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 (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]
Joseph Smith’s father had a vision similar in many ways to Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life:
Later in 1811, Joseph, Sr., experienced a second profound dream that related to his family. It was much like Lehi’s dream of the tree of life. He found himself following a path to a beautiful fruit tree. As he began to eat the delicious fruit, he realized that he must bring his wife and family to the tree so they could enjoy it together. He went and brought them, and they began to eat. He reported that “We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed.” 21
Asael Smith [1744-1830] was the paternal grandfather of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Asael’s philosophy agreed with that of the Universalists, who believed in Jesus Christ as a god of love who would save all of his children. Like all Universalists, Asael was more comfortable with a god who was more interested in saving than in destroying mankind. He believed that life continued after death.
In an address to his family, Asael wrote: “The soul is immortal. . . . Do all to God in a serious manner. When you think of him, speak of him, pray to him, or in any way make your addresses to his great majesty, be in good earnest. . . . And as to religion, study the nature of religion, and see whether it consists in outward formalities, or in the hidden man of the heart. . . .
“Sure I am my Savior, Christ, is perfect, and never will fail in one circumstance. To him I commit your souls, bodies, estates, names, characters, lives, deaths and all—and myself, waiting when he shall change my vile body and make it like his own glorious body.” 3
Asael Smith also predicted that “God was going to raise up some branch of his family to be a great benefit to mankind.” 4 Many years later when his son Joseph Smith, Sr., gave him a recently published Book of Mormon, he was vitally interested. George A. Smith recorded, “My grandfather Asael fully believed the Book of Mormon, which he read nearly through.” 5 Asael died in the fall of 1830, confident that his grandson Joseph was the long-anticipated prophet and that he had heralded in a new religious age.
During the four years that the Prophet Joseph returned to the Hill Cumorah to meet with Moroni, each time he was taught in gospel principles as well as the history of the inhabitants of the Americas……
But did you know as well that during those three years, Joseph was also visited and taught by Nephi, Alma, the Twelve Nephite Disciples, and Mormon?
Joseph’s Preparation Continues
The monumental work of bringing forth the Book of Mormon was foretold by ancient prophets (see Isaiah 29, Ezekiel 37:15–20, Moses 7:62). A work of such magnitude requires careful preparation. In this instance, it required four years of tutoring. During that time Joseph met annually with Moroni at the Hill Cumorah to receive instructions in preparation for receiving the plates. Other Nephite prophets who had a vital interest in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon also played a significant role in Joseph’s preparation. Nephi, Alma, the twelve Apostles chosen by the Savior in America, and Mormon all instructed Joseph.9 His education was intense during this period.
His mother, Lucy, describes their evening conversations: “Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing [interesting] recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.”10
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave what I consider to be one of the great conference talks of all time in the April 2009 General Conference. It ranks up there with Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s last talk in 1985.