Critics of David Whitmer like to quote the following disparagement by Joseph Smith:
“John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention” Smith said of David Whitmer: “God suffered such kind of beings to afflict Job. This poor man who professes to be much of a prophet, has no other dumb ass to ride but David Whitmer, to forbid his madness when he goes up to curse Israel; and this ass not being of the same kind as Balaam’s,… he brays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass!” (History of the Church, vol. 3, p.228 & 232).
We remind readers that this statement came after David separated from the Mormons eight months prior.
Before David left the Saints, he was considered the best person to lead the church in Missouri and was appointed “President of the Church in Zion,” July 7, 1834. Joseph also ordained David his successor.
This is important for the fact that it occurred after Zion’s Camp, in which David was not involved. Mormon’s consider Zion’s Camp a purging fire that separated the wheat from the chaff. Many of the future leaders of the Mormon Church were participants in Zion’s Army of over 200 people:
- Hyrum Smith
- Brigham Young
- Wilford Woodruff
- Orson Pratt
- Parley Pratt
- Orson Hyde
- Heber C. Kimball
- George A. Smith
- William Smith
- Joseph Young
David Whitmer did not participate in Zion’s Camp, and yet he was picked before Hyrum, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith and others.
In John Whitmer’s History we read the manner in which Joseph came against David:
After the camp dispersed at Fishing River, Smith and F. G. Williams came to Clay County together with many others who scattered in Clay country and elsewhere, Smith called a conference at the house of Lyman Wight, three miles west of Liberty, in which conference the most of the official members belonging to Zion were present, where Smith organized the High Council of Zion, as I said in a former chapter, in which David Whitmer was ordained President of Zion, and John Whitmer and W. W, Phelps his counselors. Here at the same time, he ordained David Whitmer Prophet, Seer and Revelator and Translator.
Now from this time forth, which was July, 1834, Smith seemed to be in doubt whereinto this thing would grow, and began to upbraid D. Whitmer, and abuse him as his natural custom was to do unto those whom he feared, lest they should become great in the sight of God or man; therefore, he harangued the conference and sought to destroy the confidence of the people present in David Whitmer, on whom he had bestowed all the gifts and power that he had himself received by inspiration, by the laying on his hand according to the order of heaven. ( John Whitmer, The Book of John Whitmer Kept by Commandment, Being an History of the Church of Jesus Christ from 1831-1838)
The manner in which Joseph would harangue people is shown with how he treated John Corrill:
When on August 31 Smith and Rigdon learned that Corrill had told some recently arrived converts “that he had no confidence in the revelation” on communitarianism, they were livid and sought him out publicly. The prophet, beating his fists together, angrily told Corrill, “if you tell about the streets again that you do not believe this or that revelation I will walk on your neck Sir.” Smith warned Corrill that Peter himself had told him that he had hung Judas for betraying Christ, implying the same sort of fate might await Corrill. Corrill’s behavior, he continued, endangered the dissenter’s salvation. If he did not change his ways, the prophet declared, he would keep him out of Heaven, even if doing so meant Smith meeting Corrill at its entrance with his fists. (Peck, Reed Peck Manuscript, p. 13, 34)
Corrill responded to this attack with warmth of his own and, quite bravely, under the circumstances, told Smith he might reach Heaven’s gate first, suggesting that it might be he who kept the prophet out. According to George Robinson, Corrill proceeded to tell Smith that he would “not yeald his Judgement to any thing proposed by the church, or any individual of the church, or even the voice of the great I Am given through the appointed organ as revelation, but will always act upon his Judgement. (“‘Such Republicanism as This’: John Corrill’s Rejection of Prophetic Rule” by Kenneth H. Winn in Differing Visions, Dissenters in Mormon History, eds. Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher, University of Illinois Press, 1994, pp. 64-65)
The following is the context for the disparaging statement made by Joseph:
Sunday, December 16.—I wrote the following letter:
The Prophet’s Letter to the Church.
Liberty Jail, Missouri,
December 16, 1838.
To the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Caldwell county, and all the Saints who are scattered abroad, who are persecuted, and made desolate, and who are afflicted in divers manners for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, by the hands of a cruel mob and the tyrannical disposition of the authorities of this state; and whose perils are greatly augmented by the wickedness and corruption of false brethren, greeting:
Forasmuch, then, as we know that we have been endeavoring with all our mind, might, and strength, to do the will of God, and all things whatsoever He has commanded us; and as to our light speeches, which may have escaped our lips from time to time, they have nothing to do with the fixed purposes of our hearts; therefore it sufficeth us to say, that our souls were vexed from day to day. We refer you to Isaiah, who considers those who make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate. We believe that the old Prophet verily told the truth: and we have no retraction to make. We have reproved in the gate, and men have laid snares for us. We have spoken words, and men have made us offenders. And notwithstanding all this, our minds are not yet darkened, but feel strong in the Lord. But behold the words of the Savior: “If the light which is in you become darkness, behold how great is that darkness.” Look at the dissenters. Again, “If you were of the world the world would love its own.” Look at Mr. Hinkle—a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Look at his brother John Corrill.1 Look at the beloved brother Reed Peck, who aided him in leading us, as the Savior was led, into the camp of his enemies, as a lamb prepared for the slaughter, as a sheep dumb before his shearers; so we opened not our mouths.
But these men, like Balaam, being greedy for reward, sold us into the hands of those who loved them, for the world loves his own. I would remember William E. McLellin, who comes up to us as one of Job’s comforters. God suffered such kind of beings to afflict Job—but it never entered into their hearts that Job would get out of it all. This poor man who professes to be much of a prophet, has no other dumb ass to ride but David Whitmer, to forbid his madness when he goes up to curse Israel; and this ass not being of the same kind as Balaam’s, therefore, the angel notwithstanding appeared unto him, yet he could not penetrate his understanding sufficiently, but that he prays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass! Whoever lives to see it, will see him and his rider perish like those who perished in the gain-saying of Korah, or after the same condemnation. Now as for these and the rest of their company, we will not presume to say that the world loves them; but we presume to say they love the world, and we classify them in the error of Balaam, and in the gain-sayings of Korah, and with the company of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
Perhaps our brethren will say, because we thus write, that we are offended at these characters. If we are, it is not for a word, neither because they reproved in the gate—but because they have been the means of shedding innocent blood. Are they not murderers then at heart? Are not their consciences seared as with a hot iron? We confess that we are offended; but the Savior said. “It must needs be that offenses come, but woe unto them by whom they come.” And again, “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake; rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the Prophets which were before you.”
Now, dear brethren, if any men ever had reason to claim this promise, we are the men; for we know that the world not only hate as, but they speak all manner of evil of us falsely, for no other reason than that we have been endeavoring to teach the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After we were bartered away by Hinkle, and were taken into the militia camp, we had all the evidence we could have asked for that the world hated us. If there were priests among them of all the different sects, they hated us, and that most cordially too. If there were generals, they hated us; if there were colonels, they hated us; and the soldiers, and officers of every kind, hated us; and the most profane, blasphemous, and drunkards; and whoremongers, hated us—they all hated us, most cordially. And now what did they hate us for? Purely because of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Was it because we were liars? We know that it has been so reported by some, but it has been reported falsely. Was it because we have committed treason against the government in Daviess County, or burglary, or larceny, or arson, or any other unlawful act in Daviess County? We know that we have been so reported by priests, and certain lawyers, and certain judges, who are the instigators, aiders, and abettors of a certain gang of murderers and robbers, who have been carrying on a scheme of mobocracy to uphold their priestcraft, against the Saints of the last days; and for a number of years have tried, by a well contemplated and premeditated scheme, to put down by physical power a system of religion that all the world, by their mutual attainments, and by any fair means whatever, were not able to resist.
Hence mobbers were encouraged by priests and Levites, by the Pharisees, by the Sadducees, and Essenes, and Herodians, and the most worthless, abandoned, and debauched, lawless, and inhuman, and the most beastly set of men that the earth can boast of—and indeed a parallel cannot be found anywhere else—to gather together to steal, to plunder, to starve, and to exterminate, and burn the houses of the “Mormons.”
These are characters that, by their treasonable and overt acts, have desolated and laid waste Daviess county. These are the characters that would fain make all the world believe that we are guilty of the above named acts. But they represent us falsely; we stood in our own defense, and we believe that no man of us acted only in a just, a lawful, and a righteous retaliation against such marauders.
We say unto you, that we have not committed treason, nor any other unlawful act in Daviess county. Was it for murder in Ray county, against mob-militia; who was as a wolf in the first instance, hide and hair, teeth, legs and tail, who afterwards put on a militia sheep skin with the wool on; who could sally fort, in the day time, into the flock, and snarl, and show his teeth, and scatter and devour the flock, and satiate himself upon his prey, and then sneak back into the bramble in order that he might conceal himself in his well tried skin with the wool on?
We are well aware that there is a certain set of priests and satellites, and mobbers that would fain make all the world believe that we were guilty of the doings of this howling wolf that made such havoc among the sheep, who, when he retreated, howled and bleated at such a desperate rate, that if one could have been there, he would have thought that all the wolves, whether wrapped up in sheep skins or in goat skins or in some other skins, and in fine all the beasts of the forest, were awfully alarmed, and catching the scent of innocent blood, they sallied forth with one tremendous howl and crying of all sorts; and such a howling, and such a tremendous havoc never was known before; such inhumanity, and relentless cruelty and barbarity as were practiced against the Saints in Missouri can scarcely be found in the annals of history.
Now those characters if allowed to would make the world believe that we had committed murder, by making an attack upon this howling wolf, while the fact is we were at home and in our bed, and asleep, and knew nothing of that transaction any more than we know what is going on in China while we are within these walls. Therefore we say again unto you, we are innocent of these things, and they have represented us falsely.
Was it for committing adultery that we were assailed? We are aware that that false slander has gone abroad, for it has been reiterated in our ears. These are falsehoods also. Renegade “Mormon” dissenters are running through the world and spreading various foul and libelous reports against us, thinking thereby to gain the friendship of the world, because they know that we are not of the world, and that the world hates us; therefore they [the world] make a tool of these fellows [the dissenters]; and by them try to do all the injury they can, and after that they hate them worse than they do us, because they find them to be base traitors and sycophants.
Such characters God hates; we cannot love them. The world hates them, and we sometimes think that the devil ought to be ashamed of them.
We have heard that it is reported by some, that some of us should have said, that we not only dedicated our property, but our families also to the Lord; and Satan, taking advantage of this, has perverted it into licentiousness, such as a community of wives, which is an abomination in the sight of God. 2 (History of the Church, vol. 3)
1. “Smith blamed the disaster on Corrill and a handful of other dissenters, whom he described as ‘illbred and ignorant’ men ‘whose eyes are full of adultery and [who] cannot cease from sin.’ Today nearly all historians turn aside Joseph Smith’s fury at Corrill and acknowledge Corrill’s integrity, decency, and ability to hold fast to principle when the passion around him ran high.” (“‘Such Republicanism as This’: John Corrill’s Rejection of Prophetic Rule” by Kenneth H. Winn in Differing Visions, Dissenters in Mormon History, eds. Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher, University of Illinois Press, 1994, p. 45)
2. Here Smith acknowledges the rumors that he was in adultery and had plural wives. Though he denied it at the time, we know the rumors were true.