In my Primary class at church we have been learning about LDS Church history. I am learning right along with these children. I love it! Even though I graduated from LDS seminary and BYU, meaning I took the required amount of religion classes at BYU, there are these little tidbits along the way that I never learned before. Last week we learned about Emma Smith. I told the children how strong and good Emma was. She was not allowed to see the gold plates, even though she was Joseph’s wife. They were in her home. She probably wanted to see them. I know I would! They were kept hidden under a linen cloth on her table. She was told specifically in a revelation to Joseph, recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 25, that it wasn’t wisdom in God for her to see them. I asked the children how many times they want something and their parents say no. I asked them what they learn from that experience. It’s SOOO interesting how it’s part of God’s plan for all of us to learn patience, obedience, and faith. All in different ways, because we are all different, and God knows that and knows what’s best for us. He’s our Dad, after all.
Emma, when interviewed later in life by her son Joseph Smith III, did say that she felt the plates:
The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him (Joseph) to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.
Her son asked her more about if she ever looked at the plates and this is what she said:
I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so;
Her son also asked her if Joseph could not have just dictated the words of the Book of Mormon from another book, not the plates. This is her answer:
Joseph Smith [and for the first time she used his name direct, having usually used the words, “your father” or “my husband”] could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to anyone else.
But in an earlier lesson, we learned that another woman WAS allowed to see the plates. Her name was Mary Whitmer. She was the mother to five of the Eight Witnesses to the gold plates, mother to one of the Three Witnesses, David Whitmer, and mother-in-law to another, Oliver Cowdery. I have been a member of the LDS Church all of my life, and I didn’t know that David and Oliver were brothers-in-law! Yes, Oliver was married to David’s sister, Elizabeth, in 1832, after the Church was organized. Hiram Page was also married to a Whitmer daughter, Catherine, and he was also one of the Eight Witnesses. Isn’t it cool that there’s a mother linking some of the Three and Eight Witnesses of the plates of the Book of Mormon?
OK, so here’s the cool story about Mary Whitmer, as told by her grandson John Whitmer in 1878:
“I have heard my grandmother (Mary Musselman Whitmer) say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by a holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi. (She undoubtedly refers to Moroni, the angel who had the plates in charge.)
“It was at the time, she said, when the translation was going on at the house of the elder Peter Whitmer, her husband. Joseph Smith with his wife and Oliver Cowdery, whom David Whitmer a short time previous had brought up from Harmony, Pennsylvania, were all boarding with the Whitmers, and my grandmother in having so many extra persons to care for, besides her own large household, was often overloaded with work to such an extent that she felt it to be quite a burden.
“One evening, when (after having done her usual day’s work in the house) she went to the barn to milk the cows, she met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house, she was filled with inexpressible joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell.
“From that moment my grandmother was enabled to perform her household duties with comparative ease, and she felt no more inclination to murmur because her lot was hard. I knew my grandmother to be a good, noble and truthful woman, and I have not the least doubt of her statement in regard to seeing the plates being strictly true. She was a strong believer in the Book of Mormon until the day of her death.”