Section 14

Historical Background

Joseph Smith

We were forced to keep secret the circumstances of having received the Priesthood and our having been baptized, owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested itself in the neighborhood. We had been threatened with being mobbed from time to time, and this, too, by professors of religion. And their intentions of mobbing us were only counteracted by the influence of my wife's father's family (under Divine providence), who had become very friendly to me, and who were opposed to mobs, and were willing that I should be allowed to continue the work of translation without interruption; and therefore offered and promised us protection from all unlawful proceedings as far as in them lay…(History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 1: 43 - 44.)

Lucy Mack Smith

Near this time, as Joseph was translating by means of the Urim and Thummim, he received instead of the words of the Book, a commandment to write a letter to a man by the name of David Whitmer, who lived in Waterloo, requesting him to come immediately with his team, and convey himself and Oliver to his own residence, as an evil-designing people were seeking to take away his (Joseph's) life, in order to prevent the work of God from going forth to the world. The letter was written and delivered, and was shown by Mr. Whitmer to his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, and their advice was asked in regard to the best course for him to take in relation to the matter.

His father reminded him that he had as much wheat sown upon the ground as he could harrow in two days, at least; besides this, he had a quantity of plaster of paris to spread, which must be done immediately, consequently he could not go, unless he could get a witness from God that it was absolutely necessary.


This suggestion pleased David, and he asked the Lord for a testimony concerning his going for Joseph, and was told by the voice of the Spirit to go as soon as his wheat was harrowed in. The next morning, David went to the field, and found that he had two heavy days' work before him. He then said to himself that, if he should be enabled, by any means, to do this work sooner than the same had ever been done on the farm before, he would receive it as an evidence, that it was the will of God, that he should do all in his power to assist Joseph Smith in the work in which he was engaged. 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. However, the family were convinced that there was an exertion of supernatural power connected with this strange occurrence.


David immediately set out for Pennsylvania, and arrived there in two days, without injuring his horses in the least, though the distance was one hundred and thirty-five miles. When he arrived, he was under the necessity of introducing himself to Joseph, as this was the first time that they had ever met. (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother [Salt Lake City: Stevens & Wallis, Inc., 1945], 147 - 150.)


Joseph Smith

In the beginning of the month of June…David Whitmer, came to the place where we were residing, and brought with him a two-horse wagon, for the purpose of having us accompany him to his father's place, and there remain until we should finish the work. It was arranged that we should have our board free of charge, and the assistance of one of his brothers to write for me, and also his own assistance when convenient. Having much need of such timely aid in an undertaking so arduous, and being informed that the people in the neighborhood of the Whitmers were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to inquire into these things, we accepted the invitation, and accompanied Mr. Whitmer to his father's house, and there resided until the translation was finished and the copyright secured. Upon our arrival, we found Mr. Whitmer's family very anxious concerning the work, and very friendly toward ourselves. They continued so, boarded and lodged us according to arrangements; and John Whitmer, in particular, assisted us very much in writing during the remainder of the work. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 1: 48 - 49.)


Biographical Sketch: David Whitmer


“Birth: 7 January 1805, a small trading post near Harrisburgh, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman.

Death: 25 January 1888, Richmond, Ray County, Missouri.


During his infancy David Whitmer's family moved to a wooded farmland adjoining Seneca Lake in western New York. There David grew to manhood. At age twenty he was elected sergeant in a newly organized militia company, the ‘Seneca Grenadiers,’ his first public position of trust.


In 1828 he heard rumors of a ‘gold Bible.’ Written letters from the young schoolmaster Oliver Cowdery confirmed these rumors. David first met Joseph Smith when he conveyed the Prophet and his wife, Emma, and Oliver Cowdery by team and wagon from Pennsylvania to the Whitmer home in Fayette. David readily accepted Joseph's prophetic calling and was privileged to be one of the Three Witnesses to see the plates and behold ‘a dazzlingly brilliant light that surpassed in brightness even the sun at noonday and … a personage clothed in white and near him a table containing’ the ancient artifacts.


Sure of his testimony of the Book of Mormon, David was one of the first baptized in this dispensation. He is numbered among the six original members of the Church and was ordained an elder the day the Church was organized.” (Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 328-329.)


DC 14:1-6 A great and marvelous work


These six verses have been repeated in sections 6, 11, and 12. They were first given to Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, and Joseph Knight, Sen. They reiterate a universal message—a call to any servant who would embark in the service of God. It is useful to read them as if the Lord is speaking directly to you.


DC 14:7 if you keep my commandments and endure to the end


Interestingly, the Lord’s first message to David Whitmer reminds him to “endure to the end.”  While David always held true to his calling as one of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, he would not “endure to the end” as a member of the Restored Church.  Feeling passed over as a candidate for the First Presidency and jealous of Sidney Rigdon, David left the church in 1838. (see commentary in Book of Mormon section: Testimony of Witnesses) His life and ministry are important reminders that all of us need to endure to the end.


Russell M. Nelson

Early in our married life when Sister Nelson and I lived in Minneapolis, we decided to enjoy a free afternoon with our two-year-old daughter. We went to one of Minnesota’s many beautiful lakes and rented a small boat. After rowing far from shore, we stopped to relax and enjoy the tranquil scene. Suddenly, our little toddler lifted one leg out of the boat and started to go overboard, exclaiming, “Time to get out, Daddy!”


…Children are prone to do such dangerous things simply because they have not acquired the wisdom their parents have. Similarly, we as children of our Heavenly Father may foolishly want to get “out of the boat” before we arrive at destinations He would like us to reach. The Lord teaches over and over that we are to endure to the end. This is a dominant theme of the scriptures. One example may serve to represent many passages that convey a similar message:


“Blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion … , for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.” (1 Ne. 13:37)


Blessings bestowed by God are always predicated upon obedience to law.  Applied to my analogy, we are first to get “on the boat” with Him. Then we are to stay with Him. And if we don’t get “out of the boat” before we should, we shall reach His kingdom, where we will be lifted up to eternal life. (“Endure and Be Lifted Up,” Ensign, May 1997, 70)


DC 14:7 you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God


To have eternal life is more than to live eternally—all of God’s children will receive that gift. The greatest of God’s gifts is to administer life eternally, according to the scripture,


   ‘…they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

   Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.’ (DC 132:19-20)


James E. Faust

There is a distinction between immortality, or eternal existence, and eternal life, which is to have a place in the presence of God. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, immortality comes to all men, just or unjust, righteous or wicked. However, eternal life is “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.) We obtain this great gift, according to the Lord, “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end.” If we so endure, the promise is, “you shall have eternal life.” (D&C 14:7.)


President Joseph Fielding Smith explains, ‘This distinction between eternal life, as received by the faithful, and immortality, obtained by both the faithful and unfaithful, is shown in the words of the Lord to Moses: `For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.` The conjunction clearly separates the two thoughts. It explains that the Lord is giving to the vast majority of men, those who will not be obedient, the blessing of immortality; and to those who will serve him, the blessing of eternal life.’ (The Way to Perfection, Salt Lake City: The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1946, p. 329.) (“The Supernal Gift of the Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 12)


Carlos E. Asay

Christ offers all of us “the greatest of all the gifts of God,” which is eternal life. (D&C 14:7.) Eternal life is God’s life; and it is shared with those who obey gospel law. It is given those who develop faith, repent of all sins, submit to baptism, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure faithfully to the end. It is offered through Christ’s Atonement, for he took upon himself the sins of all mankind, providing men repent. And it comes when man’s good works are coupled with Christ’s infinite sacrifice. (“Three Questions,” Ensign, Jan. 1984, 73)


Delbert L. Stapley

Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.” (D&C 6:7.) Very few people give enough thought to eternal life. Yet it is something each of us should keep uppermost in our minds and hearts. As children of God, we cannot afford to forget our origin and destiny if we desire the realms of celestial glory. (“The Path to Eternal Life,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 42)


DC 14:8 that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see


Joseph Fielding Smith

In the revelation given to David Whitmer (Sec. 14.) the Lord made him the promise that if he would keep the commandments and endure to the end, he should have eternal life, moreover he was commanded to assist in bringing forth the Lord's work and that the time would come when he would be a witness "of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation." This promise was based upon his faithfulness, and David was faithful and sincerely in earnest in his devotion to the Church and Joseph Smith when that witness came and for several years afterwards. There was one incident of significance that occured when the Angel Moroni presented the plates before the three witnesses. The record states: "In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. He turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discern the engravings thereon distinctly. He then addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said, 'David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keepeth his commandments;' when immediately afterwards, we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying "These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God." D. H. C. Vol. 1:54. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 1: 63.)


DC 14:10 I must bring forth the fulness of my gospel from the Gentiles unto the house of Israel


“Eventually—and this is clearly in the future—the message of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be taken to the blood of the house of Israel living in the land of Israel.


“We read these prophetic words of the resurrected Jesus Christ himself: ‘And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father. And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fulness of my gospel shall be preached unto them; And they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name. Then shall their watchmen lift up their voice, and with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye. Then will the Father gather them together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance. Then shall they break forth into joy—Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Father hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Father hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the Father; and the Father and I are one’ (3 Nephi 20:29-35)” (Daniel H. Ludlow, Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow: Gospel Scholars Series [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2000], 567.)