A Witness of the Holy Ghost

Another early Ohio convert, Philo Dibble, who lived about five miles east of Kirtland, was told of a “golden Bible.” Curious, he sought out the missionaries and, after hearing Oliver Cowdery speak, believed and presented himself for baptism. His description of the spiritual power attending his reception of the Holy Ghost may be a clue to why so many early Saints found joy in the Restoration:

“When I came out of the water, I knew that I had been born of water and of the spirit, for my mind was illuminated with the Holy Ghost.

“. . . While in bed that night I felt what appeared to be a hand upon my left shoulder and a sensation like fibers of fire immediately enveloped my body. . . . I was enveloped in a heavenly influence, and could not sleep for joy.” 6

6. Philo Dibble, “Philo Dibble’s Narrative,” Early Scenes in Church History (Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882), pp. 75–76.

Newel Knight Has His Calling and Election Made Sure

First Conference of the Church

By June 1830 the Saints in New York were located primarily in Manchester, Fayette, and Colesville. The membership of the Church at this point was about thirty people. Following revealed instructions (see D&C 20:75 ), the Prophet called them together for the first conference of the Church on 9 June, at Fayette. Many people attended who already believed or were eager to learn. Those assembled partook of the sacrament, and several recent converts were confirmed. Samuel H. Smith was ordained an elder, and Joseph Smith, Sr., and Hyrum were ordained priests. Ten brethren received “licenses,” which were small documents certifying they were authorized to represent the Church (see D&C 20:64–65 ). Oliver Cowdery kept the minutes of this meeting and was appointed by the conference to keep the official Church records.

map of New York and Pennsylvania
The three centers of the Church in New York in June of 1830: (1) Manchester township, (2) Fayette township, and (3) the Colesville area

[click for scalable version]

Joseph Smith read to the congregation the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ” (most of sections 20 and 22 of the Doctrine and Covenants ), which contain significant instructions pertaining to the order of the Church. 11

Joseph Smith wrote, “Much exhortation and instruction was given, and the Holy Ghost was poured out upon us in a miraculous manner—many of our number prophesied, whilst others had the heavens opened to their view.” Newel Knight was filled with unspeakable love and peace. He saw a vision of the Savior and learned that he would someday be admitted into the presence of the Lord.

“Such scenes as these were calculated to inspire our hearts with joy unspeakable, and fill us with awe and reverence for that Almighty Being. . . . To find ourselves engaged in the very same order of things as observed by the holy Apostles of old; to realize the importance and solemnity of such proceedings; and to witness and feel with our own natural senses, the like glorious manifestations of the powers of the Priesthood, the gifts and blessings of the Holy Ghost, and the goodness and condescension of a merciful God unto such as obey the everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, combined to create within us sensations of rapturous gratitude, and inspire us with fresh zeal and energy in the cause of truth.” 12

handwritten certificate
Joseph Smith, Sr., certificate of ordination as a priest signed by Joseph Smith, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery.

Shortly after this conference twelve people were baptized in Seneca Lake by David Whitmer. They included Joseph Smith’s sister Katherine and his brothers William and Don Carlos.

12. History of the Church, 1:84–86.

Mary Whitmer, the Twelfth Witness of the Book of Mormon

While the translation progressed, the gospel was being taught in Seneca County, and Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer, Jr., were baptized in June for the remission of sins. Peter Whitmer’s three sons, David, John, and Peter, Jr., became devoted assistants in the work. Eager to learn of the Whitmers’ duties, Joseph sought the Lord, and a revelation was granted to each of them. Each was told to help in building the kingdom of God by declaring repentance (see D&C 14–16 ). All these activities were not easy on Peter and Mary Whitmer, who were hosting the Smiths and Oliver Cowdery in their home. Their son, David, said that this added burden greatly increased the anxiety of his mother. She did not complain, but she felt overwhelmed. David later related what happened one day as his mother went to the barn to milk the cows: “She was met out near the yard by the same old man [seen earlier by David] (judging by her description of him) who said to her: ‘You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tired 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.” 15. “Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” pp. 772–73;

Moroni Helps Safeguard the Plates

…the first meeting between Joseph Smith and David Whitmer. As had happened with Oliver Cowdery, David and Joseph quickly became friends. Soon they were on their way to Fayette, some one hundred miles away. On this occasion Moroni took the plates to avoid danger while transporting them. Another unusual event occurred en route. It happened while they were riding along in the wagon. David Whitmer described the event:

“A very pleasant, nice-looking old man suddenly appeared by the side of our wagon and 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 around enquiringly of Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared. . . .

“. . . It was the messenger who had the plates, who had taken them from Joseph just prior to our starting from Harmony.” 14[Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, 772]

The Three Nephites help David Whitmer

Shortly after beginning to assist Joseph Smith with the work of translation, Oliver wrote to David Whitmer in Fayette township. He enthusiastically testified that Joseph Smith had the ancient records and that the work was divine. Soon he sent a few lines of the translation and bore witness that he knew the plates contained a record of the people who once inhabited this continent. David Whitmer, then twenty-four years of age, eagerly showed these letters to his parents and brothers and sisters. Persecution began to intensify in the Harmony area, so late in May, Oliver communicated with David about the possibility of Joseph and Oliver going to stay with the Whitmers in Fayette. In response Peter Whitmer, Sr., David’s father, invited Joseph to stay at his farm home as long as was needed to finish the work of translation. David’s brother John offered to help as Joseph’s scribe. Many people in the Fayette area were anxious to hear more about the work. 10

David Whitmer
David Whitmer (1805–88) was one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He died in Richmond, Missouri, at the age of eighty-four.

A late May planting was essential for successful fall crops; therefore, David Whitmer had to plow and prepare the soil before he could take his two-horse wagon to pick up Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. At the end of a day of plowing he found he had accomplished in one day what normally would have taken two days to do. David’s father was likewise impressed by this apparent miracle. Peter Whitmer, Sr., said, “There must be an overruling hand in this, and I think you would better go down to Pennsylvania as soon as your plaster of paris is sown.” 11 (Plaster of paris was used to reduce the acidity of the soil.) The next day David went to the fields to sow the plaster, but to his surprise he found the work had been done. His sister, who lived near the field, said that her children had called her to watch three strangers the day before spread the plaster with remarkable skill. She assumed they were men David had hired. 12[History of Joseph Smith 148-149]