Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer — these three men hold a unique place in Latter-day saint history. After Joseph and Oliver, David Whitmer was the third person to be baptized. These three men were the first to behold the gold plates and the artifacts of the Book of Mormon, as shown in vision by the angel. These three men were the only three men whom the Lord called Apostles. The Lord only referred to the other twelve traveling high councilmen as “disciples”.
Oliver and David also left us some valuable writings, which shed additional light on the foundation of the Restoration, and which deserve to be read and considered.
Besides the handful of scriptures which the angel quoted to Joseph Smith when he was being prepared to receive the gold plates, he received a total of some 40 scriptures from the angel. Oliver Cowdery recounts these scriptures and provides additional details of how Joseph received and translated the plates.
David Whitmer gives his final witness of his role in witnessing the plates, the translation of the Book of Mormon, and first-hand accounts of the establishment of the church. Portions of David Whitmer’s testimony may be controversial to some because he outlines how Joseph followed the arm of flesh and succumbed to personal pride. He provides historical and scriptural support.
Many of us today realize that it is a mistake to gain a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true, and then to blindly extrapolate that testimony into believing that the LDS church is true and that everything its leaders do is inspired of God.
David Whitmer points out that the early saints made the same mistake. They gained a testimony that the Book of Mormon was of God, then blindly extrapolated that testimony into believing that everything the Joseph Smith did, for that point on, was inspired of God. David Whitmer admits that he made that mistake, along with Oliver and all the early members.
He points out that even though King David and Solomon did wrong in having many wives and concubines, the books of Psalms and Proverbs are beautiful books of poetry and wisdom, which we revere today from the man who was after the Lord’s own heart and the man who was the wisest man who ever lived. If we can receive wisdom and revelation from these books, we can also receive wisdom and revelation from the most correct book, and respect Joseph Smith for having translated it.
Both these men had fallings-out with Joseph Smith, but they never denied their testimonies of the Book of Mormon.