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John Whitmer

by Elder B. H. Roberts

The fourth of the Eight Witnesses (See Book of Mormon Witnesses), John Whitmer, was twenty-seven years of age when he beheld the plates of the Nephite record. He was a young man of considerable promise, and upon the coming of Joseph Smith to his father's house, became not only his enthusiastic friend, but rendered him considerable assistance in writing as the Prophet dictated the translation of the Book of Mormon. John Whitmer was Church Historian for a number of years; for a time editor of the Messenger and Advocate, the second periodical published by the Church (Kirtland, Ohio, 1834-1837). He was also prominent in the affairs of the Church in Missouri, being one of the assistant presidents of the Church, his brother David and William W. Phelps being the president and other assistant respectively. He endured the hardships incident to the persecutions of the Saints in that land. When settlements were being formed in the new county of Caldwell, John Whitmer was prominently connected with the land. purchases made. Indeed it was largely owing to some irregularities connected with the business, and some misunderstanding with the Prophet and other leading brethren in the Church, that finally resulted in his excommunication, in March, 1838.

After the expulsion of the Church from Missouri, in the winter of 1838-9, John Whitmer purchased the greater part of the townsite of Far West, which soon reverted to farming lands; and here John Whitmer continued to live, making farming his principal occupation, until his death in July, 1878. Though his relations with the Church were severed John Whitmer, up to the very close of his life, continued to bear witness that his testimony published in connection with the Book of Mormon was true. From it he never deviated. It was his testimony when living; it remains his testimony now that he is dead, unimpaired in its force by any word of his, though he was much offended at the Prophet Joseph, and for forty years had no standing in the Church. One can but regret the events which resulted in his severance from the Church, but one is compelled to admire his fidelity to the trust imposed in him by the Prophet when he made him a Witness for the existence of the Nephite record, in the presence of temptation to take a different course in the hour of his great darkness.

New Witnesses for God, Vol.2, p.324

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