Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: John Whitmer left church, but kept testimony of Book of Mormon’

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Published: Wednesday, Jan. 25 2012 6:57 p.m. MST

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CTR Stan
PROVO, UT

Whenever I start rereading The Book of Mormon, I always start by reading the testimony of the three and eight witnesses, plus the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. My faith is always strengthened reading these testimonies, especially knowing how many of them fell away from the Church, yet none denied their testimonies.

Thank you for an interesting article.

lifelongguy
EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT

Didn't John Whitmer also follow James Strange and testify/witness to James Strange prophetic calling and never denied that witness either? Does that affect the understanding of the credibility of John as a witness of the BOM?

lifelongguy
EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT

"I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. ...they were shown to me by a supernatural power" (History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 307)

-John Whitmer.

lifelongguy
EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT

(try this comment one more time...)

John Whitmer, if memory served, also testified to the prophetic calling of James Strange and never recanted that witness either. Yes? Someone fact check me here...

t702
Las Vegas, NV

This man's character was the reason why he was chosen to be one of the witnesses. Of all the people brother Joseph knew brother John Whitmar was rock solid. The Lord and the Spirit that inspired the choosing of the witnesses was never wrong. awesome story!

skeptic
Phoenix, AZ

Mr. Peterson like a typical propagandist or advertiser slants the story to his purpose. It is this type of selective partial telling of truth that is hurting the Mormon church. They think it is promoting faith, but faith build on ignoranace is just superstition and reason for suspect.

Wonthaggi
SLC, UT

God knowing all things prepared a man whom we visited by an angel of God and showed him where there were some ancient records hid, ... whose name is James J. Strang... and Strang reigns in the place of Smith, the author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon.

John Whitmers History, p. 23

By 1847 not a single one of the surviving eleven witnesses was part of the LDS Church.

lifelongguy
EAGLE MOUNTAIN, UT

skeptic - DCP uses a story like this and doesn't see that it does as much damage as good. As you point out, so much context is removed from the larger story, that is provides a superficial affirmation of the faith but it becomes a much bigger point of agitation and concern when members learn more of the story. And the comments on this board will quickly mount up in praise of DCP and this story, again ignorant of the fact that there are thousands of people becoming disaffected, having their trust in the church shattered, because the history cannot be presented, warts along side the beauty. And in an age of Google, where so much information is seconds away from anyone really wanting to learn, it amazes me that these sort of white-washing apologetic techniques are still seriously considered to be effective. Will they never learn?

Red Corvette
SACRAMENTO, CA

How many people are going to say they lied and gave false witness unless forced to do so? Of course none of the "witnesses" recanted because it would only damage their own reputations.

Commonman
HENDERSON, NV

I notice that the naysayers are being selective themselves. They say: "By 1847 not a single one of the surviving witness was a member of the church."

So lets recap:
By 1847 five of the eleven had died firm in the faith.
Two Whitmers, Christian and Peter Jr.
Three Smiths, Joseph Sr., Hyrum and Samuel
All were persecuted and driven. One died in Carthage Jail with his brother at the hands of a mob. One died several weeks later after fleeing from the mob.

Of the remaining six survivors, two rejoined the Church after 1847. This means that seven of the eleven died in the Church. Of the remaining four not one denied his witness, and they left written evidence to substantiate the fact. These four also all complained of unfair treatment or difficulty with Joseph Smith and the Church leadership but none ever denied their testimonies.

If I were trying to defend a cause in court, I could only wish and hope to have as strong a body of evidence in my favor.

earnest reader
MENAN, ID

Anyone who has read the Book of Mormon and gained a testimony of it through the power of the Holy Ghost does not need to rely on the testimonies of those who fell away from the church. The spiritual confirmation that one receives is undeniable and is not shaken by those who fall away from the church in mortality. Mortality lends itself to many circumstances that make people weak. The fact that the their testimonies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon stayed strong in spite of the personal problems they encountered speaks volumes.

As you walk through the sacred grove and feel the spirit you are able to read the testimonies of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. These same testimonies are written in the Book of Mormon. That together with the strength of your own witness and testimony are what really tell the story.
If someone is willing to read the Book of Mormon with real intent, and seek the confirmation of the Holy Ghost they may know for themselves the truthfulness of it.

Wonthaggi
SLC, UT

Commonman
"I notice that the naysayers are being selective themselves."

You are correct in your recap of the 11 witnesses. The take-away from the 11 witnesses, for me, is definitely a mixed bag. However, I would urge you to be cautious in who you label as a "naysayer." By the day, there is an increasingly growing number of faithful members of the Church that simply want the historical facts, absent an agenda. Are these people naysayers in your eyes?

I would also be interested in your thoughts on John Whitmer's endorsement of James Strang after Joseph's death.

Wonthaggi
SLC, UT

Commonman
"I notice that the naysayers are being selective themselves."

You are correct in your recap of the 11 witnesses. The take-away from the 11 witnesses, for me, is definitely a mixed bag. However, I would urge you to be cautious in who you label as a "naysayer." By the day, there is an increasingly growing number of faithful members of the Church that simply want the historical facts, absent an agenda. Are these people naysayers in your eyes?

I would also be interested in your thoughts on John Whitmer's endorsement of James Strang after Joseph's death.

BobDog
Salt Lake City, UT

lifelongguy, wonthaggi and skeptic:
Don't just sit back and claim that "something" exists out there that proves something. Petersen cited his sources; you need to cite yours. That John Whitmer later followed Strang does nothing to challenge Whitmer's unrelenting testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Strang believed in the Book of Mormon and separated from the Church for other reasons, taking many with him so persuasive were his arguments about succession to Joseph Smith.

It is fascinating to watch the comments to the Deseret News. When Sally Quinn writes in the Washington Post that the LDS Church is no weirder than other Churchs, the comments are 10-1 favorable and grateful for the discussion. Someone writes in the Deseret News something uplifting and favorable to the Church, in the Mormon Times no less, and bingo! Negative anti-Church comments start flowing in. Some people seem to anxiously wait for a Petersen article so they can show their erudition and courage in throwing water balloons. Remember Thumper's advice.

Petersen said Whitmer waivered in his faith for a period but never recanted his experience of holding the gold plates. Nothing said in comments have refuted that story.

Searching . . .
Orem, UT

Reasons why I question John Whitmer's reliability as a witness to the BoM:

- He was not a neutral party. The fact that he participated in the alleged translation of the BofM indicates that his testimony was not impartial. He had a vested interest in publishing the BofM as a way of establishing his place within the church or in God's standing, as he may have seen it.

- His original testimony was not independent of the other witnesses, but rather he signed a prepared statement prepared by someone else. Who that person or persons were is not clear.

- He was excommunicated from the church founded on the BofM and his character attacked by Joseph Smith, the founder of the religion and translator of the BofM. I would think that if he seriously believed in the BofM and Smith as its translator, that he would do all that he could to return to what must be God's church. That doesn't seem to be the case.

- He bore similar testimony of James Strang, a proven theological fabricator.

I won't say that John Whitmer wasn't sincere; however, it seems to me that he was manipulated into believing a different version of what really happened.

KublaKhan
Orem, UT

Interesting article. I do think that these quotes seem to overstate the way in which the "witness" was received. Other witnesses described that the plates were always seen while covered in a cloth or in a sack:

William Smith: âWhen the plates were brought in they were wrapped in a tow frock. My father then put them into a pillow case. Father said, âWhat, Joseph, can we not see them?ââ¦We handled them and could tell what they were. They were not quite as large as this Bible. . . One could easily tell they were not a stone . . . or even a block of wood. Being a mixture of gold and copper, they were much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood.â"

Martin Harris: âWhy I did not see them as I do that pencil-case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith; I saw them just as distinctly as I see any thing around me,---though at the time they were covered over with a cloth."

And with regards to the credibility of the Whitmers, I think my favorite quote comes from Mark Twain: "I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified."

SLMG
Murtoa Australia, Victoria

Historical Truth....exactly what is that? Historical facts are always subject to doubt depending on who you read or listen to, especially when it is "he said, no he really said or maybe he really meant this." Someone on here said all you have to do is google what ever you want to know about the history of the church, now that is the a total joke, since anyone with an ax to grind will have their own take on the history regardless of weather the truth will stand up. There is both truth and fantasy when you google anything and there is no way to sift out the absolute truth.

The only way to know the truth is through prayer and your own revelation. If people are actually leaving the church over the history, which is a very poor excuse, they simply never had a deep understanding, faith and testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel.

KC Mormon
Edgerton, KS

For those who keep bringing up James Strang there are a couple of things to look at. First the account from John Whitmers History has two sets of Ellipses (...) It would be interesting to see what is in them. Traditionally they are used to remove non-pertinent information but as one of the main sources for this quote is the Tanners, who are known to remove vital information (see over 200 words removed from Orson Pratt quote from the JD about the First Vision), it is important to see what was removed. Second is the type of testimony given. While speaking of the Book of Mormon Whitmer said he personal saw and handled the plates, while speaking of supporting Strang he was only speaking of supporting not that he had SEEN anything.

KublaKhan
You are mixing two different things. Those that you are speaking of (with the exception of Joseph Sr. at a later date) were not OFFICIAL witnesses of the plates. The three and the eight witnesses were shown the plates and gave their testimonies that they did see them. Not just the ones published but many times after publishing.

atl134
Salt Lake City, UT

@earnest reader
"If someone is willing to read the Book of Mormon with real intent, and seek the confirmation of the Holy Ghost they may know for themselves the truthfulness of it. "

That is what you believe. There are many who read it and pray about it and don't get an affirming answer of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

@SLMG
"If people are actually leaving the church over the history, which is a very poor excuse, they simply never had a deep understanding, faith and testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. "

That's a poor excuse? Lack of belief in the church is quite literally the most logical reason for someone to leave the church. You can't say that such a person never had a deep understanding, faith, and testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel (although that would be an accurate assessment in describing myself since I never believed though I had wanted it to be true). What do you consider a good "excuse" to leave the church?

KC Mormon
Edgerton, KS

SLMG
Well said. The only thing we can really do is go to as ORIGINAL a source as possible. I can find on google the following complaints:
The Book of Mormon mentions Charities
Joseph Smith told So and So they would never taste of death
Orson Pratt did not know about the father and the Son visiting Joseph Smith as late as the 1850's

Now a closer look at original sources will sow some interesting things. With Chariots Joseph wrote long after the Book of Mormon was published that Americans of his day crossed the country in Chariot's using the term for wagons or buggies.
Another look at Joseph Smith ORIGIANL papers shows that Joseph taught that those who die strong in the faith will never taste of death. The Anti-Mormon sites would have you believe that Joseph said they would never die yet it is clear reading Josephs teachings that is not what he meant.
As for Orson Pratt The Tanners removed over 200 words from the JD quote and ignored the fact that he wrote a tract in England of the Father and Son at the First Vision a year before Joseph published the official version.

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