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John Whitmer is one of the most familiar names in early Mormonism. As one of Joseph Smith’s earliest supporters and associates, John was a member of one of the founding families of Smith’s Restoration movement. He was also one of the eight witnesses to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Mormonism’s founding document. His name is reproduced in each of the millions of copies of that work that exist in dozens of different editions.

Many know no more than his name, but the better informed likewise know that he also became wary of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, turned his back on what had been a sublime adventure, and thus became a cautionary tale to the faithful. John Whitmer’s rise and fall within Mormonism is an exhilarating narrative, his conversion very much a movement of his family into the new church. Paralleling this movement, his exodus out of Mormonism was also a clan movement as the Whitmers, after less than a decade, experienced difficulties with Joseph’s leadership.

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