REVELATIONS TO THE WHITMERS (D&C 14-16)
● In the introduction to section 14, it says, “The Prophet established his residence at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr., where he dwelt until the work of translation was carried to completion and the copyright on the forthcoming book was secured. Three of the Whitmer sons, each having received a testimony as to the genuineness of the work, became deeply concerned over the matter of their individual duty. This revelation and the two following (sections 15 and 16) were given in answer to an inquiry through the Urim and Thummim. David Whitmer later became one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon.”
THIS IS THE SAVIOR’S GREAT AND MARVELOUS WORK
● D&C 14:1 A great and marvelous work is about to come forth unto the children of men.
● D&C 14:9–10 Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God and the creator of all thing in heaven and earth, “must bring forth the fulness of [His] gospel from the Gentiles unto the house of Israel.”
WE ARE CALLED TO ASSIST IN THE WORK
● D&C 14:2–4 If we desire to assist in this work, and we “thrust in our sickle” with all our might, we will “treasure up for [our] his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.”
● D&C 14:5, 8 If we ask in faith we will receive the Holy Ghost, which will empower us to “stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation.”
● D&C 14:6–7 If we “seek to bring forth and establish my Zion,” “keep my commandments and endure to the end” we will “have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”
● D&C 14:11 Like David Whitmer, we are “called to assist; which thing if ye do, and are faithful, ye shall be blessed both spiritually and temporally, and great shall be your reward.”
● D&C 15:6 “The thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father.”
THREE SPECIAL WITNESSES OF THE BOOK OF MORMON
● D&C 17 In June 1829, at about the time that the Book of Mormon translation was completed in Fayette , New York , Joseph Smith received this revelation, which designates those who will be His three witnesses of the Book of Mormon. They are the three who had the most to do with the coming forth of the book: Martin Harris (who paid for its printing), Oliver Cowdery (who acted as scribe for most of it), and David Whitmer (whose family had provided safe shelter while the work was completed).
— They were commanded to bear witness of what they would see.
— This would include “a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummin . . . and the miraculous directors [Liahona] which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness” (v. 1). It is interesting to note that the Urim and Thummin that Joseph Smith used and that was shown to the three witnesses were the ones “given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face” (v. 1), making them very ancient—nearly 4,000 years old.
— These three witnesses would receive this witness only “by your faith . . . even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old” (v. 2). It was that same kind of faith that had allowed Joseph Smith to receive them (v. 5). And thereafter these witnesses will be required to “testify of them, by the power of God” (v. 3), that “you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them” (v. 5). “And this you shall do that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., may not be destroyed, that I may bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men in this work” (v. 4).
— Bruce R. McConkie said: “Whenever the Lord has established a dispensation by revealing his gospel and by conferring priesthood and keys upon men, he has acted in accordance with the law of witnesses which he himself ordained. This law is: ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established’ . . . Never does one man stand alone in establishing a new dispensation of revealed truth, or in carrying the burden of such a message and warning to the world. In every dispensation, from Adam to the present, two or more witnesses have always joined their testimonies, thus leaving their hearers without excuse in the day of judgment should the testimony be rejected.”1
— These three men were promised that if they would do all that they were instructed in this revelation, the Lord’s grace was sufficient to ensure their salvation. In hindsight, this promise is interesting, given their eventual disaffection with Joseph Smith personally and with the Church in general. They displayed weakness in their faith and their characters, but they never did deny their witness of this great event. It is hopeful to note that the Lord’s saving grace is sufficient to save them so long as they do not deny their witness of this heavenly manifestation.
THE EIGHT WITNESSES
● There were eight other men who saw and handled the plates, which they said, “have the appearance of gold” and “the engravings thereon . . . [have] the appearance of ancient work and of curious workmanship.”2
● These eight did not see the Angel Moroni. The were shown the plates by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and bore witness that “Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.”
● The witness is signed by the following:
— Christian Whitmer
— Jacob Whitmer
— Peter Whitmer, Jr.
— John Whitmer
— Hiram Page
— Joseph Smith, Sr.
— Hyrum Smith
— Samuel H. Smith
● Mary Whitmer. During June 1829, while Joseph and Oliver were busy finishing the translation at the Whitmer’s farm in Fayette, Mary Whitmer labored faithfully to take care of their every need, without complaint and despite much persecution from her neighbors and friends. As a reward for her faithfulness, the Angel Moroni appeared to her in broad daylight and showed her the plates.3
● Others knew of the existence of the plates without actually seeing them. We do not know for sure how many had the opportunity to lift the plates while they were being moved from place to place to keep them hidden from Joseph Smith’s enemies. But we do know that Joseph’s parents, Lucy and Joseph, Sr., felt them through a pillowcase during this time, as did a man by the name of Joshua McCune.4
ALWAYS FAITHFUL TO THEIR WITNESSES
We have the printed witness of both the three witnesses and the eight witnesses in the front of every Book of Mormon. These are their official pronouncements that stand as sentinels of truth against those who would deny the divine origin of the book. It is also interesting to read their unofficial reaffirmations given toward the end of their lives. All of the Three Witnesses and three of the Eight Witnesses later left the Church. Only a few returned, but none ever denied his testimony of what he saw.
● Oliver Cowdery said in 1848: “I have never denied my testimony, which is attached to the front page of the Book of Mormon and I declare to you here that these eyes saw the angel, and these ears of mine heard the voice of the angel, and he told us his name was Moroni; that the book was true, and contained the fullness of the gospel, and we were also told that if we ever denied what we had heard and seen that there would be no forgiveness for us, neither in this world nor in the world to come.” (1838–1840) “I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummin, or, as it is called by that book ‘Holy Interpreters.’ I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the ‘Holy Interpreters.’ That book is true . . . I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.”5
● Martin Harris said in 1875: “I had the privilege of being with the Prophet Joseph Smith and with these eyes of men, (pointing to his eyes) I saw the angel of the Lord, and I saw the plates and the Urim and Thummim and the sword of Laban, and with these ears (pointing to his ears), I heard the voice of the angel, and with these hands (holding out his hands), I handled the plates containing the record of the Book of Mormon, and I assisted the Prophet in the translation thereof. I bear witness that this testimony is true.”6
● David Whitmer said in 1886: “He (the angel) stood before us. Our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon, is strictly and absolutely true . . . ” (1878) “As sure as the sun shines and I live, just so sure did the angel appear unto me and Joseph Smith and I heard his voice and did see the angel standing before us.”7
● David Whitmer said one year later (1887), in the last year of his life: “It is recorded in the American Encyclopaedia and the Encyclopaedia 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 other two 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 reaffirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”8
THE ROLE OF THE BOOK OF MORMON
President Ezra Taft Benson gave the following invitation to Church members in 1988:
“The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to ‘sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.’ (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work.
“. . . In this age of the electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way.
“We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now!
“My beloved brothers and sisters, we hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved.”9
1. Mormon Doctrine, 436.
2. “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses,” set forth after the Introduction fo the Book of Mormon.
3. History of the Church, 1:125–127.
4. Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon , 19.
5. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon , 27.
6. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 37-38.
7. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, 37.
8. “Address to All Believers in Christ” , 8; as quoted in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 6 vols. , 1:145.
9. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson , 143–44.