Resources about the Fayette Trip
Trip to Fayette references
This page provides original sources regarding the trip from Harmony to Fayette during which David Whitmer, Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdery met the divine messenger who was taking the abridged plates to Cumorah.
In May 1829, Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery were translating the plates at Joseph's home in Harmony, PA.
One day, after he applied the Urim and Thummim to his eyes and looked on the plates, Joseph was told through the Urim and Thummim that he needed to contact David Whitmer to request permission for him and Oliver to stay with the Whitmer family in Fayette, NY, to complete the translation. Joseph had never met David, but Oliver had been corresponding with David. Oliver wrote a letter. David received it and told his father about the request. His father pointed out that David had fields to plow and fertilize. Overnight, three unknown men prepared the fields. When David and his father saw this, David's father told him to go get Joseph and Oliver.
In late May/early June, David Whitmer traveled from Fayette to Harmony to pick up Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the abridged plates to a "divine messenger."
On the road to Fayette, Joseph, Oliver and David encountered the messenger who had the plates. David offered him a ride, but the messenger said he was going to "Cumorah." David remembered this because it was the first time he ever heard that word. He had been living in the area for many years and had never heard of Cumorah. He asked Joseph about it and Joseph said the messenger was one of the Nephites.
After they arrived in Fayette, Joseph met the messenger who gave him the plates of Nephi to translate. The messenger also showed the plates to David's mother, Mary Whitmer.
Some Book of Mormon scholars don't believe what Joseph, Oliver, David and others said about Cumorah being in western New York. They think the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is somewhere in southern Mexico, while the hill in New York where Joseph found the plates was named "Cumorah" by early Latter-day Saints by mistake, based on speculation.
These scholars question David Whitmer's accounts to Edward Stevenson and Joseph F. Smith/Orson Pratt because they were "late." However, as explained below, Zina Young asked Stevenson specifically to ask David Whitmer about the account of the messenger. Her last previous known contact with David was in 1832, when he and Hyrum Smith were the missionaries who baptized her family.
They also disbelieve what Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Heber C. Kimball and others said about Joseph and Oliver entering the repository of Nephite records in the New York Cumorah.
Original material is shown in blue type. Emphasis in bold.
Lucy Mack Smith (1844/1845) explains that Joseph was told through the Urim and Thummim to contact David Whitmer. Joseph gave the abridged plates to a divine messenger before leaving Harmony.
In the mean time Joseph was 150 miles distant and knew naught of the matter except an intimation that was given through the urim and thumim for as he one morning applied them to his eyes to look upon the record instead of the words of the book being given him he was commanded to write a letter to one David Whitmore [Whitmer] this man Joseph had never seen but he was instructed to say him that he must come with his team immediately in order to convey Joseph and his Oliver [Cowdery] back to his house which was 135 miles that they might remain with him there untill the translation should be completed for that an evil designing people were seeking to take away Joseph’s life in order to prevent the work of God from going forth among the world
This was accordingly done and the letter received and Mr Whitmore showed it to his Father mother sisters and brothers and asked their advice as to what it would be best for him to do his Father said why David know you have sowed as much wheat as you can harrow in tomorrow and next day and then you have a quantity of plaster to spread that is much needed on your land and you cannot go unless you get an evidence from God that it is very necessary. This suggestion pleased David and he asked the Lord for a testimony of the fact if it was his will that he should go he was told by the voice of the spirit to (sow) (har) inn his wheat his wheat and then go straightway to Penn In the morning he went to the field and found that he had 2 heavy days work before him He then asked the lord to enable him to do this work sooner than the same work had ever been done on the farm before and he would receive it as an evidence that it was the will of God for him to engage in forwarding the work which was begun by Joseph Smith. he then fastened his horses to the harrow and drove round the whole field he continued on till noon driving all the way round at every circuit but when it came to be time to eat dinner he discovered to his surprize that he had harrowed in full half the wheat. after dinner he again went on as before and by evening he finnished the whole 2 days work [p. , bk. 8]
When he informed his father of the fact could not believe it till he examined for himself and ascertained that it was actually the fact Well said his Father there must be some overruling power in this thing and I think you had better go as soon as you get your plaster paris sown and bring up the man with his scribe To this also David agreed The next morning as soon as breakfast was over he took the half bushel measure under his arm and went out to the place where he supposed the plaster to be as he knew exactly where he had left it 24 hours previous but when he came to look for it behold it had entirely disappeared every vestige of it was gone from the spot where he left it he ran to his sisters house a few yards distant and enquired if she knew anything of what had become of the plaster paris which had deposited near there Why said she in surprise you sowed it all yesterday at it was all sown by some one for the the children came and begged me to go out and look at some men that were sowing plaster in the field for said they Mother you never saw anybody sow plaster as fast as they do in your life I went and I I did see three men to work in the field as the children said but suposing that you had employed some assistance because of your hurry to get your work done I passed into the house without giving any further attention to the subject. David made considerable enquiry but not being able to ascertain who had done it he related the circumstance to his Father who was quite as much at a loss to determine how the thing was brought about as he was but there was not a doubt upon the mind one of the family of there being an exertion of supernatural power connected with the operation and all hands went about preparing David for his Journey he was soon on his way and in 2 days he arrived there without injuring his horses in the least although the distance was 135 miles [p. , bk. 8]
Joseph concluded to go himself with Oliver but leave Emma in Pennsylvania in order to set off more speedily than would be possible in case he took his wife along with him. When he commenced making preparations for his journey he enquired of the Lord in what manner the plates should be conveyed to their point of destination. His answer was that he should give himself no trouble about but hasten to waterloo and after he arrived at Mr. Whitmore’s house if he would repair immediately to the garden he would receive the plates from the hand of an angel to whose charge they must be committed for their safety. The Trio viz Joseph, Oliver, and David Whitmore started for Waterloo where they arived after a short and pleasant Journey in health and fine spirits for commencing anew on their labors here they continued translating untill the whole work was completed. They then lost no time in informing us that is his Father’s family of the acomplishment of this very important duty.
Joseph concluded to go himself with Oliver but leave Emma in Pennsylvania in order to set off more speedily than would be possible in case he took his wife along with him. When he commenced making preparations for his journey he enquired of the Lord in what manner the plates should be conveyed to their point of destination. His answer was that he should give himself no trouble about but hasten her to waterloo and after he arrived a[t] Mr. Whitmore’s house if he would repair immediately to the garden he would receive the plates from the hand of an angel to to whose charge they must be committed for their safety. The Trio viz Joseph, Oliver, and David Whitmore started for Waterloo where they arived after a short and pl[e]asant Journey in health and fine spirits for commencing anew on their labors here they continued translating untill the whole work was completed.
Lucy Mack Smith (1845) explains that Joseph was told through the Urim and Thummim to contact David Whitmer. Joseph gave the abridged plates to a divine messenger before leaving Harmony.
We will now return to Pennsylvania, where we left Joseph and Oliver busily engaged in translating the Record. After Samuel [Smith] left them, they still continued the work as before until about the time of the trial that took place in <the State of> New York. Not far from this time, as Joseph was translating by means of the Urim and Thummim, he received instead of the words of the Book, a commandment to write a letter to a man by the name of David Whitmer, who lived in Waterloo; requesting him to come immediately with his team, and convey them [3 words illegible] (Joseph & Oliver) to Waterloo; as an evil designing people were seeking to take away his (Joseph’s life), in order to prevent the work of God from going forth to the world.
The letter was written and received; and David Whitmer, after reading it himself, showed it to his father, mother, brothers and sisters; and asked their advice in relation to the proper course for him to pursue in the matter. The old gentleman reminded David that he had as much wheat sown upon the ground, as he could harrow in, at least in two days; besides, he had a quantity of plaster-paris to spread; which must be done immediately, consequently he could not go unless he could get a witness from God that it was absolutely necessary. [p. 149]
This suggestion pleased David; and he asked the Lord for a testimony concerning his going for Joseph, and was told by the voice of the spirit to go as soon as his wheat was harrowed in. The next morning David went to the field, and found that he had two heavy days work before him. He then said to himself, that, if he should be enabled, by any means whatever to do this work sooner than the same had ever been done on the farm before, he would receive it as an evidence that it was the will of God that he should do all in his power to assist Joseph Smith in the work in which he was engaged. He then fastened his horses to the harrow; and, instead of dividing the field into what is usually termed lands by farmers, he drove round the whole of it: and continued harrowing in this way till noon; when, stopping for dinner, he looked around, and discovered to his surprise, that he had harrowed in full half the wheat. After dinner he went on as before; and by evening, he finished the whole two days work.
The next morning David took a wooden measure under his arm, and went out to sow <the> plaster; which he had left two days previous in heaps, near <one of> his sister’s dwelling; but on approaching the place, where he had left it he discovered that it was gone. He then ran to his sister and inquired of her, if she knew what had become of it. She said with some surprise: “why do you ask me? was it not all sown yesterday? [p. 150]
“Not to my knowledge.” answered
David, “I am astonished at that,” continued his sister; the children came to me in the forenoon, and begged me to go out and see the men sow plaster in the field— that they never saw any body sow plaster so fast in their lives. I accordingly went; and I saw three men at work in the field as the children said; but supposing that you had hired some help on account of your hurry, I went immediately into the house, and gave the subject paid no farther attention to the matter.”
David made considerable inquiry among his relatives and neighbors in regard to this matter; but was not able to ascertain who had done it. However the family were all convinced, that there was an exertion of supernatural power connected with this strange occurrence.
David immediately set out for Pennsylvania, and arrived there in two days, without injuring his horses in the least; though the distance was 135 miles. On arriving at Joseph’s Mr. Whitmer was under the necessity of introducing himself, as this was the first time that they had ever met. The only acquaintance that existed between the Smith and Whitmer family, was that, which was formed by Mr. Smith [Joseph Smith Sr.] and myself while on our way from Manchester to Pennsylvania to visit Joseph; at which time we stopped with Joseph David over night; and gave him a brief history of the Record.
When Joseph commenced making preparations for the journey, he inquired of the Lord to know in what manner he should carry the plates; his answer was, that he should commit into the hands of an angel for [p. 151] their safety; and, when he should arrive at Mr. Whitmer’s, the angel would meet him again in the garden, and deliver them up again into his hands.
Joseph and Oliver set out without delay; leaving Emma to take charge of affairs during her husband’s absence. On arriving at Waterloo, Joseph received the Record according to promise, and the next day, they resumed the work of transtation, which they continued without farther interruption until the whole work was accomplished.
David Whitmer to Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt, in which David describes the messenger who took the abridged plates to Cumorah.
REPORT OF ELDERS ORSON PRATT AND JOSEPH F. SMITH.
NEW YORK CITY, September 17, 1878.
President John Taylor and Council of the Twelve:
Dear Brethren. – We desire to make the following hastily written report of our mission to the Eastern States, which we would have made from time to time as we journeyed along, but for the hurry and inconvenience of daily travel.
As you are aware, we left home on the morning of September 3d, in company with Elder W.C. Staines and seven or eight missionaries en route for Europe and the States. We parted from these brethren at Council Bluffs, excepting Elder Thomas S. Higham, who accompanied us by the Council Bluffs, St. Joseph and Kansas City Railway to Kansas City, and from thence to Independence by the Missouri Pacific Railway, where we parted from him, he continuing on to St. Louis and the Southern States....
Coming to Lexington by narrow-guage railway, we crossed the Missouri River by ferry, and took broad guage railway from this point to Richmond, eight miles.
At Richmond we put up at the Shaw House before the cyclone, a three-story brick building, but has restored, since the tempest, only two stories, now kept by Mr. Warren Ewing, son-in-law to the original proprietor Mr. S. Shaw, once a freighter to Utah, now dead. On Saturday morning, Sept. 7th, we met Mr. David Whitmer, the last remaining one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon. He is a good-sized man, 73 years of age last January, and well preserved. (He was born Jan. 7, 1805), he is close shaven, his hair perfectly white and rather thin, he has a large head and a very pleasant, manly countenance that one would readily perceive to be an index to a conscientious, honest heart. He seemed wonderfully pleased as well as surprised at seeing Elder Orson Pratt. Said he would not have known him he had grown so fat and stout, he remembered him as a slender, bashful, timid boy. After a few moments conversation he excused himself, saying he would return again to see us. This meeting was in the bar-room of the hotel. When he called again he was in company with Col. Childs, a middle aged man, and a resident of the place. By invitation we accompanied them to Mr. Whitmer’s office, where we were introduced to Mr. Mr. David J. Whitmer, (eldest son of David), Mr. Geo. Schweich, (grandson of the old gentleman) Mr. John C. Whitmer, (son of Jacob Whitmer), Col. James W. Black, of Richmond, and several others. A couple of hours were very pleasantly passed in conversation principally on Utah matters, when we parted for dinner, agreeing to meet Mr. Whitmer again at his office at 4:30 p.m.
Agreeable to appointment we met Mr. Whitmer and his friends, at his office, but as the place was too public for private conversation and as it seemed impossible to obtain a private personal interview with David Whitmer, by himself, we invited him and such of his friends as he saw proper to fetch along, to our room in the hotel. Mr. Whitmer apologized for not inviting us to his house, as it was “wash day,” and he and his wife were “worn out” with the extra labor, exposure, &c, &c., consequent upon rebuilding since the cyclone. He accepted our invitation to our room and brought with him James R. B. Vancleave, (a fine looking, intelligent young newspaper man of Chicago, who is paying his addresses to Miss Josephine Schweich grand-daughter of David Whitmer) George Schweich, (grandson), John C. Whitmer, (son of Jacob), W.W. Warner, and another person whose name we did not learn. In the presence of these the following, in substance, as noticed in brother Joseph F. Smith’s journal, is the account of the interview.
Elder O. Pratt to D. Whitmer, Can you tell the date of the bestowal of the Apostleship upon Joseph, by Peter, James and John?
D.W. I do not know, Joseph never told me. I can only tell you what I know, for I will not testify to anything I do not know.
J.F.S. to D.W. Did Oliver Cowdery die here in Richmond?
D.W. Yes, he lived here, I think, about one year before his death. He died in my father’s house right here, in January, 1849 Phineas Young was here at the time.
Elder O.P. Do you remember what time you saw the plates?
D.W. It was in June, 1829—the latter part of the month, and the eight witnesses saw them, I think, the next day or the day after. (i.e. one or two days after). Joseph showed them the plates himself, but the angel showed us (the three witnesses) the plates, as I suppose to fulfil the words of the book itself. Martin Harris was not with us at this time, he obtained a view of them afterwards, (the same day). Joseph, Oliver and myself were together when I saw them. We not only saw the plates of the Book of Mormon but also the brass plates, the plates of the Book of Ether, the plates containing the records of the wickedness and secret combinations of the people of the world down to the time of their being engraved, and many other plates. The fact is it was just as though Joseph, Oliver and I were sitting just here on a log, when we were overshadowed by a light, it was not like the light of the sun nor like that of a fire, but more glorious and beautiful. It extended away round us, I cannot tell how far, but in the midst of this light about as far off as he sits (pointing to John C. Whitmer sitting a few feet from him), there appeared as it were, a table with many records or plates upon it, besides the plates of the Book of Mormon, also the Sword of Laban, the directors—i.e., the ball which Lehi had, and the Interpreters. I saw them just as plain as I see this bed (striking the bed beside him with his hand), and I heard the voice of the Lord, as distinctly as I ever heard anything in my life, declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God.”
Elder O.P.—Did you see the Angel at this time?
D.W.—Yes; he stood before us, our testimony as recorded in the Book of Mormon is strictly and absolutely true, just as it is there written. Before I knew Joseph, I had heard about him and the plates from persons who declared they knew he had them, and swore they would get them from him. Where Oliver Cowdery went to Pennsylvania, he promised to write me what he should learn about these matters, which he did. He wrote me that Joseph had told him his secret thoughts, and all he had meditated about going to see him, which no man on earth knew, as he supposed, but himself, and so he stopped to write for Joseph.
Soon after this, Joseph sent for me (D.W.) to come to Harmony to get him and Oliver and bring them to my father’s house. I did not know what to do, I was pressed with my work. I had some 20 acres to plow, so I concluded I would finish plowing and then go, I got up one morning to go to work as usual, and on going to the field, found between 5 and 7 acres of my ground had been plowed during the night.
I don’t know who did it; but it was done just as I would have done it myself, and the plow was left standing in the furrow.
This enabled me to start sooner. When I arrived at Harmony, Joseph and Oliver were coming toward me, and met me some distance from the house, Oliver told me that Joseph had informed him when I started from home, where I had stopped the first night, how I read the sign at the tavern, where I stopped the next night, etc., and that I would be there that day before dinner, and this was why they had come out to meet me; all of which was exactly as Joseph had told Oliver, at which I was greatly astonished. When I was returning to Fayette with Joseph and Oliver all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old fashioned wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us, while traveling along in a clear open place, a very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon who saluted us with, “good morning, it is very warm,” at the same time wiping his face or forehead with his hand. We returned the salutation, and by a sign from Joseph I invited him to ride if he was going our way. But he said very pleasantly, “No, I am going to Cumorah.’ This name was something new to me, I did not know what Cumorah meant. We all gazed at him and at each other, and as I looked round enquiringly of Joseph the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again.
J.F.S.—Did you notice his appearance?
D.W.—I should think I did, he was, I should think, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches tall and heavy set, about such a man as James Vancleave there, but heavier, his face was as large, he was dressed in a suit of brown woolen clothes, his hair and beard were white like Brother Pratt’s, but his beard was not so heavy. I also remember that he had on his back a sort of knapsack with something in, shaped like a book. It was the messenger who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting from Harmony. Soon after our arrival home, I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father’s barn I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was. Sometime after this, my mother was going to milk the cows, when she was met out near the yard by the same old man (judging by her description of him) who said to her, “You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tried because of the increase of your toil, it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened!” Thereupon he showed her the plates. My father and mother had a large family of their own, the addition to it therefore of Joseph, his wife Emma and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother. And although she had never complained she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much, or at least she was perhaps beginning to feel so. This circumstance, however, completely removed all such feelings, and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities.
Elder O.P.—Have you any idea when the other records will be brought forth?
D.W. – When we see things in the spirit and by the power of God they seem to be right here—the present signs of the times indicate the near approach of the coming forth of the other plates, but when it will be I cannot tell. The three Nephites are at work among the lost tribes and elsewhere. John the Revelator is at work, and I believe the time will come suddenly, before we are prepared for it.
Elder O.P. – Have you in your possession the original Mss. of the Book of Mormon?
D.W.—I have, they are in O. Cowdery’s hand writing. He placed them in my care at his death, and charged me to preserve them as long as I lived; they are safe and well preserved.
[Transcribed by Pat Bishop, Cheryl Brawn, and Mauri Pratt]
Deseret News, dated 27 November 1878.
For more information about the journey of Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt, see this paper:
David Whitmer to Edward Stevenson, in which David describes the messenger who took the abridged plates to Cumorah.
"A Visit to David Whitmer" by Edward Stevenson
Source: Edward Stevenson, “A Visit to David Whitmer,” Juvenile Instructor, 22 (15 Feb 1887):55
[page 55] I recently had great pleasure in visiting and conversing with David Whitmer, the only surviving witness of the three whose names are prefixed to the Book of Mormon, testifying that an angel came down from heaven and laid the plates before their eyes, and they were commanded to bear witness of the truth of what they saw and knew to be correct. Though now very aged, his testimony is still undimmed, and his countenance always brightens in speaking of this most memorable event in his history. Already I had visited this witness on two previous occasions, and in neither of my visits did I find his demeanor, belief or assertions changed concerning this important matter.
On the 2nd day of this year I left Kansas City, Mo., and rode forty-two miles on the cars to Lexington Junction, where I unfortunately failed to make train connection to go five miles further to Richmond, Ray Co., the home of him I sought. But, determined not to be baffled, I decided to walk the distance though the cold was intense, the thermometer going to 17 degrees below zero. I subsequently felt repaid for my pains in the pleasant reception and agreeable conversation with Mr. Whitmer.
He wore a black suit of clothes and dark close-fitting cap on his head. He appeared very noble to me, and his face seemed to beam with intelligence.
He told me that in the beginning of June, 1829, he received a letter from the Prophet asking him to come to Palmyra and convey him to his father’s house, that he might there be able to work on the translation of the Book of Mormon. The journey required about three days each way, and it was necessary to put up at inns on the way. David having forgotten the names of the inns and their proprietors, Joseph looked through the seer stone and told him them. Oliver Cowdery made a note of these, and by inquiry on the journey found that the Prophet had stated correctly.
Soon after arriving at his father’s, David was baptized in Seneca Lake. This was about the middle of June, and shortly thereafter he was ordained an elder, he being the third in the Church, as he claims, to receive this ordination.
While on the return journey from Palmyra, David noticed a somewhat aged-looking man who approached them on the road. He had a very pleasant face, about which, however, there seemed something peculiar, and he carried a knapsack on his back fastened with straps which crossed his breast. David asked him to take a ride, but he declined, saying: “I am going over to Cumorah,” and then disappeared very suddenly, though there was no chance for him to secrete himself in the open country through which the party was then passing. All felt very strange concerning this personage and the Prophet was besought to inquire of the Lord concerning him. Shortly afterwards, David relates, the Prophet looked very white but with a heavenly appearance and said their visitor was one of the three Nephites to whom the Savior gave the promise of life on earth until He should come in power. After arriving home, David again saw this personage, and mother Whitmer, who was very kind to Joseph Smith, is said to have seen not only this Nephite, but to have also been shown by him the sealed and unsealed portions of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.
David Whitmer to Edward Stevenson, in which David describes the repository in the Hill Cumorah.
REMINISCENCES OF Joseph, the Prophet And the Coming Forth of The Book of Mormon
By Elder Edward Stevenson
Of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
[p. 14] It was likewise stated to me by David Whitmer in the year 1877 that Oliver Cowdery told him that the Prophet Joseph and himself had seen this room and that it was filled with treasure, and on a table therein were the breastplate and the sword of Laban, as well as the portion of gold plates not yet translated, and that these plates were bound by three small gold rings, and would also be translated, as was the first portion in the days of Joseph. When they are translated much useful information will be brought to light. But till that day arrives, no Rochester adventurers shall ever see them or the [p.15]treasures, although science and mineral rods testify that they are there. At the proper time when greed, selfishness and corruption shall cease to reign in the hearts of the people, these vast hoards of hidden treasure shall be brought forth to be used for the cause and kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Zina Young on David Whitmer
From Edward Stevenson's journal.
"I wish to mention an Item of conversation with David Whitmer in regard to Seeing one of the Nephites, Zina Young, Desired me to ask about it. David Said, Oliver, & The Prophet, & I were riding in a wagon, & an aged man about 5 feet 10, heavey Set & on his back, an old fashioned Armey knapsack Straped over his Shoulders & Something Square in it, & he walked alongside of the Wagon & Wiped the Sweat off his face, Smileing very Pleasant David asked him to ride and he replied I am going across to the hill Cumorah. Soon after they Passed they felt Strangeley and Stoped, but could see nothing of him all around was clean and they asked the Lord about it. He Said that the Prophet Looked as White as a Sheet & Said that it was one of the Nephites & that he had the plates."*
*You can find this account in these references, although apparently not transcribed exactly: "Edward Stevenson Interview (1) 22-23 December 1877, Richmond, Missouri Diary of Edward Stevenson," LDS Church Archives, Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews, 1993, p. 13; also Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 2003, vol. v, p. 30.
See further discussion and references here:
Deseret News article: