James H. Moyle retells his experience interviewing David Whitmer in 1885.

Mar 22, 1908
Speech / Court Transcript
James H. Moyle
2nd Hand

James H. Moyle, Speech, Ensign Stake Conference, Salt Lake Tabernacle, March 22, 1908, in Gordon B. Hinckley, James Henry Moyle: The Story of a Distinguished American and an Honored Churchman (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1951), 365–369

Deseret Book
Sidney Rigdon, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, James H. Moyle
Latter-day Saints, Reading Public

In standing before this vast audience, assembled for divine worship, I am deeply impressed with the responsibility that rests upon one who is called upon to speak to such an assembly. I have always been a devout and devoted adherent and believer in the gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith and as believed in by my parents and my grandparents. My grandparents left their homes, exiled themselves, to come to these valleys where they might worship God as their consciences directed. I grewup in their faith, and have always been devoted to it.

As a boy, soon after this building was completed, I rememberhearing the testimony of Martin Harris in regard to the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and it made a deep impression upon my mind, for he had left the Church, after having published to the world his testimony as one of the three witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and of having seen an angel who declared that the records had been correctly translated. Martin Harris never denied his testimony, and, in his old age, came back to renew his covenants and to die with the people whom he had been instrumental in assisting, at least, to gather together in these mountains.

. . .

From my boyhood I had read the Book of Mormon, and during my study of the same, found it nothing but that which is virtuous, pure and ennobling-a great and wonderful history of a pre-historic people who lived on this continent in former ages. I was always interested in utilizing such opportunities as were given me to demonstrate its divinity, to know whether or not I might be deceived, and whether my parents, grandparents and friends were likewise deceived. Therefore, on my way home from school in 1885, I took advantage of the opportunity to visit David Whitmer, another of the Three Witnesses, then an old, grayhaired man, bowed in years and expecting almost any time the summons to call him thence to his eternal reward. As I left the train in the little village of Richmond, Missouri, I inquired of those whom I met: What kind of a man is David Whitmer? From all I received the same response, that he was a good citizen, an honest man, and that he was highly respected in the community. I went to his humble home, for it was a humble home,and I told him of my origin, my belief, and as a young man starting out in life I wanted to know from him, older than my grandfather, what he knew about the Book of Mormon, and what about the testimony he had published to the world concerning it. He told me in all the solemnity of his advanced years, that the testimony he had given to the world, and which was published in the Book of Mormon, was true, every word of it, and that he had never deviated or departed in any particular from that testimony, and that nothing in the world could separate him from the sacred message that was delivered to him. I still wondered if it was not possible that he could have been deceived. I wondered if there was not something in that psychological operation which some offer as the cause of these miraculous declarations and by which he could have been deceived—although there were three witnesses present besides the Prophet Joseph Smith, who saw and heard the same mighty and solemn truths; so I induced him to relate to me, under such cross-examination as I was able to interpose, every detail of what took place. He described minutely the spot in the woods, the arge log that separated him from the angel, and that he saw the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, that he handled them, and that he did hear the voice of God declare that the plates were correctly translated. I asked him if there was any possibility for him to have been deceived, and that it was all a mistake, but he said, “No." I asked him, then, why he had left the Church. He said he had not, but the Church had left him. He said that his faith in the fundamental principles of the gospel, which had been revealed prior to the year 1835, had never been changed; that he was still devoted to them and believed in them just as much as he ever did, and was trying to live those principles and exemplify them in his life. He said he knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that through him had been restored the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days. To me this was a wonderful testimony.

Oliver Cowdery, the other witness, likewise left the Church, but I understand he returned to it before his death. Throughout his whole career, although for many years out of the Church and separated from it, he never denied his testimony. The fact that these men had removed from them all earthly inducements to continue the perpetration of a fraud, if it were a fraud, increased and strengthened their testimony, and to my mind made it more forcible. David Whitmer was living in a log cabin of two or three rooms, devoid of every comfort or luxury of life, which he could have enjoyed had he followed the Church and been, as he was previously, one of its leading and influential men; but no, for some reason he left the Church, and I cannot understand what the reason could be other than the fact that his testimony should be thereby strengthened by relieving it of all selfish motives and earthly inducements.

If it had been worldly advancement that David Whitmer desired, he would have remained where he could have occupied a higher station and position in life, but he seemed content in those humble rooms in his log cabin. He also said, pointing to a room at one end of the building: "Do you see that old log room? In that room I kept one of the original copies of the translation of the Book of Mormon, and when the great cyclone struck Richmond it tore away every fragment of my home except the room in which the manuscript was kept." He regarded even that old manuscript with every evidence of sacredness, and I doubt that there was money enough in the world to have induced him to part with it. Are these not extraordinary facts?

When the Book of Mormon was published, who was its author? Who were the men instrumental in bringing it forth? Were they cunning, educated, learned, crafty men? No. Joseph Smith was an humble farmer's son from the frontier of Vermont, with no opportunity for education, without access to the great libraries, without the opportunity of even contact with the learned men of that day, yet he brought forth this work under the most adverse circumstances. It has been said that he had men about him of unusual ability, but who were they? There were none, as nearly as I have been able to learn. I have followed it to the uttermost, so far at least as my opportunities and ability afforded an investigation of that question, and I find none. But surrounding him were such men as David Whitmer, Martin Harris—farmers, poor men. It has been said that Sidney Rigdon was the man who did it all, but it has been demonstrated, not only by the testimony of his own son, but by hundreds of others, that he did not know anything about the Book of Mormon until several years after it was published. David Whitmer told me, in the conversation to which I refer, that it was only after Sidney Rigdon becamea member of the Church and dominant in its affairs that "the Prophet Joseph Smith was led astray—through the intelligence and craft of Sidney Rigdon." This was his version of it.

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