The Chicago Times Interview
Reprinted and Revised, November 1881
Source: Richmond Conservator, 18 Nov 1881,
cited in Ebbie Richardson, “David Whitmer,” pp. 187-91
Six years following the publication by the Chicago Times (in the 7 Aug 1875 issue), of an interview with David Whitmer, the Richmond Conservator, under the date of November 18, 1881, gave the following explanation and reprint in its columns:
THE LAST OF THE WITNESSES
We copy the following from the Chicago Times, an interview had with David Whitmer, our fellow townsman:
After speaking of Mr. Whitmer and his surroundings the interviewer says:
“After an hour’s interview I gleaned the following valuable information from him ‘he speaking freely and unreservedly’ n regard to the origin and rise of the Mormon Church, as well as to the authenticity of the “Book of Mormon.”
from which the book was translated, supposed to be of gold, were found the latter part of the year 1827 or 28 prior to an acquaintance on Mr. Whitmer’s part with Joseph Smith, [Jr.], and he was loath to believe in their actuality, notwithstanding the community in which he lived (Ontario County, New York) was alive with excitement in regards to Smith’s finding a great treasure, and they informed him that they knew that Smith had the plates, as they had seen the place he had taken them from, on the Hill Cumorah, about two miles from Palmyra, New York. It was not until June 1829, that he met the future prophet, who visited his father’s house, and while there he completed the translation of the Book of Mormon, and thus he became conversant with its history, having witnessed Smith dictate to Oliver Cowdery the translation of the characters that were inscribed on the plates, said by Mr. Anthon, an Egyptian scholar, to resemble the characters of that ancient people. Christian Whitmer, his brother, occasionally assisted Cowdery in writing, as did Mrs. Joseph Smith, [Jr.], who was a Miss Hale before she was married.
In regard to finding the plates, he was told by [Joseph] Smith, [Jr.], that they were in a stone casket, and the place where it was deposited, in the Hill Cumorah, was pointed out to him by a celestial personage, clad in a dazzling white robe and he was informed by it that it was the history of the Nephites, a nation that had passed away, whose founders belonged to the days of the tower of Babel. The plates, which Mr. Whitmer saw, were in the shape of a tablet, fastened with three rings, about one-third of which appeared to be loose, in plates, the other solid, but with perceptible marks where the plates appeared to be sealed, and the guide that pointed it out to Smith very impressively reminded him that the loose plates alone were to be used; the sealed portion was NOT TO BE TAMPERED WITH.
After the plates had been translated, which process required about six months, the same heavenly visitant appeared and reclaimed the gold plates of the ancient people, informing [Joseph] Smith, [Jr.], that he would replace them with other records of the lost tribes that had been brought with them during their wanderings in Asia, which would be forthcoming when the world was ready to receive them. At that time Mr. [David] Whitmer saw the tablet, gazed with awe upon the celestial messenger, heard him speak and say: “Blessed is the Lord and he that keeps his commandments;” and then, as he held the plates and turned them over in his hands, so that they could be plainly visible, a voice that seemed to fill all space, musical as the sighing of a wind through the forest, was heard saying, “What you see is true; testify to the same,” and Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, standing there, felt, as the white garments of the angel faded from their vision and the heavenly voice still rang in their ears, that it was no delusionâ€”that it was a fact; and they so recorded it. In a day or two after, the same spirit appeared to Martin Harris, while he was in company with [Joseph] Smith, [Jr.], and told him also to bear witness to its truth, which he did, as can be seen in the book. Harris described the visitant to Whitmer, who recognized it as the same as he and Cowdery had seen.
The plates or tablets were translated by [Joseph] Smith, [Jr.], who used a small oval or kidney-shaped stone, called Urim and Thummim, that seemed endowed with the marvelous power of converting the characters on the plates, when used by Smith, into English, who would then dictate to [Oliver] Cowdery what to write. Frequently one character would make two lines of manuscript, while others made but a word or two words. Mr. [David] Whitmer emphatically asserts, as did [Martin] Harris and Cowdery, that while Smith was dictating the translation he had NO MANUSCRIPT, NOTES OR OTHER MEANS OF KNOWLEDGE save the seerstone and the characters as shown on the plates, he being present and cognizant how it was done.
In regard to the statement that Sidney Rigdon had purloined the work of one Spaulding, a Presbyterian preacher, who had written a romance entitled The Manuscript Found, Mr. [David] Whitmer says there is no foundation for such an assertion. The Book of Mormon, was translated in the summer of 1829, and printed that winter in Palmyra, New York, and was in circulation before Sidney Rigdon knew anything concerning the Church of Christ. His attention was especially brought to it by the appearance, near Kirtland, Ohio, in the fall of 1830, of Parley Pratt and Oliver Cowdery, he being at that time a Reformed or Christian preacher, [page 190] they having been sent west by the Church in New York during the summer as evangelists and they then carried the printed book, the first time he knew such a thing was in existence. Upon being appealed to by [Parley] Pratt and Cowdery for the use of his [Sidney Rigdon’s] church he informed [them] that as he was endeavoring to establish the rules and get back into the ancient usages of Christianity, and desired all the light he could get that was of benefit to his fellowmen, he would do so, and would like to hear them. Then they gave him a copy of the book [of Mormon] that it had been asserted he was the progenitor of. The result of the meeting was that 101 persons were received into the Church at Kirtland; that Rigdon and [Edward] Partridge, two influential preachers, were sent as delegates to New York to see Joseph Smith, [Jr.], and they were so much impressed with his history of the book and his connection therewith that they became firm believers, and started back home as evangelists, preaching the new religion. In a short time thereafter, Smith, Whitmer, and others, learning of the beautiful country in Ohio, moved west, and the Church increased rapidly and would have so continued, had it not strayed from the true path, to preach only Christ and him crucified, as it had begun. Mr. Whitmer emphatically asserts that he has heard Rigdon, in the pulpit and in private conversations, declare that the Spaulding story, that he had used a book called The Manuscript Found for the purpose of preparing the Book of Mormon,” was as false as were many other charges made against the infant church, and he assured me that the story is as UNTRUTHFUL AS IT IS RIDICULOUS.
In his youth Joseph Smith, [Jr.], was quite illiterate, knew nothing of grammar composition, but obtained quite a good education after he came west; was a man of great magnetism, made friends easily, was liberal and noble in his impulses, tall, finely formed, and full of animal life, but sprung from the most humble circumstances. The first good suit of clothes he had ever worn was presented to him by Christian Whitmer, brother of David.
As evidence of their belief in the divine origin of the book [of Mormon], Martin Harris, one of the witnesses, mortgaged his farm for $1500 for the purpose of having it printed, and the sale of the book soon reimbursed him for the outlay. Now millions of copies are being published and sent to the furthermost ends of the earth. A few years since, I was present at an interview between Mr. [David] Whitmer and Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, who had been sent from Utah to Richmond, [Missouri] to secure the original manuscript from which the Book of Mormon had been printed, and in a conversation with the writer he assured me the archives of the Church at Salt Lake City, [Utah] were incomplete without it; that they would pay Father Whitmer, as he termed him, any reasonable price for it, but that Whitmer would not part with it under any consideration, regarding it as a sacred trust. Mr. Whitmer also has a number of other records of the early Church, ere it had, as he says, “broke loose from the teachings of Christ and acknowledged nothing as divine save as it was taught from the Bible and the Book of Mormon.”
Mr. [David] Whitmer’s beliefs have UNDERGONE NO CHANGE since his early manhood; he has refused to affiliate with any of the various branches that have sprung up through false teachings, and rests his hopes of the future “in the teachings of Christ, the apostles, and the prophets, and
the morals and principles inculcated in the scriptures; that the Book of Mormon is but the testimony of another nation concerning the truth and divinity of Christ and the Bible, and that is his rock, his gospel, and his salvation.” Seeing with him is believing. He is now as firm in the faith of the divinity of the book that he saw translated as he was when the glory of the celestial visitant almost blinded him with [the] gleam of its glowing presence, fresh from the godhead; and the voice, majestic, ringing out from earth to the mighty dome of space, still lingers in his ears like a chime of silver bells.”