long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

No-wise #395 on David Whitmer

Obviously, I don't have time to comment on every "kno-why" put out by Book of Mormon Central America. Many of them are great. Others are useful. But others are misleading, at best, and that's why I call these "no-wise." But I don't have time to comment even on all of the no-wise.

I'm commenting on #395 because it's especially egregious.

The title is promising: "Why Is David Whitmer's Witness of the Book of Mormon So Compelling?"

Book of Mormon Central America
is trying to control the present
And yet David Witmer's testimony contradicts the entire premise of Book of Mormon Central's overriding corporate mandate "to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex."

How does BOMC avoid this obvious problem?

Simply by censoring inconvenient facts.

BOMC is operating under the rules spelled out in George Orwell's book, 1984. (BTW, I have been conducting informal polls among my college students for a decade. In recent years, few if any students have even heard of 1984, Newspeak, etc. It's no longer taught in high school, apparently. Which explains why Orwellian tactics are so successful with the younger generations--including students at BYU, based on what I'm hearing about their reactions to the "abstract" fantasy map of the Book of Mormon they are being taught there.)

You can read the entire kno-why and not find a single mention of a critical aspect of David Whitmer's testimony, one he repeated often.

Of course, I'm referring to the encounter he had on the road between Harmony and Fayette with the messenger who was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah.

We have to admire the care with which this was done. Unsuspecting readers will never realize how Church history is being re-written here.

The very first sentence in the kno-why has footnote 1, which refers to page 108 in Professor John Welch's book, Opening the Heavens. Page 108 contains the false footnote that I've written about before, here. The note says "The plates were carried to Fayette by Moroni in a bundle on his back." In fact, there are no accounts of any such thing. Even the source cited in the footnote gives the account of David Whitmer explaining that the messenger said he was taking the plates to Cumorah, not Fayette. The messenger was explicitly not going to Fayette; that's why he did not accept a ride on the wagon.

True, the messenger did eventually bring plates to Fayette. But no one ever said these were the Harmony plates.*

To make it easy, compare the footnote to the original source:


"The plates were carried to Fayette by Moroni in a bundle on his back."

Original source (Joseph F. Smith, 1918):

"In the middle of this prairie, all of a sudden, there appeared a man walking along the road, and David said he raised his hat and rubbed his brow, as if it were a little warm, and said good morning to them, and they said good morning. Oliver and David looked at each other and began to marvel and wonder: Where did he come from, what does it mean? David described him saying he had on something like an old-fashioned knapsack, but of course a little differently formed, right across his shoulders, and on his back he was carrying something of considerable weight.

"They looked round to Joseph inquiringly: What does it mean? And Joseph said, "Ask him to ride." So David, who was teamster, asked him if he would get in and ride with them. He said, "No, I am just going over to Cumorah." David said, "Cumorah? Cumorah? What does that mean?" He had never heard of Cumorah, and he said, I thought I knew this country all around here, but I never heard of Cumorah" and he inquired about it. While he was looking around and trying to ascertain what the mystery was the man was gone, and when he looked back he did not seem him any more. Then he demanded, "What does it mean?"

"Joseph informed him that the man was Moroni, and that the bundle on his back contained plates which Joseph had delivered to him before they departed from Harmony, Susequehanna County, and that he was taking them for safety, and would return them when he (Joseph) reached father Whitmer's home. There was a long talk about this."

To be sure, there is a discrepancy in the accounts about whether this messenger was Moroni or one of the Three Nephites, a topic I've discussed elsewhere, but there is complete consistency among all the accounts that the messenger was going to Cumorah.

It's obvious why BOMC (and Opening the Heavens) has to re-write history.

BOMC encounters the Three Witnesses - David Whitmer edition
David Whitmer's consistent testimony that the messenger was taking the Harmony plates to Cumorah destroys the two-Cumorah theory.

(Some intellectuals have even suggested that the messenger was making a quick trip to Central America!)

BOMC doesn't want its readers to even know about this important incident on the trip from Harmony to Fayette. Look how they frame it in the kno-why:

David had received word from Oliver Cowdery that Joseph had an ancient record, that he had begun translating it, and that harassment from locals in Harmony was deterring their progress.2 After remaining long enough to observe the young Prophet in action, which included receiving a personal revelation at Joseph’s hands (Doctrine and Covenants 14), David was satisfied “of the divine inspiration of Joseph Smith.”3

With this conviction in place, David used his team and wagon to transport Joseph and Oliver to the home of his parents in Fayette, New York.4 This allowed the translation to move forward to completion without interruption.5 

BOMC doesn't mention that the reason Joseph had Oliver write to David Whitmer was he received a commandment, through the Urim and Thummim, to do so. That's because, according to standard BOMC dogma, Joseph didn't actually use the Urim and Thummim.

Footnote 3 is clever:

Welch, “The Miraculous Timing of the Translation,” 176, doc. 99. Several miracles related to this journey helped David Whitmer have faith that he was on the Lord’s errand. These include his fields being miraculously plowed and fertilized as well as Joseph Smith seeing the details of his journey through the Urim and Thummim. See Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Whitmers: A Family That Nourished the Church,” Ensign, August 1979, online at lds.org; Keith W. Perkins, “True to the Book of Mormon—The Whitmers,” Ensign, February 1989, online at lds.org.

Notice how they list two items related to the trip but omit the third one that contradicts their dogma. Fortunately, it is described in the Perkins article in the Ensign here: "As Joseph, Oliver, and David departed Harmony for Fayette the next day, David once again witnessed an event that strengthened his testimony of the truthfulness of the work of the Restoration. On the trip, they met “a very pleasant, nice-looking old man” who greeted them with “Good morning, it is very warm.” Returning the salutation, they invited him to ride with them. He pleasantly responded, “No, I am going to Cumorah.” This name was new to David since he had never heard it before. The old gentleman “instantly disappeared,” and they did not see him again."

With BOMC, you not only can't trust the article, you can't trust the footnotes. You have to go to original sources every time. (So far, BOMC has not managed to edit original sources, but they know that few readers venture into the footnotes, let alone the original sources.)

There's more I could say, but this gives you a flavor for how BOMC misleads its readers to fulfill its corporate mission.

Consider the juxtaposition of BOMC's censorship of the encounter with the messenger taking the plates to Cumorah with this statement at the end of the kno-why. If BOMC really accepts David's testimony, why do they censor his testimony about the messenger going to Cumorah?

Purely because it contradicts their dogma.

And yet, they want readers to think they support David Whitmer's testimony.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of David Whitmer’s testimony is that he remained so absolutely committed to his original statements, while at the same time being so completely separated from the Church. If David never had the vision he claimed, and if he felt slighted by Joseph Smith and other members of the church, then, in the words of his grandson, he would have “had all to gain and nothing to lose” by telling the truth of the matter.24 Instead, with his dying breaths, David affirmed the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon once and for all.25
Whatever his shortcomings may have been and whatever his personal reasons were for distancing himself from the Church,26 his commitment to telling the truth about his miraculous experience will forever define him as a man of integrity. After reviewing David Whitmer’s contributions as one of the Three Witnesses, Anderson concluded, “Impeccable in reputation, consistent in scores of recorded interviews, obviously sincere, and personally capable of detecting delusion—no witness is more compelling than David Whitmer.”27

(In the Joseph F. Smith account, Joseph says the messenger "would return them" but there is no indication that Joseph knew, on the way to Fayette, that he would be translating different plates once he got to Fayette. He only knew the Lord had told him to translate the plates of Nephi. There is no indication that he knew when and where he would receive those plates and have the opportunity to do that.)

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