"The Testimony of Men": William E. McLellin and the Book of Mormon Witnesses
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William E. McLellin (1806-1883) was an early Mormon apostle who later left the church. In his later years he questioned the authority of founder Joseph Smith, but he always said he believed that the Book of Mormon was truly the word of God. In 1871 he wrote a notebook in which he recorded his contacts with men who had filled special roles as Book of Mormon witnesses in 1829. McLellin described his 1833 interview of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, his circa-1850 visit with Martin Harris, his 1869 visit with John Whitmer, and a report of an 1833 event involving Hiram Page. Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Harris steadfastly reaffirmed that they had handled the Book of Mormon plates and were visited by an angel. John Whitmer and Page reaffirmed that they had handled the plates. All continually testified that they believed the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
McLellin’s 1871 notebook was thought to be lost but is in fact extant, in a private collection. This article includes photographs of four pages of the notebook. The entire notebook will be presented in William E. McLellin’s Lost Manuscript, to be published in 2011.