Of seer stones and hearing angels sing

Of seer stones and hearing angels sing September 23, 2020

 

Whitmer and Kelly from Richins
A rather reluctant David Whitmer being interviewed by reporter Edwin Kelly in Whitmer’s Richmond, Missouri, livery stable. (A 2019 still photo by James Jordan from the then set of the interpreter Foundation’s “Witnesses” film project in Old Sturbridge Village, in Massachusetts.)

 

I offer here three quotations from Ronald E. Romig, Eighth Witness: The Biography of John Whitmer (Independence, MO: John Whitmer Books, 2014), on two distinct topics.

 

The first two relate to seer stones, a topic that, while it’s certainly not a major theme of the theatrical movie, is alluded to at several points in the Interpreter Foundation’s Witnesses film project:

 

Influenced by Joseph Smith’s use of a seer stone, some of the Whitmers acquired similar stones.  Hiram Page and Jacob Whitmer are known to have possessed such stones.  Jacob’s remained in his family until the 1950s.  John may have also acquired a stone while serving as Joseph’s scribe.  The Whitmers were reportedly “so devoted to the importance of seer stones that David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Hiram Page later dated the beginning of their own disenchantment with Mormonism at the time when Joseph Smith stopped using the seer stone as an instrument of revelation.”  Michael Quinn continues: “Their interest in seer stones continued long after their association with Smith.  David Whitmer’s family preserved their grandfather’s artifacts,” including an oblong stone with two holes, now in the possession of the Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri.  (58-59)

 

Orson Pratt, who subsequently associated with Smith’s movement, “once asked him [Smith] why he did not resort to the ancient instruments.  He was told that the translation of the Book of Mormon had made him ‘so well acquainted with the spirit of revelation and prophecy, that in the translation of the New Testament he did not need its aid.”  (73-74)

 

***

 

In 1847, Hiram Page, one of the Eight Witnesses, wrote a letter to William E. McLellin.  In it, he not only repeats his testimony of the Book of Mormon but alludes to a distinct angelophany:

 

As to the Book of Mormon, it would be doing injustice to myself and to the work of God of the last days, to say that I could know a thing to be true in 1830, and know the same thing to be false in 1847.  To say my mind was so treacherous that I have forgotten what I saw, to say that a man of Joseph’s ability, who at that time did not know how to pronounce the word Nephi, could write a book of six hundred pages, as correct as the Book of Mormon without supernatural power.  And to say that those holy Angels who came and showed themselves to me as I was walking through the field, to confirm me in the work of the Lord of the last days — three of whom came to me afterwards and sang an hymn in their own pure language; yes, it would be treating the God of heaven with contempt, to deny these testimonies.  (57)

 

 

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