David Whitmer on Separating From the Church

CES Letter Core Question

Did the Spirit tell David Whitmer to leave the church?

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 He had already already withdrawn and been excommunicated from the church.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.


Additional Resources:

David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness–  by Daniel C. Peterson

Kenneth W. Godfrey, “David Whitmer and the Shaping of Latter-day Saint History,” in The Disciple As Witness: Essays on Latter-Day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, edited by Richard Lloyd Anderson, Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000),223–256.

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 4: David Whitmer (PDF) by Michael Ash 

Were the experiences of the witnesses spiritual or literal?

The Testimonies of the Eight witnesses Examined

Did the Book of Mormon witnesses ever recant?
Witnesses reaffirmed published statements in the Book of Mormon

Witnesses knew they would be ridiculed and not believed

Witnesses persisted even in the face of persecution or death
Witnesses who left the Church continued to maintain their witness
Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Book of Mormon Witnesses,” byu.edu

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005): 18–31.

Kirk B. Henrichsen, “How Witnesses Described the “Gold Plates,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): 16–21.

Jeff Lindsay, “Circumstantial Evidence and the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon: Can They Be Ignored Any Longer?“, jefflindsay.com

Matthew Roper, “Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 164–193.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Credibility of the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds and Charles D. Tate (eds.), (Provo, Utah : Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University ; Salt Lake City, Utah : Distributed by Bookcraft, 1996 [1982]),Chapter 9, 213–232.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981).

Richard L. Anderson, “Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), Chapter 3.

Milton V. Backman, Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1983).

Matthew B. Brown, Plates of Gold: The Book of Mormon Comes Forth (American Fork UT: Covenant, 2007).

John W. Welch and Larry E. Morris, editors, Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness (Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2006).

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 1: Motives (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 2: Oliver Cowdery (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 3: Martin Harris (PDF) by Michael Ash

The Book of Mormon Witnesses: Evidence for The Book of Mormon

pt 1 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

pt 2 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced (PDF) (2006 FAIR Conference) by Daniel C. Peterson

pt 1, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 2, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 3, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 4, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 5, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses–  by Richard Lloyd Anderson

Comments on the Book of Mormon Witnesses: A Response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner–  by Matthew Roper

Personal Writings of the Book of Mormon Witnesses by Richard Lloyd Anderson

Articles of Faith 2: Royal Skousen on Book of Mormon Critical Text Project and Mary Whitmer Witness to the Gold Plates, Royal Skousen, 0:38:05

Faith and Reason 7: Book of Mormon Witnesses, Michael R. Ash, 0:15:32

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses, Martin Tanner, 0:19:20

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses

Explaining Away the Book of Mormon Witnesses (2004 FAIR Conference) by Richard L. Anderson