D&C 14, 15, 16| Background & Context
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Date: June 1829

Place: Fayette, New York

From Revelations in Context at

The Peter Whitmer Sr. family of Fayette Township, New York, (about a hundred miles north of Harmony) had first heard of the “gold Bible” late in 1828, after son David struck up a friendship with Oliver Cowdery during a visit to Palmyra. They decided to investigate the story of the plates and keep each other informed.

Oliver had stopped to see the Whitmers in the spring of 1829 when he was on his way to meet Joseph and ultimately serve as his scribe. Since then, Oliver had written letters to David telling of the miraculous translation. Like the Knights, the Whitmers became convinced they should assist in the translation, and around the end of May, David traveled to Harmony to move Joseph and Oliver to the Whitmer home. “He proposed that we should have our board free of charge,” wrote Joseph. “Upon our arrival, we found Mr. Whitmer’s family very anxious concerning the work, and very friendly towards ourselves. They continued so, boarded and lodged us according to proposal, and John Whitmer, in particular, assisted us very much in writing during the remainder of the work.” (Emma arrived at the Whitmer home shortly after Joseph and Oliver and also acted as a scribe.)

The month of June 1829 was one of the most remarkable in the history of the Church. Not only did Joseph and his scribes complete the translation, Joseph dictated at least five revelations, Oliver dictated a revelation called “Articles of the Church of Christ,” and the two of them had a powerful experience “in the Chamber of Mr. Whitmer’s house” in which “the word of the Lord” came unto them and instructed them regarding a series of key ordinances and meetings [see Account]. In addition, Joseph applied for a copyright to the Book of Mormon, and he and Martin Harris apparently began talking to printers about publishing the book. Finally, Moroni appeared and showed the plates to the Three Witnesses (near the Whitmer farm in Fayette Township), and the Eight Witnesses saw and handled the plates (near the Smith farm in Palmyra Township).

This flurry of crucial activity simply would not have been possible if not for the support of the Whitmers. Such service brought both trials and rewards. A grandson of Mary Musselman Whitmer (wife of Peter Whitmer Sr.) reported that she had “so many extra persons to care for” that “she was often overloaded with work.” One evening, after a long day’s work, she went to the barn to milk the cows and met a stranger who “showed her a bundle of plates” and “turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf,” promising Mary that “she should be blessed” if she were “patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer.” She thus became another witness of the Book of Mormon.

Special blessings also came to Mary’s sons. “David, John, and Peter Whitmer Jr became our zealous friends and assistants in the work,” wrote Joseph. The same could have been said for Christian and Jacob Whitmer, who joined John and Peter Jr. as four of the Eight Witnesses. When David, John, and Peter Jr. asked Joseph to inquire of the Lord concerning their duties, Joseph dictated three revelations now known as sections 1415, and 16 of the Doctrine and Covenants. (“The Knight and Whitmer Families,” Revelations in Context,