Question: Did the Three Witnesses each add their own signature to the original Book of Mormon manuscript?

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Question: Did the Three Witnesses each add their own signature to the original Book of Mormon manuscript?

David Whitmer (1878): "Yes, we each signed his own name"

According to David Whitmer, each of the Three Witnesses added their signatures to the original Book of Mormon manuscript:

In September, 1878, in company with Apostle Orson Pratt, the writer visited David Whitmer, at Richmond, Ray County, Missouri. In the presence of David. C. Whitmer, the son of Jacob, Philander Page, David J. Whitmer, son of David Whitmer, George Scheweich, Col. James W. Black, J. R. B. Van Cleave and some others, Father David Whitmer was asked if the three witnesses signed their own names to their testimony to the Book of Mormon? Father Whitmer unhesitatingly replied with emphasis:

"Yes, we each signed his own name."

"Then," said the questioner, "how is it that the names of all the witnesses are found here, (in D. W's manuscript) written in the same hand writing?"

This question seemed to startle Father Whitmer, and, after examining the signatures he replied:

"Oliver must have copied them."

"Then, where are the original documents?" was asked.

He replied, "I don't know."[1]

David Whitmer (1885): they "were present and ordered Oliver Cowdry [sic] to sign for them"

By 1885, in an interview with James Henry Moyle, Whitmer seems to have been clearer on how his copy of the manuscript came to be:

"The witnesses did Dav not sign the original manuscript though [they] were present and ordered Oliver Cowdry to sign for them."[2]

A footnote which accompanies this section reads:

Moyle himself noted in his diary, "The statement that the three witnesses did not sign the manuscript but that Oliver Cowdery signed for them and at their request is doubtless true as to the copy which David Whitmer had. The writing itself indicates that. Joseph Fielding Smith, church historian, says his father said that in his interview and that of Orson Pratt, David Whitmer admitted that the three witnesses signed the original manuscript." Whitmer was unaware that two manuscript copies of the Book of Mormon had been made and that the manuscript in his possession was the second copy that Cowdery had prepared for the printer.[3]


Notes

  1. "The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon," Improvement Era, vol. 3, no. 1, (Nov. 1899), 61-65.
  2. James Henry Moyle, diary, 28 June 1885, Vogel, EMD 5:141
  3. Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:141-142, footnote 8.