Chicago Times Interviews David Whitmer,
Source: Salt Lake Herald, 12 Aug 1875, cited from Ebbie L V Richardson,
“David Whitmer: A Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon”
(M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1952), pp. 156-58.
[On 12 August 1875, the Salt Lake Herald reprinted the following article which appeared in the Chicago Times on 7 August 1875:]
Whitmer: The Only Living Witness to the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon
The Old Man Interviewed on What He Saw and Heard
The Past, Present and Future
David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses who testified to “all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people,” that they had seen the golden plates upon which were engraved the hieroglyphics, that were translated into the Book of Mormon, has been interviewed by a reporter of the Chicago Times, and the result is given in four columns of that paper on August 7th. We reproduce the sujoined [sic] from the published interview:
was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and when he was but four years old his parents removed to New York, settling at a point midway between the northern extremities of Lakes Cayuga and Seneca, two miles from Waterloo, two miles from Seneca River, four miles from Seneca Falls, seven miles from Geneva, and twenty-two miles from Palmyra. He is now 70 years of age, but as hale and hearty as most men at 50. In person he is above the medium height, stoutly built though not corpulent, his shoulders inclining to stoop as it from so long supporting his massive head rather than from the weight of years, his frank, manly and benevolent face closely shaven, and his whole exterior betokening him to be one of nature’s gentlemen. The rudiments of education he learned in school, and a lifetime of thought and research have served to expand and store his mind with vast funds of information. The Times reporter found him at his pleasant two-story white frame residence near the center of the town of Richmond, Missouri, and in company with Honorable J. T. Child, editor of the Conservator, was admitted, introduced, and received a cordial greeting. When the object of the call was made known, Mr.
Whitmer smilingly and meditatively remarked that it was true that he had in his possession the original records, and was conversant with the history of the Church of Christ from the beginning, but was under obligation to hold both history and records sacred until such time as the interests of truth and true religion might demand their aid to combat error. Presently he became quite animated, rose to his feet and with great earnestness and good nature spoke for half an hour on the harmony between the Bible and the original Book of Mormon, showing how the finding of the plates had been predicted, referring to the innumerable evidences, in the shape of ruins of great cities existing on this continent, of its former occupation by a highly civilized race, reverently declared his solemn conviction of the authenticity of the records in his possession, and closed by DENOUNCING THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS OF UTAH as an abomination in the sight of the Lord. While he believed implicitly in the original book, he protested against the Book of Covenants, which was simply a compilation of special revelations that [Joseph] Smith and his successors had pretended to have received. Joe [Joseph] Smith, he said, was generally opposed to these revelations, but was frequently importuned by individuals to reveal their duty, and oftimes he was virtually compelled to yield, and in this way the original purity of the faith was tarnished by human invention, and the accepted records of today cumbered with a mass of worse than useless rubbish. Should Brigham Young, or any of his infatuated satelites, ever dare to declare any of their interpretations to be from the original tablets, or proclaim that their pernicious doctrines or practices were authorized by the true version, then he, David Whitmer, would bring forth the records and confound them. Until that time he alone would be the custodian of the sacred documents.
When THE QUESTION OF POLYGAMY was broached, and it was asked if the original Book of Mormon justified that practice, Mr. Whitmer most emphatically replied: “No! it is even much more antagonistic to both polygamy and concubinage than is the Bible. Joe [Joseph] Smith never, to my knowledge advocated it, though I have heard that he virtually sanctioned it at Nauvoo. However, as I cut loose from him in 1837, I can’t speak intelligently of what transpired thereafter. . . .”
David Whitmer believes in the Bible as implicitly as any devotee alive; and he believes in the Book of Mormon as much as he does in the Bible. The one is but a supplement to the other according to his idea, and neither would be complete were the other lacking. And no man can look at David Whitmer’s face for half an hour, while he carily and modestly speaks of what he has seen, and then boldly and earnestly confesses the faith that is in him, and say that he is a bigot or an enthusiast. While he shrinks from unnecessary public promulgations of creed, and keenly feels that the Brighamites and Danites and numerous other ites have disgraced it, yet he would not hesitate, in emergency, to STAKE HIS HONOR AND EVEN HIS LIFE upon its reliability. His is the stern faith of the Puritans, modified by half a century of benevolent thought and quiet observation. He might have been a martyr had he lacked sense and shrewdness to escape
the death sentence that was pronounced against him by the high priests of the church he had helped to build. As it is, he is the only living witness of the wondrous revelation made to Joseph Smith, [Jr.], the founder of Mormonism.
David Whitmer was married in Seneca County, New York, in 1830, and was for a number of years an elder in the Church of Christ. Today he is the proprietor of a livery stable in Richmond, Missouri, owns some real estate, has a handsome balance in the bank, is universally respected by all who know him, and surrounded by children and grandchildren, is pleasantly gliding toward the gates of sunset, confident that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was also the God of Nephi, whose faithful disciple he has been and is. He does not believe that all believing in the Book of Mormon or all adherents to any other faith will be found among the elect, but that the truly good of every faith will be gathered in fulfillment of prophecy. Neither does he believe that the Book of Mormon is the only record of the lost tribes hidden in the earth, but on the contrary, that the caves hold other records that will not come forth till all is peace and the lion shall eat straw with the lamb. Three times he has been at the Hill Cumorah and seen the casket that contained the tablets and seerstone. Eventually the casket has been washed down to the foot of the hill, but it was to be seen when he last visited the historic place. He declares that he has never been a Mormon, as the term is commonly interpreted, but is a firm believer in the book, in the faith of Christ, and the fulfillment of the prophecies in due time. Some of them have ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED; for instance, that which declares that the Saints shall be driven from city to city, and also the prediction that the Twelve Apostles shall lead them to the devil.
In 1837 David and his brother John, then living in Far West, Missouri, were warned that they must make a confession of their apostasy or be killed, as the leaders of the Church were conspiring against them. They determined to accept neither horn of the dilemma, and arranged for flight. At an appointed time John emerged from the backdoor of his house, gave the preconcerted signal by raising his hat, and hastily mounting horses in waiting, they rode away. John, as clerk of the Church, had its records, and Oliver Cowdery bore off the original translation, and eventually transferred it to the keeping of David. Since that memorable day both John and David Whitmer have kept aloof from the so-called Latter-day Saints, although firm as ever in the faith as taught by the Book of Mormon. John is a man of fine education, and abundantly able to defend his faith from assaults from any quarter.
Source: JH, 18 Sep 1875, p. 3.
[The article cited above was reprinted in the Journal History of the Church under the date, 18 Sep 1875, including a verification by the Salt Lake Herald of the Chicago Times article which read:]
Whitmer’s Comments on Article in Chicago Times
18 September 1875
He Says That Interview was Substantially Correct
A gentleman from this city “not a Mormon” having entertained doubt of the genuineness of the reprinted interview of the Chicago Times correspondent with Mr. David Whitmer, relative to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and other matters, as published in the Herald some weeks ago, wrote to Mr. Whitmer, making inquiry as to the reliability of the statements attributed to him, and here is the answer which he received:
Richmond, Missouri, August 17, 1875.
In the fear of the Lord, and under the guardianship of my aged grandfather, I write to you from him: “The conversation in which I gave the outlines of my experience and history to the reporter of the Chicago Times, and published by them “which was copied by the Herald” is substantially correct. There may be a few minor errors, but they do not interfere at all with what I gave him in substance, or the purpose of the Almighty Father in disseminating his truth.”
Under his instruction, (David Whitmer) I am sir, your obedient servant,
George W. Schweich