A Witness of the Book of Mormon
David Whitmer was born to Peter Whitmer, Sr., and Mary Musselman Whitmer near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on January 7, 1805. In 1809 the family moved to Fayette, New York, where they worked a large farm. He learned about the Book of Mormon from Oliver Cowdery, who was scribe for Joseph Smith during the translation. When persecution grew too severe in Harmony, Pennsylvania, for Joseph, Emma (Joseph’s wife) and Oliver, David Whitmer invited the three of them to stay with his family at their home in Fayette. Joseph, Oliver and David completed the translation of the Book of Mormon there in June 1829.
It was also in June 1829 that Joseph Smith told David Whitmer that he, Oliver and Martin Harris were chosen to be witnesses, and that they would be blessed to see and handle the physical golden plates that had been translated into the Book of Mormon. On the appointed day, the angel appeared to them after they had prayed and showed David and Oliver the golden plates. An official statement, the testimony of 3 witnesses, is found at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, and you can read a more detailed account of what they saw. In April 1830, the Church was organized in Peter Whitmer, Sr.'s, house.
David and the other Whitmers moved with rest of the Church moved from New York to Ohio in 1831, and then on to Jackson County Missouri in 1832. There David Whitmer and his family experienced extreme persecution because of their membership in the church. During one mob attack, David Whitmer was threatened with death if he would not admit that the Book of Mormon was a fraud. Even under duress Whitmer refused to deny his testimony.
After David and his family were driven by mobs from Jackson County, they settled in Clay County, Missouri, along with other Latter-day Saint that had fled. As their numbers grew, a stake was organized and David Whitmer was called as the stake president. By October 1834, David and his brother, John Whitmer, had returned to Kirtland, Ohio, for the completion of the Kirtland Temple. On the day of its dedication, David testified of experiencing an outpouring of the Spirit and receiving gifts of The Spirit, just as the Lord had promised.
In February 1835, David, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris complied with a revelation that was given them by selecting the twelve men that would be ordained to the first Quorum of Twelve Apostles in this dispensation.
In spite of all his contributions and experiences, David Whitmer was excommunicated from the church in 1838 for apostasy. He had become disillusioned with Joseph Smith in Kirtland over the failure of The Kirtland Safety Society, a bank that Joseph Smith and other church leaders attempted to found but collapsed. He also thought he deserved a more prominent role in church leadership. This belief was further fueled by church dissidents in Kirtland trying to supplant Joseph with David as Church president. When the attempt failed, David was excommunicated by a Church disciplinary council.
After David Whitmer left the Church, the rest of the Whitmer family left as well. They relocated to Richmond, Missouri. David opened a livery stable, which he operated until his death in 1888. A respected citizen in the community, he served on fair boards, was a member of the city council, and was elected mayor.
Even though David Whitmer never reconciled his feelings about Joseph Smith or regain his membership in The LDS Church, he would still entertain hundreds of visitors who would come to him and ask to hear his testimony of the Book of Mormon. Upon hearing rumors that he had recanted, he wanted his testimony to be set straight. In March 19, 1881, seven years prior to his death, David Whitmer published the following affidavit in the local newspaper. He had some a few of the top residents of that State of Missouri vouch for his character and competency.
"Unto all nations, kindred, tongues and people unto whom these presents shall come: It having been represented by one John Murphy of Polo (Caldwell County), Missouri, that I had in a conversation with him last summer, denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon….
"To the end, therefore, that he may understand me now if he did not then, and that the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once for all to make this public statement:
"That 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, will know that I have always 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 statements as then made and published.
"He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear; it was no delusion. What is written is written and he that readeth let him understand. And if any man doubt, should he not carefully and honestly read and understand the same before presuming to sit in judgment, and condemning the light which shineth in darkness, and showeth the way of eternal life, as pointed out by the hand of God?
"In the Spirit of Christ who hath said follow thou me, for I am the life, the light and the way, I submit this statement to the world, God in whom I trust being my Judge, as to the sincerity of my motives and the faith and hope that is in me of eternal life.
"My sincere desire is that the world may be benefited by the plain and simple statement of the truth.
"And all the honor be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen."
We, the undersigned, citizens of Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, where David Whitmer, Sr., has resided since the year, A.D. 1838, certify that we have been long and intimately acquainted with him, and know him to be a man of the highest integrity, and of undoubted truth and veracity--Given at Richmond, Missouri, this March 19, A.D. 1881.
A. W. Doniphan
George W. Dunn, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit
T. D. Woodson, President, Ray County Savings
Bank Jacob O. Child, Editor of "Conservator"
H. C. Garner, Cashier Ray County Savings Bank
W. A. Holman, County Treasurer
J. S. Hughes, Banker, Richmond, Missouri
James Hughes, Banker, Richmond, Missouri
D. P. Whitmer, Attorney at Law
James W. Black, Attorney at Law
L. C. Cantwell, Postmaster, Richmond, Missouri
George I. Wassen, Mayor
James A. Davis, Probate Judge and Presiding Judge, Ray County Court
George E. Trigg, County Clerk
W. W. Mosby, M.D.
Thomas McGinnis, Late Sheriff, Ray County
W. R. Holman, Furniture Merchant
J. P. Queensbury, Merchant
Lewis Slaughter, Recorder of Deeds
George W. Buchannan, M.D.
A. K. Reyburn
David Whitmer, March 19, 1881, Richmond Conservator Newspaper
"David Whitmer", Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Keith W. Perkins