William H. Kelley and G. A. Blakeslee interview David Whitmer, who reaffirms his testimony of the Book of Mormon.

Mar 1, 1882
David Whitmer
Scribed Verbatim

William H. Kelley and G. A. Blakeslee, Interview with David Whitmer, January 15, 1882, in "Letter from Elder W. H. Kelley," Saints' Herald 29, no. 5 (March 1, 1882): 68

The Saints' Herald
G. A. Blakeslee, Emma Hale Smith, David Whitmer, Joseph Smith, Jr., David Whitmer, Jr., William H. Kelley, Oliver Cowdery
Reading Public

Early in the morning, Thursday the 15th, we left Lexington in the stage coach, crossed the Missouri River, and was landed at the railroad depot, a mile or more from the city. It was between this station and the river that the mail coach was robbed by highwaymen last Summer; and it is a most favorable place for such work, there being thick brush and woods all around. We would not have been surprised to see some ugly hand poked out of the thick brush after us, as the coach moved along. We were soon on the way to Richmond, Ray county, to visit David Whitmer, one of the witnesses. Arrived about 8:30 a. m., and breakfasted at the hotel. Here we met David Whitmer, Junior, eldest son of David Whitmer, Senior. He looks to be about forty-five years of age. Is kind hearted and is a firm believer in the Book of Mormon and in the testimony borne by his father concerning it. After breakfast we called on David Whitmer, Senior, meeting him just outside of his residence, and introducing ourselves. He invited us into the house and directed us into a small room, presumeably, his own resting and sleeping apartment. John Whitmer, son of John Whitmer, deceased, and two or three more gentlemen, whose names are not remembered, were present. The women folks were house cleaning. (Just our luck). Elder Whitmer remarked that he did not feel much like talking as he had not been feeling well for some time. He appeared feeble. He is now upwards of seventy-six years of age, having been born January 7th, 1805. He is of medium height, and rather of a slender build; but this appearance may be on account of age and recent illness. He has darkish brown eyes, and his hair is white and thin. Has a good head and honest face. He talks with ease and seemed at home with every subject suggested; and without an effort, seemingly, went on to amplify upon it, so that we had nothing to do but question, suggest and listen. His intellect is far more vigorous and retentive than we expected to find. He is careful in his speech, for'he studies to express himself in such a way as not to be misunderstood; and it hurts him to be misrepresented. A reporter called to see him some time ago, asked a few questions and went off and published that he had denied his testimony concerning the truth of the Book of Mormon. This hurt him so, that he is very careful, now, to have some known friends present when strangers call to see him. This accounts for the presence of others when we were there. Speaking of Joseph Smith, the Seer, he said, and this is very nearly his wording: "It makes no difference what others say, I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and he translated the Book of Mormon by the inspiration of God from the plates of the Nephites. Some people think if they can only make it appear that Joseph’s life and character were not perfect, and that he had human weaknesses, that it would prove that he was not a prophet; yet the same persons will believe that Moses who killed the Egyptian, and David, who had Uriah killed, and who took a multitude of wives, and Solomon who was a polygamist and idolator; and Peter, who lied and cursed, &c., were all prophets and should be honored and respected. What the individual life of Joseph Smith was after he translated the Book of Mormon, has nothing to do with the question as to whether he was, or was not inspired to bring that book forth."

"Do you know anything against his character? "

"I know nothing against him. I have heard some things; these I know nothing about. I have nothing to say about the character of any one, only as I know. It is not my mission to talk about the character of any. My mission is to testify concerning the truth of the coming forth of the work of God."

"What kind of man was he when you knew him personally?"

"He was a religious and straightforward man. He had to be; for he was illiterate and he could do nothing of himself. He had to trust in God. He could not translate unless he was humble and possessed the right feelings towards every one. To illustrate, so you can see. One morning when he was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went up stairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came up stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful."

His statement concerning the vision they had of the plates and the angel was as follows: "I was plowing in the field one morning, and Joseph and Oliver came along with a revelation stating that I was to be one of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. I got over the fence and we went out into the woods, near by, and sat down on a log and talked awhile. We then kneeled down and prayed. Joseph prayed. We then got up and sat on the log and were talking, when all at once a light came down from above us and encircled us for quite a little distance around; and the angel stood before us. He was dressed in white, and spoke and called me by name and said, ‘Blessed is he that keepeth His commandments.’ This is all that I heard the angel say. A table was set before us and on it the records were placed. The Records of the Nephites, from which the Book of Mormon was translated, the brass plates, the Ball of Directors, the sword of Laban and other plates. While we were viewing them the voice of God spoke out of heaven saying that the Book was true and the translation correct."

We then asked him, "Do you remember the peculiar sensation experienced upon that occasion?" He answered very slowly and definitely.

"Yes; I remember it very distinctly; and I never think of it, from that day to this but what that same spirit is present with me.

"How did you know it was the voice of God?"

"We know it was the voice of God. I knew it was the voice of God just as well as I knew any thing."

This narration was delivered in a mild, but fervent voice; and as he spoke and bore witness, and we listened, the Spirit of God rested in great power upon us like a flame of glory, or burning coal from the altar of God. It [ejnveloped our beings and glowed in our hearts while tears of gratitude and joy flowed down our cheeks. Bro. Blakeslee who sat opposite, but near by and facing me, was so moved by this divine touch—silent and heavenly power—that he could not refrain from weeping. Despite our power of resistance, for a moment we sat speechless, uttered not a word, but with a look exchanged thoughts and read the moving of each other’s heart. We were satisfied, established, confirmed. The Spirit of God that had been with me and inspired my soul while defending that Record, and the divinely appointed mission of the Seer, for lo! these many years, while standing and testifying before multitudes, large and small, now appeared and lit up my being as with a flame, as I listened to the voice of a chief witness testify of what he had seen, and heard, and felt, in relation to the coming forth of this Latter Day Work. The worthy sage testified truthfully, for God bore witness.

Whatever other men may think of David Whitmer, it is our belief that he is a man of God; and that he is performing his part in this great Latter Day Work, faithfully and acceptably to his heavenly Father. He is respected and honored of his neighbors, and loved and admired by his relatives, of which there is a large circle there, and all in the faith. Who shall say that this man of candor, now standing upon the verge of the grave, has borne a false witness.

BHR Staff Commentary

Transcription from Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, UT: Grandin Book, 1991), 84–88

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