Did you know there was a 12th witness to the Book of Mormon...who was a woman?
Joseph and Emma Smith, along with Oliver Cowdery, had moved in with the large family of Peter and Mary Whitmer and their nine children. Joseph translated much of the Book of Mormon there, later the LDS Church was organized there, and people were always coming and going. All of this added a pretty heavy burden to an already busy mother, Mary.
Mary's son David later explained, “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.”
One day, though, probably in June 1829, when she was going out to milk the cows in the family barn — where, David happened to know, the plates were concealed at the time — she met an “old man,” as she described him, who said to her, in David’s account of the story, “You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tired because of the increase of your toil; it is proper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.”
“Thereupon,” David said, “he showed her the plates.” And this unexpected encounter “completely removed” her feeling of being overwhelmed, said her son, “and nerved her up for her increased responsibilities.”
Afterwards, Mary was able to describe the plates in detail. John C. Whitmer, her grandson, reported that he himself had heard his grandmother tell of this event several times. He summarized her experience as follows:
“She met a stranger carrying something on his back that looked like a knapsack. At first she was a little afraid of him, but when he spoke to her in a kind, friendly tone and began to explain to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house (that is, the translation of the Book of Mormon), she was filled with unexpressible (sic) joy and satisfaction. He then untied his knapsack and showed her a bundle of plates, which in size and appearance corresponded with the description subsequently given by the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. This strange person turned the leaves of the book of plates over, leaf after leaf, and also showed her the engravings upon them; after which he told her to be patient and faithful in bearing her burden a little longer, promising that if she would do so, she should be blessed; and her reward would be sure, if she proved faithful to the end. The personage then suddenly vanished with the plates, and where he went, she could not tell.”
Jesus said, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matthew 18:16). Mary can be titled a twelth witness to the Book of Mormon.