In the latter part of May 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery endured threats from mobs while completing the translation of the Book of Mormon. To help them escape the persecution, David Whitmer helped them move from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York. The Whitmer family took great interest in the unfolding events of the Restoration. Joseph Smith described David, John, and Peter Whitmer Jr. as “zealous friends and assistants in the work; and … anxious to know their respective duties” (in History of the Church, 1:49). The Prophet prayed and received the word of the Lord directed to each of these three brothers.
The following account describes the miraculous events that allowed David Whitmer to help Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith escape from their persecutors:
David Whitmer was planting wheat on the family farm in Waterloo, New York, near Fayette, when he was asked to go to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to help Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. He determined to do this after he had completed his farming duties. He was able to harrow his whole field in one day, from the morning to the evening. The next day he was going to fertilize the field, and his sister told him about three men she had seen sowing the plaster the day before in the “forenoon.” Following is Lucy Mack Smith’s account of this miraculous event:
“David went to the field, and found that he had two heavy days’ work before him. … He then fastened his horses to the harrow, and instead of dividing the field into what is, by farmers, usually termed lands, drove around the whole of it, continuing thus till noon, when, on 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.
“His father, on going into the field the same evening, saw what had been done, and he exclaimed, ‘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.’
“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 his sister’s house, but, on coming to the place, he discovered that it was gone! He then ran to his sister, and inquired of her if she knew what had become of it. Being surprised she said, ‘Why do you ask me? was it not all sown yesterday?’
“‘Not to my knowledge,’ answered David.
“‘I am astonished at that,’ replied his sister, ‘for the children came to me in the forenoon, and begged of me to go out and see the men sow plaster in the field, saying, that they never saw anybody sow plaster so fast in their lives. I accordingly went, and 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 no further attention.’
“David made considerable inquiry in regard to the matter, both among his relatives and neighbors, but was not able to learn who had done it” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 148–49).
Imagine that you were in David Whitmer’s situation. How would these miracles affect you?
After David Whitmer brought the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery to Fayette, New York, the Lord announced the coming forth of His work in the latter days and promised blessings to all those who take part in it (see D&C 14:1–5). Read Doctrine and Covenants 14:6–7, looking for what the Lord directed David to do and the gift he would receive as a result. What gift did the Lord promise him? What was David required to do to receive this blessing?
In your scripture study journal, write your thoughts about the following questions:
Eternal life means living forever as families in God’s presence and becoming like Him. How does this definition help you understand why eternal life “is the greatest of all the gifts of God”?
How can the promise of eternal life inspire you to keep God’s commandments and endure to the end?
In Doctrine and Covenants 14:7, the Lord taught an important principle that applies to each one of us: If we keep God’s commandments and endure to the end, we will receive eternal life. Consider writing this principle in your scriptures or in your scripture study journal.
To better understand this principle, consider what it might mean to endure to the end in the following situations:
A young man who recently joined the Church feels like he has no friends in his ward.
A young woman gets a disease that requires continual medical attention and personal care from others.
A young man or young woman’s parents were recently divorced, and one of the parents is not active in the Church.
A young man or young woman is continually struggling with a temptation that can lead to addiction.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 14:8 to learn of another blessing the Lord said David Whitmer would receive based on his obedience.
Shortly after this revelation was received, David Whitmer became one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He saw the angel Moroni and the gold plates, and he heard God’s voice testifying of the truthfulness of the record.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 14:11, where the Lord gave David Whitmer another promise based on his faithfulness. In your scripture study journal, in your own words, write an “if–then” principle you find in this verse. (One way to write this can be found at the end of this lesson.)
To study the revelations given to John and Peter Whitmer, invite a family member or friend to read a few verses with you if possible. Read Doctrine and Covenants 15:1 yourself, and then have your family member or friend read Doctrine and Covenants 16:1. Likewise read verses 2–6 of both sections, alternating back and forth between verses in the same manner. Determine what is unusual about these two revelations.
What is the only difference in the wording of these two revelations?
Since verses 2–6 in these revelations are identical, it seems the Lord could have given one revelation and addressed it to both men. What can we learn from the fact that He took time to speak to both John and Peter individually?
At times the Lord may reveal the same message to different individuals because they may have similar needs, circumstances, or desires. To identify the desire that John and Peter Whitmer had in common, read Doctrine and Covenants 15:3–4 and Doctrine and Covenants 16:3–4 again. What did both John and Peter Whitmer desire?
In these revelations the Lord taught that our efforts to bring others to Jesus Christ are of great worth to us. As you help bring people to Jesus Christ, they will also understand that God knows and loves them.
These revelations also teach that God knows us personally. He knows what is best for us.
In your scripture study journal, write your thoughts about how a priesthood blessing or mission call can show that God knows us personally.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave an example of the truth that God knows us personally:
“Some time ago I spoke with a priesthood leader who was prompted to memorize the names of all of the youth ages 13 to 21 in his stake. Using snapshots of the young men and women, he created flash cards that he reviewed while traveling on business and at other times. This priesthood leader quickly learned all of the names of the youth.
“One night the priesthood leader had a dream about one of the young men whom he knew only from a picture. In the dream he saw the young man dressed in a white shirt and wearing a missionary name tag. With a companion seated at his side, the young man was teaching a family. The young man held the Book of Mormon in his hand, and he looked as if he were testifying of the truthfulness of the book. The priesthood leader then awoke from his dream.
“At an ensuing priesthood gathering, the leader approached the young man he had seen in his dream and asked to talk with him for a few minutes. After a brief introduction, the leader called the young man by name and said: ‘I am not a dreamer. I have never had a dream about a single member of this stake, except for you. I am going to tell you about my dream, and then I would like you to help me understand what it means.’
“The priesthood leader recounted the dream and asked the young man about its meaning. Choking with emotion, the young man simply replied, ‘It means God knows who I am.’ The remainder of the conversation between this young man and his priesthood leader was most meaningful, and they agreed to meet and counsel together from time to time during the following months” (“The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2005, 100).
Ponder (or discuss with the person who read with you) why it can be helpful for us to realize that God knows us personally.
Write in your scripture study journal about a situation in which understanding that God knows you personally helped you in some way, or write about how understanding that God knows you personally can influence the decisions you make daily.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 14–16 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher:
Note for assignment 2: One way you could state a principle found in Doctrine and Covenants 14:11 is: If we faithfully assist the Lord in His work, then He will bless us spiritually and temporally.