But in the short term, the story of Mary Whitmer is an inexcusable error.
Volume 1 commits a considerable amount of words to relate this account, which is great because it's a fascinating account of a female witness of the plates. In the Ensign, the account is even accompanied by an illustration to draw attention to it.
The problem is, Saints relates a false version of the account.
Now, thanks to Saints, future generations will believe it was Moroni who showed Mary the plates, solely because of (i) a mistake made by her descendants and (ii) the M2C agenda.
This has several repercussions.
- the inclusion of this false account undermines the credibility of Saints.
- people who read Saints and believe this account will be confused when they read the actual history.
- the false account in Saints will undermine belief in the reliability and credibility of David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses.
- readers will wonder why Joseph and Oliver described Moroni so much differently than Mary Whitmer did.
- readers will miss the far more fascinating aspect of the account that links the Book of Mormon to Church history.
- the false account enables Saints to omit a key event in Church history that teaches us about the Hill Cumorah and the two sets of plates.
Here is the passage in blue, with my comments in red:
The Mary Whitmer account does belong in Saints, but not this false version.
It would be far better to relate the actual history instead of the invented quotations from people who were not there.
David Whitmer related this account several times, as I've discussed before on another blog. On one occasion, he was interviewed by Edward Stevenson.
I obtained a copy of Stevenson's journal and here's what his entry says:
|Page from Stevenson journal|
Edward Stevenson was a general authority (one of the seven presidents of the Seventy). He was a well-known missionary (one of the MTC buildings is named after him). There's no reason to doubt the credibility of his interview with David Whitmer.
What I find fascinating is that Zina Young asked Stevenson to ask David Whitmer about seeing one of the Nephites. That was the focus of the interview, not the Cumorah question.
* You can google a phrase from the account and find lots of printed versions. One I like is here:
Just go to the page and in your browser, search for "suddenly approached."
**You can find printed versions of this account in these references, although not transcribed exactly: "Edward Stevenson Interview (1) 22-23 December 1877, Richmond, Missouri Diary of Edward Stevenson," LDS Church Archives, Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews, 1993, p. 13; also Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 2003, vol. v, p. 30.
Transcript of the handwritten passage:
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When I was returning to Fayette with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned
wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, we were suddenly approached by a very pleasant, nice looking old man in a clear open place, who saluted us with 'Good morning, it is very warm,' at the same instant wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way, but he said very pleasantly, 'No, I am going to Cumorah.' This was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant, and as I looked enquiringly at Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared so that I did not see him again."
Joseph F. Smith: "Did you notice his appearance?"
David Whitmer: "I should think I did. He was, I should think, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches and heavy set, about such a man as James Vancleave, there, but heavier. His face was as large. He was dressed in a suit of brown, woolen clothes; his hair and beard were white, about like Brother Pratt's, but his beard was not so heavy. I also remember that he had a sort of knapsack on his back, and something was in it which was shaped like a book. It was the messenger who had the plates.
"Soon after our arrival home,
I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father's barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was.
"Sometime after this my mother was going to milk the cows when she was met out near the barn by this same old man, (as I suppose from her description of him) who said to her `you have been very faithful and diligent in your labours but you are tried because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness, that your faith may be strengthened' and thereupon he showed her the plates. My Father and Mother had a large family of their own. The addition to it therefore of Joseph, Emma and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother and altho she had never complained she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much or at least she was beginning to feel so. This circumstance however completely removed all such feelings and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities."
Orson Pratt: "Have you any idea when the records will be brought forth?"
David Whitmer: "When we see things in the Spirit and by the power of God they seem to be right here present. The signs of the times indicate the near approach of the coming forth of the other plates, but when it will be, I cannot tell.
The Three Nephites are at work among the lost tribes and elsewhere. John the Revelator is at work, and I believe the time will come suddenly, before we are prepared for it."