Doctrine and Covenants 17
𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝙻𝚘𝚛𝚍 𝚞𝚜𝚎𝚜 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚗𝚎𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚑 𝙷𝚒𝚜 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚍.
What is a witness?
Why does the Lord use witnesses in His work? (see 2 Corinthians 13:1).
Ponder these questions as you read God’s words to the Three Witnesses in Doctrine and Covenants 17. It might also be helpful to review “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” in the Book of Mormon. How do witnesses help bring about God’s “righteous purposes”? (verse 4).
Did you know that Mary Whitmer also received a witness of the gold plates?
The angel Moroni showed them to her as an acknowledgment of the sacrifices she made while Joseph, Emma, and Oliver were living in her home (see Saints, 1:70–71). What do you learn from her experience about receiving a witness?
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🎨 🖼: Painting of the angel Moroni showing the gold plates to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer. Artist unknown.
Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother, gave the following account describing Joseph’s feelings after he returned home from the manifestation to the Three Witnesses: “When they returned to the house it was between three and four o’clock p.m. Mrs. Whitmer, Mr. Smith and myself, were sitting in a bedroom at the time. On coming in, Joseph threw himself down beside me, and exclaimed, ‘Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am: the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel, who has testified to them, and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves, that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul, that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.’” (History of Joseph Smith, p. 152.)
Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris never faltered in bearing testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As history attests, however, they did falter in other Church-related areas. David Whitmer left the Church and never came back. Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris both left the Church but were eventually rebaptized and died in full fellowship. But even while they were out of the Church, all three continued to bear solemn witness of the reality of their experience on that day. They undoubtedly felt the weight of the Lord’s warning to them to keep his commandments or the gates of hell would prevail against them. Francis W. Kirkham wrote about Oliver Cowdery’s death that “in the year 1878, David Whitmer said to Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith concerning his departure: ‘Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw. After shaking hands with the family and kissing his wife and daughter, he said, “Now I lay me down for the last time; I am going to my Savior”; and he died immediately, with a smile on his face.’” (New Witness for Christ, 1:248.) The Richmond Democrat carried the following account of David Whitmer: “On Sunday evening, at 5:30 (Jan. 22, 1888), Mr. Whitmer called his family and some friends to his bedside, and addressing himself to the attending physician, said: ‘Dr. Buchanan, I want you to say whether or not I am in my right mind, before I give my dying testimony.’ The doctor answered: ‘Yes, you are in your right mind, for I have just had a conversation with you.’ He then addressed himself to all around his bedside in these words: ‘Now you must all be faithful in Christ. I want to say to you all, the Bible and the record of the Nephites (Book of Mormon) is true, so you can say that you have heard me bear my testimony on my death-bed. All be faithful in Christ, and your reward will be according to your works. God bless you all. My trust is in Christ forever, worlds without end. Amen.’” (In Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:270.) The last testimony of Martin Harris was given to Elder William Harrison Homer, who was with him at the time of his death. Elder Homer recorded: “The next day, July 10, 1875, marked the end. It was in the evening. It was milking time, and Martin Harris, Jr., and his wife, Nancy Homer Harris, had gone out to milk and to do the evening’s chores. In the house with the stricken man were left my mother, Eliza Williamson Homer, and myself, who had had so interesting a day with Martin Harris at Kirtland. I stood by the bedside holding the patient’s right hand and my mother at the foot of the bed, Martin Harris had been unconscious for a number of days. When we first entered the room the old gentleman appeared to be sleeping. He soon woke up and asked for a drink of water. I put my arm under the old gentleman, raised him, and my mother held the glass to his lips. He drank freely, then he looked up at me and recognized me. He said, ‘I know you. You are my friend.’ He said, ‘Yes, I did see the plates on which the Book of Mormon was written; I did see the angel; I did hear the voice of God; and I do know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, holding the keys of the Holy Priesthood.’ This was the end. Martin Harris, divinely-chosen witness of the work of God, relaxed, gave up my hand. He lay back on his pillow and just as the sun went down behind the Clarkston mountains, the soul of Martin Harris passed on. … (Signed) William Harrison Homer. “Signed in the presence of Mrs. W. H. Homer, Joseph Homer, Leah Widtsoe, John A. Widtsoe.” (In New Witness for Christ, 1:253–54.)