Mary Musselman Whitmer (August 27, 1778 – January 1856) was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, inadvertently called the Mormon Church, on April 18, 1830, shortly after the Church was organized. However, her conversion to the truthfulness of the Church’s doctrines and the divine work of Joseph Smith the Prophet occurred in 1829.
Mary became acquainted with Joseph Smith through introduction by her son David Whitmer. Joseph experienced strong persecution while translating the Book of Mormon, and the Whitmer family boarded Joseph, his wife Emma, and his scribe Oliver Cowdery. Caring for the boarders as well as her large family became quite a burden for Mary.
During this time frame, Joseph, Oliver, and Mary’s sons discussed being shown the Gold Plates. Five of Mary’s sons became official witnesses of the Book of Mormon. They saw the actual golden plates.
The following account by Mary’s grandson John C. Whitmer in 1878 is Mary’s account to her sons and grandchildren about an experience she had one day, while the work of the translation was commencing.
I have heard my grandmother (Mary Musselman Whitmer) say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi. (She undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge.)
It was at the time, she said, when the translation was going on at the house of the elder Peter Whitmer, her husband. Joseph Smith with his wife and Oliver Cowdery, whom David Whitmer a short time previous had brought up from Harmony, Pennsylvania, were all boarding with the Whitmers, and my grandmother in having so many extra persons to care for, besides her own large household, was often overloaded with work to such an extent that she felt it to be quite a burden.
One evening, when (after having done her usual day’s work in 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.
Historical Record,” Vol. 7, p. 621
LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, p.283
B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, Vol.2, p.125
Deseret News, 27 Nov. 1878, p. 674.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.