Did a Kansas lawmaker help launch the Mormon religion? Google says yes!

Is a 216-year-old Mormon scribe a current Kansas representative? Google thinks so.

A Google mix-up says that state representative in Kansas helped launch the Mormon religion.
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A Google mix-up says that state representative in Kansas helped launch the Mormon religion.

Don’t believe everything you see online.

Google the name “John Whitmer” and what pops up is a picture of the current state representative from Wichita, during an emotional moment on the House floor in 2015.

From there, it gets strange. Real strange.

The photo of Whitmer is accompanied by a biography that says he was an “early leader in the Latter Day Saint movement” and “one of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon's golden plates.”

It also says he was born in 1802 and died in 1878.

“Well, what can I say?” Whitmer said, chuckling. “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Who was it who said that?”

For the record, it was Mark Twain.

What happened here is that Google, the world’s dominant Internet search engine, has somehow spliced Rep. Whitmer’s picture to a Wikipedia biography of an entirely other John Whitmer.

That John Whitmer was a confidant of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith and the primary scribe and historian for the fledgling religious movement.

John_Whitmer Mormon scribe
John Whitmer, Mormon scribe

Rep. Whitmer isn’t a Mormon, although he was engaged to a Mormon woman in college and did explore that faith, he said.

“It was a great church, very family oriented,” he said.

And this isn’t the first time he’s been mixed up with the late John Whitmer.

“I notice on Twitter sometimes, I search for what I’ve been tagged in or who’s throwing bombs at me and occasionally I’ll see those (religious) tweets too,” he said.

John Whitmer, Kansas legislator
John Whitmer, Kansas Legislator

Whitmer said he wouldn’t mind it as much if Google had picked another picture of him.

The one they used is an Associated Press photo where he was crying and which is regularly used by his political opponents to try to make him look bad.

The photo was taken at 3 a.m. during a marathon debate on a contentious tax bill, four days after his mother’s funeral, Whitmer said.

He said he plans to file a request with Google to try to get the summary corrected.

“I should notify them because A) I would like to have that picture not be the one that comes up, and B) they probably look stupid putting it out that way anyhow,” he said.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas