Church History: The Vanishing Man Who Showed Mary Whitmer the Plates

Mary Whitmer
via Book of Mormon Central / Painting by Robert Pack

Church history is a treasure-trove of miracles, and this one is equal parts mysterious and amazing. Think, like, Stranger Things meets Church history.

Okay, it’s honestly nothing like that, but I will not rest until I find a demogorgon in my Church history research. (Just kidding. Mostly.)

Nonetheless, it is incredible. As a little background fun fact to this story, it takes place directly after David Whitmer’s field was plowed by three mysterious men. But I’ll let the rest of the story tell itself. In David Whitmer’s own words:

When I arrived in Harmony, Joseph and Oliver were coming toward me, and met me some distance from the house. Oliver told me that Joseph had informed him when I started from home, where I had stopped the first night, how I read the sign at the tavern, where I stopped the next night, etc., and that I would be there that day before dinner, and this was why they had come out to meet me; all of which was exactly as Joseph had told Oliver, at which I was greatly astonished.

When I was returning to Fayette, with Joseph and Oliver, all of us riding in the wagon, Oliver and I on an old-fashioned wooden spring seat and Joseph behind us—when traveling along in a clear open place, 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 [sic] of Joseph, the old man instantly disappeared, so that I did not see him again. . . . He was, I should think, about five feet eight or nine inches tall and heavy set. . . He was dressed in a suit of brown woolen clothes, his hair and beard were white. . . . I also remember that he had on his back a sort of knapsack with something in, shaped like a book. It was the messanger [sic] who had the plates, who had taken from Joseph just prior to our starting from Harmony.

Soon after our arrival home, I saw something which led me to the belief that the plates were placed or concealed in my father’s barn. I frankly asked Joseph if my supposition was right, and he told me it was. Some time after this, my mother was going to milk the cows, when she was met out near the yard by the same old man (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 in your toil; it is proper, therefore, that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.” Thereupon he showed her the plates. My father and mother had a large family of their own, the addition to it therefore, of Joseph, his wife Emma and Oliver very greatly increased the toil and anxiety of my mother. 

And although she had never complained she had sometimes felt that her labor was too much, or at least she was perhaps beginning to feel so. This circumstance, however, completely removed all such feelings and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities.

This story is basically like, three in one (I mean, is that thing about Joseph knowing where Martin stayed not the coolest thing ever?), but the main reason I love it is because of Mary Whitmer. I love this miracle not just because it involves a faithful woman who was shown the plates, but because it shows that the Lord is so aware of us in our unique circumstances.

He sends people to us — although, unfortunately, they do not often materialize out of thin air and then vanish in an equally enigmatic manner — at the very moment we need them and in the times when we most feel like giving up.

Heavenly Father was aware of His children then, and He is aware of them now — and always.