About a month later, when they learned that there would be three witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates, David desired to become one of them. His wish was granted by a revelation, which conditionally promised him and the other witnesses “a view of the plates” and other Nephite artifacts (D&C 17:1). Thus, toward the end of June 1829, Joseph, David, Oliver, and Martin Harris, another of Joseph’s supporters, went out into the woods near the Whitmer farm to experience the promised vision. They each subsequently testified that an angel came down from heaven and laid before them the ancient golden record, after which a voice from heaven confirmed the record’s truthfulness and commanded them to bear record of their witness.For David Whitmer, this was a defining experience, one that became the core and foundation of all his religious beliefs in the decades that followed. Even after 1838, when he came to view Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet and separated himself from the main body of Joseph’s followers, David continued to adhere to his testimony of the angel and the plates. As the years went on, he progressively lost faith in most of Joseph’s later revelations, but he never abandoned the Book of Mormon.
Later in life, after outliving Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, David was frequently questioned about his experience both in person and by letter. Thanks to these enquiries, about a dozen letters containing firsthand statements about his experience survive, in addition to over 70 reports from those who interviewed him. Most of the firsthand statements either express a simple reaffirmation of his testimony as published in the Book of Mormon, or matter-of-factly state that he saw an angel with the plates. Coming from his own pen (or that of his scribes, as he dictated to them), these surviving letters allow David to speak for himself about his experience:
- “My testimony to the world is written concerning the Book of Mormon, and it is the same that I gave at first and it is the same as shall stand to my latest hour in life, linger with me in death and shine as Gospel Truth beyond the limits of life.”
- “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.”
- “As concerning the Book of Mormon and its contents, and my views for which you inquire, I can say the Book and its contents are true. And my testimony in connection with the Book is also true.”
- “My testimony to the Book of Mormon is true and I am admonished neither to add to nor take from my testimony already appended to the Book.”
- “Those who know me best, well know that I have adhered to that testimony.—And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do now again affirm the truth of all my statement[s], as then made and published.”
- “My testimony as published in connection with the Book of Mormon is true—And why Should men ask to know more in regard to all the particulars connected with that all Overshadowing truth—If they will not believe the three and 8 witnesses would they believe though one Should arise from the dead, and testify to its truth again.”
- “I have … emphatically testified as written in the Book of Mormon.”
- “I did see the angel of God, and was commanded to testify of these things, and they are true.”
- “You ask me if I saw the Angel when he brought the plates. I saw the Angel when he brought the plates, and the Angel told us that we must bear testimony to the world, as contained in my testimony written in the Book of Mormon. Doubt not—sister—the Book of Mormon is the word of God.”
- “I did see the Angel as it is recorded in my testimony in the Book of Mormon. The Book is true.”
- “In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: … A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled at noon day, and there in a vision or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon.”
- “In June, 1829, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and myself as the three witnesses, to behold the vision of the Angel, as recorded in the fore part of the Book of Mormon, and to bear testimony to the world that the Book of Mormon is true.”
Other direct correspondences from David clearly express belief in the Book of Mormon without specifically mentioning his testimony of the angel and the plates. For example, in a letter to Oliver Cowdery in 1847, David speaks of building up the church of Christ anew, “according to the laws contained in the bible [and] book of Mormon.”
In addition to these simple but clear reaffirmations of his testimony, various interviews reported by both believers and non-believers in the Book of Mormon elaborate more on David’s experience with the angel and the plates. However, he often felt misrepresented by these reports, and occasionally made an effort to correct them. As such, these interviews, despite often reporting what David said in the first-person, are best treated as second-hand accounts and should be given due caution. Nonetheless, taken collectively these accounts are broadly consistent and testify to David’s lifetime commitment to bear witness of the Book of Mormon.
In addition to these numerous sources from David’s twilight years, various accounts show that he actively bore his testimony in the years immediately following the experience. For example, in 1831 William E. McLellin recorded hearing David bear “testimony to having seen an Holy Angel who had made known the truth of this record to him.” John Green remembered hearing David affirm his testimony at gunpoint in 1833. Luman Shurtliff and Thomas Marsh also remember hearing David testify in the 1830s.One thing that is clear throughout all of these accounts is that David was emphatic that what he saw was real. On one occasion, he struck the side of a bed to emphasize that he saw the angel and the plates as clearly and surely as his interviewers could see the bed he was sitting on while speaking with them. On other occasions, people questioned whether his experience was possibly a hallucination, or some kind of delusion, to which he would emphatically reply it was no delusion.
When one person claimed that David had admitted that he saw and heard “nothing,” but merely felt “impressions” of an angel’s presence and heavenly voice, David personally wrote to correct the record. He candidly acknowledged that there were spiritual elements to the experience, but also insisted that he really did see an angel with his “natural eyes.” For instance, in reply to one skeptic, he wrote:
In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time.
Despite having so frequently been questioned about his testimony, sometimes by hostile and skeptical enquirers, toward the end of his life—“standing as it were, in the very sunset of life”—David could honestly proclaim: “That I have never at any time, denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that book as one of the three witnesses.” Frustrated by the many rumors and misrepresentations circulated about his testimony, in the final years of his life he determined to speak for himself once and for all. “I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof.” According to several witnesses, he again bore one last testimony of the Book of Mormon just before dying less than a year later.
By Neal Rappleye, cross-posted with the permission of Book of Mormon Central from their website at Evidence Central.
- Whitmar’s [sic] description of the Book of Mormon, differs entirely from that given by Harris; both of whom it would seem have been of late permitted, not only to see and handle it, but to examine its contents. Whitmar relates that he was led by Smith into an open field, on his father’s farm near Waterloo, when they found the book lying on the ground; Smith took it up and requested him to examine it, which he did for the space of half an hour or more, when he returned it to Smith, who placed it in its former position, alledging that the book was in the custody of another, intimating that some Divine agent would have it in safe keeping.“ Gold Bible, No. 6,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 16 (19 March 1831), 126–27.
- “D[avid] Whitmer then arose and bore testimony to having seen an Holy Angel who had made known the truth of this record to him. [A]ll these strange things I pondered in my heart.”
- Elder J.J. Thayne returns from his mission. “He brought twenty-two persons back with him, [one of whom] is Mr. John Lefler, who, it will be remembered, inquired of Bishop Moon, while the latter was on his mission last year, concerning of the Book of Mormon, and to satisfy himself, he in company with Bro. Moon, visited Mr. David Whitmer, one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and heard him bear testimony that he saw the angel of God and heard him declare that the plates were a divine record”
- I have frequently placed it [the seer stone] to my eyes but could see nothing through it. I have seen Joseph, however, place it to his eyes and instantly read signs 160 miles distant and tell exactly what was transpiring there. When I went to Harmony after him he told me the names of every hotel at which I had stopped on the road, read the signs, and described various scenes without having ever received any information from me.
- And no man can look at David Whitmer’s face for a half-hour, while he charit[abl]y and modestly speaks of what he has seen, and then bodldly and earnestly confesses the faith that is in him, and say that he is a bigot or an enthusiast.
- My testimony to the world is written concerning the Book of Mormon, and it is the same that I gave at first and it is the same as shall stand to my latest hour in life, linger with me in death and shine as Gospel Truth beyond the limits of life, among the Tribunals of Heaven, and [that] the Nations of the Earth will have known to[o] late the divine truth written on teh pages of that book is the only sorrow of this servant of the Almighty Father.
- I personally heard him [David Whitmer] state in Jan. 1876 in his own house…in most positive language, that he did truly see in broad day light, a bright, and most beautiful being, an ‘Angel from Heaven,” who did hold in his hands the golden plates, which he turned over leaf by leaf, explaining the contents, here and there. He also described the size and general appearance of the plates….
- My testimony to the Book of Mormon is true and I am admonished neither to add to nor take from my testimony already appended to the Book. And if I should do so must be extremely guarded under the risk of being misunderstood.
- Bro. David please relate your feelings in regard to the testimony of yours in the Book of Mormon, and the origin of the gospel through Joseph Smith. “Well as I know that the sun shines, so do I know that I was plowing one forenoon and I heard a voice and saw a personage who said, ‘Blessed is the Lord and he that keepeth his commandments,’ and the very next round Bro Joseph [Smith] and Oliver [Cowdery] came along and said, ‘Come David and be on of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon’. We walked through a clearing and all sat on a log. It was about 11 a.m., when a light appeared and it grew brighter until an angel stoo before us and on the appearance of a table was laid the plates, urim and thummim, ball or director, sword of lab, etc., and a voice declared and bore record of the truth of the translation turning the leaves over, and thus the vision ended.”
- I was plowing in my field, when I heard a voice saying, ‘Blessed is the name of the Lord and those that keep his commandments.’ After I had plowed one more round, the prophet and Oliver Cowdery came along, and said, ‘Come and be one of the witnesses.’ We passed through a clearing and sat on a log. While there, a light appeared, which grew brighter, until an angel stood before them with the paltes and other things. The angel turned the leaves so that we could see the engravings, etc. We then heard a voice, saying that those things were true and that the translation was correct. This was about 11 o’clock a.m.”
- David Whitmer interviewed by P. Wilhelm Poulson:
I–Martin Harris…gave a testimony in Salt Lake City Tabernacle that he saw the plates by [the] faith and power of God.
He–Martin Harris is correct….we saw it, and our testimony, which we give to the world, is true exactly as you read it, we saw by the gift and power of God. As we were praying the angel stood before us in his glory, and all those things were before us, as they were laid before us on a table, and we heard the testimony about hte plates, and we were commanded to bear that testimony to the world, and our testimony is true. And when the angel had finished his words, and shown us the paltes, one by one, which were to be translated, then the vision was closed at once, and exactly as it came even so did the sight disappear.
I–But those things which you saw were material things, how could they come and vanish away again?
He–It is the power of God. He does those things, and his angels know how to do it. It was wonderful to us, but it was by the power of God. He had appointed his angels to be the guardians of the plates and other things, and the angels knew how it was done.
I–Did the eight witnesses not handle the plates as a material substance?
He–We did not, but they did, because the faith of Joseph became so great that the angel, the guardian of the plates, gave the plates up to Joseph for a time, that those eight witnesses could see and handle them.
- David Whitmer interview by Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith:
Orson Pratt: “Do you remember what time you saw the plates?”
David Whitmer: “It was in June 1829, the very last part of the month, and the eight witnesses, I think, the next day. Joseph showed them the plates himself. We (the Three Witnesses) not only saw the plates of the book of Mormon, but the Brass Plates, the plates containing the record of the wickedness of the people of the world, and many other plates. 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 (i.e. the ball which Lehi had) and the Interpreters. I saw them just as plain as I see this bed (striking his hand upon the bed beside him), and I heard the voice of the Lord as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life declaring that they (the plates) were translated by the gift and power of God.”
Orson Pratt: “Did you see the Angel at this time?”
David Whitmer: “Yes, he stood before us. Martin Harris was not with us at this time. I don’t think he saw all that we did, but our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon is strictly and absolutely true just as it is there written.”
- When the question was asked David Whitmer if he and the other witnesses did not subscribe their own names to the respective testimonies, he replied that they did. Then he was asked, :’Where are the original documents?’ That he did not know, but supposed Oliver had copied them, but this was an exact copy. Someone suggested that he ought to certify to it, he being the only witness left, but the lawyer, Mr. David C. Whitmer, son of Jacob, thought he had better take time to reflect about it. [Whitmer had in his possession the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon copied mainly by Oliver Cowdery, not the Original Manuscript.]
- “I have heard the same from the mouth of Father Whitmer, more than once; and every time I ever heard him tell the particulars of that glorious scene, he always told it just the same; and as far as I have ever heard, from reliable witnesses, he has always told the same story–“straight as a nail.”
- 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.
- It having been represented by one John Murphy of Polo Mo. that I in a conversation with him last Summer, denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon.
To the end therefore, that he may understand me now if he did not then, and 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 at any time, denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long been published with that book as one of the three witnesses.
Those who know me best, well know that I have adhered to that testimony.–
And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do now again affirm the truth of all my statement[s], 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 he that readeth let him understand.
- “Did you see the angel?”
“Yes; he stood before us [Whitmer, Joseph, and Oliver]. Our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon is absolutely true, just as it is written there.”
- At that time Mr. Whitmer saw the tablet, gazed with awe on the celestial messenger, heard him speak and say: ‘BLessed is the Lord and he that keeps His commandments;” and then, as he held the plates and turned them over with his hands, so that they could be plainly visible, a voice that seemed to fill all space, musical as the sighing of a wind through the forest, was heard, saying: “What you see is true: testify to the same.” And Oliver Cowdrey and David Whitmer, standing there, felt, as the white garments of the angel faded from their vision and the heavenly voice still rang in their ears, that it was no delusion–that it was a fact; and they so recorded it. In a day or two after the same spirit appeared to Martin Harris while he was in company with Smith, and told him also to bear witness to its truth, which he did, as can be seen in the book. Harris described the visitant to Whitmer, who recognized it as the same that he and Cowdrey had seen.
- “I was plowing in the field one morning, and Joseph and Oliver came along with a revelation stating that I was to be one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. I got over the fence and we went out into the woods, near by, and sat down on a log and talked awhile. We then kneeled down and prayed. Joseph prayed. We then got up and sat on the log and were talking, when all at once a light came down from above us and encircled us for quite a little distance around; and the angel stood before us. He was dressed in white, and spoke and called me by name and said ‘Blessed is he that keepeth His commandments.’ This is all that I heard the angel say. A table was set before us and on it the records were placed….While we were viewing them the voice of God spoke out of heaven saying that the Book was true and the translation correct.”
We then asked him, “Do you remember the peculiar sensation experienced upon that occasion?” He answered very slowly and definitely.
“Yes; I remember it very distinctly; and I never think of it, from that day to this but what that same spirit is present with me.”
“How did you know it was the voice of God?”
“We knew it was the voice of God. I knew it was the voice of God just as well as I knew any thing.”51
- We asked him if his testimony was the same now as it was at the time the Book of Mormon was published, regarding seeing the plates and the angel. He rose to his feet, stretched out his hands and said, “These hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel, and these ears heard his voice; and I know it was of God.”
“That was the strongest testimony I ever heard, and I felt that he was telling the truth….”
- In answer to questions by the brethren he recited with graphic distinctness the scene in which he received the testimony he bore any years past and still bears to the Book of Mormon; and averred anew that the statement made by him as published in the book is true. No one who listens to him can doubt the sincerity and truthfulness of the man
- My testimony as published in connection with the Book of Mormon is true–And why Should men ask to know more in regard to all the particulars connected with that all Overshadowing truth–If they will not believe the three and 8 witnesses would they believe though one Should arise from the dead, testify to its truth again.
- “I have been visited by thousands of people, believers and unbelievers, men and ladies of all degrees, sometimes as many as 15 in one day, and have never failed in my testimony. And they will know some day that my testimony is true….I heard the voice of the Angel just as stated in said Book, and the engravings on the plates were shown to us, and we were commanded to bear record of them; and if they are not true, then there is no truth, and if there is no truth there is no God; f there is no God then there is no existence. But there is a God, and I know it.
“When we were first told to publish our statement, we felt sure the people would not believe it, for the Book told of a people who were refined and dwelt in large cities; but the Lord told us that He would make it known to the people, and people should discover the ruins of the lost cities and abundant evidence of the truth of what is written in the Book.”
- Persons may attempt to describe the presentation of the plates as shown to himself and other witnesses, but there was a glory attending it that no one could describe, no human tongue could tell the glorious scenes that were presented to them. Joseph Smith was there and Oliver Cowdery and himself–Martin Harris did not come as expected, but they were shown to him a short time after.”
- David Whitmer’s response when asked if he “had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance, or hallucination, which had deceived them into thinking he saw the Personage, the Angel, the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the sword of Laban.”
- Whitmer was interviewed by Joseph Smith III, in the presence of others, not all of whom were disposed to believe his account. Significantly, he listed several items that he had seen, besides the golden plates:
Rather suggestively [Colonel Giles] asked if it might not have been possible that he, Mr. Whitmer, had been mistaken and had simply been moved upon by some mental disturbance, or hallucination, which had deceived them into thinking he saw the Personage, the Angel, the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the sword of Laban. How well and distinctly I remember the manner in which Elder Whitmer arose and drew himself up to his full height—a little over six feet—and said, in solemn and impressive tones: “No, sir! I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!“
- I saw the angel as plainly as I see you; he was surrounded by the glory of God, which overshadowed us, and we heard his voice, and we saw the records of the Book of Mormon…My testimony is the same as at the beginning, as is true.
- “Mr Whitmer felt very indignant while speaking of certain statements published recently to the effect that he and Oliver Cowdery had denied their statement as published in the Book of Mormon. This he denounced as false in every particular. He said: “Oliver never wavered in his testimony, and when he was on his death bed, I was there, with many of his friends, until he passed away. He bore the same testimony on his dying bed thathe had always borne through life, and earnestly called upon all to cleave to the truth revealed through the Prophet Joseph, and to serve the Lord. As for myself, I have never denied my testimony that is published in the Book of Mormon, for I know that God has revealed these things for the salvation of the children of men, and to Him belongs all the honor, the power and the glory.”
- He was plowing when Joseph and Oliver came to him and the former told him that he was chosen to be one of the three witnesses to whom the angel would show the plates. He also told him that the Lord had promised to make this manifest and now was the time.
They went out and sat upon a log conversing upon the things to be revealed when they were surrounded by a glorious light which overshadowed them. A glorious personage appeared and he showed to them the plates….Human language could not, he said, describe heavenly things and that which they saw. The language of the angel was: Blessed is he taht believed and remaineth faitful to the end. He had his hours of darkness and trial and difficulty, but however dark upon other things[,] that had ever been a bright scene in his mind and he had never wavered in regard to it; he had testified fearlessly always of it, even when his life was threatened. Martin Harris was not with them at the time that he and Oliver saw the angel, but he and Joseph afterwards saw the same, and he thus became a witness also.
- In June, 1829, [when] I [David Whitmer] saw the angel by the power of God, Joseph, Oliver and I were alone, and a light from heaven shone round us, and solemnity pervaded our minds. The angel appeared in the light, as near as that young man. [Within five or six feet – note in original] Between us and the angel there appeared a table, and there lay upon it the sword of Laban, the Ball of [sic] Directors, the REcord, and Interpreters. The angel took the Record, and turned the leaves, and showed it to us by the power of God….My testimony in the Book of Mormon is true; I can’t deviate from it.
- Mr. Whitmer on being asked if he saw the angel, as stated in some accuonts, opened the book and pointing to a section said, “there is my testimony. Read it; that tells all that is necessary for me to say about it. That contains the solemn testimony of myself and the other persons named.”
- I saw this apparition [the angel] myself and gazed with awe on the celestial messenger and heard him say, “Blessed is the Lord and he that keeps his commandments.” Then, as he held the plates and turned them over with his hands so that we could see them plainly, a voice that seemed to fill all space was heard, saying: ‘What you see is true. Testify to the same.” Oliver Cowdrey and I, standing there, felt, as the white garments of the angel faded from view, that we had received a message from God, and we have so recorded it. Two or three days later the same angel appeared to Martin Harris while he was in company with [Joseph] Smith, and placed the same injunction upon him. He described the sight and his sensations to me, and they corresponded exactly with what I had seen and heard.
- I did see the angel of God, and was commanded to testify of these things, and they are true.
- Mr. Whitmer turned his large, kind, but penetrating eyes upon me and, in a very pleasant and considerate, but firm and steady voice said: ‘Read the printed testimony of the three witnesses, which you will find on one of the front pages of the Book of Mormon–and I say to you that every word of it is true.
- Now, as eight years ago, he [Whitmer] says “As I live and stand upon the earth so sure did I see the angel who stood before us. While we were sitting upon a log (that is Joseph and I and Oliver Cowdery) we were talking when a bright light began to shine around us. It grew bright and brighter until an angel stood before us. A table [was] in front of him on which was the [gold] plates and the other plates, the sword of Laban, ball or compass, etc. The plates were shown [to] us [and the] leaves turned over. A portion of them were sealed. We also heard a voice commanding us to bear a testimony of these things to the world….
- I asked him if the table, which the angel brought, and upon which the plates lay when he viewed them was a tangible one, and he said that he did not touch it, it had the semblance of a table. The then ex=plained that he saw the plates and with his natural eyes, but he had to be prepared for it–that he and the other witnesses were overshadowed by the power of God and a halo of brightness indescribable.
- David bore his testimony of standing in the presence of the angel….
David said to Mrs S[tevenson], “My testimony as found in the Book of Mormon is verily true and I cannot deny it.” “I know,” he said, “that the Book of Mormon is as true as the Bible.” He relates seeing a messenger while plowing who said “Blessed is the name of the Lord and thehy who keep his Commandments.” Soon after Joseph Smith and O[liver] Cowdery came along. David tied his team to the fence. The three were about 40 rods from his father’s. While sitting on a log and angel appeared in the midst of a brightness that preceeded him. ON a table in front of him was the ball or compass…sword of Laban, Urim and Thummim or INterpreters. Also the plates, which was shown to them and they were commanded to bear testimony of these things, and he said as he lived those things were true. He fired up with zeal.”
- In June, 1829, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and myself as the three witnesses, to behold the vision of the Angel, as recorded in the fore part of the Book of Mormon, and to bear testimony to the world that the Book of Mormon is true. I was not called to bear testimony to the mission of Brother Joseph Smith any farther than his work of translating the Book of Mormon, as you can see by reading the testimony of us three witnesses.
- [O]f course [I] would tell you about my vision of the Angel. You ask me if I saw the Angel when he brought the plates. I saw the angel when he brought the plates, and the Angel told us that we must bear testimony to the world, as contained in my testimony written int he Book of Mormon. Doubt not–sister–the Book of Mormon is the Word of God.
- I did see the Angel as it is recorded in my testimony in the Book of Mormon. The Book is true (emphasis in original).
- In regards to my testimony to the visitation of the angel, who declared to us three witnesses that the Book of Mormon is true, I have this to say: Of course we were in the spirit when we had the view, for no man can behold the face of an angel, except in a spiritual view, but we were in the body also, and everything was as natural to us, as it is at any time. Martin Harris, you say, called it “being in vision.” We read in the Scriptures, Cornelius saw, in a vision, an angel of God, Daniel saw an angel in a vision, also in other places it states they saw an angel in the spirit. A bright light enveloped us where we were, that filled [the woods as] at noon day, and there in a vision or in the spirit, we saw and heard just as it is stated in my testimony in the Book of Mormon.
- He [David Whitmer] stated that the Book of Mormon was true, that his statement in connection with that of Oliver COwdery and Martin Harris was strictly correct, he had nothing to add to it, nor to diminish from it.
- The 26 January 1888 edition of the Missouri Daily Republican reported the death of David Whitmer, the last survivor from the ranks not only of the Three Witnesses but from those of the official Book of Mormon witnesses altogether:
[Special.] — David Whitmer, the last witness to the divinity of the Book of Mormon, died at his home in Richmond, at 5 O’clock this evening, surrounded by his family [son David J. Whitmer, daughter Julia Ann Whitmer Schweich, grandson George W. Schweich, and granddaughter Josephine Schweich (Mrs. James Van Cleave) of Chicago, all of whom were at his bedside during his last hours, and witnessed his peaceful and quiet death] and a few of his immediate friends. . . . Recently, and during his illness, he claimed to have received many manifestations as to the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and took great pleasure in so stating the fact to his many friends who were assembled at his bed side. And although in his 83rd year, with a feeble constitution and a frame bent with old age, his mind was as bright and active, and his conceptions as clear as the noonday sun.
- During our interview, Mr. Whitmer reiterated his testimony as given at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, saying that all he testified to there was true; that he had seen the plates and the Heavenly messenger, as he had stated.
- Throughout Richmond, Missouri, the non-Mormons knew David Whitmer as an honest and trustworthy citizen. When one anti-Mormon lectured in David’s hometown, branding David as disreputable, the local (non-Mormon) paper responded with “a spirited front-page editorial unsympathetic with Mormonism but insistent on ‘the forty six years of private citizenship on the part of David Whitmer, in Richmond, without stain or blemish.’”
- …The following year the editor penned a tribute on the eightieth birthday of David Whitmer, who “with no regrets for the past” still “reiterates that he saw the glory of the angel.”
This is the critical issue of the life of David Whitmer. During fifty years in non-Mormon society, he insisted with the fervor of his youth that he knew that the Book of Mormon was divinely revealed. Relatively few people in Richmond could wholly accept such testimony, but none doubted his intelligence or complete honesty.
- When another anti-Mormon published an article claiming that David had denied his testimony, David printed a “proclamation” testifying to the truth of the Book of Mormon and reiterating the fact that he had never denied that testimony. He wrote:
It is recorded in the American Cyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica, that I, David Whitmer, have denied my testimony as one of the Three Witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon: and that the two other witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, denied their testimony to that book. I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery nor Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died affirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
- Apostate William E. McLellin wrote:
I saw him [David Whitmer] June 1879, and heard him bear his solemn testimony to the truth of the book—as sincerely and solemnly as when he bore it to me in Paris, Ill. in July 1831.
- Following Whitmer’s death the Richmond Conservator wrote:
On Sunday evening before his death he called the family and his attending physician, Dr. George W. Buchanan, to his bedside and said, “Doctor do you consider that I am in my right mind?” to which the Doctor replied, “Yes, you are in your right mind, I have just had a conversation with you.” He then addressed himself to all present and said: “I want to give my dying testimony. You must be faithful in Christ. I want to say to you all that the Bible and the record of the Nephites, (The Book of Mormon) are true, so you can say that you have heard me bear my testimony on my death bed….
On Monday morning he again called those present to his bedside, and told them that he had seen another vision which reconfirmed the divinity of the “Book of Mormon,” and said that he had seen Christ in the fullness of his glory and majesty, sitting upon his great white throne in heaven waiting to receive his children.
- The Richmond Democrat also added this comment:
Skeptics may laugh and scoff if they will, but no man can listen to Mr. Whitmer as he talks of his interview with the Angel of the Lord, without being most forcibly convinced that he has heard an honest man tell what he honestly believes to be true.
- After talking as he did, so fully and freely he said “I have been asked if we saw those things with our natural eyes. Of course they were our natural eyes There is no doubt that our eyes were prepared for the sight, but they were our natural eyes nevertheless.”
I asked him if the table was a tangible one, and he said it appeared to be, but they did not touch it.
- The thing which impressed me most of all was, as we stood beside the grave of Oliver Cowdery the other Witness, who had come back into the Church before his death, and [David Whitmer] in describing Oliver[‘]s action, when bearing his testimony, said to the people in his room, placing his hands like this upon his head, saying ‘I know teh Gospel to be true and upon this head has Peter[,] James and John laid their hands and confer[r]ed the Holy Melchisedic Priesthood.’ 
- When Martin Harris came back to them [Joseph, Oliver, and David Whitmer], they knew he had also seen the angel, because his face was radiant and he declared he had received the testimony. David Whitmer told me they knew he had also seen the vision which they had, because he explained what they had themselves seen.