It is really unfortunate that so much misinformation, disinformation and character assassination has taken place regarding many of the First Elders of the restored church.
People like David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon were among the truly great Saints of the restoration movement and God has promised that they will return along with the Prophet Joseph Smith.
These men made a huge sacrifice for the Kingdom and although many of them chose to distance themselves from the Church, they all continued to bear testimony of the Book of Mormon and the LDS foundation movement.
None of us are qualified to judge the eternal state of any of these brethren nor are we able to fully understand the dynamics of what took place during the early gestation period of the 2nd watch that began nearly two hundred years ago. Two much historical information has been lost, altered and concealed.
Oliver and David were related to each other by marriage and much of their correspondence during the years after they left the church has been saved and some of it is available on the internet. They firmly believed that there would be a second work and that they would be part of it.
The following excerpts are taken from an interview with David Whitmer.
It was published in the Deseret News on August 16 1878;
Q- When will the temple be built? (referring to Jackson County Temple)
A- Right after the great tribulation is over.
Q- What do you mean by that?
A- A civil war more bloody and cruel than the rebellion. (first civil
war) It will be a smashing up of this nation, about which time the SECOND GREAT WORK has to be done, a work like Joseph did, and the translation of the sealed plates, and peace all over."
Notice the chronology of the events he is referring to:
Tribulation, civil war, the smashing up of the nation, the coming forth and translation of the sealed portion, building of the Jackson County Temple, peace all over...
This demonstrates that one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, one of the earliest players in the foundation movement who had a special mission to testify of the book and who studied it intently and heard much doctrine preached by Joseph Smith, had a firm belief and understanding that there would be a "SECOND WORK" at a LATER TIME
He did not consider it to be an ongoing part of the first work. It was a separate and distinct one that would come at a later time.
I am guessing Whitmer was pushing 80 years of age by this time.
Whitmers reference to a second work is not an anomaly. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Joseph Smith speaks of the "second commission" that he will have in the future. Whitmer was making reference to a future work that is documented by the Lord in section 88 and other places where Joseph and the other "first laborers" in the "last kingdom" who had laid the foundation of the great work would be involved in that Great Work at a later time.
In the interim, the Lord sent forth the "second laborers" such as the quorum of the 12, etc. In section 88 the Lord said to Joseph and the first laborers "when I shall send you again" to warn the people concerning the "desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked".
This provides another witness that the Marvelous Work did not start at the time of the restoration of the Church, rather it is to be a Second Great Work. David Whitmers testimony is confirmed by all of the many prophecies concerning the return of Jospeh Smith, who claimed to be the last witness of the last dispensation.