David Whitmer




Similar to the other witnesses, Jeremy Runnells seeks to discredit David Whitmer. David, however, is the most well-documented of the witnesses.


(Edward Stevenson in 1877 said that) David claimed in early June 1829 before their group declaration that he, Cowdery, and Joseph Smith observed ‘one of the Nephites’ carrying the records in a knapsack on his way to Cumorah. Several days later this trio perceived ‘that the Same Person was under the shed’ at the Whitmer farm.


CES Letter, Page 91


A single ambiguous second-hand quote fifty years later doesn't make a very strong case. 

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A single second-hand source nearly 50 years after the event doesn't make for a very compelling case. Edward Stevenson's 1877 journal is the lone reference to a person 'under the shed.' It's not fully clear what that even means. In that entry Stevenson describes a conversation he had just had with David Whitmer in which Whitmer relates the seeing a Nephite while walking in New York. He added, "On arriveing at home they were impressed that the Same Person was under the Shed & again they were informed that it was So." (EMD, 5:30-31).  Stevenson met with Whitmer again in February 1886 and they discussed the same story. This time there was no mention of the shed discussion and instead Whitmer said, "After their arival home the[y] felt the influence of this same personage around them for he said thare was a Heavenly feeling with this Nephite." (EMD 5:160)

Joseph F. Smith's 1918 journal entry is the only other reference to Whitmer seeing the Nephite (see here). It's unclear where Smith learned his details from. Possibly from when he personally interviewed Whitmer in the 1870s as a young man.

From the three accounts it's clear that Whitmer believed the man walking by in 1829 was a Nephite. It's possible Joseph and Oliver shared that same view as well but we don't have any of their recollections on this encounter. The 'person under the shed' description is uncorroborated by any other sources and rather unclear what it means without more details. Did Whitmer believe he was buried under the shed? 


In 1880, David Whitmer was asked for a description of the angel who showed him the plates. Whitmer responded that the angel ‘had no appearance or shape.’ When asked by the interviewer how he then could bear testimony that he had seen and heard an angel, Whitmer replied, ‘Have you never had impressions?’ To which the interviewer responded, ‘Then you had impressions as the Quaker when the spirit moves, or as a good Methodist in giving a happy experience, a feeling?’ ‘Just so,’ replied Whitmer.

— INTERVIEW WITH JOHN MURPHY, JUNE 1880, EARLY MORMON DOCUMENTS 5:63 (An interview that David Whitmer immediately responded to because he was furious how Murphy represented what he said)

CES Letter, Page 91


Talk about deception! The CES Letter had 50+ quotes to choose from and it chose the one quote David Whitmer immediately refuted as misrepresentation.

David Whitmer considered this wrote, in response to the misrepresentation by John Murphy:

I have never at any time, denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that book as one of the three witnesses.

Those who know me best, well know that I have adhered to that testimony.—

And that no man may be misled or doubt my present views in regard to the same, I do now again affirm the truth of all my statement[s], as then made and published.

He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear; It was no Delusion.  Click here

Some have tried to argue that some or all of the Witnesses recanted concerning their testimony, but this is not true. They were all faithful to their testimonies to the end of their lives, even though many of them had personal disagreements with Joseph Smith that caused them to leave the Church.

The Three and Eight Witnesses often reaffirmed their written statement and referred others to it. Click here

The Witnesses understood that by giving their names to the witness statements, they would be misrepresented as David Whitmer was in this instance. Nevertheless, they resiliently repulsed false reports about the testimonies. Click here

The Witnesses stuck to their claim even in the face of threats or the risk of death. Click here



A young Mormon lawyer, James Henry Moyle, who interviewed Whitmer in 1885, asked if there was any possibility that Whitmer had been deceived. “His answer was unequivocal... that he saw the plates and heard the angel with unmistakable clearness.” But Moyle went away “not fully satisfied...It was more spiritual than I anticipated.” – Moyle diary, June 28, 1885, Early Mormon Documents 5:141

CES Letter, Page 91


Moyle also made it clear regarding his concerns. His difficulty was not whether the experience was not real, or didn't happen "in real life."

Moyle described what he was trying to articulate about Whitmer’s testimony:

There was only one thing that did not fully satisfy me. I had difficulty then as I have now to describe just what was unsatisfactory. I wrote in my diary immediately on my return home, that in describing the scene in the woods he was 'somewhat spiritual in his explanations and not as materialistic as I wished.' That was my description then and I cannot make it any clearer now. He said, 'It was indescribable; that it was through the power of God.' He then spoke of Paul hearing and seeing Christ, and his associates did not, because it is only seen in the spirit.

I asked if the atmosphere about them was normal. Then he said it was indescribable, but the light was bright and clear, yet apparently a different kind of light, something of a soft haze I concluded.

A few years before in an interview with President Joseph F. Smith and Apostle Orson Pratt, they reported that he said it was more brilliant than that of the noonday sun.

I have wondered if there was a special significance, not clear to me, in the language used by the three witnesses in their testimony referring to the golden plates, 'And they have been shown unto us by the power of God and not of man.' The either witnesses say the plates were shown unto them by Joseph Smith. That I call materialistic, the other spiritual, and I could not get anything more out of it.....[1]

Moyle wanted a "materialistic" description of what happened, but in some aspects that wasn't possible--Whitmer couldn't explain what seeing an angel and hearing the voice of God were like.

It is clear that Moyle did not regard this as evidence that Whitmer's experience was not convincing, or that it was unreal. He simply realized that there was an aspect to the Three Witnesses' experience which they could not fully communicate in materialistic, every-day language. One sees this difficulty in many of their accounts.

Skeptics repeatedly attempted to infer that the experiences were, therefore, purely mental, or imaginary. The witnesses rejected this interpretation repeatedly, though The CES Letter continues the error. Click here.

Some have tried to argue that the Eight witnesses only claimed a 'spiritual' or 'visionary' view of the plates, not a literal, physical one. The witnesses left concrete statements regarding the physical nature of the plates. There were others besides the eleven who saw and felt the plates, and testified that they were real.



Whitmer’s testimony also included the following:

If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June, 1838, (Note: after Whitmer had already separated from the church) God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens and told me to ‘separate myself (Note: he means to move away) from among the Latter Day Saints, for as they sought to do unto me (Sidney Rigdon's threats and others had Whitmer fearing for his life), so it should be done unto them. (He's referencing to the October 1838 Missouri extermination of the saints)

If David Whitmer is a credible witness, why are we only using his testimony of the Book of Mormon while ignoring his other testimony claiming that God Himself spoke to Whitmer “by his own voice from the heavens” in June 1838, commanding Whitmer to apostatize from the Lord’s one and only true Church?

CES Letter, Page 91


Historical Context is everything here. The spirit of the Lord commanded him to “separate” (move away) from the Church in June 1838. He had already already withdrawn and been excommunicated from the church. He feared for his life, he felt like he needed to leave the area. Click here

History tells us that 1838 in Missouri was a challenging time for active church members and for those who were former members. Sidney Rigdon heightened the stress among former members when he gave his July 4, 1838 "Salt Sermon." Former members like Whitmer and others felt like it was high time to get out of there. Hence his statment in the above quote "for as they sought to do to me, so it should be done to them." The second half about what should be done to them is the extermination order in October 1838. Basically Whitmer is saying just like some of the church members treated me badly it's going to be done to them by Missouri.' For Whitmer in particular maybe he was inspired to get out of there. He turned out to be the most documented Book of Mormon witness the church had.


His Excommunication

On April 13, 1838, David Whitmer wrote to the Far West High Council:

54 David Whitmer letter to FWHC

The notes from the High Council meeting record:  “The councellors then made a few remarks in which they spoke warmly of the contempt offered to the Council in the above letter, therefore, thought he was not worthy a membership in the Church. When Prest [David B.] Marsh made a few remarks and decided that David Whitmer be no longer considered a member of the Church of Christ of Latter day Saints.”

In 1887, David Whitmer wrote a book entitled: An Address to All Believers in Christ:

54 David Whitmer Address

In it he wrote:

54 David Whitmer

D&C 95:12 explains: “If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness.” In LDS theology, excommunication would result in spiritual darkness and an enhanced ability to be deceived, regardless of what spiritual blessings a person might have received in the past.

Whitmer's report of hearing the “voice of God” was described quite differently from his experiences as one of the Three Witnesses. There was no angel and no tangible manifestation.