Monday, October 12, 2020

More on the fake Moroni/Mary Whitmer story

Saints, volume 1, is an awesome account of Church history that would have been even more credible and reliable if the editors were not focused on accommodating M2C (the Mesoamerican/Two Cumorahs theory) and SITH (stone-in-the-hat). 

I still hope they correct and revise the book for future readers, but until they do, the problems aren't going away. Instead, they're getting worse.

Over two years ago I pointed out that Saints, volume 1, contains an easily debunked claim that it was Moroni who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer. Definitely, Mary saw the plates, but just as definitely, it was not Moroni who showed them to her.

In that post, I listed a series of repercussions that I anticipated:

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.

This can all be ignored, of course. Many will say it doesn't matter, it's a minor point of Church history that was confusing anyway, we can't question what the scholars publish, we have to relate the fake history to accommodate M2C, etc. Some of my M2C critics, including employees of Book of Mormon Central, reject what Oliver and Joseph taught anyway, so they easily reject what David and Mary said.

Plus, people can and will believe whatever they want. If people want to believe the Moroni/Mary Whitmer story, that's fine with me. 

But there are still some Latter-day Saints who want to know accurate Church history, and I don't think it's a good idea to falsify Church history purely to accommodate someone's theory of Book of Mormon geography, in this case M2C.

Anyone who cares to look at the footnotes to Saints will see this is a fake story. Worse, Saints omits the reference in which David explains that Joseph specifically identified the messenger who was taking the abridged plates to Cumorah as one of the Nephites, not as Moroni.


The issue has resurfaced because in the October 2020 General Conference, one of the speakers repeated the story, citing Saints as authority. (I won't mention the speaker's name out of respect.) 

Right in the same talk, the speaker described Moroni as "as a glorious messenger from God," which is consistent with the description of Moroni in Letter IV

By contrast, the individual who showed the plates to Mary Whitmer was a "strange person" she called "Brother Nephi" who, according to David Whitmer, was a heavyset man with white hair and beard, wearing a brown wool suit, around 5'8" tall.  

There are lots of problems with this, but here we'll just discuss one. Thanks to the fake history in Saints, we now have General Conference precedent for the principle that resurrected beings don't really have restored bodies, but instead can change their bodies at will for inexplicable reasons. 

Here's how Alma explained it:

Alma 40:23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.

M2C scholars are eager to explain how Joseph didn't translate the Book of Mormon correctly because he omitted all the indicia of Mayan culture, so I suppose it's consistent to say he didn't translate Alma 40:23 correctly, either. Or maybe he omitted an important clause, such as the one bolded below:

Alma 40:23 The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame; nevertheless, the soul can cause the body that it can take a different form.

This is an example of our scholars providing bad information to Church leaders. Consequently, we're left with two alternatives, assuming (i) David and Mary Whitmer were credible and reliable witnesses and (ii) we're allowed to believe a woman's account instead of her grandson's revision.

Alternative 1. Moroni and the messenger who interacted with David and Mary Whitmer were the same person, just in different bodies. Resurrected bodies might be restored to their proper and perfect frame, but they can change their bodies in size, appearance, age, etc. When they change their shape, they also use different names; in this case, Moroni and Nephi.

Alternative 2. Moroni and the messenger who interacted with David and Mary Whitmer were not the same person. Moroni was a resurrected being, taller than average and glorious in appearance. The messenger was Nephi, one of the 3 Nephites, who was promised he would not taste of death. Resurrected bodies really are restored to their proper and perfect frame, as Alma taught.

In my view, Alternative 2 fits the historical evidence and the doctrine about the resurrection. Alternative 1 does not. But Alternative 1 accommodates M2C, so that's what Saints presents.


Some might argue that the angel who showed the plates to the Three Witnesses was not Moroni, that Oliver's description of Moroni in Letter IV was incorrect, that the resurrected Moroni is, in fact, a heavyset man with white hair and beard about 5'8" tall, that Mary Whitmer was wrong to call him "Brother Nephi," etc.

Those arguments are as plausible as what we usually hear from M2C advocates who try to persuade us that Lucy Mack Smith was unreliable, that the Three Witnesses were all wrong about Cumorah, that Joseph and his contemporaries and successors in Church leadership merely speculated about the New York Cumorah and were wrong, etc. I don't find any of that plausible. 

Again, everyone is free to believe whatever they want. As the saying goes, we're entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts, but in today's world, facts don't matter. 


For those few remaining Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of Joseph and Oliver and others on these issues, here's something else to consider that I didn't bring up before.

Saints includes a footnote to the interview of David Whitmer by Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt. They asked him to describe the messenger, which he did (as I related above). Shortly prior to that question, though, they asked David if he really saw the angel who showed him the plates. He affirmed that he did, that the angel stood just a few feet away, etc. Oddly, they didn't ask David to describe the angel, or if they did they didn't mention it in their account. But David clearly did not say the angel and the messenger were the same person.

In 1884, B.H. Roberts interviewed David Whitmer. Here's one account he related in General Conference, October 1926:

Shortly after breakfast the four named went out into the woods, as I have said, and there supplicated the Lord with the result that they beheld the plates and the engravings thereon, and they heard the voice of God proclaim that the translation was true and he commanded them to bear witness of it to all the world.

In my interview with David Whitmer, in 1884, as he went over this ground, led by my questions, when we came to this part of it he said to me that in the progress of turning the leaves, or having them turned by Moroni, and looking upon the engravings, Moroni looked directly at him and said: “David, blessed is he that endureth to the end.” When David Whitmer made that remark it seemed to me rather a peculiar thing that he should thus be singled out for such a remark, and I remember reporting it as such to President John Morgan, then president of the Southern States mission. I stated to him the peculiar feelings I had when I learned that from the lips of David Whitmer; but the subsequent history of these three witnesses led me to conclude that there was indeed a hidden warning in the words of the angel to David, “Blessed is he that endureth to the end.” And it is rather a sad reflection that of these three witnesses he was the only one who died outside of membership in the Church. I wonder if Moroni was not trying to sound a warning to this stubborn man, that perhaps whatever his experiences and trials might be, that at the last he, too, might have been brought into the fold, and might have died within the pale of the Church.

David's encounter with Moroni occurred in June 1829, within a month of his encounter with the messenger who was taking the abridged plates to Cumorah. If Moroni spoke this directly to David, does it seem plausible that, when asked about the messenger, David would forget to explain that the messenger was the same person who showed David the plates?

Of course not. 

The only people who saw both Moroni and the messenger were David Whitmer, Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdery. David apparently related the incident as early as 1832, as we've discussed before.

We have no record of Joseph or Oliver describing the messenger, although we do have multiple accounts of Oliver and Joseph visiting the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah--the destination of the messenger. 

(Needless to say, our M2C friends also insist Oliver was wrong about the repository, too.) 

What we do have is Oliver's description of Moroni in Letter IV, which he wrote with the assistance of Joseph and which Joseph made sure was republished several times so all the Saints could learn about Moroni's visit.

We also have the original version of Joseph Smith--History 1:33, published in the Times and Seasons in 1842, which identified the angel as Nephi. That reference (which was compiled by Joseph's scribes, not written by Joseph in the first place) was later changed to Moroni, and Brigham Young explained that both Nephi and Moroni ministered to Joseph. They were not one individual in two different bodies. One was resurrected. The other was changed so he wouldn't taste death, as we learn in 3 Nephi. 


In my previous post, I included an image of the page from the Historical Record cited by Saints as authority for the Moroni claim, but I apparently didn't include the link. Here's the link:

Here's a larger image:

Everyone can see that Mary herself called the messenger, or holy angel, "Brother Nephi." 

It was her grandson who decided "she undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge."

Thanks to our M2C scholars and revisionist Church historians who seek to accommodate M2C, Saints preferred the speculation of the grandson over the express statements of Mary Whitmer herself.

We would like to think that in this enlightened age, we wouldn't see our historians dismissing Mary's identification of the messenger because she was a woman, but we can all see that's exactly what happened here. 

What's worse: Mary's identification makes sense historically and doctrinally, while her grandson's "correction" makes no sense.

It makes sense that Mary "always called" the messenger "Brother Nephi" because Nephi was the name of one of the disciples from whom the group of three were granted their desire to never taste of death.

1 And it came to pass when Jesus had said these words, he spake unto his disciples, one by one, saying unto them: What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?
2 And they all spake, save it were three, saying: We desire that after we have lived unto the age of man, that our ministry, wherein thou hast called us, may have an end, that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom.
3 And he said unto them: Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of me; therefore, after that ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest.
4 And when he had spoken unto them, he turned himself unto the three, and said unto them: What will ye that I should do unto you, when I am gone unto the Father?
5 And they sorrowed in their hearts, for they durst not speak unto him the thing which they desired.
6 And he said unto them: Behold, I know your thoughts, and ye have desired the thing which John, my beloved, who was with me in my ministry, before that I was lifted up by the Jews, desired of me.
7 Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.
8 And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.
9 And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand.
(3 Nephi 28:1–9)

This makes sense also because of the accounts of the three men who prepared David's fields so he could go pick up Joseph and Oliver from Harmony. Saints omits that account too, which is not surprising, but people can read it in my Saints supplement.

What doesn't make sense is that Moroni, a resurrected being, would (or could) change his body size and appearance, including his age.

We all know that David Whitmer explained that after he picked up Joseph and Oliver, he was driving them to Fayette when they encountered the messenger who was taking the abridged plates to Cumorah. 

Well, I should clarify: we don't all know that. Those who read Saints don't know that. And those who rely on M2C publications such as Opening the Heavens won't know that because the editor of that book censored the reference to Cumorah and instead wrote "The plates were carried to Fayette by Moroni in a bundle on his back." 

Opening the Heavens, Second Edition, p. 108, note 84.

That's a ridiculous revision of actual history because the point of David's account was that the messenger did not want to ride with them to Fayette because he was going to Cumorah first.

But of course, M2C scholars have to censor actual history to maintain the M2C hoax that the "real Cumorah" is in Mexico. 

That's why they perpetuate the Moroni/Mary Whitmer hoax.

BTW, the Joseph F. Smith, Statement 3, in the above note refers to anonymous typewritten minutes of a meeting that claim it was Moroni, but I've addressed that before.

David described the messenger to Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt. You can see the handwritten statement here (click to enlarge):


Saints, volume 1, is an awesome, accessible book about Church history that could be improved with more accurate information. The fake Moroni/Mary Whitmer story accommodates M2C, but also raises doubts about the doctrine of the resurrection as explained by Alma.

1 comment:

  1. You won't mention the name, but I will. It was Elder Gerrit W. Gong, an Apostle. Here is the link:

    Frankly, I find it disingenuous that you make such a huge deal that "M2C rejects the prophets' teachings" when you, just now, do the same thing. You couldn't even mention his name because you don't want to appear in the wrong.

    Frankly the angels identity matters as much to my salvation as knowing what hill is the Hill Cumorah. (None at all.) What does matter is listening to the words of modern day prophets without veiling attacks at them for spreading false doctrine of Mary-Moroni, etc. Please at least just be honest with your audience.


Checking references-seer stones, foreign languages, etc.

We can read Saints , volume 1, two ways.  1. Read (or listen to) the narrative and just accept it the editors' spin on Church history. 3...