John Whitmer’s history of the Church shows ordinary people working through real-world difficulties.
When John Whitmer was commanded in 1831 to record the history of the Church, he simply said, “I would rather not do it.” Regardless, he obeyed, and as Joseph Smith promised, his history has become “a choice record in Israel.”
John Whitmer’s record is available to readers in high definition on the Joseph Smith Papers website. Whitmer offers a rich perspective of the experiences of the early Church. Highlights of his record include the following:
- Whitmer’s account of the Jackson County persecutions.
- Revelations detailing the Lord’s will for the Saints, later printed in the Doctrine and Covenants.
- An account of how Joseph Smith obtained the papyri containing the Book of Abraham.
- Letters from the First Presidency to members of the Church describing the land of Zion.
Whitmer’s history paints a picture of ordinary people struggling along as they learn what it
means to be led by revelation and as they try to establish the kingdom of God on the earth. These
are some of the same struggles Church members face today.
Unfortunately, John Whitmer eventually left the Church, and the final chapters of his record
contain his unfavorable view of Church events after his excommunication. However, his record
reflects a principle Whitmer himself wrote about in the history (transcribed here from the
Source: The Joseph Smith Papers
—Ariel Szuch, Mormon Insights
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