Wittmer is one of my heroes from church history, and so the Witmer family joined the church pretty early on before there even was a church, and they actually had Joseph and Emma and Oliver Cowdrey living with their mother. Joseph and Oliver were finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon. And Mary Witmer was the woman of the household. And so this meant a lot more work for her. And I don’t know if she had complained to others or just, you know, in prayers, complained about it.
But she was feeling overly burdened. And she actually had an amazing spiritual experience where the angel Moroni appeared to her and showed her the golden plates. So she’s the only woman that was able to have a viewing of the golden plates. And this story really kind of spoke to me because I have depression. And when I get really depressed, it’s really hard to feel the spirit. And so you don’t get kind of that feedback from the positive feelings of doing service or other things.
And it starts to really feel like a dredge. And so I can see how she might have been feeling like, you know, she’s living on a farm and she has three extra people. And maybe Emma helped a little, but it’s still a lot of work. And so for me, I often feel like that, like I don’t feel the spirit when I go to church, but I know it’s important. So I keep going and things like that.
And so having moments where I have those spiritual experiences that I can look back on is really important. And fortunately, I have had those where I can hang on to that until the Depression lifts that I can feel the spirit again.
The testimonies of the three and eight witnesses to the golden plates are among the first words that many read in the Book of Mormon, but did you know that there are other unofficial witnesses, including some prominent women, of the early restoration among these women? Mary Wittmer is unique. She is the only person other than the official witnesses to have been shown the golden plates by an angel. In April 1829, persecution intensified as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey began the translation of the Book of Mormon for Safety and so the work could continue uninterrupted.
They relocated to the home of the Wittmer family in Fayette, New York, the Whitmore’s where a large family and the burden fell especially hard on Mary who bore the brunt of household tasks. Although she never complained, she may have felt that the labor was too much. However, one day in the course of her chores, she went to the barn and met a stranger carrying a knapsack, although she was frightened of the man. At first 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.
And she was filled with inexpressible joy and satisfaction. The man and angelic messenger opened the knapsack and showed Mary a bundle of plates and turned the leaves of the book of plates over leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them. He told her to be patient and faithful and bearing her burden a little longer and made the promise that if Mary did, she should be blessed and her reward would be sure if she proved faithful to the end.
The appearance of the messenger with the plates coming before the experiences of the three and the eight witnesses provided Mary with the spiritual and physical solace she needed to help move the work forward of her testimony. Mary’s grandson said, I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least out 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.
From this experience, we learn a valuable lesson, just as the Lord did for Mary Wittmer and countless men and women throughout the Scriptures. The Lord will speak to each of us at our times of need. We can each receive our own witness of the truthfulness of the work. And now you know why.
The most interesting aspect of this story is that Mary Whitmer’s difficulty with the household situation was more than just being tired from all the extra work. She was irritated by Joseph and Oliver’s indifference to all the work she was [Page 40]doing, with their not helping out and instead skipping rocks for relaxation, so “she was about to order them out of her home.” Thus Moroni’s intervention was perhaps more purposeful than we might have previously thought. Undoubtedly, many others exerted much effort on behalf of providing help to Joseph and Oliver (such as Emma Smith had just done in Harmony, Pennsylvania, for the previous three months). Here, however, Moroni needed to deal with a more difficult situation, one that could have forced Joseph to find another place – and a secure one – to do the translating. Moroni (and the Lord) weren’t in the habit of just showing the plates to people to encourage them to act as a support team for the work of the translation.