Chicago Times, October 17, 1881
THE LAST MAN
ONE OF THE MEN WHO ATTESTED TO THE TRUTH OF THE "BOOK OF MORMON," DAVID WHITMER ONLY IS LEFT
IN THE SUNSET OF HIS LIFE HE BASES HIS HOPES OF HEAVEN ON THE RECORDS OF THE LOST TRIBE. AND SOLEMNLY REITERATES ALL THAT HE HAS EVER SAID REGARDING THEM.
In the beautiful shire town of Richmond, Ray county, Mo., there has resided for well nigh half a century, David Whitmer, known to the world as one of the three witnesses that testified to the validity and reality of the golden plates from which it has been asserted that Joseph Smith translated the "Book of Mormon," the original manuscript of which Mr. Whitmer has in possession, which shows by finger marks and where it has been cut into "takes" -- a printer's term -- that it has passed through the hands of the type setters. As a citizen of his town he stands deservedly high, having filled the office of mayor and councilman, is a good scholar, and thoroughly posted in biblical lore. During the past two years he has been slowly declining, and is now confined to his home, carefully attended to by his wife, children and grandchildren. Born in the state of New York, from Revolutionary ancestors, he brought with him to the West his habits of thrift and hospitality. To the stranger or the unfortunate his home and purse have ever been open, and his name is a synonym of probity and integrity. Knowing that he was approaching the full term allotted for man's stay on earth and that the readers of the Times would like to hear what he had to say concerning the origin of the "Book of Mormon," I called at his residence -- a plain and unpretentious frame building -- was ushered into his chamber by his granddaughter and found the old patriot reclining on his bed. Upon being told the object of my visit he promptly responded to my questions, and after an hour's interview I gleaned the following valuable information from him -- he speaking freely and unreservedly -- in regard to the origin and rise of the Mormon Church, as well as to the authenticity of the "Book of Mormon."
from which the book was translated, supposed to be of gold, were found the latter part of the year 1827 or 1828, prior to an acquaintance on Mr. Whitmer's part with Joseph Smith, and he was loth to believe in their actuality, notwithstanding the community in which he lived (Ontario county, New York,) was alive with excitement in regard to Smith's finding a great treasure, and they informed him that they knew that Smith had the plates, as they had seen the place he had taken them from, on the Hill Cumorah, about two miles from Palmyra, New York.
It was not until June 1829, that he met the future prophet, who visited his father's house, and while there he completed the translation of the "Book of Mormon," and thus he became conversant with its history, having witnessed Smith dictate to Oliver Cowdery the translation of the characters that were inscribed on the plates, said by Mr. Anthon, an Egyptian scholar, to resemble the characters of that ancient people. Christian Whitmer, his brother, occasionally assisted Cowdery in writing, as did Mrs. Joseph Smith, who was a Miss Hale before she was married.
In regard to finding the plates, he was told by Smith, that they were in a stone casket, and the place where it was deposited, in the hill, was pointed out to him by a celestial personage, clad in a dazzling white robe and he was informed by it that it was the history of the Nephites, a nation that had passed away, whose founders belonged to the days of the tower of Babel. The plates, which Mr. Whitmer saw, were in the shape of a tablet, fastened with three rings, about one-third of which appeared to be loose, in plates, the other solid, but with perceptible marks where the plates appeared to be sealed, and the guide that pointed it out to Smith very impressively reminded him that the loose plates alone were to be used; the sealed portion was
NOT TO BE TAMPERED WITH.
After the plates had been translated, which process required about six months, the same heavenly visitant appeared and reclaimed the gold tablets of the ancient people informing Smith, that he would replace them with other records of the lost tribes that had been brought with them during their wanderings in Asia, which would be forthcoming when the world was ready to receive them. At that time Mr. Whitmer saw the tablet, gazed with awe upon 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 Cowdery 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 as he and Cowdery had seen.
The tablets or plates were translated by Smith, who used a small oval or kidney-shaped stone, called Urim and Thummim, that seemed endowed with the marvelous power of converting the characters on the plates, when used by Smith, into English, who would then dictate to Cowdery what to write. Frequently one character would make two lines of manuscript, while others made but a word or two words. Mr. Whitmer emphatically asserts, as did Harris and Cowdery, that while Smith was dictating the translation he had
NO MANUSCRIPT, NOTES OR OTHER MEANS OF KNOWLEDGE
save the seer-stone and the characters as shown on the plates, he being present and cognizant how it was done.
In regard to the statement that Sidney Rigdon had purloined the work of one Spaulding, a Presbyterian preacher, who had written a romance entitled "The Manuscript Found," Mr. Whitmer says there is no foundation for such an assertion. The "Book of Mormon," was translated in the summer of 1829, and printed that winter in Palmyra, N. Y. and was in circulation before Sidney Rigdon knew anything concerning the Church of Christ, as it was known then. His attention was especially brought to it by the appearance at his church, near Kirtland, O., in the fall of 1830, of Parley Pratt and Oliver Cowdery, he being at [that] time a Reformed or Christian preacher, they having been sent west by the Church in New York during the summer as evangelists, and they carried the printed book, the first time he knew such a thing was in existence. Upon being appealed to by Pratt and Cowdery for the use of his church he informed them that as he was endeavoring to establish the rules and get back into the ancient usages of Christianity, and desired all the light he could get that was of benefit to his fellow-men, he would do so, and would like to hear them. Then they gave him a copy of the book that it had been asserted he was the progenitor of. The result of the meeting was that 101 persons were received into the Church at Kirtland; that Rigdon and Partridge, two influential preachers, were sent as delegates to New York to see Joseph Smith, and they were so much impressed with his history of the book and his connection therewith that they became firm believers, and started back home as evangelists, preaching the new religion. In a short time thereafter, Smith, Whitmer, and others, learning of the beautiful country in Ohio, moved west, and the church increased rapidly, and would have so continued had it not strayed from the true path, to preach only Christ and Him crucified, as it had begun. Mr. Whitmer emphatically asserts that he has heard Rigdon, in the pulpit and in private conversations, declare that the Spaulding story, that he had used a book called "The Manuscript Found" for the purpose of preparing the "Book of Mormon," was as false as were many other charges that were then being made against the infant church, and he assures me that the story is as untruthful as it is ridiculous.
In his youth Joseph Smith was quite illiterate, knew nothing of grammar composition, but obtained quite a good education after he came west; was a man of great magnetism, made friends easily, was liberal and noble in his impulses, tall, finely formed, and full of animal life, but sprung from the most humble circumstances. The first good suit of clothes he had ever worn was presented to him by Christian Whitmer, brother of David.
As evidence of their belief in the divine origin of the book, Martin Harris, one of the witnesses, mortgaged his farm for $1500 for the purpose of having it printed, and the sale of the book soon reimbursed him for the outlay. Now millions of copies are being published and sent to the furthermost ends of the earth. A few years since, I was present at an interview between Mr. Whitmer and Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, who had been sent from Utah to Richmond to secure the original manuscript, and after a careful examination Elder Pratt pronounced it the writing of Oliver Cowdery, and informed those present that it was the original manuscript from which the "Book of Mormon" had been printed, and in a conversation with the writer he assured me the archives of the Church at Salt Lake were incomplete without it; that they would pay Father Whitmer, as he termed him, any reasonable price for it, but that Whitmer would not part with it under any circumstances, regarding it as a sacred trust. Mr. Whitmer also has a number of other records of the early church, ere it had, as he says, "broke loose from the teachings of Christ and acknowledged nothing as divine save as it was taught from the Bible and the 'Book of Mormon'"
Mr. Whitmer's beliefs have
UNDERGONE NO CHANGE
since his early manhood; he [has] refused to affiliate with any of the various branches that have sprung up through false teachings, and rests his hopes of the future "in the teachings of Christ, the apostles, and the prophets, and the morals and principles inculcated in the scriptures; that the 'Book of Mormon' is but the testimony of another nation concerning the truth and divinity of Christ and the bible, and that is his rock, his gospel, and his salvation." Seeing with him is believing. He is now as firm in the faith of the divinity of the book that he saw translated as he was when the glory of the celestial visitant almost blinded him with gleam of its glowing presence, fresh from the godhead; and the voice, majestic, ringing out from earth to the mighty dome of space, still lingers in his ears like a chime of silver bells.
Having been misrepresented by the various branches of the church, and denounced by others, ge published, with the indorsement of a number of the leading citizens of his town, so that the world might know how he viewed the conduct of the olygamists of Utah:
Unto all Nations, Kindreds, Tongues and People, unto whom these presents shall come: It having been represented by one John Murphy, of Polo, Caldwell county, Missouri, that I, in a conversation with him last summer, denied my testimony as one of the Three Witnesses of 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 my statements 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.
And that no one may be deceived or misled by this statement, I wish here to state that 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 men and not of God, and is especially forbidden in the "Book of Mormon" itself.
I do not endorse the change of the name of the church, for, as the wife takes the name of the husband, so should the Church of the Lamb of God take the name of its head, even Christ. It is the Church of Christ.
As to the high priesthood, Jesus Christ himself was the last great high priest, this, too, after the order of Melchisedec, as I understand the holy scriptures.
Finally I do not endorse any of the teachings of the so-called Mormons or Latter-day Saints, which are in conflict with the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as taught in the Bible and "Book of Mormon," for the same gospel is plainly taught in both of these books as I understand the word of God.
And if any man doubt, should he not carefully and honestly read and understand the same before presuming to sit in judgment and condemning the light which shineth in darkness, and showeth the way of eternal life as pointed out by the unerring hand of God[?]
In the spirit of Christ, who hath said: "Follow thou me, for I am the life, the light and the way," I submit this statement to the world. God in whom I trust being my judge as to the sincerity of my motives and the faith and hope that is in me of eternal life.
My sincere desire is that the world may be benefited by this plain and simple statement of the truth.
And all the honor to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen!
DAVID WHITMER, Sr. Richmond, Mo., March 19th, 1881.
[Chicago, Illinois, Monday, October 17, 1881]