James H. Moyle Reports Interview
With David Whitmer, July 1885
Source: James H. Moyle in Conference Report (April 1930):121-22.
[Elder Moyle is probably the last individual who related his experience with David Whitmer. He visited him in July, 1885, and lived until February 19, 1946. While President of the Eastern States Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he gave the following report of his visit to Richmond, Missouri, during the One Hundredth Annual Conference, April, 1930. It is found on pp. 121-22 of that Conference Report.]
[page 121] I shall never forget my experience early in July, 1885, as I was returning home from the University of Michigan where I graduated in 1885. I went directly to Richmond, Missouri, for the sole purpose of meeting the then remaining living witness to the divinity of the Book of Mormon, David Whitmer. I inquired of the bus driver, the hotel clerk, and others, as far as possible, as to the character and reputation of David Whitmer. All said he was a fine old man, an excellent citizen, and was highly respected in the community. I introduced myself by presenting him with a book that I thought would please him, and said to him that I had just graduated from college. He was then in his eighties, with his hair and beard white [must have referred to unshaven stubble, as there is no other reference to a beard], but in fair health. It was about three years before his death. I said to him: “I was born and reared in the Church and I do pray of you to let me know if there is any possibility of your having been deceived. I am just commencing life as you are preparing to lay it down, and I beg of you to tell me if there is anything connected with the testimony which you have borne to the world that could possibly have been deceptive or misunderstood.” I further said, in an earnest youthful appeal, that I didn’t want to go through life believing in a falsehood, that it was in his power to make known the truth to me. He described to me the details of the occasion, of the angel presenting the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. The scene was in the woods, with nothing between the angel and himself except a log that had [page 122] fallen and was lying between them. He declared that he saw the angel who had with him the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and that in the presence of the angel he did hear the angel declare that they had been translated correctly. While I am speaking from memory, the foregoing most essential facts to me and which are the sole object of my visit, were so indelibly impressed upon my mind, that they are perfectly clear and unmistakable. I asked him many question concerning his experiences with the origin of the Book of Mormon, and why he left the Church, all of which he endeavored to answer frankly. We talked for a considerable time. His mind seemed clear and his mentality above rather than below the average. He said he had never left the Church, that they had maintained a branch of the Church in Richmond, [Missouri], and that he had always been active in it; that Joseph Smith, [Jr.], was a Prophet of God, but that he accepted none of them subsequent to that time. He appeared to have become embittered against Sidney Rigdon especially, and I fancied turned against the Prophet because of his placing Rigdon ahead of those who had stood by the Prophet in his early work. . . . His sincerity was plainly shown when I asked him if he would sell the manuscript and place a price upon it. He replied that he would not.