Mormons are always happy to tell the world that the three earliest witnesses of the Book of Mormon never denied or recanted their testimony of the Book of Mormon. Their testimony prefaces the book to this day. For many Mormons this is a strong point to the authenticity and truth of their faith.
What they ignore is that there is a logical disconnect from knowing and believing the Book of Mormon to be true and the entire LDS faith being true. This can no better be seen then in the writings of one of those three eyewitnesses, David Whitmer.
David Whitmer was one of the earliest members of the Mormon faith. He was the third person baptized into Mormonism. He along with Oliver Cowdry and Martin Harris are the three men who are believed to witness the appearance of an angel who showed them the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is believed to have been translated. In fact it was even near Whitmers own home that this appearance occured. Whitmers own brothers Christian, Jacob, John and Peter were also 4 of the eight witnesses also spoken of in the preface to the Book of Mormon. In 1938 all living members of the Whitmer household were excommunicated from the church, David, John, Jacob. Hiram Page, one of the eight, also left the church as a result of their excommunication. In other words one of the three witnesses left the Mormon church and five of the eight witnesses left the church. Not to mention the two remaining witnesses of the three were excommunicated but later returned.
This in itself should be a red flag to any Mormon, but even more troubling is David Whitmers own writings his Address to All Believers in Christ in 1887. In it Whitmer outlines quite plainly that though he stands by his testimony of the Book of Mormon, he in no way stands by Joseph Smith or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
First he outlines that there are three churches that believe the book of Mormon:
- The Church of Christ (now known as Church of Christ Temple Lot)
- The Reorganized church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as Community of Christ)
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
He then begins some very plain accusations against the LDS church and Joseph Smith. He says, “Joseph Smith, who after being called of God to translate his sacred word — the Book of Mormon– drifted into many errors and gave many revelations to introduce doctrines, ordinances and offices in the church, which are in conflict with Christ’s teachings’ [pg 4].
Whitmer clearly believed that there was a conflict between the teachings of the LDS church and the Bible, ‘I do not indorse any of the teachings of the so-called, Mormons, of Latter Day Saints, which are in conflict with the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as taught in the Bible and Book of Mormon.’ [pg 9] And also, ‘The latter Day Saints believe these new doctrines, which do not agree with the teachings of Christ’ [pg 26].
He takes a large part of the address to outline ways in which he saw that the Mormon church had gone astray many of which dealt with ‘how the church drifted in errors by giving heed to revelations that were given by Joseph Smith after he translated the Book of Mormon’ [pg 16].
He begins to explain how he sees this disconnect from Smith being chosen to interpret the Book of Mormon and him being a prophet or the one to reestablish Jesus’ church, ‘but he (Smith) was not called to set up and establish the church any more than any of Elders were. . . the “choice Seer,” spoken of in the Book of Mormon is not Brother Joseph’ [pg 26].
The “Choice Seer” which is prophecied of in the Book of Mormon is believed to be Joseph Smith by the LDS church, but Whitmer explains how that seer is supposed to bring the Native Americans to Christ yet Joseph ‘never preached a sermon to them in his life to my knowledge’ [27 see also pg 68]
Whitmer further contends that any legitimate translation or revelation given by Joseph Smith was given through a seeing stone [pg 30], that Oliver Cowdry also used this same stone to prophecy once [pg 37] and that Smith stopped using the stone after finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon [pg 32, 42, 57]. In other words Whitmer believes that Joseph Smith was given the power to translate the Book of Mormon and he was only a tool for that end but he had no more gifting or purpose beyond that.
In summary, it is Whitmer’s belief that although Smith was called to translate the Book of Mormon and that the Book of Mormon is truth, Smith stepped into sin and no longer, nor ever was supposed to be the leader of the Mormon church. He denied any of the other works of Smith in any way being viewed as scripture and rejected Smith being prophesied of as the choice seer spoken of in the Book of Mormon. And this makes sense since we know time after time of men of God who they started off well fell away from God and did not speak for him. Noah, Gideon, David, Solomon, Joshua, Moses. . . Just because God uses someone to do a great thing does not in turn mean everything they say is from God.
Does this mean I am accepting the Book of Mormon to be true? Absolutely not! This only creates one more separation between Orthodox Christianity and Mormonism because even if it were confirmed that the Book of Mormon is true it would not mean that the LDS church is Gods church.