“She Said that they Were fastened with Rings”

“She Said that they Were fastened with Rings” June 21, 2020


David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery being read the riot act.
David Whitmer (at left) sits next to Oliver Cowdery in a quite uncomfortable scene from the forthcoming Interpreter Foundation feature film “Witnesses.”  (Still photograph by James Jordan)


A new item — as always where at all possible, made available at no charge — has appeared on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


“Book of Moses Insights #008: Enoch’s Teaching Mission: Mahijah and Mahaway Interrogate Enoch (Moses 6:40)”




Here are three passages that I marked in Ronald E. Romig, Eighth Witness: The Biography of John Whitmer (Independence, MO: John Whitmer Books, 2014):


First, Edward Stevenson interviewed David Whitmer on 22 December 1877, taking rapid notes as the Witness spoke, and his notes included the following:


Oliver, & The Prophet, & I were riding in a wagon, & an aged man about 5 feet 10, heavy Set & on his back an old fashioned Armey [sic] knapsack Strapped over his Shoulders & Something Square in it, & he walked along side of the Wagon & Wiped the Sweat off of his face, Smileing [sic] very Pleasant  David asked him to ride and he replied I am going across to hill Comorah [sic].  Soon after they passed they felt strangely & Stopped, but could See nothing of him all arround [sic] was clear & they asked the Lord about it he Said that the Prophet Looked as White as a Sheet & Said that it was one of the Nephites & he had the Plates.  on arriveing [sic] at home they were impressed that the Same Person was under the bed [shed] & again they were informed that it was So.  they Saw where he had been & the next morning David’s Mother Saw the Person at the Shed and he took the plates from A Box & showed them to her She Said that they Were fastened with Rings thus D [Stevenson has drawn the shape of a capital D] he turned the leaves over this was a Sattisfaction [sic] to her.  (cited on page 31)


The detail of this account — the D-shaped rings — is striking.  Also, please note that man who showed Mary the plates is not identified as Moroni.


Stevenson’s report that Mary Whitmer’s experience with the “aged man” and the Book of Mormon plates occurred the next morning after the arrival of Joseph, Oliver, and David from Harmony may be incorrect.  Other accounts say that Mary had grown vexed at all of the work that she had to do around the house while Joseph and Oliver and the Whitmer men were busy with matters surrounding the dictation of the Nephite record.  Ron Romig himself alludes to the increased stress of the period:


“Before long, neighbors began to fill the Whitmer home. . . .  The visitors seemed to come in a never ending stream, trying to get a glimpse of the new prophet. . . .  They all had to be fed, and the subsequent dishes cleaned, the cow had to be milked and the butter churned, the bread baked, the beans soaked, and the floor swept.”  This heavy burden of hospitality naturally fell on Mary and fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Ann.  (26)


But having her experience occur the very morning after their arrival doesn’t appear to allow enough time for her to have become irritated.


For further information on Mary’s experience and the background to it, see Royal Skousen, “Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 10 (2014): 35-44.


Edward Stevenson apparently also interviewed David Whitmer on 9 February 1886 and, among other things, recorded this in his journal:


While plowing in the field after Joseph Smith’s arrival, David heard a voice and saw a personage who told him, “Blessed is the name of the Lord & they who keep his commandments.”  Almost immediately, Joseph interrupted his work and invited him to become one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon.  (32)


On 7 January 1878, presumably drawing on his still very recent 22 December 1877 interview with David Whitmer, Stevenson mentioned yet another interesting account in a letter to President John Taylor:


On another occasion, related without any details about time and place but probably during these weeks at Fayette, David, Oliver, and Joseph saw “one of the three Nephites.”  Reinforcing this marvelous tale was their observation that “Joseph’s countenance became almost transparent.”  (32)


Incidentally, claims that “the Prophet Looked as White as a Sheet” and that “Joseph’s countenance became almost transparent” are surprisingly common from a rather significant number of eyewitnesses, referring to times when he was receiving revelation.



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