. The night before, he turned to the Book of Mormon for comfort. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland noted how implausible such conduct is if Hyrum knew or believed the Book of Mormon to be a hoax:
May I refer to a modern “last days” testimony? When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage to face what they knew would be an imminent martyrdom, Hyrum read these words to comfort the heart of his brother:
“Thou hast been faithful; wherefore … thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
“And now I, Moroni, bid farewell … until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
A few short verses from the 12th chapter of Ether in the Book of Mormon….Later, when actually incarcerated in the jail, Joseph the Prophet turned to the guards who held him captive and bore a powerful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Shortly thereafter pistol and ball would take the lives of these two testators.
As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
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