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John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847

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John Murdock

15 July 1792–23 Dec. 1871. Farmer. Born at Kortright, Delaware Co., New York. Son of John Murdock Sr. and Eleanor Riggs. Joined Lutheran Dutch Church, ca. 1817, then Presbyterian Seceder Church shortly after. Moved to Orange, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, ca. 1819....

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and others held a meeting in the city of Cleveland

Cuyahoga Co. seat of justice, 1833. Situated on south shore of Lake Erie, just east of mouth of Cuyahoga River. First settled, 1797. Incorporated as village, 1815; incorporated as city, 1836. Became center of business and trade at opening of Ohio and Erie...

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Ohio, in the Masonick hall by the request of some of the Citizens of said City

Cuyahoga Co. seat of justice, 1833. Situated on south shore of Lake Erie, just east of mouth of Cuyahoga River. First settled, 1797. Incorporated as village, 1815; incorporated as city, 1836. Became center of business and trade at opening of Ohio and Erie...

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. An opertunity which some sought to bring about their evil designs. Elder Murdock

15 July 1792–23 Dec. 1871. Farmer. Born at Kortright, Delaware Co., New York. Son of John Murdock Sr. and Eleanor Riggs. Joined Lutheran Dutch Church, ca. 1817, then Presbyterian Seceder Church shortly after. Moved to Orange, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, ca. 1819....

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addressed the congregation on the subject of the gospel; and warned the inhabitants of that place to flee the wrath to come.
Others followed him and while they were yet speaking One of the congregation came towards the stand and kneeled down and began to pray, a sign to the bandity [banditti] to begin their abuse, At this time they began to blow out the candles ang [and] throw inkstands and books &c at the speaker. and one of the brethren prayed that the Lord would stop the utterance of the fellow that came and kneeled at the stand and he became silent and could not rise from his knees for some time, because of the prayer of faith.
In the beginning of the church, while yet in her infancy, the disciples used to exclude unbelievers, which caused some to marvel, and converse about this matter because of the things that were written in the Book of Mormon. Therefore the Lord deigned to speak on this subject, that his people might come to understanding. and said, that he had always given to his Elders to conduct all meetings as they were led by the spirit. &c. See. Revelation Given March 1831. Book Doctrine and Covenants first edition printed at Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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Ohio. Page 132 Section 16. insert the Revelation.

Chapter 5

Chapter. V.
The time drew near for the brethren from the State of New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

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to arrive at Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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Ohio. And some had supposed that it was the place of gathering even the place of the New Jerusalam spoken of in the Book of Mormon. according to the visions and revelations received in the last days. There was no preparation made for the reception of the Saints. from the east. The Bishop

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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being anxious to know something concerning the matter. Therefore the Lord spake unto Joseph Smith Jr. as follows; [p. 23]
John Murdock

15 July 1792–23 Dec. 1871. Farmer. Born at Kortright, Delaware Co., New York. Son of John Murdock Sr. and Eleanor Riggs. Joined Lutheran Dutch Church, ca. 1817, then Presbyterian Seceder Church shortly after. Moved to Orange, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, ca. 1819....

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and others held a meeting in the city  of Cleveland

Cuyahoga Co. seat of justice, 1833. Situated on south shore of Lake Erie, just east of mouth of Cuyahoga River. First settled, 1797. Incorporated as village, 1815; incorporated as city, 1836. Became center of business and trade at opening of Ohio and Erie...

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Ohio, in the Masonick hall by the request  of some of the Citizens of said City

Cuyahoga Co. seat of justice, 1833. Situated on south shore of Lake Erie, just east of mouth of Cuyahoga River. First settled, 1797. Incorporated as village, 1815; incorporated as city, 1836. Became center of business and trade at opening of Ohio and Erie...

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. An opertunity which some  sought to bring about their evil designs. Elder Murdock

15 July 1792–23 Dec. 1871. Farmer. Born at Kortright, Delaware Co., New York. Son of John Murdock Sr. and Eleanor Riggs. Joined Lutheran Dutch Church, ca. 1817, then Presbyterian Seceder Church shortly after. Moved to Orange, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, ca. 1819....

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 addressed the congregation on the subject of the gospel; and  warned the inhabitants of that place to flee the wrath to come.
Others followed him and while they were yet speaking  One of the congregation came towards the stand and kneeled down  and began to pray, a sign to the bandity [banditti] to begin their abuse,  At this time they began to blow out the candles ang [and] throw  inkstands and books &c at the speaker. and one of the  brethren prayed that the Lord would stop the utteranc[e] of  the fellow that came and kneeled at the stand and he  became silent and could not rise from his knees for  some time, because of the prayer of faith.
In the beginning of the church, while yet in her infancy, the  disciples used to exclude unbelievers, which caused some to marvel, and  converse about this matter because of the things that were written  in the Book of Mormon.52

In the Book of Mormon, Jesus enjoined, “Ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you, and forbid them not; but ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out.” However, an 1830 revelation instructed that only baptized members be allowed to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, seeming to justify closed meetings when the sacrament was administered. In addition, the many Kirtland Saints who were previously members of the Disciples of Christ were accustomed to admitting only members of their own denomination to communion services. (Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 492 [3 Nephi 18:22–23]; Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830, in Doctrine and Covenants 2:18–19, 1835 ed. [D&C 20:68]; Garrison and DeGroot, Disciples of Christ, 175–176.)  


Therefore the Lord deigned to speak on this  subject, that his people might come to understanding. and said,  that he had always given to his people in Elders to conduct all meetings  as they were led by the spirit. &c. See. Revelation Given March  1831. Book Doctrine and Covenants first edition printed at  Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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Ohio. Page 132 Section 16. insert the Revelation.53

Revelation, ca. 8 Mar. 1831–A, in Doctrine and Covenants 16, 1835 ed. [D&C 46]. The revelation to be inserted directed that non-Mormons be included in church meetings: “Ye are commanded never to cast any one out from your public meetings . . . who is earnestly seeking the kingdom.” The revelation went on to discuss gifts of the spirit, with a list similar to that found in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, and Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 586 [Moroni 10:8–18]  


Chapter 5

Chapter. V.
The time drew near for the brethren from the State of  New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

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to arrive at Kirtlan[d]

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

More Info
Ohio.54

In response to a 30 December 1830 revelation, about seventy Latter-day Saints from Colesville, New York, left for Ohio in April 1831; other groups left in May from Fayette and from Manchester. With the imminent arrival of the Saints from New York, the church faced the problem of obtaining more Ohio land for them. Leaders were also concerned with how the church’s Ohio land commitments would affect their ability to purchase land for the New Jerusalem, the precise location of which had not yet been revealed. (See Revelation, 30 Dec. 1830, in Doctrine and Covenants 58, 1835 ed. [D&C 37]; and Porter, “Study of the Origins,” 299–303, 315–316, 321–322.)  


And some had supposed  that it was the place of gathering even the place of the New Jerusa lam spoken of in the Book of Mormon. according to the visions  and revelations received in the last days. There was no preparation  made for the reception of the Saints. from the east. The Bishop

27 Aug. 1793–27 May 1840. Hatter. Born at Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of William Partridge and Jemima Bidwell. Moved to Painesville, Geauga Co., Ohio. Married Lydia Clisbee, 22 Aug. 1819, at Painesville. Initially a Universal Restorationist...

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55  being anxious to know something concerning the matter. Therefore  the Lord spake56

TEXT: Or “spoke”.  


unto Joseph Jr Smith Jr. as follows;57

Revelation, 10 Mar. 1831 [D&C 48]. The copy that follows does not match the version in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, Whitmer’s usual source. It appears he copied it from an early manuscript copy of the revelation.  


[p. 23]
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John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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, History, 1831–ca. 1847, as found in “The Book of John, Whitmer kept by Comma[n]d,” ca. 1838–ca. 1847; handwriting of John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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; ninety-six pages (two additional leaves missing); CCLA. Includes redactions, editing marks, and archival marking.
John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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inscribed his history into a blank book containing leaves ruled with thirty-four blue-green horizontal lines (now faded). Evidence suggests there were originally twelve gatherings of twelve leaves (twenty-four pages) each. The entire fifth gathering is missing from the current volume, and one extra leaf not part of the original text block was inserted between the fourth and sixth gatherings, making 133 interior leaves in the current volume. The text block was sewn all along on recessed cords. The blank leaves measure 12¼ x 7⅞ inches (31 x 20 cm); the inscribed leaves are slightly smaller in width, having been trimmed about ⅛ inch (0.3 cm) during conservation work. The volume was constructed with front and back covers of pasteboard and likely had a hollow-back spine and quarter-leather binding. The outside covers are adorned in shell marbled paper, with gray-green body and veins of blue and red. The complete volume currently measures 12½ x 8⅛ x 1 inches (32 x 21 x 3 cm).
Details of the original state of the volume are impossible to determine because of conservation work done in the second half of the twentieth century. Initially the inscribed leaves were removed from the original boards and from the intact blank leaves of the volume and rebound separately in a modern comb binding. These inscribed leaves were later removed from this binding, reinforced along the bound edge with paper, laminated with thin paper, and bound in a modern case binding. A third conservation effort reversed the earlier work by removing the laminated material and reattaching the inscribed leaves to the blank leaves and the original boards.
The final leaf of the fourth gathering contains manuscript pages 95 and 96. The next two leaves, containing manuscript pages 97 through 100, are missing. They were removed before 1893, when Andrew Jenson, a representative of the Church Historian’s Office in Salt Lake City, inspected the volume and noted that it was missing two leaves at that point. Evidence indicates that the remaining leaves of the fifth gathering were intact but blank when Jenson inspected the volume in 1893, suggesting they were discarded during the first conservation effort in the twentieth century. The first blank leaf following manuscript page 96 does not match the texture or form of the other blank leaves, but it does bear a slight water stain matching staining found on almost all leaves within the book. It may be an extra flyleaf from either the front or back of the volume inserted after page 96, or it may be paper from a different source; in either case, it was inserted early enough to be stained with the rest of the volume. The endpapers are original and currently consist of pastedowns and single flyleaves in the front and back of the volume.
An unidentified scribe, most likely working in the nineteenth century, wrote “Church History” on the top of the front cover. A green adhesive label is affixed to the front cover. At some point, someone attempted to remove the label but succeeded in removing only portions of it. The only writing visible on the label is “HURC”, a remnant of the word “CHURCH”. The current spine of the volume was added during conservation work, and thus it is unknown whether the original spine bore a title. The recto of the front flyleaf contains several redactions or archival markings in graphite in an unknown hand: “John Whitmer | written | 1835–1838 | after 1860” and “MS History of church | 1830–1838”. The verso is blank, aside from offsetting from the first interior page and a stamped “1072” near the bottom. Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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inscribed his history from page 1 through the bottom of page 96, at which point the narrative ends midsentence, suggesting it originally continued onto the next page. When Andrew Jenson saw the book in 1893 while visiting Missouri to gather historical information, he made a handwritten copy of the volume and provided a physical description. He wrote that “four pages or two leaves have been torn off the book, which is seen from fragments of the leaves remaining.” He also noted that “the next page left intact is 101. No other writing, however, appears on this page, nor on any of the succeeding pages.”1

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson typescript, ca. Mar. 1894, 68.  


Jenson’s earlier draft stated that the page “is numbered 101.”2

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson manuscript copy, ca. Sept. 1893, 85.  


If this was the case, then the page numbered 101 was part of the fifth gathering and is now missing. At some point, likely during the early twentieth century, the leaf containing pages 95 and 96 was repaired with adhesive tape; the tape was removed during a later conservation effort.3

The leaf currently bears remnants of this tape. Microfilm made of the manuscript in 1974 shows clear evidence of the tape. (Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” microfilm, Oct. 1974, Research Library and Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independence, MO, copy at CHL.)  


Redactions were made by John Whitmer himself, and subsequent editing marks were made that correspond to the early twentieth-century publication of Whitmer’s history by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (RLDS church).4

“Church History,” Journal of History, Jan. 1908, 43–63; Apr. 1908, 135–150; July 1908, 292–305.  


Following his excommunication in 1838, John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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apparently retained possession of the history. In a January 1844 offer to sell his history to the church, Whitmer wrote that the “church history” was “at my controll but not in my Possession.”5

John Whitmer, Far West, MO, to William W. Phelps, Nauvoo, IL, 8 Jan. 1844, JS Office Papers, CHL.  


Willard Richards

24 June 1804–11 Mar. 1854. Teacher, lecturer, doctor, clerk, printer, editor, postmaster. Born at Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe. Moved to Richmond, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, 1813. Moved to Chatham, Columbia...

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declined the offer,6

Willard Richards, Nauvoo, IL, to John Whitmer, Far West, MO, 23 Feb. 1844, copy, Willard Richards, Papers, CHL.  


and Whitmer certainly had the “Book of John Whitmer” after January 1844, because he updated the volume after JS’s death.
It appears Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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retained his papers until his death in July 1878, after which his widow, Sarah Maria Jackson Whitmer, sent the “Book of John Whitmer” (though apparently not any earlier notes or drafts) and other papers to Richmond

Area settled, ca. 1814. Officially platted as Ray Co. seat, 1827. Population in 1840 about 500. Seat of Fifth Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri; also location of courthouse and jails. JS and about sixty other Mormon men were incarcerated here while awaiting...

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, Missouri, where Whitmer’s brother David

7 Jan. 1805–25 Jan. 1888. Farmer, livery keeper. Born near Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Ontario Co., New York, shortly after birth. Attended German Reformed Church. Arranged...

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resided.7

Whitmer, “The Book of John Whitmer,” Andrew Jenson typescript, ca. Mar. 1894, [69]; “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Deseret News, 27 Nov. 1878, 674–675; 4 Dec. 1878, 690.  


David Whitmer had possession of the volume in the 1880s, before his death in 1888.8

“Revelation Revisers,” Missouri Republican (St. Louis), 16 July 1884, [7]; see also “The Book of Mormon,” Chicago Tribune, 17 Dec. 1885, 3.  


In 1893, when Andrew Jenson inspected and copied the “Book of John Whitmer,” it was in the possession of David J. Whitmer, David Whitmer’s son. Following David J. Whitmer’s death, his nephew George Schweich, a grandson of David Whitmer, took possession of the material, along with the Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript and other early Latter-day Saint manuscripts.9

Andrew Jenson et al., “Historical Landmarks,” Deseret Evening News, 26 Sept. 1888, 7; T. E. Lloyd, “The Carroll-Lloyd Expose,” Zion’s Ensign, 15 July 1893, 6; “The Book of Mormon,” New York Times, 21 Sept. 1899, 9; George Schweich, Richmond, MO, to O. R. Beardsley, 17 Jan. 1900, Miscellanea, Marie Eccles-Caine Archives of Intermountain Americana, Utah State University Special Collections, Logan; Walter W. Smith, Independence, MO, to S. A. Burgess, Independence, MO, 15 Apr. 1926, J. F. Curtis Papers, CCLA; see also Heman C. Smith, Lamoni, IA, to George Schweich, 20 July 1896, CCLA.  


By 1902, the First Presidency of the RLDS church approved the purchase of papers owned by Schweich, including the “Book of John Whitmer,” the Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript, and several leaves that had been separated from Revelation Book 1.10

“Minutes of First Presidency,” 24 Apr. 1902, CCLA; Walter W. Smith, Independence, MO, to the RLDS First Presidency, Independence, MO, 14 Sept. 1925, Whitmer Papers, CCLA; see also Source Note to Revelation Book 1.  


The RLDS church, later renamed the Community of Christ, has maintained custody of the Whitmer history since that time.

Facts