31764

John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847

Images of this item © Community of Christ and licensed to the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Inquiries about high-resolution images of this item for scholarly use should be directed to the Community of Christ Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri.
a charter granted for the City of Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
. in which they organized themselves according to their own desires— Now according to the best information I could get they the leaders protested [a]gainst Spiritual wife System & gadianton bands & their wickedness publickly but I will show hereafter that they did not do as did the Lamanites, in the days of the Nephites when they were convinced of the incorrect traditons of their fathers for when they were once converted they remained so unto the day of their death.
As soon as the Lord gave Smith & the church favor in the eyes of the people among whom they lived, and began to prosper them and many began to gather to Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
— Smith and the leaders began to excercise their hatred to those whom he called his enemies— he hired a man by the name of Porter Orin [Orrin Porter] Rockwell

28 June 1813–9 June 1878. Ferry operator, herdsman, farmer. Born in Belchertown, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Orin Rockwell and Sarah Witt. Moved to Farmington (later in Manchester), Ontario Co., New York, 1817. Neighbor to JS. Baptized into LDS church...

View Full Bio
(who was one of the gadianton band of whom I heretofore spoke of.). to go and murder a man by the Name of Lilburn W. Boggs

14 Dec. 1796–14 Mar. 1860. Bookkeeper, bank cashier, merchant, Indian agent and trader, lawyer, doctor, postmaster, politician. Born at Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. Served in War of 1812. Moved to St. Louis, ca...

View Full Bio
who had been elected Gov. by the people of the state of Mo.

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

More Info
but was not gov. at the time Smith sent him to commit this crime— Boggs

14 Dec. 1796–14 Mar. 1860. Bookkeeper, bank cashier, merchant, Indian agent and trader, lawyer, doctor, postmaster, politician. Born at Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. Served in War of 1812. Moved to St. Louis, ca...

View Full Bio
Resided at Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

More Info
, the place appointed for the land of Zion yea the New Jerusalem. So Rockwll

28 June 1813–9 June 1878. Ferry operator, herdsman, farmer. Born in Belchertown, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Orin Rockwell and Sarah Witt. Moved to Farmington (later in Manchester), Ontario Co., New York, 1817. Neighbor to JS. Baptized into LDS church...

View Full Bio
went to Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

More Info
and at night he went to the house of Boggs

14 Dec. 1796–14 Mar. 1860. Bookkeeper, bank cashier, merchant, Indian agent and trader, lawyer, doctor, postmaster, politician. Born at Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. Served in War of 1812. Moved to St. Louis, ca...

View Full Bio
and shot him through the window but he did not kill him only wounded him severely but he recovered.
Rockwell

28 June 1813–9 June 1878. Ferry operator, herdsman, farmer. Born in Belchertown, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Orin Rockwell and Sarah Witt. Moved to Farmington (later in Manchester), Ontario Co., New York, 1817. Neighbor to JS. Baptized into LDS church...

View Full Bio
was caught and put to Jail and I believ he was tried by a Jury of inquiry but was not sufficient testimony to condem him, though it is a well known fact that [p. 90]
a charter granted for the City of Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
.  in which they organized themselves according  to their own desires—271

The Nauvoo city charter granted considerable authority to the Mormons. It named the mayor—the office held by JS himself beginning 19 May 1842—as a member of the city council and also as chief justice of the municipal court. Civil government was clearly controlled by the Latter-day Saint leadership, and complaints arose concerning the wide powers granted by the charter; the Alton Telegraph, for example, warned of “the dangerous and alarming powers which were granted to the Mormons, in various charters passed at the last session of our Legislature.” The Illinois legislature debated the powers given to chartered cities, and the state senate committee responsible to research the matter concluded that accusations that the Saints in Nauvoo were given special treatment were based on religious prejudice. The committee found that the Nauvoo charter was similar to the charters of Chicago, Quincy, and Springfield. (“Gov. Duncan,” Alton [IL] Telegraph and Democratic Review, 14 May 1842, [2]; “Report of the Committee on the Judiciary,” Reports Made to Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Illinois, Senate, 13th Assembly, 1st Sess., pp. 1–4.)  


Now according to the  best information I could get they the leaders  protested [a]gainst Spiritual wife System & gadianton  bands & their wickedness publickly272

Whitmer’s history refers here to two allegations common in published anti-Mormon rhetoric of the time—that the Saints were practicing “spiritual wifery” and that they were guilty of rampant thievery in and around Nauvoo. After being publicly cut off from the church in the summer of 1842,a former Nauvoo mayor John C. Bennett began an extensive campaign to discredit JS and the church, writing articles for newspapers and eventually authoring a book, History of the Saints: or, An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism (Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842). One of the focal points of Bennett’s attacks was the “spiritual wife system,” a misrepresentation of the secretly practiced plural marriages of JS and other church leaders.b The term “Gadianton bands,” borrowed from the Book of Mormon, was used by church leaders when speaking about the growing problem of theft in the Nauvoo area. As Whitmer indicated, JS and his associates rejected Bennett’s accusations of spiritual wifery and publicly denounced those participating in larceny.c  


a“Notice,” Times and Seasons, 15 June 1842, 3:830.

b“Further Mormon Developments!! 2d Letter from Gen. Bennett,” Sangamo Journal [Springfield, IL], 15 July 1842, [2]; Bennett, History of the Saints, 220–225; see also “Nauvoo Journals, December 1841–April 1843.”

cJS, Journal, 26 Aug. 1842; Affidavits and Certificates, [Nauvoo, IL: 31 Aug. 1842], copy at CHL; “Thieves,” Times and Seasons, 1 Dec. 1841, 3:615–618; JS, “Proclamation,” The Wasp, 29 Mar. 1843, [3]; JS, Journal, 6 Apr. 1843.

but I will  show hereafter that they did not do as did the  Lamanites, in the days of the Nephites when  they were convinced of the incorrect traditons  of their fathers for when they were once converted  they remained so unto the day of their death.273

See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 290 [Alma 23:3, 6–7].  


As soon as the Lord gave Smith & the chur ch favor in the eyes of the people among whom  they lived, and began to prosper them and many  began to gather to Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

More Info
— Smith and the leaders  began to excercise their hatred to those whom  he called his enemies— he hired a man by  the name of Porter Orin [Orrin Porter] Rockwell

28 June 1813–9 June 1878. Ferry operator, herdsman, farmer. Born in Belchertown, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Orin Rockwell and Sarah Witt. Moved to Farmington (later in Manchester), Ontario Co., New York, 1817. Neighbor to JS. Baptized into LDS church...

View Full Bio
(who  was one of the gadianton band of whom I  heretofore spoke of.). to go and murder a  man by the Name of L[ilburn] W. Boggs

14 Dec. 1796–14 Mar. 1860. Bookkeeper, bank cashier, merchant, Indian agent and trader, lawyer, doctor, postmaster, politician. Born at Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. Served in War of 1812. Moved to St. Louis, ca...

View Full Bio
who had been  elected Gov. by the people of the state of Mo.

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

More Info
 but was not gov. at the time Smith sent  him to commit this crime— Boggs

14 Dec. 1796–14 Mar. 1860. Bookkeeper, bank cashier, merchant, Indian agent and trader, lawyer, doctor, postmaster, politician. Born at Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. Served in War of 1812. Moved to St. Louis, ca...

View Full Bio
Resided  at Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

More Info
, the place appointed for the  land of <Zion> yea the New Jerusalem. So Rockwll

28 June 1813–9 June 1878. Ferry operator, herdsman, farmer. Born in Belchertown, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Orin Rockwell and Sarah Witt. Moved to Farmington (later in Manchester), Ontario Co., New York, 1817. Neighbor to JS. Baptized into LDS church...

View Full Bio
 went to Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

More Info
and at night he went to  the house of Boggs

14 Dec. 1796–14 Mar. 1860. Bookkeeper, bank cashier, merchant, Indian agent and trader, lawyer, doctor, postmaster, politician. Born at Lexington, Fayette Co., Kentucky. Son of John M. Boggs and Martha Oliver. Served in War of 1812. Moved to St. Louis, ca...

View Full Bio
and shot him through the  window but he did not kill him only  wounded him severely but he recovered.274

Boggs had issued the October 1838 “extermination order” authorizing the removal of the Latter-day Saints from Missouri. John C. Bennett first raised the issue by publishing a letter charging JS with complicity in plans to murder the former governor. Boggs himself came to believe that JS set the plan in motion, but JS denied it and no charges against Rockwell or JS were ever substantiated. (John C. Bennett, St. Louis, MO, 13 July 1842, Letter to the editor, Bulletin [St. Louis], 14 July 1842, [2]; see also Introduction to “Appendix: Missouri Extradition Attempt, 1842–1843, Selected Documents.”)  


Rockwell

28 June 1813–9 June 1878. Ferry operator, herdsman, farmer. Born in Belchertown, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts. Son of Orin Rockwell and Sarah Witt. Moved to Farmington (later in Manchester), Ontario Co., New York, 1817. Neighbor to JS. Baptized into LDS church...

View Full Bio
was caught and put to Jail  and I believ he was tried by a Jury of inquiry  but was not sufficient testimony to condem  him, though it is a well known fact that [p. 90]
PreviousNext
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...

View Full Bio
, 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...

View Full Bio
; 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...

View Full Bio
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...

View Full Bio
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...

View Full Bio
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...

View Full Bio
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...

View Full Bio
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...

More Info
, 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...

View Full Bio
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