Evidence #369 | September 12, 2022

Christian Whitmer

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Christian Whitmer, one of the Eight Witnesses of the plates of the Book of Mormon, maintained the truth of his testimony until his death.

The first name that appears under the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon is that of Christian Whitmer. Evidence suggests that Christian was considered to be a responsible and respected member of his community. Historian Richard L. Anderson found that Christian, the oldest son of an industrious family of farmers, was married in 1825 and in that same year was appointed to be an ensign in the Seneca Grenadiers of the 102nd New York Regiment militia, one of three commissioned officers appointed in that unit. Several years later, in 1828 and 1829, he was elected and served as a constable in Fayette township.1

Printer's manuscript featuring the names of the Eight Witnesses, with Christian Whitmer at the top. Image via josephsmithpapers.org. 

That same year in 1829, Christian—in company with seven other men, including three of his brothers—attached his name to the following statement which has accompanied every published edition of the Book of Mormon:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and we know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, Gid bearing witness of it. (The Testimony of Eight Witnesses)

Lucy Mack Smith (Joseph Smith’s mother) recalled that shortly after the Eight Witnesses were shown the plates, “we held a meeting, in which all the witnesses bore testimony to the facts as stated.”2 Information on Christian’s subsequent life is limited due to his premature death in 1835 (he was the first of the Eight Witnesses to pass away), but that which is available indicates that he remained faithful to his original testimony.

David Marks, an itinerant minister from Maine, visited father Whitmer’s home on March 28, 1830, shortly after the Book of Mormon was published. He recorded,

… we attended a meeting in Fayette and tarried at the house of Mr. Whitmer. Here were saw two or three of his sons, and others to the number of eight, who said they were witnesses of a certain book just published, called the “Golden Bible,” or “Book of Mormon.” They affirmed, that an angel had shown them certain plates of metal, having the appearance of gold, that were dug out of the ground by one Joseph Smith …. They stated the writing could be read by no person, except by the said Smith; and that the Lord had inspired him to translate and publish the book, that none, but twelve chosen witnesses, had been allowed to see the plates …. These eight, we understood, were in company with Smith and three others.3

Marks’ account mixes the testimony of the three and the eight together. In their published testimony the Three Witnesses, including David Whitmer, were shown the plates by an angel but did not handle them (The Testimony of Three Witnesses). Only the eight witnesses—including Christian, Peter Jr. and Jacob Whitmer—described the plates as having “the appearance of gold” (The Testimony of Eight Witnesses). Mark’s account, however, provides the earliest published evidence of a subsequent affirmation of the Whitmer family witnesses after the publication of the Book of Mormon.

Image via fwbhistory.com.

As with the Testimony of the Three Witnesses, the testimony of the Eight had a significant impact on early converts to the Restored Church of Jesus Christ. John Corrill, who knew Christian Whitmer and other members of the Whitmer family when he lived in Ohio and Missouri, justified his own acceptance of the Book of Mormon based on the reasonableness of their testimony. He wrote, “As to [the Book of Mormon] being a Revelation from God, eleven persons besides Smith bore positive testimony of its truth. After getting acquainted with them, I was unable to impeach their testimony, and consequently thought that it was as consistent to give credit to them as to credit the writings of the New Testament, when I had never seen the authors nor the original copy.”4

In 1831 the Whitmer family settled in Jackson County Missouri where in 1833 they experienced persecution and the destruction of their homes, until they were finally forced to flee the county. Concerning Christian, historian Andrew Jenson noted that he “passed through all the scenes of persecution and mobbings which took place in that part of the country until he, in connection with the rest of the Saints, was driven out of Jackson County in November 1833.”5 In a letter written in 1833, Corrill reported that a mob of armed men, searching for Church leaders, “searched in the cornfield of Christian Whitmer, and fed their horses freely upon his corn. They also took him and pointed their guns at him threatening to kill him if he did not tell them where the brethren were.”6

After resettling in neighboring Clay County, Christian continued to serve in the Church where he was appointed to the High Council in Missouri but struggled with his health. In his last several years, “he suffered considerably from lameness, having an ugly sore on one of his legs which was a direct cause of his early death.”7 Christian died November 27, 1835, soon to be followed by his younger brother Peter Whitmer Jr. in 1836. In a eulogy for his brothers-in-law, Oliver Cowdery made special mention of their faithful testimony of the Book of Mormon.

By many in this church, our brothers were personally known: they were the first to embrace the new covenant, on hearing it, and during a constant scene of persecution and perplexity, to their last moments, maintained its truth—they were both included in the list of the eight witnesses in the Book of Mormon, and though they have departed, it is with great satisfaction that we reflect, that they proclaimed to their last moments, the certainty of the former testimony: The testament is in force after the death of the testator. May all who read remember the fact, that the Lord has given men a witness of himself in the last days, and that they, have faithfully declared it till called away.8


Evidence suggests that Christian Whitmer was a man of responsibility and good character who maintained the truth of his testimony to having personally seen and handled the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. As one of the Eight who could so solemnly testify to the actual existence of the plates, and as one who suffered persecution for that testimony, his witness of the Book of Mormon deserves to be taken seriously.

Larry E. Morris, A Documentary History of the Book of Mormon (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2019), 415–455.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14, no. 1 (2005): 18–31, 125–127.

Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1981), 123—134.

BibleDeuteronomy 19:152 Corinthians 13:1Book of MormonThe Testimony of Three WitnessesThe Testimony of Eight Witnesses2 Nephi 27:12–13Ether 5:2


Deuteronomy 19:15

2 Corinthians 13:1

Book of Mormon

The Testimony of Three Witnesses

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses

2 Nephi 27:12–13

Ether 5:2

  • 1 Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1981), 125.
  • 2 Lavina Fielding Anderson, ed., Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Book, 2001), 457.
  • 3 David Marks, The Life of David Marks, To the 26th Year of His Age (Limerick, ME: Office of the Morning Star, 1831), 340–341.
  • 4 John Corrill, A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints (St. Louis, MO: Printed for the Author, 1839), 11–12.
  • 5 [Andrew Jenson], “The Eight Witnesses,” The Historical Record 7, nos. 8–10 (October 1888): 610.
  • 6 John Corrill to Oliver Cowdery, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri, December 1833, in The Evening and Morning Star 2, no. 16 (January 1834). 125.
  • 7 [Jenson] “The Eight Witnesses,” 610.
  • 8 [Oliver Cowdery], “The Closing Year,” Latter-day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, December 1836, 426.
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