Mormon History

David Whitmer Unanswered Questions - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune February 9, 1879


Examination of Mr. David Whitmer, Sole Survivor
of the Eleven Witnesses to the Book of Mormon.

Why don't you answer civil questions addressed to you by letter, Mr. Whitmer? Don't you know that you are under a moral responsibility to do so?

Do you not say that you bore your testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon in obedience to a commandment from God?

If God commanded you to bear testimony that you saw the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and that you saw a breastplate, Urim and Thummim, etc., why did you in 1829 only testify to having seen the plates? How durst you to disobey a commandment of God?

Did you not bear testimony in 1829 that you saw plates and only plates? You now testify that you saw several other things. How is this?

Did you see these objects in the day time or in the night time?

In your interview with Messrs. Pratt and Smith, at Richmond, Mo., last summer, you say that you saw the plates, etc., by supernatural power, but you told them that your brother, John Whitmer, had them shown to him by Joseph Smith, Jr. In his testimony published in 1830, your brother says that Joseph Smith, Jr. showed him and others the plates. But in a company of eight or nine persons, in the Spring of 1830, your brother, John Whitmer, stated the plates were shown to him "by a supernatural power." Are you able to reconcile this discrepancy?

In their testimony, your brother, John Whitmer, and seven other persons testify to the world that the saw, handled and helfted the plates. Have you ever stated that you handled and "hefted" them, or can you affirm this now?

Were you not commanded of God to testify that you saw the plates, "even as my servant Joseph has seen them?"

Did "my servant Joseph" see these things objectively or in a vision, or both ways? If he showed them to your brothers and to others, and they "handled and hefted" them, then must not Joseph Smith, Jr. likewise have handled and hefted them?

How could you honestly testify that you saw the plates, "even as my servant Joseph has seen them," unless you saw them both ways, as he must have done?

Have you ever stated that you saw these things unless while under some sort of spiritual, mesmeric or preternatural influence?

Here are one or two more points, Mr. Whitmer. You are told "after that you have obtained faith and have seen them with your eyes" -- seen with your eyes, is redundant, and obtain faith and seen with your eyes" is slightly mixed -- "you shall testify of them by the power of God; and this you shall do that my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., may not be destroyed." Then you not only saw these things by the power of God, (by faith with your eyes,) but you're to testify of them by the power of God! Are you not at liberty to tell about these things in a letter, or in common conversation, Mr. Whitmer, unless it is done "by the power of God?" But the gist of the matter is yet to come. You are to testify of them, by the power of God, "that my servant, Joseph Smith, Jr., may not be destroyed," Wjy, how is this, Mr. David Whitmer? Who could ever have harbored so preposterous a design? Whoever sought or wished to destroy, whoever dreamed of destroying Mr. Joseph Smith, Jr., for digging up plates and translating them by Urim and Thummim, by the Liahona, or otherwise? Not a soul under the wide canopy, Mr. W. On the contrary, Mr. Joseph Smith, Jr., or any other person whatever, would have received any amount of aid and encouragement. This new country, unhappily so deficient in the matter of annals -- "young America," pining for some kind of an early history -- everybody in search of a pedigree, of a past, would have hailed Mr. Joseph Smith, Jr.'s wonderful metallic chromicle as a perfect godsend, and would have delighted to honor him. They would have fairly idolized old Moroni, as a possible blood relation remote, as Mark Twain would say, but still a relation; they would have clung desperately to Coriantumr; they would have enshrined Mormon and the rest among their Lares and Penates; and if a lineal descendant of the noble Nephi were extant would he not have been proud to perch him on the top of his ancestral tree? Why, Mr. Whitmer -- tell us if you can -- why did not Mr. Joseph Smith, Jr.l, consent to exhibit this famous record, at two bits, as was first stated he would, or even at four bits, somewhere? Or why was it not submitted to some honorable savant of our new world where its genuineness might have been acknowledged? Was there mo such person to be found? Perhaps the "rude scrawl" transcribed and sent to Professor Anthon and others (who turned up their scholarly noses at it) would have appeared to them far different had they seen the original. Why, in the name all that is aggravating, were not the original plates exhibited? Have you the address of the angel who now has these [yer?] plates to his keeping? Can you not do at least so much?

Do you not give the world to understand that the things you saw saw were invisible when you went into the woods to pray about them and that they were invisible when you came away? Does not this story savor of anything rather than reality? Do you not see, sir, that you are in honor and duty bound to the world to answer reasonable questions put to you upon the matter?

In your case, is not the whole mystrry to be cleared up on the ground that you either psychologized or that you were made the victim of a deep and carefully executed trick?

Have you never queried why Martin Harris could not and did not have a view of the plates at the time you did? Do you not know, Mr. Whitmer, that Martin Harris, when he came to Utah, said some queer things about this matter?

The testimony of eight witnesses is emphatic, being twice repeated, that Joseph Smith, Jr., showed them the plates. Who had the plates at the time Joseph Smith showed them to these eight? Mrs. Smith, in her history, says the plates were carried to them "by one of the ancient Nephites." The eight say nothing of this, but simply state that Joseph Smith showed the plates to them. If the plates had been of quicksilver could they have been any more slippery? What kind of metal were they any way, Mr. Whitmer? Were they not of brass mostly?

Now, Mr. Whitmer, notwithstanding what the eleven witnesses declare, do not these serious descrepancies in their statements make it doubtful, even to honest believers in Mormonism, whether Joseph Smith, Jr., ever really had any plates?

But about Moroni. Did this old gentleman -- this very old gentleman -- really show the plates to your good mother in the cow yard?

Why should the heavenly messenger feel called upon to take the plates from Harmony to Palmyra, when they had previously been conveyed from Palmyra to Harmony, "compact and comfortable," in a barrel of beans? Are you quite certain that there was no hocus-pocus just at this time?

Did the angel take away the Urim and Thummim at the time he received back the plates for good and all?

Did the idea never occur to you that Sidney Rigdon was playing the role of Mormoni?

Although Moroni had on a white beard when he appeared to you on the road from Harmony to Palmyra did he not otherwise resemble Rigdon?

Was not the practice of assuming [aliases?] quite a feature in early Mormonism?

Why is not the "revelation to O. Cowdery, D. Whitmer and M. Harris given in June, 1829, previous to their viewing the plates containing the Book of Mormon," to be found in the original edition of the Revelations published in 1833?

Are you not aware, Mr. Whitmer, that the Urim and Thummim are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon, nor yeat in the Revelations published in 1833?

When did you first hear of the Urim and Thummim as having anything to do with Mormon revelations?

Nothwithstanding your importunities, the Book of Mormon was about ready for the printer before [anyone] had a view of the plates, [ ----- ---- ] circumstance significant [ ----- ------ ][ ------ ------ ---- ------ ] ...

What became of... -- [containing] the testimonies of the eleven witnesses to the Book of Mormon -- the original document, with the autographs of the signers? In whose handwriting were these testimonies? Will you not satisfy, if you can, a natural curiosity on this point and state what became of this important and priceless document? Could it have been handed over to the custody of Rigdon?

Hiw was it the heads of the Mormon Church permitted Cowdery to keep the manuscript of the Book of Mormon, if some one of them had not an older and the first "translation?" On what ground could either Cowdery or yourself set up a claim to this manuscript? Is it not too bad that not only the plates and Urim and Thummim but the original translation should be missing? Do you not know, sir, that Mr. Barfoot, of the Deseret Museum, would walk barefoot from here to Kolob for either one of these things?

DEspite the statement of the Salt Lake DEseret News, that the several editions of the Book of Mormon have never materially varied from the original, are you not well aware, Mr. Whitmer, that such is not the truth, or even a paring of the great-toe nail of one of these "three Nephites?"

In the original edition of the Book of Mormon is not Joseph Smith, Jr., spoken of repeatedly as its author and proprietor?

Did not eight witnesses testify solemnly, that Joseph Smith, Jr., was author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon, in language calculated to make the world tremble, and convince all the honest in heart -- "we lie not, God bearing witness of it?"

If Joseph Smith, Jr., did not know exactly what the term "author" implied, is it supposable that the All Wise Being who, it is claimed, directed him, did not know the meaning of the word?

Don't you think, Mr. Whitmer, there may have been some rival claimant to the authorship and proceeds of the book, and was not the rival claimant Rigdon?

The history of Joseph Smith states that Nephi visited him about the plates, etc. Joseph F. Smith stated before a Salt Lake audience recently that "this was a mistake of the amanuensis -- it was not Nephi, but Moroni" Do you know, Mr. Whitmer, who was this very erring amanuensis of this very erroneous angel?

The signature 'Mormoni' is found on the title pages of the Book of Mormon, since the second edition. Is his sign manual attached to the original in your possession?

Finally, Mr. Whitmer, as custodian of the purity and integrity of this magically delivered and magically guarded work, will you please turn to the fourth chapter of the First Book of Nephi and note whether the Lamb of God is there called the Eternal Father or the Son of the Eternal Father? Our editions vary on this important doctrinal point, the first, that of 1830, page 32, stating that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and Saviour of the world, and subsequent editions of the book stating that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father. Will you have the goodness to refer to the manuscript and see whether, as in the first edition, the theology is that of Arius and Sidney Rigdon, or that of Athanasius and Joseph Smith, Jr.? Have pity upon us, friend Whitmer, for in our current editions -- all since the first -- the typographical error here rectified, makes an immense change of theology, giving two theologies instead of one. Now this is almost as big an oversight as to make the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to be in fulfillment, not of a prophecy, but in fulfillment of a simple comparison of Isaiah. "The vision of all has become as the words of a book that is sealed." The divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon will certainly be exploded, unless upon receipt hereof you come promptly to the rescue, Mr. Whitmer; and straight answers to straight questions only will satisfy the present