Q: David Whitmer is mentioned in D&C 14, 17, 18; 30:1-4; 52:25. David Whitmer was excommunicated and remained aloof from the Saints for fifty years, but what did he say on his death bed?
A: David Whitmer was born in 1805 in Pennsylvania. In 1828 he heard rumors of a “gold Bible.” 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 was one of the first baptized in this dispensation, and is numbered among the six original members of the Church. He was ordained an elder the day the Church was organized. David readily accepted Joseph’s prophetic calling, and in 1829 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.
After his marriage in 1831, David moved with his young bride to Ohio and then to the frontier of Missouri. In Missouri, mobs terrorized the Whitmer settlement, burning homes and brutally whipping the men. David moved with the Saints to Clay County, Missouri, where he was appointed president of the Clay County high council, and on 7 July 1834, he became President of the Church in Missouri.
David attended the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in March 1836. Then in 1837, David became influenced by a small influential group of Kirtland Saints who rebelled against the Prophet Joseph. In D&C 30:1-4, David was chastened for failure to serve diligently due to his mind being “on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, your Maker...” In April 1838 in Far West, David was excommunicated from the Church.
David remained aloof from the Saints for the next fifty years. He settled in Richmond, Missouri, and confined himself to community and business ventures. When his sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Oliver Cowdery, visited him in 1850, one wonders if maybe Oliver had come to talk to David about coming back to the Church.
David never rejoined the Church, but just before his death on 25 January 1888, David called his family and a few friends to his bedside and bore this testimony: “I want to say to you all, that the Bible and the record of the Nephites (the Book of Mormon) is true, so you can say that you have heard me bear my testimony on my death bed.”
Source: Who's Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black
Testimony of the Three Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.