Book of Mormon/Witnesses/David Whitmer's witness of the Book of Mormon plates and angel

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David Whitmer's witness of the Book of Mormon plates and angel

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Question: Did David Whitmer say that his encounter with the angel Moroni was not an actual visitation?

Whitmer here endorses his printed testimony, and insists that the Book of Mormon was true and that he saw the angel

It is claimed that in his pamphlet An Address to All Believers in Christ, David Whitmer said that his encounter with the angel "was a vision and not an actual visitation by an angelic person" (Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, 204).

Those making this claim have here distorted Whitmer's witness and the document they are quoting.

The critics quote p. 32 of Whitmer's pamphlet for this claim. Their summary, however, greatly distorts the document. Whitmer actually wrote:

In June, 1829, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and myself as the three witnesses, to behold the vision of the Angel, as recorded in the fore part of the Book of Mormon, and to bear testimony to the world that the Book of Mormon, and to bear testimony to the world that the Book of Mormon is true. I was not called to bear testimony to the mission of Brother Joseph Smith any farther than his work of translating the Book of Mormon, as you can see by reading the testimony of us three witnesses.[1]

Whitmer here endorses his printed testimony, and insists that the Book of Mormon was true and that he saw the angel.

Whitmer says nothing about it not being "an actual visitation"

He says nothing about it not being "an actual visitation." In other accounts, Whitmer insisted that "I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived! I saw with these eyes, and I heard with these ears! I know whereof I speak!"[2]

When writing to someone who had tried to draw the same false conclusion as the critics, Whitmer explained:

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.[3]

Whitmer claimed that he had physically handled the plates

Early hostile newspapers claimed that the witnesses' descriptions did not match, but were clear that both Harris and Whitmer had at some point physically handled and examined the plates:

Whitmar’s [sic] description of the Book of Mormon, differs entirely from that given by Harris; both of whom it would seem have been of late permitted, not only to see and handle it, but to examine its contents. Whitmar relates that he was led by Smith into an open field, on his father’s farm near Waterloo, when they found the book lying on the ground; Smith took it up and requested him to examine it, which he did for the space of half an hour or more, when he returned it to Smith, who placed it in its former position, alledging that the book was in the custody of another, intimating that some Divine agent would have it in safe keeping.[4]

Thus, David Whitmer also physically handled the plates according to this account, though not at the same time as the angelic vision.

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).
  2. See Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 88. ISBN 0877478465.
  3. Letter of David Whitmer to Anthony Metcalf, March 1887, cited in Anthony Metcalf, Ten Years Before the Mast (Malad, Idaho: Research Publications, 1888), 74. Cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 86. ISBN 0877478465.
  4. “Gold Bible, No. 6,” The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) 2, no. 16 (19 March 1831), 126–127. off-site