Missouri Papers Report Interview of O. Pratt and J. F. Smith
with David Whitmer, 1878
Source: Kansas City Journal, 22 Sept 1878, p 4.
The Book of Mormon
The Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, Conservator has an account of an occurrence that has great interest to all who have any acquaintance with the Mormons. It is no less a fact than that the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, or the Mormon bible, is now, and for these many years has been, in the possession of David Whitmer, one of the oldest and most respected citizens of that county.
The way the fact came out was that last week Orson Pratt and J. F. Smith, two of the leaders of the Mormon Church, visited Ray County to secure this original copy of their sacred book for deposit in the archives of the Church. Mr. Whitmer, however, refused to give it up. He has had it for nearly half a century and considers himself to be its proper custodian, and will retain it until the proper time shall arrive to surrender it, when he will do it. But it is not stated when he thinks that time will come, nor to whom it is to be delivered when the time does arrive.
But while refusing to give up the work, Mr. Whitmer cheerfully exhibited the manuscript to his visitors. They at once pronounced it the genuine original, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdry [Cowdery], who wrote it down from the lips of the Prophet, Joseph Smith. The Conservator says the manuscript is in a splendid state of preservation, the ink being bright as if written yesterday, and is inscribed on large paper, unruled, in a small hand, clearly written, close to the edges, top and bottom, making over 500 pages.
The Mormon elders offered Mr. Whitmer almost any price for it, but in vain. This original manuscript ought to be deposited at Independence, as that is to be the future city of the faith. If this manuscript, just as it was written down from the lips of the Prophet, was where the final temple is to be, the fact would appeal with great force to the imaginations of the faithful, and Mr. Whitmer would become, in their estimation and traditions, the providential instrument in the preservation of the true word.
There is an important question also bound up in this manuscript—as to whether some of the contents of the accepted Book of Mormon are genuine, or whether they have been interpolated. This fact may in part account for the visit of Orson Pratt and Smith, at this time, and their anxiety to get possession of the original. We regret that the Conservator had not been able to throw more light on this part of the subject, and it is to be hoped that it may yet be able to do so.
(Testimonies of Book of Mormon Witnesses, .)