Angel & Plates

Chicago Tribune


After the translation was completed [Joseph] Smith, [Jr.], informed [Oliver] Cowdery, [David] Whitmer, and [Martin] Harris that the Lord had instructed him that the time was at hand when they should testify to all nations, tongues, and people concerning this work. These four Apostles of the Lord as they were designated, accordingly assembled in the public pasture, cleared of underbrush, at a point equally distant between two highways.

About the noonday hour they were seated on a log waiting for the promised manifestations, having previously knelt in prayer.

All at once the heavens appeared to open and there appeared a dazzling shaft of light beside which the light of the sun appeared dim.

Through this cleft in the sky, which seemed to lead away up to the pearly gates beyond, appeared an angel, disguised as a man, bearing the semblance of a table. The angel descended to the earth, landing nearly at their feet. On this table were the plates of gold from which they had just translated the Book of Mormon, and the plates of brass on which were inscribed the commandments written by Moses, and which had been taken from Jerusalem by Nephi 600 years before Christ and afterward transported to America.

The four Apostles were then commanded to go forth among men and preach religion as set down in the Book of Mormon (Chicago Tribune, 15 Dec 1885).

Interview by Dr. P. Wilhelm Poulson

After a self introduction to David Whitmer and some general conversation, I remarked to him:

I – You are one of the Three Witnesses?
He – I am one of them.

I – And you saw the angel, and he showed you the plates?
He – The Book of Mormon is true, as true as any record can be, I saw the angel, and I saw the sword of Laban, and the breastplate, and the Urim and Thummim, and the plates and the director, and the angel stood before us, and he turned the leaves one by one.

I – Did the angel turn all the leaves before you as you looked on it?
He – No, not all, only that part of the book which was not sealed, and what there was sealed appeared as solid to my view as wood.

I – How many of the plates were sealed?
He – About half of the book was sealed. Those leaves which were not sealed, about the half of the first part of the book, were numerous, and the angel turned them over before our eyes. There is yet to be given a translation about Jared’s people’s doings and of Nephi, and many other records and books, which all has to be done, when the time comes.

I – How large were the plates?
He – About eight inches wide and six or seven inches long, as they appeared a little wider than long, and three rings kept the plates together; one above, one in the middle, and one below, so the angel could turn every leaf entirely over. The thickness was about of a common sheet of tin used by tinsmiths.

I – How did the engravings look?
He – There were characters. We copied some, and if you visit my brother John, one of the Eight Witnesses, who wrote for Joseph, John can show you some of the old manuscript which he borrowed from me. I must have it returned to me again, as it belongs to the Church, in connection with other records. As we were praying, the angel stood before us in his glory, and all things were before us on a table, and we heard the testimony about the plates, and we were commanded to bear that testimony to the world, and our testimony is true. And when the angel had finished his words, and shown us the plates one by one, which were to be translated, then the vision was closed at once, and exactly as it came even so did the sight disappear.

I – But these things which you saw were material things, how could they come and vanish away again?
He – It is the power of God. He does those things and his angels know how to do it. It was wonderful to us, but it was by the power of God. He had appointed his angels to be the guardians of the plates and other things, and the angel knew how it was done.

I – Did the Eight Witnesses not handle the plates as a material substance?
He – We did not, but they did, because of the faith of Joseph became so great that the angel, the guardian of the plates, gave the plates up to Joseph for a time, that those Eight Witnesses could see and handle them.

I – Did not Joseph, at an earlier period, have the full possession of those plates?
He – Yes, he did do in the commencement, but the persecution grew so hot that the angel took possession of the records, and showed those things, as he did, to Cowdery, Harris and me, and in the presence of Joseph, and afterwards he was allowed to show the plates to the Eight Witnesses.

I – Where are the plates now?
He – In a cave, where the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed, shall be translated. God will yet raise up a mighty one, who shall do his work till it is finished and Jesus comes again.

I – Where is that cave?
He – In the state of New York.

I – In the Hill Cumorah?
He – No, but not far from that place. I saw the place where the plates were found, and a great many did so, and it awakened an excitement at the time, because the worst enemies of “Mormonism” stirred up the confusion by telling about the plates which Joseph found, and the “gold bible” which he was in possession of, so he was in constant danger of being robbed and killed.

I – How did the place look?
He – It was a stone box, and the stones looked to me as if they were cemented together. That was on the side of the hill, and a little down from the top.

I – How did you know Joseph to be at that time?
He – He was a very humble and meek man, and very simple, indeed. He did the will of the Lord, and an arduous task it was to translate the Book of Mormon.

I – Did Joseph use the Urim and Thummim when he translated?
He – The Urim and Thummim were two white stones, each of them cased in as spectacles are, in a kind of silver casing, but the bow between the stones was more heavy, and longer apart between the stones, than we usually find in spectacles. Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Emma, and my brother John each at different times wrote for Joseph as he translated.

I – When will the temple be built at Independence?
He – Right after the great tribulation is over.

I – What do you mean by that?
He – A civil war more bloody and cruel than the rebellion. It will be a smashing up of this nation, about which time the second great work has to be done, a work like Joseph did, and the translation of the sealed plates, and peace all over.

I – Will you live and see those things?
He – It was said to us, that the second great work should commence when nearly all the witnesses to the first plates had passed away, so I may live and see those things take place. (“Dr. P. Wilhelm Poulson to editors of the Deseret News,” 13 Aug 1878, Deseret News, 16 Aug 1878, p. 2).

Interview by Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith

The fact is, it was just as though Joseph, Oliver and I were sitting just here on a log, when we were overshadowed by a light. It was not like the light of the sun nor like that of a fire, but more glorious and beautiful. It extended away round us, I cannot tell how far, but in the midst of this light about as far off as he sits (pointing to John C. Whitmer, sitting a few feet from him), there appeared as it were, a table with many records or plates upon it, besides the plates of the Book of Mormon, also the Sword of Laban, the Directors–i.e., the ball which Lehi had–and the Interpreters. I saw them just as plain as I see this bed (striking the bed beside him with his hand), and I heard the voice of the Lord, as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life, declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God (“Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Millennial Star 40 (9 Dec 1878):771-7).

Interview by John Hart

Having some business in Richmond, Ray County, [Missouri] I took occasion to call upon Mr. David Whitmer, who was suffering considerably from the intense heat, but had, notwithstanding, a long and pleasant conversation with him and his son David Whitmer, Jr. After mutual introductions, I remarked that although I had no doubt of the truth of his published statement and testimony in the Book of Mormon, I should be pleased to hear the testimony from his own lips. He said, “Persons may attempt to describe the presentation of the plates as shown to himself and other witnesses, but there was a glory attending it that no one could describe, no human tongue could tell the glorious scenes that were presented to them (Interview with John Hart, 23 Aug 1883).

Retelling by Orson Pratt

They, in no connection with Mr. Smith, who made the fourth individual, went out into the open field, near a grove of timber, a little distance from the house of Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, New York. They bowed down before the Lord in broad daylight – not in the night; so there could be no deception: they humbled themselves before him, called upon his holy name with all their hearts, and while they were thus engaged in calling upon the name of the Lord, they saw in the heavens above a glorious light, and a personage descending. This personage came down and stood before them: he laid his hands upon the head of David Whitmer as one of the three witnesses, and said, “Blessed be the Lord and they that keep his commandments;” and then he took the plates and turned them over, leaf after leaf, excepting a certain portion of the leaves that were sealed up, which Mr. Smith was not permitted to translate; but that portion he had translated was turned over, leaf after leaf, and presented before their eyes, and they saw the engravings upon the plates (Orson Pratt, “Evidences of the Bible and Book of Mormon Compared,” Journal of Discourses, vol. 7-8, 1860, pp. 29-30).

Testimony of the Three Witnesses


Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come, that we, through the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, HAVE SEEN THE PLATES which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken, and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, FOR HIS VOICE HATH DECLARED IT unto us; wherefore we know of a surety, that the work is true. And we also testify that we have SEEN THE ENGRAVINGS which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an ANGEL OF GOD CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that this is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes, nevertheless, the VOICE OF THE LORD COMMANDED US THAT WE SHOULD BEAR RECORD OF IT; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.