Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Mary Whitmer, 12th witness to the Book of Mormon’

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Published: Thursday, July 18 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Two things come to mind after reading this – if true it would follow that dictating the BoM would involve Joseph, in real time, deciphering the plates while the translation was being written down. Instead the BoM was apparently dictated while Joseph was peering into a hat looking at a seer stone.

Second, at least one of the witnesses while testifying in court sometime later admitted that when he said they “saw” they plates, actually meant that it was a “spiritual experience” that involved them seeing the plates with their “spiritual eyes.”

That this may all come down to faith is fine, but a story as fantastic as this should at least be consistent and not embellished to be something it was not.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Tyler D

From 2 Corinthians 12: I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

From this I take it that the difference between what we see in vision and what we see in person may not be so easily distinguished in some cases. I am also not sure the difference is relevant as to what the person then knows by their experience.

sandy, ut

When the first 11 witnesses are confirmed then I will believe there is a 12th. The 11 witnesses never signed their names to that pre-written document prepared by Oliver and Joseph. And it has been proven that Oliver is the one that signed all of the names of the witnesses. No witness has ever said they saw the plates directly. Why would viewing actual physical plates of gold require spiritual eyes to be used? It doesn't make sense. And when something doesn't make sense it usually isn't true.

sandy, ut

Twin - Why in the world would anybody have to use their spiritual eyes to view physical, gold, metal plates? That makes little sense. Joseph had posession of them, so if Joseph could view them then he could have showed them to anybody else.

Then you have the 11 witnesses... None of them actually said they saw the plates. The statement you see in the front of the book of mormon was a pre-written document by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery... it was also never signed by the witnesses.. It has been proven that Oliver is the one who signed all of their names. Please explain.

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

Also, Lucy Harris was a great witness. Marin's wife had a wonderful testimony to what was going on.

Texas Ken
Killeen, TX

Interesting story. It seems a fundamental difference in Mary's witness, was it's purpose was purely for her own needed edification. The other eleven witnesses, though personally edified by their experiences, also had a mission to testify for the edification of others. They left formal written testimonies, signed by each of them, and still published in the front of the sacred volume of which they testified.
Does this mean Mary is the only woman to actually see the plates? There were times Emma was close to the plates, but each time I think they were wrapped in something, obscuring the plates from view.

layton, UT

RE: Twin Lights.. "and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."

Paul heard ‘Inexpressible’ things that remain unknown because, he was not permitted to tell.

J. C. Whitmer,“I have heard my grandmother (Mary M. Whitmer) say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by an holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi.” (John C. Whitmer, “The Eight Witnesses”, The Historical Record, Volume 7, October, 1888, p. 621)

“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi.” (The Times and Seasons Vol. III, pp. 749, 753)
In modern printings of the History of the Church, this has been changed to read “Moroni”. It is interesting to note that Joseph Smith lived for two years after the name “Nephi” was printed in Times and Seasons and he never published a retraction.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


As far as I know, only Martin Harris used the term you cite.

Joseph did show them to others (the Eight Witnesses).

I am unfamiliar with the Oliver signing for all claim (all 11?) so I cannot comment.

There are a lot of physical objects shown to folks in vision though I do not mean to say that this is what happened here.

My point is simply that, If we were in the presence of an angel, it is uncertain whether we could later distinguish precisely what state we were in (and Paul indicated that he could not).


He was busy.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Twin Lights – “From 2 Corinthians 12…”

Interesting account…

Thoughts that come to mind are 1) these sorts of accounts are ubiquitous in the spiritual literature, especially Eastern; and 2) are they indications of objective reality?

Susan Blackmore, perhaps the foremost psi researcher of our time, was inspired to become a scientist because of a powerful out-of-body (astral plane) experience she had. She was a full on believer that these and many other spiritual experiences were objectively real, but after decades of research she is now a skeptic (regarding their objectivity and in some cases that they even happen – e.g., telekinesis).

Personally, I haven’t studied it enough to reached any 100% conclusions, but I am strongly inclined to believe these experiences are conditioned (why Christians see Christ and Hindus see Vishnu) and subjective, and do not point to objective reality.

But (speaking from some personal experience) they are amazingly powerful and can certainly change lives, so by that yardstick more power to them!

New Yorker
Pleasant Grove, UT

Brahmabull, the online article "Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses" and the Maxwell Institute gives these "signature" details documented testimony of the witnesses:

Richards emphasized that Oliver "penned, with his own hand and in my presence, the testimony and statement herewith." The statement is dated 13 January 1849, is addressed "To Elder Samuel W. Richards," and ends with Oliver's signature.

The short 1881 statement was signed by David Whitmer and was dated, "Richmond, Mo., March 19, 1881."

From Martin Harris, "dated "Smithfield, Utah, Nov. 23d, 1870," and is signed "Martin Harris." The entire text of the letter is included for insight into the man and his testimony: I received your favor. In reply I will say concerning the plates, I do say that the angel did show to me the plates containing the Book of Mormon.

I don't know of which exact document you speak of that was not signed by the three witnesses, nor of any proof that it was not their personal signatures on that particular document. I can imagine many publication scenarios requiring replication of the original before copy machines. 1960 in the Army I retyped many documents for copy purposes. Before typewriters?

sandy, ut


But why would an angel have to show them some physical, metal plates? You state that it has happened in other instances, please clarify.

Both Whitmer and Harris describe it as spiritual. If it wasn't by vision or by spirit for all of them why would that be?? He wouldn't show them physically to some, and spiritually to others. this is my point, it doesn't add up. Here is what whitmer said:

When asked in 1880 for a description of the angel who showed him the plates, Whitmer replied that the angel "had no appearance or shape." Asked by the interviewer how he then could bear testimony that he had seen and heard an angel, Whitmer replied, "Have you never had impressions?" To which the interviewer responded, "Then you had impressions as the Quaker when the spirit moves, or as a good Methodist in giving a happy experience, a feeling?" "Just so," replied Whitmer. Whitmer interview John Murphy, June 1880

Whitmer: ‘were shown to me by a supernatural power” (HC3:307)

No witness account states that they saw them uncovered. The pre-written statement by Smith does, no other statement by any of the witnesses states that.

New Yorker
Pleasant Grove, UT

Whittmer 1881: "The glorious messenger ... turned the leaves of the plates."

David Whitmer's ... answer to critic John Murphy in 1881. Murphy, a local farmer who had been a Protestant missionary, visited David Whitmer in the summer of 1880, and the following January published a reconstructed conversation that claimed David had essentially agreed that his angelic vision was an inner feeling.

Two months later, David published a denial that his experience was subjective, insisting that his printed testimony accurately reported the glorious messenger who turned the leaves of the plates. He added statements affirming his personal integrity from two dozen community leaders in Richmond, the county seat. He then asked newspapers to publish this information in Hamilton, where Murphy's appeal first appeared, and in Richmond, where David resided. The witness then "printed and distributed" the material as a leaflet, reprinting it six years later, in 1887, in his widely distributed An Address to All Believers in Christ.

From Maxwell Institute article cited above.

BrahmaBull, you shouldn't just throw out ideas that you picked up who knows where Please give us the authoritative source references.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


Why an angel? Why does God ever send angels when men could deliver the exact same message? I suppose to reinforce the point.

Visions and dreams in the scriptures include a variety of physical objects from lands and peoples to household objects to animals.

You bring up one of Whitmer's (reported) statements. Others are much clearer. Yes, I understand there is variance but there are a lot of writers/reporters with different "perspectives" and motives.

Were the plates shown to the Three Witnesses "by a supernatural power"? Obviously. It was an angel.

Eldersburg, MD


If you yourself could see the plates today, would you believe? Would not doubt, just as you feel today, eventually creep in to rationalize away the truth over time of what was witnessed of spiritual things by physical senses?

Faith does not come by signs, but signs follow those who first exercise faith. This is God's prescribed method of becoming "prepared" that He may reveal eternal truths, miracles, blessings, and knowledge. Many in the Bible fell away from belief after witnessing so great miracles.

Either one is prepared to exercise faith in things not seen, that God may reveal them, or they remain in doubt and spiritual darkness until a day comes when they are sufficiently humble to receive them. Does not the Bible in all its wisdom testify of these truths?

It has and ever shall be that those who are sign seekers requiring physical proof before they believe, will not know the works of God, nor receive greater witnesses of divine truths because they refuse to exercise faith first. If such were to receive signs without faith, God knows disbelief would return the moment the reality of their witness is challenged by worldly rationalizations and cares.

layton, UT

RE: Tyler D, these experiences are conditioned (why Christians see Christ and Hindus see Vishnu) and subjective, and do not point to objective reality..

Rudolf Otto's Concept of the "Numinous" the experience that, underlies all religion. He calls this experience "numinous," and says it has three components. These are often designated with a Latin phrase: mysterium tremendum et fascinans. As mysterium, the numinous is "wholly other"-- entirely different from anything we experience in ordinary life. It evokes a reaction of silence.
But the numinous is also a mysterium tremendum. It provokes terror because it presents itself as overwhelming power. Finally, the numinous presents itself as fascinans, as merciful and gracious.

RE: EternalPerspective. Johnathan Edwards(Great awakening) was a Christian preacher and is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian," and one of America's greatest intellectuals.

Edward’s signs of Christian of regeneration(Born again/from above): 1. One’s esteem of Christ’s is elevated to an Orthodox Christology. 2. The awakening of the conscience of sin, or a conviction of Sin 3. A greater regard for the Bible, which establishes the more of the certainty of the Spirit of God.

Rollo Tomasi
Rockingham, NC

Someone above already mentioned this, but I note how the author was careful NOT to give the name of the mysterious man/angel who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer. I suspect this is because Mary always maintained that this angel was named "Nephi," which doesn't fit into the current LDS narrative (i.e., that the angel was "Moroni").

sandy, ut


So if I may clarify. Joseph Smith already had the plates in his posession, at his home. Instead of showing the plates to the witnesses the same way I would show something interesting to you, they went out in a field and prayed that they could see them? So the angel went and took the plates from Joseph's home and brought them out to the witnesses and showed them the plates and them returned them to Joseph's house? Is that what you are suggesting? Do you really consider that to be a likely scenario? It doesn't make sense. If Joseph had the plates, he would have showed them to the witnesses himself. That is my point.

Yes, if the plates were real and we could see them it could validate the story Joseph gave. Just like when any other ancient text pops up around the world, it can be examined and translated. Last time I checked the dead sea scrolls and other texts of ancient times weren't taken up to heaven. They also don't have to be shown to anybody by vision. Now why is that?

Bakersfield, CA

Seeing the plates would only validate that Joseph had some plates, not the validity of their supposed history.

If Moroni appeared on CNN right now with 'his people's history', his gospel would still violate the Biblical gospel message wirh it's salvation "after all that you have done". The factual evidence of angels, old men with knapsacks, and gold plates does nothing to supplant the efficacy of Paul's original gospel and eye witness testimony of Christ on the Damascus Road. It verifies his warning of Satan masquerading as "an angel of light."

So men can keep their stories and theories and witness accounts. The Apostle who encountered the risen Christ warned:
"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another (bonafide one); but there are some who want to trouble you and pervert the gospel of Christ.
But even if we or an angel from heaven preach to you another gospel than the one we first preached to you, let him be accursed."

That warning in Galations 1:6-10, given 30-60 years after Christ's death, still serves Christians today.

Bakersfield, CA

So I just have to authenticate some plates, stones, or recordings of a civilization that believed something and suddenly that ancient people's religion is The Truth?

Let me introduce you to the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Druids, the Moonwalkers, the Sun Cult, the Moonies...

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

That the testimony of any witnesses at all along with their sworn and signed affidavits were offered in the first edition of the Book of Mormon points to Joseph Smith’s anticipation of the skepticism he was bracing for. Mark Twain, in his travel book Roughing It, offered his own characteristic good-natured ribbing when he wrote, “I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified."

Joseph Smith unwittingly invited skepticism by adding the testimony of witnesses in that first edition. Subsequent history proved that to receptive readers and religious seekers, it made no difference at all. That is the story of true faith.

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