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Try these: joseph smithfree moviesfaith crisishomeschool

L.H. Pearson, Ph.D.

Introduction

After four years from the first meeting with Moroni on the Hill Cumorah, on 22 September 1827, Moroni gave Joseph Smith the sacred record written upon metal plates along with the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate.  Joseph and Emma were married on January 18, 1827 and because of mounting persecution, they moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania where Emma’s family lived, and purchased a home from Emma’s oldest brother, Jesse, where they found much needed peace to begin the work of translation.  Martin Harris, who had befriended Joseph, also traveled to Harmony where he became convinced that Joseph was a prophet of God.  Joseph and Martin worked together on the translation until June 14, 1828, when by then, they and had produced a 116-page manuscript from their work.  This manuscript, as we know, was lost through negligence and deception and was never recovered.  Moroni appeared to Joseph and required him to return the plates and the Urim and Thummim.  After being chastised by the Lord and after a period of repentance, the plates and the Urim and Thummim were returned to Joseph by the angel Moroni at which time he was promised that the Lord would send a scribe to assist him with the translation.1

During the winter of 1828-1829, Joseph periodically worked on the translation with the help of Emma and her brother until April 5, 1829 when he met Oliver Cowdery who he recognized as the Lord’s promised scribe.  In the meantime, Oliver had become friends with David Whitmer.  After significant progress in the work of translation, persecution began to mount in Harmony, so Oliver contacted David Whitmer and asked about the possibility of he and Joseph staying with the Whitmers in the Fayette, New York area to continue the work of translation.  The Whitmers consented after a string of miracles convinced them that the Lord’s hand was in this work.  David Whitmer traveled to Harmony in late May 1829 to help Joseph and Oliver move to Fayette.  (Emma came later.)  They arrived in Fayette early in June 1829 where the work of translation immediately began and was completed in late June 1829.  Shortly after translating Nephi’s words on the need for witnesses, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer expressed their desire to be witnesses and asked Joseph to obtain permission from the Lord.  He did so, and they were told that because of their faith they would be permitted to see the plates, the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, and the Liahona.  This was accomplished through fervent prayer and the appearance of Moroni holding the plates, first for David and Oliver, then shortly thereafter to Martin after Martin had sufficiently humbled himself.  These three witnesses were commanded to bear record of the things they saw and heard.  After this, Joseph went to the Whitmer home where he told his parents of his great relief that others had now seen the angel and the plates and would have to bear witness of these things.2

The testimony of these three witnesses is included in the beginning of each copy of the Book of Mormon and states:

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 it 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.

Oliver Cowdery

David Whitmer

Martin Harris3

Joseph also selected eight more witnesses to see the plates and their testimony is also found in the Book of Mormon following the testimony of the three witnesses and is reproduced below:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer

Jacob Whitmer

Peter Whitmer, Jun.

John Whitmer

Hiram Page

Joseph Smith, Sen.

Hyrum Smith

Samuel H. Smith4

These experiences and timelines bound the experiences of David Whitmer with respect to the translation of the Book of Mormon and provide a frame of reference to analyze the information printed from the many interviews with David Whitmer that were published over the time period from 1878 to 1909.  The relief that Joseph expressed after the witnesses saw the angel and the plates would lead us to believe that none of these men had seen the plates or the angel before then.  It is also interesting that Joseph showed a reluctance to give out the details about the translation.  In a church conference held during October 25-26, 1831 in Orange, Ohio, Hyrum, the brother of Joseph, requested a firsthand account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, but Joseph only said, “It was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.”  Little is known about the actual process of translating the record, primarily because those who knew the most about the translation process, Joseph and Oliver, said very little about it.  In addition, others who helped with the translation including Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Emma Smith only left sketchy accounts recorded much later in life that were often contradictory.5

The contradictory nature of David Whitmer’s accounts of the translation are revealed in the details of the interviews which occurred more than three decades later.

David Whitmer Interviews

The statements found from David Whitmer that are evaluated in this paper came from interviews by various people and news organizations and were printed during the period from 1878 to 1909.  In some of these interviews, some historical details of events surrounding the translation of the plates were also provided to the interviewer.  The primary interest of this study is in the details of how the translation was made and descriptions of the instruments used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon according to David Whitmer.  The full text of each interview is contained in the footnotes for the benefit of those readers who would like to see the entirety of these interviews and do their own evaluation.

The Urim and Thummim

In one of the first published interviews (Aug 16, 1878)6, David provides a traditional description of the Urim and Thummim where he says there “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 it in spectacles.”  And then adds that, “Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Emma and my brother John each at different times wrote for Joseph as he translated.” Another interview with David Whitmer conducted in 1876 and published in 1879 by Thomas Wood Smith7 reaffirms that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim in the translation.  Thomas Wood Smith said, “I personally heard him [David Whitmer] state in Jan 1876 in his own house in Richmond, Ray Co. Mo. … that he saw Joseph translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, time and again…”  David then produced a manuscript that he claimed was “written mainly by Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, as the translation was being read by the aid of the Urim and Thummim of the characters on the plates by Joseph Smith…”  In this latter account, there are a couple of discrepancies, the first being that the manuscript shown by David Whitmer could not have been written in part by Martin Harris because Martin only helped with the translation up to the loss of the 116-page manuscript that he and Joseph produced.  Also, the manuscripts are examined and determined to be primarily in the hand writing of Oliver Cowdery with only small sections written by Emma Smith, John Whitmer, and Christian Whitmer.8 The second error is found when comparing to another statement where David says in an interview with the Kansas City Journal on June 5, 18819 that the Urim and Thummim was taken from Joseph and never returned after the 116-page manuscript was lost.  David did not meet Joseph until after the 116 pages were lost.  Despite these discrepancies, David makes the point that the Urim and Thummim was used in the translation.  But then in an interview with David Whitmer, printed on Nov 15, 1879, J. L. Traughber10 says, “I, too, have seen the manuscripts and examined them.  I, too, have heard Father [David] Whitmer say that he was present many times while Joseph was translating; but I never heard him say that the translation was made by aid of Urim and Thummim; but in every case, and his testimony is always the same, he declared that Joseph first offered prayer, then took a dark colored, opaque stone, called a ‘seer-stone’, and placed it in the crown of his hat, then put his face into the hat, and read the translation as it appeared before him.”  Traughber stated further, “With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state that he does not say that Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim, but by means of one dark colored, opaque stone, called a ‘Seer Stone,’ which was placed in the crown of a hat, into which Joseph put his face, so as to exclude the external light.  Then, a spiritual light would shine forth, and parchment would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said.”

David’s claim of witnessing the translation is inconsistent with the need for the Three and Eight Witnesses which, as observed above, implies that no one had seen the plates or how they were translated.  Nonetheless, David claims that Joseph used the seer stone after claiming he used the Urim and Thummim.  The use of the Urim and Thummim is also implied by the Angel Moroni showing the Urim and Thummim to the Three Witnesses and not the seer stone.

The Seer Stone in the Hat

The seer stone in the hat became a narrative, albeit an inconsistent narrative, in many of the interviews conducted with David Whitmer.  David went so far as to require Thomas Wood Smith (Jan 1, 1880)11 to retract the statement he printed on Mar 28, 1879 (see footnote 7) to which the disconcerted Thomas stated that, “Unless my interview with David Whitmer in January, 1876, was only a dream, or that I failed to understand plain English, I believed then, and since, and now, that he said that Joseph possessed, and used the Urim and Thummim in the translation of the inscriptions referred to, and I remember being much pleased with that statement…”  Referring, again, to David Whitmer as “Father Whitmer”, Thomas goes on to say “…that unless I altogether misunderstood ‘Father Whitmer’ on this point, he said the translation was done by the aid of the Urim and Thummim.  If he says he did not intend to convey such an impression to my mind, then I say I regret that I misunderstood him, and unintentionally have misrepresented him.  But that I understood him as represented by me frequently I still affirm.  If Father Whitmer will say over his own signature, that he never said, or at least never intended to say, that Joseph possessed or used in translating the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim, I will agree to not repeat my testimony as seen in the Fall River Herald on that point.”

Even though the narrative that the seer stone was used in translation, is repeated in many interviews, it is not a consistent story, and neither is the story of the Urim and Thummim consistent in David Whitmer’s interviews.  In an interview with Eri B. Mullin, published on March 1, 188012, Mullin stated, “Mr. D. Whitmer told me in the year 1874, that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim when he was translating…  I for my part know he said that Joseph had the instrument Urim and Thummim.  I asked him how they looked.  He said they looked like spectacles, and he [Joseph] would put them on and look in a hat, or put his face in the hat and read.”  Mullin asked David if the plates were in the hat, and David said, “No, the words would appear, and if he failed to spell the word right, it would stay till it was spelled right, then pass away, another come, and so on.”  In this account, we have Joseph using the Urim and Thummim, but instead of reading the plates with them, he was looking into a hat, or put his face in the hat to read the words that appeared therein.

Writing to the Editor of the Kansas City Journal, published June 19, 1881, David Whitmer said, “I did not say that Smith used ‘two small stones,’ as stated nor did I call the stone ‘interpreters.’  I stated that ‘he used one stone (not two) and called it a sun stone.’  The ‘interpreters’ were as I understood taken from Smith and were not used by him after losing the first 116 pages…13 In this account, David denies that Joseph had two stones, but only one and he called it a “sun stone.”  Then in October of that same year, David told the Chicago Times that, “The tablets or plates were translated by Smith, who used a small oval kidney-shaped stone, called Urim and Thummim, that seemed endowed with the marvelous power of converting the charters on the plates, when used by Smith, into English…”14 In David’s accounts, the term “interpreters” is generally synonymous with the Urim and Thummim which is usually described as having two stones.  In this account, David calls the stone that he describes as being a “small oval kidney-shaped stone” and calls it Urim and Thummim.  On the other hand, he described the Urim and Thummim as having “two white stones,” (see footnote 7) “two small stones of chocolate color,” (see footnote 9) and “two transparent pebbles,”15in different interviews.  In one interview alone, David talks about “stone spectacles,” “the Urim and Thummim,” “the magic stone”, and a “strange oval-shaped chocolate-colored stone.”16 The inconsistencies in David Whitmer’s descriptions of the object used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon should be sufficiently alarming to cause one to wonder about the credibility of any of David’s testimonials about the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Translation Process

In the Kansas City Journal interview published June 5, 1881), Whitmer claims that all of his father’s family, along with Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris where present during the translation (see footnote 9). In an interview recorded by the Chicago Tribune on Dec 17, 1885,17 he said that all of Joseph’s collaborators (unmentioned), the entire Whitmer household, and several of Joseph’s relatives were present during the translation.  He also says that the translation was performed in the family room of the Whitmer home where Joseph made no attempt to conceal the plates or the method of translation.

In order to give privacy to the proceeding a blanket, which served as a portière, was stretched across the family living room to shelter the translators and the plates from the eyes of any who might call at the house while the work was in progress. This, Mr. Whitmer says, was the only use made of the blanket, and it was not for the purpose of concealing the plates or the translator from the eyes of the amanuensis. In fact, Smith was at no time hidden from his collaborators, and the translation was performed in the presence of not only the persons mentioned, but of the entire Whitmer household and several of Smith’s relatives besides.

The work of translating the tablets consumed about eight months, Smith acting as the seer and Oliver Cowdery, Smith’s wife, and Christian Whitmer, brother of David, performing the duties of amanuenses, in whose handwriting the original manuscript now is. Each time before resuming the work all present would kneel in prayer and invoke the Divine blessing on the proceeding. After prayer Smith would sit on one side of a table and the amanuenses, in turn as they became tired, on the other. Those present and not actively engaged in the work seated themselves around the room and then the work began. After affixing the magical spectacles to his eyes, Smith would take the plates and translate the characters one at a time. The graven characters would appear in succession to the seer, and directly under the character, when viewed through the glasses, would be the translation in English (see footnote 17).

It’s interesting here that David describes the translation process in a way that is consistent with the traditional belief that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim, or “interpreters”, to read the plates.  He clearly states or implies this process in several interviews.1819(See footnote 7 and 20 ) Inconsistent with this he describes on other occasions that Joseph used a stone, often called the seer stone, but also given other names, which was placed in a hat 20212223 (see also footnotes 10, 9, and 17 ). Late in his life he claimed that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim and “chocolate colored stone” interchangeably (see footnote 23).  On an earlier occasion, he said that Joseph “translated by means of a pair of large bound Spectacles ie the ‘Book of Mormon’, that the Characters would appear in the air & stay until correctly translated and then disappear…” (see footnote 19)

To support his testimonies, David claims, as seen above, that he and others witnessed the work of translation.  The following are similar claims:

“…as the translation was being read by the aid of the Urim and Thummim of characters on the plates by Joseph Smith, which work of translation and transcription he frequently saw.” (see footnote 7)

I, too, have heard Father [David] Whitmer say that he was present many times while Joseph was translating…” (see footnote 10)

Even though David claimed he and others were present during the translation, David, clearly, is not consistent in the method he describes that he and others witnessed in the Peter Whitmer home where he acknowledges the translation took place (see footnotes 10, 9 and 17).  In the Chicago Tribune interview (see footnote 17), David talks about the loss of the 116 pages:

. . . It seems that Smith, who was puffed up with his great importance as a confidential secretary to the Lord, displeased the Master by entering into some carnal confab in relation to the work. For this offense he was punished by having the celestial visitant, who first commissioned him to inaugurate the work, suddenly appear and carry off the plates and spectacles. . .

. . . Smith’s offense of tattling the secrets of the work among his neighbors was less readily condoned [than Harris losing the 116 pages], and for a long time the work was suspended, the angel being in possession of the plates and spectacles. Finally, when Smith had fully repented of his rash conduct, he was forgiven. The plates, however, were not returned, but instead Smith was given by the angel a Urim and Thummim of another pattern, it being shaped in oval or kidney form. This seer’s stone he was instructed to place in his hat, and on covering his face with the hat the character and translation would appear on the stone.

This worked just as satisfactorily as the old method, but at no time thereafter was the backsliding Joseph intrusted with the precious plates. However, the entire portion of the golden volume, which the angel said might be translated, was reduced by the nimble amanuenses to readable manuscript (see footnote 17).

We see within the same Chicago Tribune interview (see footnote 17) David first talks about Joseph having the “interpreters” and the plates, plus an audience witnessing his work of translation, and then concludes with a discussion describing how Joseph was punished by an angel because of his transgressions resulting in the plates and the “spectacles” being taken and never returned.  In their place, a seer stone was given to Joseph and he was instructed to place it in a hat where the characters and translation would appear.  David makes this same claim in other interviews that the plates and/or interpreters were taken away after the 116 pages were lost and that Joseph finished the translation using only the stone (see footnotes 9, 13, 16, and 23). In spite of the claim that the plates and Urim and Thummim were taken away and never returned and were replaced by the seer stone, and that there were many witnesses of the translation process, in 1888 (published Feb 17, 1909), David said “that Joseph was separated from the scribe by a blanket, as I remember, that he had the Urim and Thummim, and a chocolate colored stone, which he used alternately, as suited his convenience, and he said he believed Joseph could as well accomplish the translation by looking into a hat, or any other stone, as by the use of the Urim and Thummim or chocolate colored stone.”24

An additional inconsistency in David’s declarations is on how long he claimed the translation process took at his father’s home.  In a discussion with the Kansas City Journal, David said it took one month, “from June 1 to July 1, 1829″ (see footnote 9) which is consistent with other reliable accounts (see footnote 2). On another occasion, he said that it took “at least two months” in his father’s home (see footnote 15). He also said it took about six months (see footnote 14), and finally, on two other occasions he said that it took eight months to compete the translation (see footnotes 16 and 17). These inconsistencies coupled with all of the others are hard to understand in light his claim to have witnessed the translation, and his claim of the many other witnesses who had observed the translation process.  David Whitmer and the other claimed witnesses should be expected to have produced a consistent and unified story of the work of translation, and where David was one of the Three Witnesses and claimed to be present many times during the translation work at the Peter Whitmer home, it should be expected that his own accounts of the translation would be consistent.  This clearly not being the case may cause one to wonder if any of David Whitmer’s descriptions are accurate.  It also begs the question of why Joseph Smith said, as quoted earlier, “It was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.” (See footnote 5). In addition, the question should arise in one’s mind of why there was there a need for the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses if Joseph did not conceal either the plates or the translators from view of all of the claimed witnesses of the translation process in the Peter Whitmer home.  Recall that it was a load off Joseph’s mind when the witnesses, selected by the Lord, were able to see the plates after the completion of the work of translation (see footnotes 3 and 4). This statement and reaction by Joseph Smith make little sense if there were many spectators watching during the translation of the Book of Mormon.

The varied accounts of the translation include different instruments used in the translation, different descriptions of these instruments, and different methods of translation.  Table 1 provides a summary of these various descriptions as found in the published interviews and Table 2 provides a summary of the different methods of translation described by David Whitmer.

Table 1.  Various Descriptions of the Instrument of Translation

Footnote Date and Source Instrument used to Translate Description of Instrument
6 1878 P. Wilhelm Poulson Urim and Thummim Two white stones cased in spectacles of silver, stones separated more than normal spectacles
7 1879 Thomas Wood Smith Urim and Thummim
10 1879 J. L. Traughber Jr. Seer Stone Dark colored, opaque stone placed in hat, put face in hat to exclude light
11 1880 Thomas Wood Smith Retraction of Urim and Thummim method described in interview in footnote (see footnote 7)
12 1880 Eri B. Mullin Urim and Thummim Looked like spectacles
9 1881 Kansas City Journal Interpreters Two small stones of chocolate color, egg shaped and perfectly smooth, not transparent
13 1881 David Whitmer to the Kansas City Journal Retracted the Kansas City Journal Story about the Interpreters and said Joseph used a sun stone Not two stones, but one stone was used.  Said he did not say Joseph used the interpreters.
14 1881 Chicago Times Urim and Thummim Small oval kidney-shaped stone called the Urim and Thummim that had marvelous power converting characters on the plates when used by Smith
18 1884 E. C. Briggs Stone Placed stone in hat from which all light was excluded
15 1884 St. Louis Republican Urim and Thummim Two transparent pebbles set in the rim of a bow and fastened to a breastplate.
22 1885 Zenas H. Gurley Seers stone Placed the stone in a hat into which he buried his face.
17 1885 Chicago Tribune Started with Urim and Thummim he also called “magical spectacles”.  Replaced by “seer’s stone” after transgression Urim and Thummim: affixed them to his eyes and translate the plates.

Seer’s Stone: Placed in hat and covered his face in the hat

16 1886 Omaha Herald Stone spectacles, Urim and Thummim, magic stone, strange stone The strange stone was described as oval-shaped, chocolate-colored, about the size of an egg only more flat
19 1886, M. J. Hubble Pair of large bound spectacles
25 1887 by David Whitmer Seer stone Seer stone was placed in a hat and Joseph put his face in the hat drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light
23 1888 Richmond Democrat Urim and Thummim, after the 116 pages were lost, Joseph was presented with a stone Urim and Thummim: Pair of transparent stone spectacles

Stone: strange oval-shaped, chocolate colored, about the size of an egg but more flat.

24 1909 Nathan A. Tanner, Jr. Joseph had both the Urim and Thummim and “stone” Stone was chocolate colored

Table 2.  Various Descriptions by David Whitmer of the Method of Translation

Footnote Date and Source Method of Translation
8 1878 David Whitmer Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon were examined and determined to be written by Oliver Cowdery except for a few pages that were in the hand writing of Emma Smith, John Whitmer, and Christian Whitmer.
6 1878 P. Wilhelm Poulson Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Emma Smith, John Whitmer wrote words from Joseph at different times
7 1879 Thomas Wood Smith Read from the plates by Joseph Smith and written mainly by Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris
10 1879 J. L. Traughber Jr. Stone was placed in a hat and Joseph put his face in the hat to exclude light.  Parchment would appear in the hat with a line of characters and the English translation below them.
11 1880 Thomas Wood Smith Retraction of Urim and Thummim method described in interview (see footnote 7)
12 1880 Eri B. Mullin Joseph put them on and looked in a hat with his face in the hat to read.  The plates were not in the hat, but words would appear and not go away until spelled correctly, then another set of words would appear
9 1881 Kansas City Journal Did not use the plates, held interpreters to his eyes and covered his face in a hat to exclude light, a parchment appeared with characters from plates in a line with English translation below.  The Urim and Thummim was taken away from Joseph when the 116 pages were lost and never returned.
13 1881 David Whitmer to the Kansas City Journal Said the interpreters were taken from Joseph when he lost the 116 pages
14 1881 Chicago Times Joseph had no manuscript notes or other means of knowledge save the seer stone and the characters as shown on the plates. On character often would make two lines of manuscript, while others made but a word or two words.
26 1882 William H. Kelly and G. A. Blakeslee Joseph couldn’t translate unless he was humble and possessed the right feelings towards everyone and humble. Tells story about disagreement with Emma that he fixed and then was able to translate.  Information is accurate in this interview
18 1884 E. C. Briggs Characters appeared and under them the English translation. Words remained until the scribe copied them correctly.
15 1884 St. Louis Republican Looked through them and dictated to his scribes.
22 1885 Zenas H. Gurley Original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English.  The Interpreters were taken away because of transgression.
17 1885 Chicago Tribune Urim and Thummim: engraven characters and translation in English would appear under them.

Seer’s stone: character and translation would appear on the stone.

16 1886 Omaha Herald Prophet had to be humble in order to see the words in the stone/Urim and Thummim.  Urim and Thummim was taken away when the 116 pages were lost and after fervent prayer was presented with a strange stone which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing Urim and Thummim.  With this stone all the present Book of Mormon was translated.
19 1886, M. J. Hubble Urim and Thummim was taken away and was not permitted to look at the plates.  The characters would appear before him in the air and when translated correctly they would disappear, and new ones come in their place.
25 1887 by David Whitmer Something resembling parchment would appear on which the writing would appear one character at a time and under it was the translation in English.  Joseph would read it to Oliver who would then repeat it and if correct, the character and English translation would disappear.  Translation was finished in the spring of 1830 before April 6th at which time Joseph gave the stone to Oliver and told David Whitmer and the “rest” that he was through with it.
23 1888 Richmond Democrat Joseph put on the spectacles and a few words of text of the Book of Mormon would appear on the lenses.  When translated correctly the words would disappear and others take their place.  After losing the 116 pages, Joseph translated with the stone which, it was promised, should answer the same purpose.  With this stone, the present book was translated by placing the stone in a hat, then put his face in the hat and read the words that appeared on the stone.
24 1909 Nathan A. Tanner, Jr. Joseph used the Urim and Thummim and stone alternately as suited his convenience.  David Whitmer believed that Joseph could as well accomplish the translation by looking into a hat, or any other stone, as by the Urim and Thummim or the chocolate colored stone.  David believed Joseph had power with God to get any information he wished for and didn’t believe either the Urim and Thummim or stone he had were essential.  Joseph would place the manuscript beneath the stone or Urim and Thummim, and the characters would appear in English, which he would spell out and they would remain until the word was written correctly, then it would disappear, and another take its place.

Conclusion

Within all these interviews, David Whitmer said vary little in the way of disparaging remarks about Joseph Smith and no disparaging remarks about the Church.  His remarks about Joseph centered around the well-known fact that Joseph was not well educated.  David said he was “very simple minded indeed” (see footnote 7) and that he was “illiterate and but little versed in Biblical lore…” (see footnote 17) On the contrary, he bore strong witness that “Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and he translated the Book of Mormon by the inspiration of God from the plates of the Nephites…”26 He never did contradict this testimony in any of the interviews that were been found.  With these considerations, it’s difficult to determine what was going on in David Whitmer’s mind.  One thing is clear, however, and that is David Whitmer is not a reliable witness of the translation process including what instrument was used.  With his many contradictory claims with regard to Joseph Smith using the “seer stone” after claiming his use of the Urim and Thummim, it can be safely said that the claim that the seer stone was the instrument of translation is not a reliable claim coming from David Whitmer.

Even members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presided over by Joseph Smith III, recognized that David Whitmer’s statements contain contradictions of facts and are by no means, trustworthy.

The statements of David Whitmer in his pamphlet are palpable and plain contradictions of the accepted facts of history. . . . I feel impressed to admonish those who are boosting the “Seer Stone” theory, that one sure way of destroying the value of testimony is to have the witness cross himself, thereby impeaching his own evidence, and thus have their testimony thrown out of court as not reliable.27

David Whitmer, we repeat, was not a competent witness as to the “means” used by the Seer in translating the Book of Mormon. . . . Whatever David Whitmer may or may not have said on this point, it should be remembered that he had little or nothing to do with the Church and its history since the spring of 1838fifty long years—and it is not difficult, from this fact, to account for errors in memory and defects in judgement which have been painfully apparent of late. The fact that David Whitmer remained idle, comparatively, in ministerial matters, for about fifty years, should be accepted as clear proof that the Lord did not call him of late to set in order and correct either the history, the doctrine, the organization, or the government of the Church. And not having been called to that work, it is both vexatious, misleading and dangerous to give heed to what purports to be his efforts in that direction.28

  1. Church History in The Fullness of Times, prepared by the Church Education System, Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (1989), pp. 43-49.
  2. Church History in The Fullness of Times, prepared by the Church Education System, Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (1989), pp. 52-62.
  3. The Book of Mormon, “Testimony of Three Witnesses,” Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  4. The Book of Mormon, “Testimony of Three Witnesses,” Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  5. Church History in The Fullness of Times, prepared by the Church Education System, Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (1989), pp. 58.
  6. David Whitmer, as interviewed by P. Wilhelm Poulson (1878).  P. Wilhelm Poulson, Deseret Evening News, August 16, 1878.

    I–How did you know Joseph to be at that time? He–As a very humble and meek man, and very simple minded 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 it in spectacles. Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Emma and my brother John each at different times wrote for Joseph as he translated.

  7. David Whitmer, as interviewed by Thomas Wood Smith (1879).  Thomas Wood Smith, Fall River Herald, March 28, 1879; cited in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991), 10.

    I personally heard him state, in Jan. 1876 in his own house in Richmond, Ray Co. Mo. . . . that he saw Joseph translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, time and again, and he [David] then produced a large pile of foolscap paper closely written in a very fair hand, which he declared was the manuscript written mainly by Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, as the translation was being read by the aid of the Urim and Thummim of the characters on the plates by Joseph Smith, which work of translation and transcription he frequently saw.

  8. David Whitmer (1878). Jenson, Historical Record 6, 210. Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith visited Whitmer on September 7, 1878, at Richmond, Missouri.

    David Whitmer brought out the manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. We examined them closely and those who knew the handwriting pronounced the whole of them, excepting comparatively a few pages, to be in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery. It was thought that these few pages were in the handwriting of Emma Smith and John and Christian Whitmer.

  9. David Whitmer, as interviewed by the Kansas City Journal (1881).  Kansas City Daily Journal, June 5, 1881.

    After several months Cowdery told me he was going to Harmony, Pa.— whither Joseph Smith had gone with the plates on account of persecutions of his neighbors—and see him about the matter. He did go and on his way stopped at my father’s house and told me that as soon as he found out anything either truth or untruth he would let me know. After he got there he became acquainted with Joseph Smith, and shortly after, wrote to me telling me that he was convinced that Smith had the records and that he (Smith) had told him that it was the will of heaven that he (Cowdery) should be his scribe to assist in the translation of the plates. He went on and Joseph translated from the plates and he wrote it down.

    Shortly after this Cowdery wrote me another letter in which he gave me a few lines of what they had translated, and he assured me that he knew of a certainty that he had a record of a people that inhabited this continent, and that the plates they were translating gave a complete history of these people. When Cowdery wrote me these things and told me that he had revealed knowledge concerning the truth of them, I showed these letters to my parents, and brothers and sisters. Soon after I received another letter from Cowdery, telling me to come down into Penn syl va nia and bring him and Joseph to my father’s house, giving as a reason therefor that they had received a commandment from God to that effect. I went down to Harmony, and found everything just as they had written me. The next day after I got there they packed up the plates and we proceeded on our journey to my father’s house where we arrived in due time, and the day after we commenced upon the translation of the remainder of the plates. I, as well as all of my father’s family, Smith’s wife, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris were present during the translation. The translation was by Smith and the manner as follows: “He had two small stones of a chocolate color, nearly egg shaped and perfectly smooth, but not transparent, called interpreters, which were given him with the plates. He did not use the plates in the translation, but would hold the interpreters to his eyes and cover his face with a hat, excluding all light, and before his eyes would appear what seemed to be parchment, on which would appear the characters of the plates in a line at the top, and immediately below would appear the translation in English, which Smith would read to his scribe, who wrote it down exactly as it fell from his lips. The scribe would then read the sentence written, and if any mistake had been made the characters would remain visible to Smith until corrected, when they faded from sight to be replaced by another line. The translation at my father’s occupied about one month, that is from June 1 to July 1, 1829.”

    “Were the plates under the immediate control of Smith all the time?” “No, they were not. I will explain how that was. When Joseph first received the plates he translated 116 pages of the book of ‘Lehi,’ with Martin Harris as scribe. When this had been completed they rested for a time, and Harris wanted to take the manuscript home with him to show to his family and friends. To this Joseph demurred, but finally asked the Lord if Harris might be allowed to take it. The answer was ‘no.’ Harris teased Joseph for a long time and finally persuaded him to ask the Lord a second time, pledging himself to be responsible for its safe keeping. . . . [T]hrough some carelessness [Martin Harris] allowed it to be stolen from him. This incurred the Lord’s displeasure, and he sent an angel to Joseph demanding the plates, and until Joseph had thoroughly repented of his transgressions would not allow him to have the use of them again. When Joseph was again allowed to resume the translation the plates were taken care of by a messenger of God, and when Joseph wanted to see the plates this messenger was always at hand. The 116 pages of the book of ‘Lehi’ which were stolen were never recovered, nor would the Lord permit Joseph to make a second translation of it.

    “A few months after the translation was completed, that is in the spring of 1830, Joseph had the book published and this (showing a well worn volume) is a copy of the first edition which I have had in my possession ever since it was printed.”

  10. David Whitmer, as interviewed by J. L. Traughber Jr. (1879).  J. L. Traughber Jr., “Testimony of David Whitmer,” Saints’ Herald 26 (November 15, 1879): 341.

    I, too, have seen the “manuscripts” and examined them. I, too, have heard Father [David] Whitmer say that he was present many times while Joseph was translating; but I never heard him say that the translation was made by aid of Urim and Thummim; but in every case, and his testimony is always the same, he declared that Joseph first offered prayer, then took a dark colored, opaque stone, called a “seer-stone,” and placed it in the crown of his hat, then put his face into the hat, and read the translation as it appeared before him. This was the daily method of procedure, as I have often heard Father Whitmer declare; and, as it is generally agreed to by parties who know the facts, that a considerable portion of the work of translation was performed in a room of his father’s house, where he then resided, there can be no doubt but what Father David Whitmer is a competent witness of the manner of translating. . . .

    With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state that he does not say that Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim; but by means of one dark colored, opaque stone, called a “Seer Stone,” which was placed in the crown of a hat, into which Joseph put his face, so as to exclude the external light. Then, a spiritual light would shine forth, and parchment would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said.

  11. David Whitmer, as interviewed by Thomas Wood Smith (1880).  Thomas Wood Smith, Letter to the editor, Saints’ Herald 27 (January 1, 1880): 13.

    [U]nless my interview with David Whitmer in January, 1876, was only a dream, or that I failed to understand plain English, I believed then, and since, and now, that he said that Joseph possessed, and used the Urim and Thummim in the translation of the inscriptions referred to, and I remember of being much pleased with that statement, as I had heard of the “Seer stone” being used. And unless I dreamed the interview, or very soon after failed to recollect the occasion, he described the form and size of the said Urim and Thummim. The nearest approach to a retraction of my testimony as given in the Fall River Herald and that given publicly in many places from the stand from January, 1876, till now, is, that unless I altogether misunderstood “Father Whitmer” on this point, he said the translation was done by the aid of the Urim and Thummim. If he says he did not intend to convey such an impression to my mind, then I say I regret that I misunderstood him, and unintentionally have misrepresented him. But that I understood him as represented by me frequently I still affirm. If Father Whitmer will say over his own signature, that he never said, or at least never intended to say, that Joseph possessed or used in translating the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim, I will agree to not repeat my testimony as seen in the Fall River Herald on that point.

  12. David Whitmer, as interviewed by Eri B. Mullin (1880).  Eri B. Mullin, Letter to the editor, Saints’ Herald 27 (March 1, 1880): 76.

    Mr. D. Whitmer told me in the year 1874, that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim when he was translating. . . .

    I for my part know he said that Joseph had the instrument Urim and Thummim. I asked him how they looked.

    He said they looked like spectacles, and he (Joseph) would put them on and look in a hat, or put his face in the hat and read. Says I, “Did he have the plates in there.” “No, the words would appear, and if he failed to spell the word right, it would stay till it was spelled right, then pass away; another come, and so on.”

  13. David Whitmer (1881).  David Whitmer to the editor, Kansas City Daily Journal, June 19, 1881; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 71–72.

    To the Editor of the [Kansas City] Journal. RICHMOND, Mo., June 13 [1881].—I notice several errors in the interview had with me by one of your reporters as published in the Daily Journal of June 5th, ’81, and wish to correct them.

    . . . In regard to my going to Harmony, my statement was that “I found everything as Cowdery had written me, and that they packed up next day and went to my father’s, (did not say ‘packed up the plates’) and that he, Smith, (not ‘we’) then commenced the translation of the remainder of the plates.” I did not wish to be understood as saying that those referred to as being present were all of the time in the immediate presence of the translator, but were at the place and saw how the translation was conducted. I did not say that Smith used “two small stones,” as stated nor did I call the stone “interpreters.” I stated that “he used one stone (not two) and called it a sun stone.” The “interpreters” were as I understood taken from Smith and were not used by him after losing the first 116 pages as stated. It is my understanding that the stone referred to was furnished him when he commenced translating again after losing the 116 pages.

    My statement was and now is that in translating he put the stone in his hat and putting his face in his hat so as to excluded the light and that then the light and characters appeared in the hat together with the interpretation which he uttered and was written by the scribe and which was tested at the time as stated.

  14. David Whitmer, as interviewed by the Chicago Times (1881).  Chicago Times, October 17, 1881; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 74–76.

    It was not until June, 1829, that he met the future prophet who visited his fathers house, and while there completed the translation of the “Book of Mormon;” and thus he became conversant with its history, having witnessed Smith dictate to Oliver Cowdery the translation of the characters that were inscribed on the plates, said by Mr. Anthon, our Egyptian scholar, to resemble the characters of that ancient people. Christian Whitmer, his brother, occasionally assisted Cowdery in writing, as did Mrs. Joseph Smith, who was a Miss Hale before she was married. . . .

    After the plates had been translated, which process required about six months, the same heavenly visitant appeared and reclaimed the gold tablets of the ancient people, informing Smith that he would replace them with other records of the lost tribes that had been brought with them during their wanderings from the Asia, which would be forthcoming when the world was ready to receive them. . . .

    The tablets or plates were translated by Smith, who used a small oval kidney-shaped stone, called Urim and Thummim, that seemed endowed with the marvelous power of converting the characters on the plates, when used by Smith, into English, who would then dictate to Cowdery what to write. Frequently, one character would make two lines of manuscript, while others made but a word or two words. Mr. Whitmer emphatically asserts as did Harris and Cowdery, that while Smith was dictating the translation he had no manuscript notes or other means of knowledge save the seer stone and the characters as shown on the plates, he being present and cognizant how it was done.

  15. David Whitmer, as interviewed by the St. Louis Republican (1884).  St. Louis Republican, July 16, 1884; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 143.

    “Yes,” said Mr. Whitmer, “I have no objections to giving the particulars of my early life. . . . The translation was done in my father’s house; at least two months of the time, was thus taken up with it there. Oliver Cowdery was the principal amanuensis. . . .

    “Joseph Smith dictated every word in the book. The understanding we have about it was that when the book was discovered an angel was present and pointed the place out. In translating from the plates, Joseph Smith looked through the Urim and Thummim, consisting of two transparent pebbles set in the rim of a bow, fastened to a breastplate. He dictated by looking through them to his scribes.”

  16. David Whitmer, as interviewed by the Omaha Herald (1886).  Omaha Herald, October 17, 1886; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 199–200. See also Chicago Inter-Ocean, October 17, 1886; and Saints’ Herald 33 (November 13, 1886): 706. Although David Whitmer here states that the Urim and Thummim was not returned to Joseph Smith after the 116 pages were lost, Lucy Mack Smith quotes Joseph as saying the Urim and Thummim was returned on September 22, 1828. See Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (London: Published for Orson Pratt by S. W. Richards, 1853), 125–26. In addition, David Whitmer was apparently unaware that rather than receiving the seer stone in 1828, Joseph Smith and others had discovered it while digging a well for Willard Chase in 1822. See Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 69–70.

    Much of the translation of the plates was accomplished at the house of Peter Whitmer, the father of David, and the latter witnessed demonstrations, on more occasion than one, of the prophet’s manipulation of the stone spectacles. He [David] states that the work of translation occupied fully eight months, and that at times this peculiar instrument would refuse to perform its functions. On such occasions the prophet would resort to prayer, and after a short season he would return to his work to find that the urim and thummum reflected the words of the translation with its wonted power. This rigorous exactment required him to be humble and spotless in his deportment in order that the work might progress. On one occasion the prophet had indulged in a stormy quarrel with his wife. Without pacifying her or making any reparation for his brutal treatment, he returned to the room in the Whitmer residence to resume the work with the plates. The surface of the magic stone remained blank, and all his persistent efforts to bring out the coveted words proved abortive. He went into the woods again to pray, and this time was gone fully an hour. His friends became positively concerned, and were about to institute a search, when Joseph entered the room, pale and haggard, having suffered a vigorous chastisement at the hands of the Lord. He went straight in humiliation to his wife, entreated and received her forgiveness, returned to his work, and, much to the joy of himself and his anxious friends surrounding him, the stone again glared forth its letters of fire. The urim and thummum, in this strange process of translation, would reflect a number of words in pure English, which would remain on its face until the party acting as scribe had got it correctly written, and the occasional disposition of the characters to remain long after they had been so written was always an infallible evidence that there was something wrong in the translation of the record, and a close comparison would invariably reveal this fact. When the necessary corrections ha[d] been made the words would instantly disappear from the urim and thummum and new ones take their place. . . . [After the loss of the 116 pages, the Lord] took from the prophet the urim and thummum and otherwise expressed his condemnation. By fervent prayer and by otherwise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone about the size of an egg, only more flat, which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing urim and thummim. . . . With this stone all of the present Book of Mormon was translated.

  17. David Whitmer, as interviewed by the Chicago Tribune (1885).  “The Book of Mormon,” Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1885, 3. The Tribune correspondent visited and interviewed Whitmer on December 15, 1885, at Whitmer’s home in Richmond, Missouri.

    In order to give privacy to the proceeding a blanket, which served as a portière, was stretched across the family living room to shelter the translators and the plates from the eyes of any who might call at the house while the work was in progress. This, Mr. Whitmer says, was the only use made of the blanket, and it was not for the purpose of concealing the plates or the translator from the eyes of the amanuensis. In fact, Smith was at no time hidden from his collaborators, and the translation was performed in the presence of not only the persons mentioned, but of the entire Whitmer household and several of Smith’s relatives besides.

    The work of translating the tablets consumed about eight months, Smith acting as the seer and Oliver Cowdery, Smith’s wife, and Christian Whitmer, brother of David, performing the duties of amanuenses, in whose handwriting the original manuscript now is. Each time before resuming the work all present would kneel in prayer and invoke the Divine blessing on the proceeding. After prayer Smith would sit on one side of a table and the amanuenses, in turn as they became tired, on the other. Those present and not actively engaged in the work seated themselves around the room and then the work began. After affixing the magical spectacles to his eyes, Smith would take the plates and translate the characters one at a time. The graven characters would appear in succession to the seer, and directly under the character, when viewed through the glasses, would be the translation in English.

    Sometimes the character would be a single word, and frequently an entire sentence. In translating the characters Smith, who was illiterate and but little versed in Biblical lore, was ofttimes compelled to spell the words out, not knowing the correct pronunciation, and Mr. Whitmer recalls the fact that at that time Smith did not even know that Jerusalem was a walled city. Cowdery, however, being a school-teacher, rendered invaluable aid in pronouncing hard words and giving their proper definition.

    . . . It seems that Smith, who was puffed up with his great importance as a confidential secretary to the Lord, displeased the Master by entering into some carnal confab in relation to the work. For this offense he was punished by having the celestial visitant, who first commissioned him to inaugurate the work, suddenly appear and carry off the plates and spectacles. . . .

    . . . Smith’s offense of tattling the secrets of the work among his neighbors was less readily condoned [than Harris losing the 116 pages], and for a long time the work was suspended, the angel being in possession of the plates and spectacles. Finally, when Smith had fully repented of his rash conduct, he was forgiven. The plates, however, were not returned, but instead Smith was given by the angel a Urim and Thummim of another pattern, it being shaped in oval or kidney form. This seer’s stone he was instructed to place in his hat, and on covering his face with the hat the character and translation would appear on the stone.

    This worked just as satisfactorily as the old method, but at no time thereafter was the backsliding Joseph intrusted with the precious plates. However, the entire portion of the golden volume, which the angel said might be translated, was reduced by the nimble amanuenses to readable manuscript.

  18. David Whitmer, as interviewed by E. C. Briggs (1884).  E. C. Briggs, Letter to the editor, Saints’ Herald 31 (June 21, 1884): 396–97.

    “The boys, Joseph and Oliver, worked hard, early and late, while translating the plates. It was slow work, and they could write only a few pages a day.”

    Of Joseph he continued: “He could not do a thing except he was humble, and just right before the Lord.”

    I said, “Why not?” He replied: “The Urim and Thummim would look dark; he could not see a thing in them.”

    “How did it appear in them?” we asked. His answer was: “The letters appeared on them in light, and would not go off until they were written correctly by Oliver. When Joseph could not pronounce the words he spelled them out letter by letter.”

  19. David Whitmer, as interviewed by M. J. Hubble (1886).  M. J. Hubble, interview, November 13, 1886; located at Missouri State Historical Society, Columbia, Mo.; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 210–11.

    A part of the book of Lehigh [Lehi] had been translated, about 150 pages & taken to Philadelphia by one of the parties, who put it in a bureau drawer at night, the next morning it was gone and has never yet been found. Joseph Smith was informed that for his transgressing the command, to keep it always under his care, he would be punished and the “gift” of reading through the spectacles was taken from him for about 3 months & never was allowed to see the “plates” again but at the end of his punishment, he was told that he might translate the book of Mormon, instead of the book of Lehigh but would not be permitted to see the “plates” that the “Characters” would appear before him & when he translated them correctly they would disappear & new ones come in their place if not translated correctly the first time they would remain until they were which in several instances he knew to be true because he said Joseph Smith was a man of limited education and could hardly write legibly. . . .

    He said the Brass or Gold Plates were bound together at the back by having 3 rings run through & when a page was translated it turned back on the ring.

    He said Smith translated by means of a pair of large bound Spectacles ie the “Book of Mormon”, that the Characters would appear in the air & stay until correctly translated and then disappear that Smith was ignorant of the Bible that when translating he first came to where Jerusalem was spoken of as a “Walled City” he stopped until they got a Bible & showed him where the fact was recorded—Smith not believing it was a walled city.

  20. David Whitmer, as interviewed by George Q. Cannon (1884).  George Q. Cannon, interview, February 27, 1884, George Q. Cannon Journal, Church Archives; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 108.

    In speaking of the translating he [David Whitmer] said that Joseph had the stone in a hat from which all light was excluded. In the stone the characters appeared and under that the translation in English and they remained until the scribe had copied it correctly. If he had made a mistake the words still remained and were not replaced by any other.

  21. David Whitmer, as interviewed by James H. Hart (1884).  James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News, March 25, 1884.

    “In regard to the translation,” said Mr. Whitmer, “it was a laborious work for the weather was very warm, and the days were long and they worked from morning till night. But they were both young and strong and were soon able to complete the work.

    “The way it was done was thus: Joseph would place the seer-stone in a deep hat, and placing his face close to it, would see, not the stone, but what appeared like an oblong piece of parchment, on which the hieroglyphics would appear, and also the translation in the English language, all appearing in bright luminous letters. Joseph would then read it to Oliver, who would write it down as spoken. Sometimes Joseph could not pronounce the words correctly, having had but little education; and if by any means a mistake was made in the copy, the luminous writing would remain until it was corrected. It sometimes took Oliver several trials to get the right letters to spell correctly some of the more difficult words, but when he had written them correctly, the characters and the interpretation would disappear, and be replaced by other characters and their interpretation.

    “When the seer-stone was not placed in the hat, no characters or writing could be seen therein, but when so placed then the hieroglyphics would appear as before described. Some represented but one word, or name, some represented several, and some from one to two lines.

    “Emma, Joseph’ s wife, came to my father’s house a short time after Joseph and Oliver came, and she wrote a little of the translation, my brother Christian wrote some, but Oliver wrote the greater portion of it.”

  22. David Whitmer, as interviewed by Zenas H. Gurley (1885).  Zenas H. Gurley, “Questions Asked of David Whitmer,” holograph, 1, 3, 4, Gurley Collection, Church Archives; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 152–58. The interview took place on January 14, 1885, and was recorded on January 21, 1885.

    Questions asked of David Whitmer at his home in Richmond Ray County Mo. Jan 14 1885. relating to Book of Mormon, and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of L. D. S. by Elder Z. H. Gurley. . . .

    19. Were the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated in Joseph Smiths possession while translating and seen and handled by several different persons, if not, where were they?

    Ans—I do not know.

    20. Q—Did Joseph use his “peep stone” to finish up the translation? if so why?

    Ans—He used a stone called a “Seers stone,” the “Interpreters” having been taken away from him because of transgression. . . .

    25: Q. Were you present during any of the time of translation, if so, state how it was done.

    Ans—The “Interpreters” were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Ms of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by the use of a “Seers stone” which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original Character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in english which [enabled him?] to read it readily.

  23. David Whitmer, as recorded by the Richmond Democrat (1888).  Richmond (Missouri) Democrat, January 26, 1888; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 228, 230. According to Cook, this account was probably borrowed from the Omaha Herald report mentioned above.

    When he [David Whitmer] was twenty-four years of age . . . Oliver Cowdery . . . mentioned the matter [the discovery of the gold plates] to him and announced his determination to visit Smith. . . . A few days later he [Whitmer] received a letter from Cowdery, urging him to join him, which he did. . . . After remaining long enough to satisfy himself of the divine inspiration of Smith, the three returned to Whitmer’s home, where it was agreed that the work of translation should be prosecuted. . . .

    . . . The “urim and thummim,” mentioned in the account of the vision were a pair of transparent stone spectacles. Smith would put on the spectacles, when a few words of the text of the Book of Mormon would appear on the lenses. When these were correctly transcribed by Cowdery, who acted as his amanuensis, these words would disappear and others take their place. . . . [After the loss of the 116 pages, Smith] again found favor with the Lord, and was presented with a strange oval-shaped, chocolate colored stone, about the size of an egg but more flat, which it was promised should answer the same purpose. With this stone all the present book was translated. The prophet would place the stone in a hat, then put his face in the hat and read the words that appeared thereon.

  24. David Whitmer, as interviewed by Nathan A. Tanner Jr. (1909).  Nathan A. Tanner Jr. to Nathan A. Tanner, February 17, 1909, photocopy of typescript, 5, Church Archives. The interview occurred in May 1886.

    He [David Whitmer] said that Joseph was separated from the scribe by a blanket, as I remember; that he had the Urim and Thummim, and a chocolate colored stone, which he used alternately, as suited his convenience, and he said he believed Joseph could as well accomplish the translation by looking into a hat, or any other stone, as by the use of the Urim and Thummim or the chocolate colored stone. David expressed absolute faith in the Prophet’s power to get any information he desired, and by any means he should adopt for the purpose. I mean he appeared to have absolute faith in the Prophet’s power with God, to get any information he wished for. And he did not think that either the Urim and Thummim or the stone he had were essential, or absolutely essential, to the obtaining of the information.

    He said that Joseph would—as I remember—place the manuscript beneath the stone or Urim and Thummim, and the characters would appear in English, which he would spell out, and they would remain there until the word was fully written and corrected, when it would disappear and another word appear, etc.

  25. David Whitmer (1887).  David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ: By a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon (Richmond, Mo.: By the author, 1887): 6, 10–11, 12, 30, 32, 55–56.

    The people cannot understand why the Lord would bring forth his word from “a book (plates) that is sealed” and was buried in the ground by his ancient prophets on this land: and why He should have the words of the book delivered “to one that is learned,” telling him to read it, etc.; (see Isa. xxix) but the learned and wise men of the world could not read it; God gave to an unlearned boy, Joseph Smith, the gift to translate it by the means of a stone. . . .

    . . . I will say that all who desire to investigate the Spaulding manuscript story will not be obliged to go very far before they will see the entire falsity of that claim. I testify to the world that I am an eye-witness to the transl tion of the greater part of the Book of Mormon. Part of it was translated in my father’s house in Fayette, Seneca County, N. Y. . . .

    I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man. . . .

    At times when Brother Joseph would attempt to translate, he would look into the hat in which the stone was placed, he found he was spiritually blind and could not translate. He told us that his mind dwelt too much on earthly things, and various causes would make him incapable of proceeding with the translation. When in this condition he would go out and pray, and when he became sufficiently humble before God, he could then proceed with the translation. Now we see how very strict the Lord is; and how he requires the heart of man to be just right in His sight, before he can receive revelation from him. . . .

    After the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, early in the spring of 1830, before April 6th, Joseph gave the stone to Oliver Cowdery and told me as well as the rest that he was through with it, and he did not use the stone any more. . . .

    Now, bear in mind that these revelations were given through the “stone,” while the Book of Mormon was being translated. The revelations in June, 1829, were given about the time the translation of the book was finished. As I have stated before, Brother Joseph gave up the stone a few months after translating the Book of Mormon.

  26. David Whitmer, as interviewed by William H. Kelley and G. A. Blakeslee (1882).  Interview conducted on January 15, 1882, in Richmond, Missouri; published in the Saints’ Herald 29 (March 1, 1882): 68.

    I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and he translated the Book of Mormon by the inspiration of God from the plates of the Nephites. . . .

    . . . He [Joseph Smith] had to trust in God. He could not translate unless he was humble and possessed the right feelings towards every one. To illustrate, so you can see. One morning when he was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went up stairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came up stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.

  27. M. Elvin, The Saints’ Herald, Lamoni, Iowa, May 12, 1888,

    https://books.google.com/books?id=vJD0EOEmJyYC&pg=PA129&dq=saint%27s+herald+david+whitmer+w.+w.+blair+1888&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiN993OrsfcAhVh44MKHSWaDEQQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=saint’s%20herald%20david%20whitmer%20w.%20w.%20blair%201888&f=false

  28. W. Blair, The Saints’ Herald, Lamoni, Iowa, March 3, 1888, https://books.google.com/books?id=vJD0EOEmJyYC&pg=PA129&dq=saint%27s+herald+david+whitmer+w.+w.+blair+1888&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiN993OrsfcAhVh44MKHSWaDEQQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=saint’s%20herald%20david%20whitmer%20w.%20w.%20blair%201888&f=false

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