David Whitmer

David Whitmer was an early adherent of the Latter Day Saint movement who eventually became the most interviewed of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon's golden plates.

Early life

Whitmer was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the fourth of nine children of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Whitmer's ancestry on both sides of his family was German, and the family spoke with a German accent. His grandfather was George Witmer, who was born in Prussia, and his great-grandfather was born in Switzerland. By the 1820s, the Whitmer family had moved to a farm in Fayette, in New York's Finger Lakes area. On March 12, 1825, Whitmer was elected sergeant in a newly organized militia called the Seneca Grenadiers.

Role in the early Latter Day Saint movement

Whitmer and his family were among the earliest adherents to the Latter Day Saint movement. Whitmer first heard of Joseph Smith and the golden plates in 1828 when he made a business trip to Palmyra, New York, and there talked with his friend Oliver Cowdery, who believed that there "must be some truth to the matter."

Book of Mormon witness

Whitmer eventually accepted the story and brought his father's family to join the Smiths in Palmyra. Whitmer was baptized in June 1829, nearly a year prior to the formal organization of the Church of Christ. During that same month, Whitmer said that he, along with Smith and Cowdery, saw an angel present the golden plates in a vision. Martin Harris reported that he experienced a similar vision with Smith later in the day. Evidence places this event near his father's home in Fayette, New York, on June 28, 1829. Whitmer, Cowdery, and Harris then signed a joint statement declaring their testimony to the reality of the vision. The statement was published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon and has been included in nearly every subsequent edition.
Whitmer later said that Smith had received a revelation that Hiram Page and Cowdery would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon in Toronto. After Page and Cowdery returned from Canada empty handed, Whitmer asked Smith why they had been unsuccessful, and Smith received another revelation "through the stone" that "some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil."

Founding church member

When Smith organized the Church of Christ on April 6, 1830, Whitmer was one of six original members.

Church offices

Whitmer had been ordained an elder of the church by June 9, 1830, and he was ordained to the office of high priest by Cowdery on October 5, 1831. Soon after the organization of the church, Smith set apart Jackson County, Missouri, as a "gathering place" for Latter Day Saints. According to Smith, the area would be the "center place" of the City of Zion, the New Jerusalem. On July 7, 1834, Smith ordained Whitmer to be the president of the church in Missouri and his own successor, should Smith "not live to God".

By virtue of his position as President of the High Council in Zion, David Whitmer was sustained as "the president of the church in Zion," not merely as a Stake President. Since the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Quorum of the Seventy had not yet been organized, this meant that there was a short period of time—from July 3, 1834, until February 14, 1835—when the High Council in Zion stood in an administrative position next to the First Presidency. It also meant that from July 3, 1834, until December 5, 1834, at which time Oliver Cowdery was made the Associate President of the Church, David Whitmer, as President of the High Council in Zion, was the Prophet's rightful successor."

Although a revelation dated June 1829 referred to Whitmer and Cowdery as receiving the same calling as the apostle Paul, Smith had not yet started a church or created the office known today as apostle. Cowdery and Whitmer did have a visionary experience and like Paul, were called to preach. They were also called to "search out" twelve "disciples", who later were called "apostles." None of the Three Witnesses were ordained to that apostleship.

Separation from the church

Whitmer continued to live in Kirtland, Ohio, and his counselors, W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer presided over the church in Missouri until the summer of 1837. After the collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society bank, Smith and his counselor Sidney Rigdon, battered by creditors, moved to Far West, Missouri, to evade arrest. The ensuing leadership struggle led to the dissolution of the presidency of the church in Missouri. Whitmer resigned and separated from the church.
Whitmer and the other excommunicated Latter Day Saints became known as the "dissenters." Some of the dissenters owned land in Caldwell County, Missouri, which they wanted to retain. The church presidency and other members looked unfavorably upon them. Rigdon preached his "Salt Sermon", which called for their expulsion from the county. A number of Latter Day Saints formed a secret society known as the Danites, whose stated goal was removal of the dissenters. Eighty prominent Mormons signed the so-called Danite Manifesto, which warned the dissenters to "depart or a more fatal calamity shall befall you." Shortly afterward, Whitmer and his family fled to nearby Richmond, Missouri.
Whitmer, other dissenters, and Mormons loyal to Smith complained to the non-Mormons in northwestern Missouri about their forcible expulsion and the loss of their properties and began to file lawsuits to recover them. Non-Mormon residents were alarmed by this and a revelation by Smith which said:

29 Wherefore, the land of Zion shall not be obtained but by purchase or by blood, otherwise there is none inheritance for you.
31 And if by blood, as you are forbidden to shed blood, lo, your enemies are upon you, and ye shall be scourged from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue, and but few shall stand to receive an inheritance.

Tensions escalated, bringing about the 1838 Mormon War after which Governor Boggs issued Missouri Executive Order 44 in October 1838 authorizing deadly force in the removal of Mormons. Consequently, most of the Latter Day Saints were expelled from Missouri by early 1839.
In response to "persecutions" from a "secret organization" formed within the LDS church that denounced "dissenters," Whitmer used his position as one of the Three Witnesses to condemn the church: "If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon," wrote Whitmer, "if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens and told me to 'separate myself from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me, so it should be done unto them.'" Whitmer interpreted God's command to include the RLDS Church, : "God commanded me by his voice to stand apart from you."
Whitmer continued to live in Richmond, where he operated a successful livery stable and became a prominent and respected citizen. In 1867, he was elected to fill an unexpired term as mayor.

President of the Church of Christ (Whitmerite)

After the death of Smith in 1844, several rival leaders claimed to be Smith's successor, including Brigham Young, Sidney Rigdon, and James J. Strang. Many of Rigdon's followers became disillusioned by 1847 and some, including apostle William E. McLellin and Benjamin Winchester, remembered Whitmer's 1834 ordination to be Smith's successor. At McLellin's urging, Whitmer exercised his claim to be Smith's successor and the Church of Christ was formed in Kirtland, Ohio. However, Whitmer never joined the body of the new church and it dissolved relatively quickly.
Around this time, fellow Book of Mormon witness Oliver Cowdery began to correspond with Whitmer. After traveling from Ohio to Kanesville, Cowdery attended the Kanesville Tabernacle meeting, called to sustain Brigham Young as the new President of the Church. Cowdery bore, with conviction, his testimony of the truthfulness of everything that had happened spiritually regarding Smith and the Book of Mormon. Meeting with Young at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, he requested readmission into the church, and he was re-baptized into the church there. Cowdery then traveled to meet with Whitmer in Richmond to persuade him to move west and rejoin the Saints in Utah Territory. Cowdery, however, succumbed to tuberculosis and died March 3, 1850.
In January 1876, Whitmer resurrected the Church of Christ by ordaining his nephew, John C. Whitmer, an elder, and giving him the title "First Elder".
In 1887, Whitmer published a pamphlet entitled "", in which he affirmed his testimony of the Book of Mormon, but denounced the other branches of the Latter Day Saint movement. Whitmer died in Richmond. The Whitmerite church survived until the 1960s.

Religious views

Whitmer stated his religious views in three publications: "" published March 24, 1881, "" published April 1887, and "" also published April 1887.

I do not endorse polygamy or spiritual wifeism. It is a great evil, shocking to the moral sense, and the more so, because practiced in the name of religion. It is of man and not God, and is especially forbidden in the Book of Mormon itself.

;High Priests

As to the High Priesthood, Jesus Christ himself is the last Great High Priest, this too after the order of Melchisedec, as I understand the Holy Scriptures.

;Name change

I do not endorse the change of the name of the church, for as the wife takes the name of her husband so should the Church of the Lamb of God, take the name of its head, even Christ himself. It is the Church of Christ.

The name change just prior to Whitmer's objection was to add "of Latter-day Saints" based on the April 26, 1838 revelation to Smith recorded in DC 115:3. Thus, the name "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" was formalized through incorporation in 1851, thirty years before Whitmer published his objection.

The most interviewed Book of Mormon witness

Because Cowdery died in 1850 at age 43 and Martin Harris died in 1875 at age 92, Whitmer was the only survivor of the Three Witnesses for 13 years. At Richmond, Missouri, he sometimes received several inquirers daily asking about his connection to the Book of Mormon, including missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were traveling from Utah Territory to the eastern United States and Europe. Despite his hostility toward the LDS Church, Whitmer always stood by his claim that he had actually seen the golden plates.
Some of the 71 recorded interviews he gave between 1838 and 1888 contained different details than others. Recounting the vision to Orson Pratt in 1878, Whitmer claimed to have seen not only the golden plates but the "Brass Plates, the plates containing the record of the wickedness of the people of the world... the sword of Laban, the Directors and the Interpreters. I saw them just as plain as I see this bed".
In 1880, John Murphy interviewed Whitmer and later published an account suggesting that perhaps Whitmer's experience was a "delusion or perhaps a cunning scheme." Murphy's account said that Whitmer had not been able to describe the appearance of an angel and had likened Whitmer's experience to the "impressions as the quaker when the spirit moves, or as a good Methodist in giving a happy experience." Whitmer responded by publishing "", reaffirming his testimony and saying,

"It having been represented by one John Murphy, of Polo, Caldwell County, 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 since been published with that Book, as one of the 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!"

To the "Proclamation" Whitmer attached an affidavit attesting to his honesty and standing in the community. Whitmer ordered that his testimony to the Book of Mormon be placed on his tombstone.
In response to a question by Anthony Metcalf, Whitmer attempted to clarify the "spiritual" versus "natural" viewing of the plates:

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 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. I am now passed eighty-two years old, and I have a brother, J. J. Snyder, to do my writing for me, at my dictation. David Whitmer.

The following table shows which interviews were cited in the following publications:
InterviewerInterview DateName of PublicationPublication DateGodfreyCookVogelWelchAnderson
Eber D. Howe1834Mormonism Unvailed1834x
Lumon Andros Shurtliff21 August 1836Autobriography, LDS Church Archives1852–1876x
Thomas B. Marsh1838Deseret News24 March 1858xx
David H. Cannon1861Beatrice Cannon Evans and Janath Russell Cannon, eds. Cannon Family Historical Treasury, 250.1967x
David H. Cannon1861A. Karl Larson and Katherine Miles Larson, eds., Diary of Charles Lowell Walker, 1773—74,.1980xxx
Davis H. Bays13 September 1869Saints' Herald1 November 1869xx
Henry Moon9 January 1872Deseret Evening News10 April 1872xx x
Eri B. Mullin1874Saints' Herald 27, 761 March 1880xxx-83
James CaffallAugust 1874Saints' Herald15 September 1874xx
Mark H. Forscutt2 March 1875Scrapbook, 16-17, reproduced in Inez Smith Davis The Story of the Church. Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 751964x
Chicago Times reporterAugust 1875'7 August 1875xx x
Dr. James N. Seymour8 December 1875Saints' Herald 26, 223 1879xx x
Thomas Wood SmithJanuary 1876Fall River Herald 28 March 1879xx-80
Thomas Wood SmithJanuary 1876Saints' Herald 27, 131 January 1880xxx-82
Edward Stevenson22—23 December 1877Diary of Edward Stevenson, LDS Church Archivesxxx
Edward Stevenson22—23 December 1877Journal History, LDS Church Archivesxx
Edward Stevenson22—23 December 1877Salt Lake Herald2 February 1878xx
Edward Stevenson22—23 December 1877Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon1893x
Joseph Smith III2 February 1878Community of Christ Library Archives xx
P. Wilhelm Poulson13 August 1878Deseret Evening News16 August 1878xxx-79x
Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith7—8 September 1878Joseph F. Smith Diary, LDS Church Archivesxx
Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith7—8 September 1878Deseret News16 November 1878x
Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith7—8 September 1878Orson Pratt correspondence, LDS Church Archivesxxx
Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith7—8 September 1878Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 6, 1886, 210.1886 x-78
Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith7—8 September 1878Joseph F. Smith Collection, LDS Church Archivesx
Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith7—8 September 1878Brian H. Stuy. Collected Discourses, Burbank: B.H.S. Pub. vol 21987–92x
William E. McLellinJune 1879William E. McLellin Collection, New York Public Library. 14 August 1880xx
J. L. Traughber Jr.October 1879Saints' Herald 26, 34115 November 1879xx-81
J. L. TraughberOctober 1879T. A. Schroeder Papers, New York Public Library. 21 August 1901
Heman C. Smith5 December 1876Community of Christ Library Archives xx
John MurphyJune 1880Hamiltonian21 January 1881xx
John MurphyJune 1880Kingston Times16 December 1887x
E. S. Gilbert1 August 1880New Light on Mormonism by Ellen E. Dickson, New York: Funk and Wagnalls.1885x
David Whitmer19 March 1881"Proclamation" - Leaflet19 March 1881xx
David Whitmer19 March 1881"Proclamation" in Richmond Conservator24 March 1881xx
David Whitmer19 March 1881"Proclamation" in Hamiltonian 8 April 1881x
David Whitmer19 March 1881"Proclamation" in Saints' Herald 1 June 1881x
David Whitmer19 March 1881"Proclamation" in "Address to All Believers in Christ"1 April 1887x
Jesse R. Badham20 March 1881Diary of Jesse R. Badham, RLDS Church Library—Archivesxxx
Jesse R. Badham20 March 1881Saints' Herald1 April 1881xxx
Kansas City Daily Journal reporter1 June 1881'5 June 1881xx-84x
David Whitmer's corrections to Kansas City Daily JournalKansas City Daily Journal19 June 1881xx-85
Chicago Times correspondent14 October 1881'17 October 1881xx-86x
Edwin Gordon Woolley1882Diary of Edwin Gordon Woolley, BYU Library—Archivesxxx
Edwin Gordon Woolley1882E. G. Woolley Biography, BYU Library—Archivesx
William H. Kelley, G. A. Blakeslee15 January 1882Saints' Herald 29, 681 March 1882xx-87x
Joseph Smith III et al.4 April 1882Saints' Herald1 May 1882xxx
John Morgan, Matthias F. Cowley13 April 1882John Morgan Diary, LDS Church Archivesxxx
John Morgan, Matthias F. Cowley13 April 1882Arthur M. Richardson and Nicholas G. Morgan.The Life and Ministry of John Morgan. 3231965xxx
John Morgan, Matthias F. Cowley13 April 1882Diary of Matthias F. Cowley, LDS Church Archivesxxx
J. W. ChatburnNo dateSaints' Herald15 June 1882x
S. T. Mouch18 November 1882Whitmer Papers, Community of Christ Library Archives. xx
Moroni Pratt, S. R. Marks, et al.30 June 1883Bear Lake Democrat3 & 14 July 1883xxx
Moroni Pratt, S. R. Marks, et al.30 June 1883Deseret News19 & 21 July 1883xxx
James H. Hart21 August 1883James H. Hart Notebook x
James H. Hart23 August 1883Deseret Evening News4 September 1883x x
James H. Hart21 August 1883Bear Lake Democrat15 September 1883x
James H. Hart21 August 1883Contributor 5, 9–10October 1883xx
James H. Hart21 August 1883"An Interview with David Whitmer in August, 1883" 1883x
George Q. Cannon27 February 1884George Q. Cannon Journal, LDS Church Archivesxx-90
George Q. Cannon27 February 1884Instructor 80, 5201945 x
James H. Hart10 March 1884Deseret Evening News25 March 1884xx-89
James H. Hart10 March 1884Deseret Evening News10 April 1884x
James H. Hart10 March 1884Bear Lake Democrat28 March 1884x
E. C. Briggs, Rudolph Etzenhouser25 April 1884Saints' Herald 31, 396–9721 June 1884xx-88
J. Frank McDowell8 May 1884Saints' Herald22 July and 9 August 1884xxx
Heman C. Smith, William H. Kelley19 June 1884Saints' Herald 31, 44212 July 1884xxx x
Heman C. Smith, William H. Kelley19 June 1884Joseph Smith III, Heman C. Smith, and F. Henry Edwards. The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 4:448–491968xx
Joseph Smith III et al.mid-July 1884Saints' Herald28 January 1936x
St. Louis Republicanmid-July 1884St. Louis Republican16 July 1884xx-91
UnknownJuly 1884"The True Book of Mormon" unknown newspaper clipping in William H. Samson Scrapbook, 18:76–77, Rochester Public Library.July 1884x
B. H. Roberts1884Contributor 9, 169March 1888x
B. H. Roberts1884Millennial Star 50, 12020 February 1888x
B. H. Roberts1884Conference Report, 126October 1926x
Editor9 January 1885Richmond Conservator 9 January 1885xx
Zenas H. Gurley14 January 1885Gurley Collection, LDS Church ArchivesJanuary 21, 1885xx-92
Zenas H. Gurley14 January 1885Autumn Leaves 5, 4521892 x
E. C. Brand8 February 1885Kingston Times 23 December 1887x
Franklin D. Richards and Charles C. Richards25 May 1885Charles C. Richards, "An Address Delivered by Charles C. Richards at the Sacrament Meeting Held in SLC, UT, Sunday Evening, April 20, 1947," signed. LDS Church Archives.1947x
James H. Moyle28 June 1885James H. Moyle Journal, LDS Church Archivesxx
James H. Moyle28 June 188524 November 1928 reminiscencex
James H. Moyle28 June 1885Conference ReportApril 1930x
James H. Moyle28 June 1885Deseret News 2 August 1944x
James H. Moyle28 June 1885Instructor1945x x
Chicago Tribune correspondent15 December 1885'17 December 1885xx-93x
Edward Stevenson9 February 1886Diary of Edward Stevenson, LDS Church Archivesx
Edward Stevenson9 February 1886Millennial Star8 March 1886x
Edward Stevenson9 February 1886Utah Journal10 March 1886x
Nathan Tanner, Jr.13 April 1886Nathan Tanner, Jr. Journal, LDS Church Archivesxx
Nathan Tanner, Jr.13 April 1886Tanner reminiscence, LDS Church Archivesx
Nathan Tanner, Jr.May 1886Nathan A. Tanner, Jr. to Nathan A. Tanner, LDS Church Archives17 February 1909 x-98
Omaha Herald correspondent10 October 1886Omaha Herald17 October 1886xx-94x
Omaha Herald correspondent10 October 1886Chicago Inter-Ocean 17 October 1886 x-94
Omaha Herald correspondent10 October 1886Saints' Herald, 33:70613 November 1886 x-94
D. C. Dunbar10 October 1886Dunbar correspondence, LDS Church Archivesx
M. J. Hubble13 November 1886Missouri State Historical Society, Columbia, Missourixx-95
Edward Stevenson2 January 1887Diary of Edward Stevenson, LDS Church Archivesx
Edward Stevenson2 January 1887Juvenile Instructor15 February 1887x
Edward Stevenson2 January 1887Millennial Star14 February 1887x
David Whitmer "An Address to All Believers in Christ: By a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon", Richmond, Missouri1887xx-96x
Edward Stevenson2 January 1887Juvenile Instructor1 January 1889x
Sister Gates11 February 1887Whitmer Papers, Community of Christ Library Archives. xx
Robert Nelson15 February 1887Whitmer Papers, Community of Christ Library Archives. xx
Anthony MetcalfMarch 1887Ten Years Before the Mast, 741888 Malad, Idaho x
Angus M. Cannon7 January 1888Angus M. Cannon Diary, LDS Church Archivesxxx
Angus M. Cannon7 January 1888Deseret Evening News13 February 1888xxx x
Chicago Tribune correspondent23 January 1888Chicago Tribune24 January 1888x
Unidentified Chicago manChicago Times26 January 1888xxx x
Richmond Conservator report26 January 1888Richmond Conservator26 January 1888xxx x
Richmond Democrat reportJanuary 1888Richmond Democrat 26 January 1888x x
Richmond Democrat reportJanuary 1888Richmond Democrat 2 February 1888x-97x
John C. WhitmerSeptember 1888Deseret News 13 & 17 September 1888x
John C. WhitmerSeptember 1888Saints' Herald 13 October 1888x
George W. Schweich1899Woodbridge I. Riley. The Founder of Mormonism. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1903, 219–20. 22 September 1899xx
Philander PageJanuary 25, 1888George Edward Anderson Diary, Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum, 27–28.1907x
John J. Snyder1886–87W. H. Cadman. A History of the Church of Jesus Christ, Organized at Green Oak, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., in the Year 1862. Monongola, Pennsylvania: The Church of Jesus Christ, 1945, 24–25.10 October 1928x