Question: When did God tell David Whitmer to separate himself from the Latter-day Saints?

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Question: When did God tell David Whitmer to separate himself from the Latter-day Saints?

Whitmer claimed no revelation from God at the time that he was excommunicated

Whitmer's excommunication occurred on 13 April 1838.[1] Whitmer refused to appear at the council meeting that severed him from the Church; he wrote:

to spare you any further trouble I hereby withdraw from your fellowship and communion—choosing to seek a place among the meek and humble, where the revelations of heaven will be observed and the rights of men regarded.[2]

Whitmer here says that he will withdraw from the Church—this would have been an excellent opportunity for him to invoke a "revelation" telling him to leave the Church, but he did not. This is not surprising, since he does not report hearing the voice until June, at least six weeks later.

Thus, when he reports being told by God to "separate himself from among" the members of the Church, Whitmer was already out of the Church, but still living in Far West among members of the Church.

Whitmer's decision to leave Far West was a wise one, since it preserved his safety

Whitmer's decision to leave Far West was arguably a wise one. Tensions were high, and there were threats of violence against apostates (including Whitmer, who had been very prominent) from people like Sampson Avard.[3]

It was vital for the restoration that the Three Witnesses remain faithful to their testimonies of the Book of Mormon (which Whitmer did). Had Whitmer been killed in Far West in 1838, critics could forever after claim that he was a witness who would have recanted, but that he was killed by "the Mormons" to prevent him from speaking his mind.

Despite his disagreements with Joseph Smith and the Church, Whitmer maintained his testimony of the Book of Mormon

The decision to leave Far West—which Whitmer attributed to a divine voice—meant that Whitmer was kept safe. He lived longer than any witness, and never returned to the Church. Yet, he insisted to his death on the reality and truth of his statement as one of the Witnesses, and in the Book of Mormon's divine origin. And, the Saints (both those guilty of illegitimate violence, and the innocent who suffered because of their acts) did have it "done unto them" as they had plotted to do against Whitmer and other apostates: the Saints were eventually killed or driven from Missouri by violence.[4]

Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:18–19. Volume 3 link
  2. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 3:18–19, cited in footnote 3. Volume 3 link
  3. Bushman discusses the threats against the apostates, and their decision to flee, in Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 350–351.
  4. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 342–372.
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