Mary Whitmer: The Quiet Witness


User posted image
When we think about the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, we tend to think in the names that appear at the beginning of the Book who bear testimony of the divinity of the plates and who are somehow very closely related to each other: Oliver Cowdery (Joseph Smith’s scribe and who was also married to Elizabeth Whitmer), Martin Harris (Close associate of Joseph Smith and scribe for a little while), David Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., John Whitmer ( children of Mary and Peter Whitmer Sr), Hiram Page (Who married Catherine Whitmer), Joseph Smith Sr (Father of the Prophet), Hyrum Smith and Samuel Harrison Smith (Brothers of Joseph Smith Jr.).

However, little mention is given about another witness, the only woman who testified that she saw the plates : Mary Musselman Whitmer.

She was born in Germany on August 27, 1778 and married Peter Whitmer Sr. And together they raised eight children in a Presbyterian home. As I mentioned earlier, five of those children would later on become witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

The Whitmers heard about the Church through David Whitmer, one of their sons and David learned about the Church through Oliver Cowdery back in 1829 and they became good friends. David was told by Oliver Cowdery through a letter that things were getting out of hand in Pennsylvania and that they needed a place to complete the translation of the Book of Mormon and requested if they could do so at the Whitmer’s farm. This meant that Oliver Cowdery, Emma Smith and Joseph Smith would have to board in their home for a while.

Sponsor Ads:

Now, let’s keep in mind that the Whitmers had also a large family of their own to look after and a farm and there wasn’t such a thing as dishwashers, washers or driers. Mary Whitmer was the one that probably carried a lot of the work around the farm like it was expected from women at the time and certainly, she wasn’t a young girl, she was in her 50’s.

David asked his parents for permission and explained to them how he met Oliver and what he told him about the plates. After a lot of thought and a few miracles, they decided to allow them to stay in their farm as long as it was needed.

So Mary (Not only) had to look after her large family, heavy domestic chores, the cooking, the cleaning and the farm, but also had now three extra people to see about. She was just human and felt exhausted and overwhelmed. I am pretty sure, most of us would feel the same way too, heck sometimes you just throw the dishes in the dishwasher but still complain that you have no help.

Mary’s grandson, John C. Whitmer in 1878 detailed an experience:

“One evening, when (After having done her usual day’s work n the house) she went to the barn to milk the cows, she met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house, she was filled with inexpressible joy and satisfaction.

He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell.

From that moment my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, and she felt no more inclination to murmur because her lot was hard. I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death.”

Yes, a woman “¦a mom, a homemaker to boot, milking cows was privileged to see the plates. Mother Whitmer continued doing all her work quietly after her experience, the milking without modern equipment, cooking without fancy electric stoves, doing the washing without a washing machine and sewing.

When Joseph Smith finished the translation, he asked Oliver Cowdery to make a second copy of the manuscript to take to the printer just in case. This manuscript was later given to David Whitmer and just like the first one, it was also hand-sewn with string by Mary Whitmer herself.

Mother Whitmer’s example reminds us that what we perceive to be small, little contributions that sometimes we think go unnoticed or unappreciated, are indeed seen by a Heavenly Father who sees in secret “¦and he is just waiting to rewards us openly.

But wait a minute…Does this mean that after reading this story you will start doing dishes and vacuuming happily ever after? If that’s the case, I can give you my address so you can spread that joy to my dishes and carpet anytime you wish, see how caring I am?

2 thoughts on “Mary Whitmer: The Quiet Witness”

  1. I am very thankful that the account of this event has survived to this day. In my heart, there are many wonderful lessons to draw from Mrs. Whitmer’s experience.

    First, she was a diligent servant of God. I remember what King Benjamin taught in Mosiah 2:16. “When you are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

    Mrs. Whitmer’s service to her family of milking cows was no less valuable to The Lord than what her sons were doing. Second, I think that one thing to remember that Mrs. Whitmer drew from this is that God loves her. He loves all of us individually. The presentation of the plates said more about Mrs. Whitmer’s relationship with her Heavenly Father than it did about the truthfulness of the restored gospel. And this, to me, is why she was able to go forth from this more joyful and less burdened in her work. The love of God produces these changes more than anything else ever could.

    Third, Heavenly Father remembers His daughters. He communicated to her in a way that would be most meaningful to her. This is another evidence of His individual love for all of His children.

  2. I didn’t know this story! Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful experience! My husband just told me that the prophet Joseph Smith didn’t record it on his journal, I wonder why?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.