Delusions of David Whitmer - 1881
Kansas City Daily Journal – June 5, 1881
Authentic Account of the Origin of The Sect from One of the Patriarchs.
DISCOVERY OF THE PLATES,
And the Translation of the Book of Mormon -- Polygamy an Excresence.
In view of the large Mormon immigration that is
now pouring into this country, and also in view of difficulties that have
heretofore existed between that sect and the people of Jackson county, the
JOURNAL has taken the trouble to ascertain the facts as to the origin of the
sect, as well as the history of their expulsion from Jackson county in 1833.
For the benefit of a great many persons who probably do not know of what the Book of Mormon consists, an exact copy of the title page of the first edition published is given here:
The Book of Mormon. An account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi.
Wherefore it is an abridgment of the record of the People of Nephi; and also of the Lamanites; written to the Lamanites, which are a remnant of the House of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile; written by way the commandment, and also by the spirit of Prophesy and Revelation. Written, and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed; to come forth by the gift and power of God, unto the interpretation thereof; sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by the way of Gentile; the interpretation thereof by the gift of God; an abridgment taken from the Book of Ether,
Also, which is a Record of the People of Jared, which were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people when they were building a tower to get to Heaven: which is to shew unto the remnant of the House of Israel how great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever; and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations. And now if there be fault, it be the mistake of men; wherefore condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.
Translated from the golden plates by Joseph Smith, jr., Palmyra, N. Y., 1830. Printed by E. B. Grandin for the author.
The translator of the book is said to have been witnessed by eleven persons, as follows: Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, Christian Whitmer, Hiram Page, Jacob Whitmer, Joseph Smith, sr., Peter Whitmer, jr., John Whitmer, Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith, all of whom except David Whitmer are long since dead. David Whitmer,
THE ONLY LIVING WITNESS,
has resided since 1838 in Richmond, Ray county,
Mo., and the JOURNAL dispatched a reporter to Richmond, to interview the "last
of the eleven."
The reporter called at the residence of Mr. Whitmer and found the patriarch resting in invalid's chair looking very pale and feeble, he having but just recovered from a long and very severe illness. In person, he is about medium height, of massive frame, though not at all corpulent, his shoulders slightly bent as with the weight of years. His manly, benevolent face was closely shaven, his hair snow-white, and his whole appearance denoted one of nature's noblemen. The education acquired during his boyhood days and his long life devoted to study and thought have stored his mind with a vast fund of information.
After introducing himself, the reporter opened the conversation as follows:
"Mr. Whitmer, knowing that you are the only living witness to the translation of the Book of Mormon and also that you were a resident of Jackson County during the Mormon troubles in 1833, I have been sent to you by the JOURNAL to get from your lips
THE TRUE STATEMENT OF FACTS
in regard to these matters. For nearly half a
century the world has had but one side only, and it is now our desire to present
to our readers for the first time the other side."
"Young man, you are right. I am the only living witness to the Book of Mormon, but I have been imposed upon and misrepresented so many times by persons claiming to be honorable newspapermen, that I feel a delicacy in allowing my name to come before the public in newspaper print again."
"I am very sorry to hear that, but I promise you that we shall only give your statement as you make it and will not misrepresent you in any manner."
After a few other remarks of the same tenor the reporter at last induced the patriarch to furnish the desired facts, which he did in the following language:
"I was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 7, 1805, but when only four years of age my parents removed to the state of New York, settling at a point midway between the northern extremities of Lake Cayuga and Seneca, two miles from Waterloo, seven miles from Geneva, and twenty-seven miles from Palmyra, where I lived until the year 1831. In the year 1830 I was married to Miss Julia A. Jolly who is still living. The fruit of our union was a son, David J. Whitmer, now aged forty-eight, and a daughter, now aged 46 years, both of whom are now living with me. "I first heard of what is now termed Mormonism in the year 1828. I made a business trip to Palmyra, New York, and while there stopped with one Oliver Cowdery. A great many people in the neighborhood were talking about the finding of certain golden plates by one Joseph Smith, Jr., a young man of the neighborhood. Cowdery and I, as well as others, talked about the matter, but at that time I paid but little attention to it, supposing it to be only
THE IDLE GOSSIP
of the neighborhood. Cowdery said he was acquainted with the Smith family, and believing there must be some truth in the story of the plates, he intended to investigate the matter. I had conversation with several young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates, and that before he had attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so and they were very much incensed with them. Said I, 'how do you know that Joe Smith has the plates?' They replied, 'we saw the plates [sic, place] in the hill that he took them out of just as he described it to us before he obtained them.' These parties were so positive in their statements that I began to believe there must be some foundation for the stories then in circulation all over that part of the country. I had never seen any of the Smith family up to that time, and I began to inquire of the people in regard to them, and learned that one night during the year 1827, Joseph Smith, jr., had a vision, and an angel of God appeared to him and told him where certain plates were to be found, pointing out the spot to him, and that shortly afterward he went to that place and found the plates which were still in his possession. After thinking over the matter for a long time, and talking with Cowdery, who also gave me a history of the finding of the plates, I went home, and after several months Cowdery told me he was going to Harmony, Pa. -- whither Joseph Smith had gone with the plates on account of persecutions of his neighbors -- and see him about the matter. He did go, and on his way he stopped at my father's house and told me that as soon as he found out anything, either
TRUTH OR UNTRUTH
he would let me know. After he got there he became acquainted with Joseph Smith and shortly after, wrote to me telling me that he was convinced that Smith had the records and that he (Smith) had told him that it was the will of heaven that he (Cowdery) should be his scribe to assist in the translation of the plates. He went on, and Joseph translated from the plates and he wrote it down. Shortly after this, Cowdery wrote me another letter in which he gave me a few lines of what they had translated, and he assured me that he knew of a certainty that he had a record of a people that inhabited this continent, and that the plates they were translating gave a complete history of these people. When Cowdery wrote me these things and told me that he had revealed knowledge concerning the truth of them, I showed these letters to my parents, brothers and sisters. Soon after I received another letter from Cowdery telling me to come down into Pennsylvania and bring him and Joseph to my father's house, giving as a reason therefore that they had received a commandment from God to that effect. I went down to Harmony and found everything just as they had written me. The next day after I got there they packed up the plates and we proceeded on our journey to my father's house, where we arrived in due time, and the day after we commenced upon the translation of the remainder of the plates. I, as well as all of my father's family, Smith's wife, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, were present during the translation. The translation was by Smith and
THE MANNER AS FOLLOWS:
"He had two small stones of a chocolate color,
nearly egg-shape and perfectly smooth, but not transparent, called interpreters,
which were given him with the plates. He did not use the plates in the
translation, but would hold the interpreters to his eyes and cover his face with
a hat, excluding all light, and before his eyes would appear what seemed to be
parchment, on which would appear the characters of the plates in a line at the
top and immediately below would appear the translation, in English, which Smith
would read to his scribe, who wrote it down exactly as it fell from his lips.
The scribe would then read the sentence written, and if any mistake had been
made the characters would remain visible to Smith until corrected, when they
faded from sight to be replaced by another line. The translation at my father's
occupied about one month, that is from June 1 to July 1, 1829."
"Were the plates under the immediate control of Smith all the time?"
"No, they were not. I will explain how that was. When Joseph first received the plates he translated 116 pages of the book of Lehi, with Martin Harris as scribe. When this had been completed they rested for a time, and Harris wanted to take the manuscript home with him to show to his family and friends. To this Joseph demurred, but finally
ASKED THE LORD
if Harris might be allowed to take it. The
answer was 'no.' Harris teased Joseph for a long time and finally persuaded him
to ask the Lord a second time, pledging himself to be responsible for its
safekeeping. To this second inquiry the Lord told Joseph that Harris might take
the manuscript, which he did, showing it to a great many people; but, through
some carelessness, he allowed it to be stolen from him. This incurred the Lord's
displeasure and he sent an angel to Joseph demanding the plates, and until
Joseph had thoroughly repented of his transgressions, would not allow him to
have the use of them again. When Joseph was again allowed to resume the
translation, the plates were taken care of by a messenger of God, and when
Joseph wanted to see the plates, this messenger was always at hand. The 116
pages of the book of 'Lehi' which were stolen were never recovered, nor would
the Lord permit Joseph to make a second translation of it.
"A few months after the translation was completed, that is in the spring of 1830, Joseph had the book published, and this (showing a well-worn volume) is a copy of the first edition, which I have had in my possession ever since it was printed."
"When did you see the plates?"
"It was in the latter part of June, 1829. Joseph, Oliver Cowdery and myself were together, and the angel showed them to us. We not only saw the plates of the book of Mormon, but he also showed us the brass plates of the Book of Ether and many others. They were shown to us in this way: Joseph and Oliver and I were
SITTING ON A LOG
when we were overshadowed by a light more
glorious than that of the sun. In the midst of this light, but a few feet from
us, appeared a table upon which were many golden plates, also the sword of Laban
and the directors. I saw them as plain as I see you now and distinctly heard the
voice of the Lord declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon
were translated by the gift and the power of God."
"Who else saw the plates at this time?"
"No one. Martin Harris, the other witness, saw them the same day, and the eight witnesses, Christian Whitmer, Hiram Page, Jacob Whitmer, Joseph Smith, sr., Peter Whitmer, Hyrum Smith, Jno. Whitmer and Samuel H. Smith, saw them next day."
"Did you see the angel?"
"Yes, he stood before us. Our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon is absolutely true, just as it is written there."
"Can you describe the plates?"
"They appeared to be of gold, about six by nine inches in size, about as thick as parchment, a great many in number, and bound together like the leaves of a book by massive rings passing through the back edges. The engravings upon them were very plain and of very curious appearance. Smith made facsimiles of some of the plates and sent them by Martin Harris to Profs. Anthon and Mitchell, of New York City, for examination. They pronounced the characters reformed Egyptian, but were unable to read them."
"Did Joseph Smith ever relate to you the circumstances of his
FINDING OF THE PLATES?"
"Yes, he told me that he first found the plates
in the year 1823; that during the fall of 1827 [sic] he had a vision, an angel
appearing to him three times in one night and telling him that there was a
record of an ancient people deposited in a hill near his father's house, called
by the ancients 'Cumorah,' situated in the township of Manchester, Ontario
county, N. Y. The angel pointed out the exact spot, and, some time after, he
went and found the records or plates deposited in a stone box in the hill, just
as had been described to him by the angel. It was some little time, however,
before the angel would allow Smith to remove the plates from their place of
"When was the Church first established?"
"We had preaching during the time the book was being translated, but our church was not regularly organized until after the book was printed in the winter of 1829-30. The first organization was in Seneca county, New York, under the name of 'The Church of Christ.' The first elders were Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, Hyrum Smith, John Whitmer, Peter Whitmer and myself. On the 6th of April, 1830, the church was called together and the elders acknowledged according to the laws of New York. Our instructions from the Lord were to teach nothing except the old and new testaments and the Book of Mormon. From that time the church spread abroad and multiplied very rapidly. In the summer of 1830, Parley Pratt, Peter Whitmer, and S. Peterson went to Kirtland, O., and established a branch of the church, which also grew very fast, and soon after a fine temple was erected, which is still standing. During the winter of 1830, the same parties went to Independence, Missouri, established a church, and purchased very large tracts of land in all parts of Jackson county as well as a large amount of property in the town of Independence, including the site for the temple. The reason for the emigration to Jackson county was that Smith had received a revelation from God designating Independence as the place of the gathering of the Saints together in the latter days. Joseph Smith and Elder Sidney Rigdon, of the Kirtland church, established the church in Jackson County, but soon after returned to Ohio. The temple has never been built at Independence, but the site still remains vacant and the title deeds are held by the church. I have no doubt but that at some future day
IT WILL BE BUILT.
About 500 people emigrated from Ohio to Jackson
county and the church thence increased in numbers with extraordinary rapidity
during the ensuing two years. They lived in peace in Jackson county until early
in the summer of 1833, when difficulties arose between the church and the
citizens of the county. What first occasioned these difficulties I am unable to
say, except that the church was composed principally of Eastern and Northern
people who were opposed to slavery, and that there were among us a few ignorant
and simple-minded persons who were continually making boasts to the Jackson
county people that they intended to possess the entire county, erect a temple,
etc. This of course occasioned hard feelings and excited the bitter jealousy of
the other religious denominations.
"The church at Independence established a newspaper called the Morning and Evening Star, which published the revelations of Joseph Smith and the doctrines of the church, which also caused a great deal of hard feelings among the citizens. I was at that time living three miles east of Westport, and the first intimation I ever had that the people intended driving us out of the county was an affray between an organized mob of about eighty citizens and about eighteen Mormons, which occurred at Wilson's store, near Big Blue, about the middle of the summer of 1833. The mob destroyed a number of our dwellings and fired upon the little party of Mormons, killing one young man and wounding several others. The Mormons returned the fire, killing the leader of the mob, A Campbellite preacher named Lovett. The next difficulty was in Independence, about the middle of July, of the same year, when
A LARGE MOB
of armed men gathered in front of the court house under the leadership, I think, of three men, named Wilson, Cockrell, and Overton. A committee of ten was appointed to wait upon the leaders of the church and state their demands, which were that the Morning and Evening Star newspaper office and all other places of business be closed, and that we immediately leave the county. This was so sudden and unexpected that we asked time to consider the matter, which was refused and a battle immediately ensued, during which the newspaper office, which stood on the southwest corner of the square, just south of the present site of Chrisman & Sawyer's bank. was torn down and the type scattered to the four winds. Bishop Partridge and another of the saints were dragged from their houses and tarred and feathered upon the public square, and numerous other indignities heaped upon us, but no one was killed. After this, difficulties of a like nature occurred almost daily until some time in October when the final uprising took place, and we were driven out at the muzzles of guns from the county, without being given an opportunity of disposing of our lands. Our houses were burned and our property destroyed, and several of our number killed. The indignities that were heaped upon us were
"We were beaten, our families grossly assaulted
and fled for our lives out of the county. We scattered in every direction, the
larger portion going to Van Buren and Grand river. A short time after the
citizens of Clay county invited us to come there, which we did, and were treated
with the utmost kindness,"
"Did your people ever have an opportunity of selling their lands in Jackson county?"
"No, they did not, and it now, by right, belongs to their descendants."
"What became of the church after their expulsion from Jackson county?"
"In 1836 W. W. Phelps and John Whitmer, accompanied by a large number of our people, went to Far West, Caldwell county, and established a church. They lived there and multiplied very rapidly until 1838, when Elders Jos. Smith and Sidney Rigdon came out from Ohio and were dissatisfied with the church, and gave new laws, revelations, etc. The leaders of the Far West church refused to conform to the new laws of Smith and Rigdon, and they issued a decree organizing what was termed the 'Danites, or Destroying Angels,' who were bound by the most fearful oaths to obey the commandments of the leaders of the church. The Danites consisted only of those selected by Smith and Rigdon. They threatened myself, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Lyman Johnson with
THE VENGEANCE OF THE DANITES
unless we took the same oath, but we refused, and fled for our lives to Clay county, and since that time I have had nothing to do with the so-called 'Latter-Day Saints' church, but I still hold to the truth of the original Church of Christ, as organized in New York. During the fall of 1838 the church of Far West became very violent towards the citizens of Caldwell county, which terminated in an uprising similar to that in Jackson county, and they were driven from the state. Smith and Rigdon were arrested and kept prisoners for some time, but finally escaped and went to Nauvoo, Ill., followed by the saints from Far West, and established a church and built a fine temple. They remained in Nauvoo until 1844, when they became very corrupt, upheld polygamy, established an endowment house, etc., which occasioned an uprising of the people, and Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum and John Taylor, the present head of the church in Salt Lake, were arrested and cast into prison, and the two Smiths afterwards shot and killed through the windows of the jail. The temple was destroyed and the church scattered, a portion going to Salt Lake under the leadership of Brigham Young and John Taylor, where they have remained ever since, practicing the vile system of
POLYGAMY AND SPIRITUAL WIFEISM.
"I belong to the original
church, organized 1n 1829, and have never associated myself with any other, and
never upheld the reorganization or change of name to 'Latter-Day Saints,' at
"Where did you go after leaving Far West?"
I went to Clay county and in the latter part of 1838 came here and have lived here ever since. Oliver Cowdery lived in Clay county until 1848, when he came here and died in my father's house in the winter of 1849."
"What kind of people were the Mormons of Jackson county?"
"They were a peaceable, law-abiding and industrious people, and with the exception of a few simple-minded ones, paid strict attention to their own business. There never was a charge of any kind preferred against any of them during their stay in Jackson county. Their only crime was that they were opposed to slavery, and were industrious, progressive and enterprising in their habits and teachings."
"How did the name of Mormons originate?"
"It was given to us by our enemies and was never recognized by us."
"I understand, Mr. Whitmer, that you have the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon."
"I have; here it is."
He produced about 500 pages of manuscript, yellow with age, of large, old-fashioned, unruled foolscap paper, closely written upon both sides with ink, and fastened together in sections with yarn strings. It very plainly showed that it had been through the hands of the printer, the 'take' marks being still upon it.
"This," continued he, "was kept by Oliver Cowdery, and when he came to die he placed them in my care, charging me to preserve them so long as I lived. When I die I will leave them to my nephew, David Whitmer, my namesake. J. F. Smith and Orson Pratt, of Salt Lake City, were here three years ago, and offered me a fabulous price for them, but I would not part with them for all the money in the universe."
"Are you not afraid they will be destroyed or stolen?"
"No, the Lord will take care of his own. When this house was destroyed by the cyclone three years ago to-day (June 1, 1878), nothing in the room where this manuscript was kept was harmed. Everything else was completely destroyed."
Both Mr. Whitmer and his family are thoroughly imbued with the idea that the manuscript is under the immediate protection of the Almighty."
"Are there any relations of Oliver Cowdery now living in this vicinity?
"Yes, his daughter, Mrs. Dr. Chas. Johnson, now resides in town."
The reporter copied the following certificate of the standing of Mr. Whitmer in the community, among his papers, and obtained his permission to use it. It shows the character of the man, and adds to the value of his statement given above.
We, the undersigned citizens of Richmond, Ray county, Mo., where David Whitmer, sr., has resided since the year A.D. 1838, certify that we have been long and intimately acquainted with him and known him to be a man of the highest integrity, and of undoubted truth and veracity.
Given at Richmond, Mo., this March, 19th, 1881.
A. W. Doniphan.
George W. Dunn, judge of the Fifth Judicial circuit.
T. D. Woodson, president of Ray County Savings bank.
J. T. Child, editor of Conservator.
H. C. Garner, cashier of Ray County Savings bank.
W. A. Holman, county treasurer.
J. S. Hughes, banker, Richmond.
James Hughes, banker, Richmond.
D. P. Whitmer, attorney at law.
Jas. W. Black, attorney at law.
L. C. Cantwell, postmaster, Richmond.
George I. Wasson, mayor.
Jas. A. Davis, county collector.
C. J. Hughes, probate judge & presiding justice, Ray co. court.
Geo.W. Trigg, county clerk.
W. W. Mosby, M. D.
J. P. Quesenberry, merchant.
W. R. Holman, furniture merchant.
Lewis Slaughter, recorder of deeds.
Geo. W. Buchanan, M. D.
A. K. Reyburn.
This ended the interview and after bidding the old man adieu and thanking him for his kindness the writer took his leave.
The reporter also interviewed several other old settlers of Richmond, who were present during the Mormon difficulties of 1833, upon the subject, and whose statements will be given hereafter.
Note: This article was reprinted in the Saints' Herald of July 1, 1881 and again in the Deseret News, on July 11, 1931.
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