Translation And Publication Of The Bible

The only one of his New York neighbors who seems to have taken a

practical interest in Joe's alleged discovery was a farmer named

Martin Harris, who lived a little north of Palmyra. Harris was a

religious enthusiast, who had been a Quaker (as his wife was

still), a Universalist, a Baptist, and a Presbyterian, and whose

sanity it would have been difficult to establish in a surrogate's

court. The Rev. Dr. Clark, who knew him intimately, says, "He had

always been a firm believer in dreams, visions, and ghosts."

*Howe describes him as often declaring that he had talked with

Jesus Christ, angels, and the devil, and saying that "Christ was

the handsomest man he ever saw, and the devil looked like a

jackass, with very short, smooth hair similar to that of a mouse.

"Daniel Hendrix relates that as he and Harris were riding to the

village one evening, and he remarked on the beauty of the moon,

Harris replied that if his companion could only see it as he had,

he might well call it beautiful, explaining that he had actually

visited the moon, and adding that it "was only the faithful who

were permitted to visit the celestial regions." Jesse Townsend, a

resident of Palmyra, in a letter written in 1833, describes him

as a visionary fanatic, unhappily married, who "is considered

here to this day a brute in his domestic relations, a fool and a

dupe to Smith in religion, and an unlearned, conceited hypocrite

generally. "His wife, in an affidavit printed in Howe's book (p.

255), says: "He has whipped, kicked, and turned me out of the

house." Harris, like Joe's mother, was a constant reader of and a

literal believer in the Bible. Tucker says that he "could

probably repeat from memory every text from the Bible, giving the

chapter and verse in each case. "This seems to be an


* "Gleanings by the Way."

Mother Smith's account of Harris's early connection with the

Bible enterprise says that her husband told Harris of the

existence of the plates two or three years before Joe got

possession of them; that when Joe secured them he asked her to go

and tell Harris that he wanted to see him on the subject, an

errand not to her liking, because "Mr. Harris's wife was a very

peculiar woman, "that is, she did not share in her husband's

superstition. Mrs. Smith did not succeed in seeing Harris, but he

soon afterward voluntarily offered Joe fifty dollars "for the

purpose of helping Mr. Smith do the Lord's work. "As Harris was

very "close" in money matters, it is probable that Joe offered

him a partnership in the scheme at the start. Harris seems to

have placed much faith in the selling quality of the new Bible.

He is said to have replied to his wife's early declaration of

disbelief in it: "What if it is a lie. If you will let me alone I

will make money out of it."* The Rev. Ezra Booth said: "Harris

informed me [after his removal to Ohio] that he went to the place

where Joseph resided [in Pennsylvania], and Joseph had given it

[the translation] up on account of the opposition of his wife and

others; and he told Joseph, 'I have not come down here for

nothing, and we will go on with it.'"**

* Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 254.

** Ibid., p. 182.

Just at this time Joe was preparing to move to the neighborhood

of Harmony, Pennsylvania, having made a trip there after his

marriage, during which, Mr. Hale's affidavit says, "Smith stated

to me that he had given up what he called 'glass-looking,' and

that he expected to work hard for a living and was willing to do

so. "Smith's brother-in-law Alva, in accordance with arrangements

then made, went to Palmyra and helped move his effects to a house

near Mr. Hale's. Joe acknowledges that Harris's gift or loan of

fifty dollars enabled him to meet the expenses of moving.

Parley P. Pratt, in a statement published by him in London in

1854, set forth that Smith was driven to Pennsylvania from

Palmyra through fear of his life, and that he took the plates

with him concealed in a barrel of beans, thus eluding the efforts

of persons who tried to secure them by means of a search warrant.

Tucker says that this story rests only on the sending of a

constable after Smith by a man to whom he owed a small debt. The

great interest manifested in the plates in the neighborhood of

Palmyra existed only in Mormon imagination developed in later


According to some accounts, all the work of what was called

"translating" the writing on the plates into what became the

"Book of Mormon" was done at Joe's home in New York State, and

most of it in a cave, but this was not the case. Smith himself

says: "Immediately after my arrival [in Pennsylvania] I commenced

copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable

number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated

some of them, which I did between the time I arrived, at the

house of my wife's father in the month of December (1827) and the

February following.

A clear description of the work of translating as carried on in

Pennsylvania is given in the affidavit made by Smith's

father-in-law, Isaac Hale, in 1834.* He says that soon after

Joe's removal to his neighborhood with his wife, he (Hale) was

shown a box such as is used for the shipment of window glass, and

was told that it contained the "book of plates"; he was allowed

to lift it, but not to look into it. Joe told him that the first

person who would be allowed to see the plates would be a young

child .** The affidavit continues:--

* Howe's "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 264.

** Joe's early announcement was that his first-born child was to

have this power, but the child was born dead. This was one of the

earliest of Joe's mistakes in prophesying.

"About this time Martin Harris made his appearance upon the

stage, and Smith began to interpret the characters, or

hieroglyphics, which he said were engraven upon the plates, while

Harris wrote down the interpretation. It was said that Harris

wrote down 116 pages and lost them. Soon after this happened,

Martin Harris informed me that he must have a GREATER WITNESS,

and said that he had talked with Joseph about it. Joseph informed

him that be could not, or durst not, show him the plates, but

that he [Joseph] would go into the woods where the book of plates

was, and that after he came back Harris should follow his track

in the snow, and find the book and examine it for himself. Harris

informed me that he followed Smith's directions, and could not

find the plates and was still dissatisfied.

"The next day after this happened I went to the house where

Joseph Smith, Jr., lived, and where he and Harris were engaged in

their translation of the book. Each of them had a written piece

of paper which they were comparing, and some of the words were, I

my servant seeketh a greater witness, but no greater witness can

be given him.... I inquired whose words they were, and was

informed by Joseph or Emma (I rather think it was the former),

that they were the words of Jesus Christ. I told them that I

considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to

abandon it. The manner in which he pretended to read and

interpret was the same as when he looked for the moneydiggers,

with the stone in his hat and his hat over his face, while the

book of plates was at the same time hid in the woods.

"After this, Martin Harris went away, and Oliver Cowdery came and

wrote for Smith, while he interpreted as above described.

"Joseph Smith, Jr., resided near me for some time after this, and

I had a good opportunity of becoming acquainted with him, and

somewhat acquainted with his associates; and I conscientiously

believe, from the facts I have detailed, and from many other

circumstances which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that

the whole Book of Mormon (so-called) is a silly fabrication of

falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a

design to dupe the credulous and unwary."

Harris's natural shrewdness in a measure overcame his fanaticism,

and he continued to press Smith for a sight of the plates. Smith

thereupon made one of the first uses of those "revelations" which

played so important a part in his future career, and he announced

one (Section 5, "Doctrine and Covenants"*), in which "I, the

Lord" declared to Smith that the latter had entered into a

covenant with Him not to show the plates to any one except as the

Lord commanded him. Harris finally demanded of Smith at least a

specimen of the writing on the plates for submission to experts

in such subjects. As Harris was the only man of means interested

in this scheme of publication, Joe supplied him with a paper

containing some characters which he said were copied from one of

the plates. This paper increased Harris's belief in the reality

of Joe's discovery, but he sought further advice before opening

his purse. Dr. Clark describes a call Harris made on him early

one morning, greatly excited, requesting a private interview. On

hearing his story, Dr. Clark advised him that the scheme was a

hoax, devised to extort money from him, but Harris showed the

slip of paper containing the mysterious characters, and was not

to be persuaded.

* All references to the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants" refer to

the sections and verses of the Salt Lake city edition of 1890.

Seeking confirmation, however, Harris made a trip to New York

City in order to submit the characters to experts there. Among

others, he called on Professor Charles Anthon. His interview with

Professor Anthon has been a cause of many and conflicting

statements, some Mormons misrepresenting it for their own

purposes and others explaining away the professor's accounts of

it. The following statement was written by Professor Anthon in

reply to an inquiry by E. D. Howe:--

"NEW YORK, February 17, 1834.

"DEAR SIR: I received your favor of the 9th, and lose no time in

making a reply. The whole story about my pronouncing the Mormon

inscription to be 'reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics' is perfectly

false. Some years ago a plain, apparently simple-hearted farmer

called on me with a note from Dr. Mitchell, of our city, now

dead, requesting me to decypher, if possible, the paper which the

farmer would hand me, and which Dr. M. confessed he had been

unable to understand. Upon examining the paper in question, I

soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick--perhaps a

hoax. When I asked the person who brought it how he obtained the

writing, he gave me, as far as I can recollect, the following

account: A 'gold book' consisting of a number of plates fastened

together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had

been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and

along with the book an enormous pair of 'spectacles'! These

spectacles were so large that, if a person attempted to look

through them, his two eyes would have to be turned toward one of

the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether

too large for the breadth of the human face. Whoever examined the

plates through the spectacles, was enabled, not only to read

them, but fully to understand their meaning. All this knowledge,

however, was confined to a young man who had the trunk containing

the book and spectacles in his sole possession. This young man

was placed behind a curtain in the garret of a farmhouse, and

being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles

occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses,

decyphered the characters in the book, and, having committed some

of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain to those

who stood on the outside. Not a word, however, was said about the

plates being decyphered 'by the gift of God.' Everything in this

way was effected by the large pair of spectacles. The farmer

added that he had been requested to contribute a sum of money

toward the publication of the 'golden book,' the contents of

which would, as he had been assured, produce an entire change in

the world, and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these

solicitations, that he intended selling his farm, and handing

over the amount received to those who wished to publish the

plates. As a last precautionary step, however, he had resolved to

come to New York, and obtain the opinion of the learned about the

meaning of the paper which he had brought with him, and which had

been given him as part of the contents of the book, although no

translation had been furnished at the time by the young man with

the spectacles. On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion

about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax

upon the learned, I began to regard it as a part of a scheme to

cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions

to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion

from me in writing, which, of course, I declined giving, and he

then took his leave, carrying his paper with him.

"This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all

kinds of crooked characters, disposed in columns, and had

evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the

time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew

letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted, or

placed sideways, were arranged and placed in perpendicular

columns; and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle,

divided into various compartments, decked with various strange

marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar, given by

Humbolt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source

whence it was, derived. I am thus particular as to the contents

of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my

friends on the subject since the Mormonite excitement began, and

well remember that the paper contained anything else but

'Egyptian Hieroglyphics.'

"Some time after, the farmer paid me a second visit. He brought

with him the golden book in print, and offered it to me for sale.

I declined purchasing. He then asked permission to leave the book

with me for examination. I declined receiving it, although his

manner was strangely urgent. I adverted once more to the roguery

which had been, in my opinion, practised upon him, and asked him

what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were

in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go

to a magistrate, and have the trunk examined. He said 'the curse

of God' would come upon him should he do this. On my pressing

him, however, to pursue the course which I had recommended, he

told me he would open the trunk if I would take 'the curse of

God' upon myself. I replied I would do so with the greatest

willingness, and would incur every risk of that nature provided I

could only extricate him from the grasp of the rogues. He then

left me.

"I have thus given you a full statement of all that I know

respecting the origin of Mormonism, and must beg you, as a

personal favor, to publish this letter immediately, should you

find my name mentioned again by these wretched fanatics. Yours



* "Mormonism Unveiled," pp. 270-272. A letter from Professor

Anthon to the Rev. Dr. Coit, rector of Trinity Church, New

Rochelle, New York, dated April 3, 1841, containing practically

the same statement, will be found in Clark's" "Gleanings by the

Way," pp. 233-238.

While Mormon speakers quoted Anthon as vouching for the

mysterious writing, their writers were more cautious. P. P.

Pratt, in his "Voice of Warning" (1837), said that Professor

Anthon was unable to decipher the characters, "but he presumed

that if the original records could be brought, he could assist in

translating them. Orson Pratt, in his "Remarkable Visions"

(1848), saw in the Professor's failure only a verification of

Isaiah xxix. 11 and 12:--

"And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book

that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying,

Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed:

and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying,

Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned."

John D. Lee, in his "Mormonism Unveiled," mentions the generally

used excuse of the Mormons for the professor's failure to

translate the writing, namely, that Anthon told Harris that "they

were written in a sealed language, unknown to the present age.

"Smith, in his autobiography, quotes Harris's account of his

interview as follows:--

"I went to New York City and presented the characters which had

been translated, with the translation thereof, to Prof. Anthon, a

man quite celebrated for his literary attainments. Prof. Anthon

stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had

before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those

which were not yet translated, and he said they were Egyptian,

Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic, and he said they were the true


Harris declared that the professor gave him a certificate to this

effect, but took it back and tore it up when told that an angel

of God had revealed the plates to Joe, saying that "there were no

such things as ministering angels. "This account by Harris of his

interview with Professor Anthon will assist the reader in

estimating the value of Harris's future testimony as to the

existence of the plates.

Harris's trip to New York City was not entirely satisfactory to

him, and, as Smith himself relates, "He began to tease me to give

him liberty to carry the writings home and show them, and desired

of me that I would enquire of the Lord through the Urim and

Thummim if he might not do so. "Smith complied with this request,

but the permission was twice refused; the third time it was

granted, but on condition that Harris would show the manuscript

translation to only five persons, who were named, one of them

being his wife.

In including Mrs. Harris in this list, the Lord made one of the

greatest mistakes into which he ever fell in using Joe as a

mouthpiece. Mrs. Harris's Quaker belief had led her from the

start to protest against the Bible scheme, and to warn her

husband against the Smith family, and she vigorously opposed his

investment of any money in the publication of the book. On the

occasion of his first visit to Joe in Pennsylvania, according to

Mother Smith, Mrs. Harris was determined to accompany him, and he

had to depart without her knowledge; and when he went the second

time, she did accompany him, and she ransacked the house to find

the "record" (as the plates are often called in the Smiths'


When Harris returned home with the translated pages which Joe

intrusted to him (in July, 1828), he showed them to his family

and to others, who tried in vain to convince him that he was a

dupe. Mrs. Harris decided on a more practical course. Getting

possession of the papers, where Harris had deposited them for

safe keeping, she refused to restore them to him. What eventually

became of them is uncertain, one report being that she afterward

burned them.

This should have caused nothing more serious in the way of delay

than the time required to retranslate these pages; for certainly

a well-equipped Divinity, who was revealing a new Bible to

mankind, and supplying so powerful a means of translation as the

Urim and Thummim, could empower the translator to repeat the

words first written. Indeed, the descriptions of the method of

translation given afterward by Smith's confederates would seem to

prove that there could have been but one version of any

translation of the plates, no matter how many times repeated.

Thus, Harris described the translating as follows:--

"By aid of the seer stone [no mention of the magic spectacles]

sentences would appear and were read by the prophet and written

by Martin, and, when finished, he would say 'written'; and if

correctly written, that sentence would disappear, and another

appear in its place; but if not written correctly, it remained

until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was

engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used."*

* Elder Edward Stevenson in the Deseret News (quoted in Reynold's

"Mystery of the Manuscript Fund," p. 91).

David Whitmer, in an account of this process written in his later

years, said:--

"Joseph would put the seer stone into a hat [more testimony

against the use of the spectacles] and put his face in the hat,

drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in

the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of

something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared

the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it

was the translation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the

English to O. Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it

was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it were

correct, then it would disappear and another character with the

interpretation would appear."*

* "Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon."

But to Joseph the matter of reproducing the lost pages of the

translation did not seem simple. When Harris's return to

Pennsylvania was delayed, Joe became anxious and went to Palmyra

to learn what delayed him, and there he heard of Mrs. Harris's

theft of the pages. His mother reports him as saying in

announcing it, "my God, all is lost! all is lost!" Why the

situation was as serious to a sham translator as it would have

been simple to an honest one is easily understood. Whenever Smith

offered a second translation of the missing pages which differed

from the first, a comparison of them with the latter would

furnish proof positive of the fraudulent character of his


All the partners in the business had to share in the punishment

for what had occurred. The Smiths lost all faith in Harris. Joe

says that Harris broke his pledge about showing the translation

only to five persons, and Mother Smith says that because of this

offence "a dense fog spread itself over his fields and blighted

his wheat. "When Joe returned to Pennsylvania an angel appeared

to him, his mother says, and ordered him to give up the Urim and

Thummim, promising, however, to restore them if he was humble and

penitent, and "if so, it will be on the 22d of September."* Here

may be noted one of those failures of mother and son to agree in

their narratives which was excuse enough for Brigham Young to try

to suppress the mother's book. Joe mentions a "revelation" dated

July, 1828 (Sec. 3, "Doctrine and Covenants"), in which Harris

was called "a wicked man, "and which told Smith that he had lost

his privileges for a season, and he adds, "After I had obtained

the above revelation, both the plates and the Urim and Thummim

were taken from me again, BUT IN A FEW DAYS they were returned to


* "Biographical Sketches," by Lucy Smith, p. 125.

** Millennial Star, Vol. XIV, p. 8.

For some ten months after this the work of translation was

discontinued, although Mother Smith says that when she and his

father visited the prophet in Pennsylvania two months after his

return, the first thing they saw was "a red morocco trunk lying

on Emma's bureau which, Joseph shortly informed me, contained the

Urim and Thummim and the plates." Mrs. Harris's act had evidently

thrown the whole machinery of translation out of gear, and Joe

had to await instructions from his human adviser before a plan of

procedure could be announced. During this period (in which Joe

says he worked on his father's farm), says Tucker, "the stranger

[supposed to be Rigdon] had again been at Smith's, and the

prophet had been away from home, maybe to repay the former's


* "Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism," p. 48.

Two matters were decided on in these consultations, viz., that no

attempt would be made to retranslate the lost pages, and that a

second copy of all the rest of the manuscript should be prepared,

to guard against a similar perplexity in case of the loss of

later pages. The proof of the latter statement I find in the fact

that a second copy did exist. Ebenezer Robinson, who was a

leading man in the church from the time of its establishment in

Ohio until Smith's death, says in his recollections that, when

the people assembled on October 2, 1841, to lay the corner-stone

of Nauvoo House, Smith said he had a document to put into the

corner-stone, and Robinson went with him to his house to procure

it. Robinson's story proceeds as follows:--

"He got a manuscript copy of the Book of Mormon, and brought it

into the room where we were standing, and said, 'I will examine

to see if it is all here'; and as he did so I stood near him, at

his left side, and saw distinctly the writing as he turned up the

pages until he hastily went through the book and satisfied

himself that it was all there, when he said, 'I have had trouble

enough with this thing'; which remark struck me with amazement,

as I looked upon it as a sacred treasure."

Robinson says that the manuscript was written on foolscap paper

and most of it in Oliver Cowdery's handwriting. He explains that

two copies were necessary, "as the printer who printed the first

edition of the book had to have a copy, as they would not put the

original copy into his hands for fear of its being altered. This

accounts for David Whitmer having a copy and Joseph Smith having


* The Return, Vol- II, p. 314. Ebenezer Robinson, a printer,

joined the Mormons at Kirtland, followed Smith to Missouri, and

went with the flock to Nauvoo, where he and the prophet's

brother, Don Carlos, established the Times and Seasons. When the

doctrine of polygamy was announced to him and his wife, they

rejected it, and he followed Rigdon to Pennsylvania when Rigdon

was turned out by Young. In later years he was engaged in

business enterprises in Iowa, and was a resident of Davis City

when David Whitmer announced the organization of his church in

Missouri, and, not accepting the view of the prophet entertained

by his descendants in the Reorganized Church, Robinson accepted

baptism from Whitmer. The Return was started by him in January,

1889, and continued until his death, in its second year. His

reminiscences of early Mormon experiences, which were a feature

of the publication, are of value.

Major Bideman, who married the prophet's widow, partly completed

and occupied Nauvoo House after the departure of the Mormons for

Utah, and some years later he took out the cornerstone and opened

it, but found the manuscript so ruined by moisture that only a

little was legible.

In regard to the missing pages, it was decided to announce a

revelation, which is dated May, 1829 (Sec. 10, "Doctrine and

Covenants"), stating that the lost pages had got into the hands

of wicked men, that "Satan has put it into their hearts to alter

the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have

translated, "in accordance with a plan of the devil to destroy

Smith's work. He was directed therefore to translate from the

plates of Nephi, which contained a "more particular account" than

the Book of Lehi from which the original translation was made.

When Smith began translating again, Harris was not reemployed,

but Emma, the prophet's wife, acted as his scribe until April 15,

1829, when a new personage appeared upon the scene. This was

Oliver Cowdery.

Cowdery was a blacksmith by trade, but gave up that occupation,

and, while Joe was translating in Pennsylvania, secured the place

of teacher in the district where the Smiths lived, and boarded

with them. They told him of the new Bible, and, according to

Joe's later account, Cowdery for himself received a revelation of

its divine character, went to Pennsylvania, and from that time

was intimately connected with Joe in the translation and

publication of the book.

In explanation of the change of plan necessarily adopted in the

translation, the following preface appeared in the first edition

of the book, but was dropped later:--


"As many false reports have been circulated respecting the

following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil

designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would

inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and

caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I

took from the book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from

the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account,

some person or persons have stolen and kept from me,

notwithstanding my utmost efforts to recover it again--and being

commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over

again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord

their God, by altering the words; that they did read contrary

from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I

should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I

should translate the same over again, they would publish that

which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this

generation, that they might not receive this work, but behold,

the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall

accomplish his evil design in this thing; therefore thou shalt

translate from the plates of Nephi until ye come to that which ye

have translated, which ye have retained; and behold, ye shall

publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those

who have altered my words. I will not suffer that they shall

destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is

greater than the cunning of the Devil. Wherefore, to be obedient

unto the commandments of God, I have, through His grace and

mercy, accomplished that which He hath commanded me respecting

this thing. I would also inform you that the plates of which hath

been spoken, were found in the township of Manchester, Ontario

County, New York. --THE AUTHOR."

In June, 1829, Smith accepted an invitation to change his

residence to the house of Peter Whitmer, who, with his sons,

David, John, and Peter, Jr., lived at Fayette, Seneca County, New

York, the Whitmers promising his board free and their assistance

in the work of translation. There, Smith says, they resided

"until the translation was finished and the copyright secured."

As five of the Whitmers were "witnesses" to the existence of the

plates, and David continued to be a person of influence in Mormon

circles throughout his long life, information about them is of

value. The prophet's mother again comes to our aid, although her

account conflicts with her son's. The prophet says that David

Whitmer brought the invitation to take up quarters at his

father's, and volunteered the offer of free board and assistance.

Mother Smith says that one day, as Joe was translating the

plates, he came, in the midst of the words of the Holy Writ, to a

commandment to write at once to David Whitmer, requesting him to

come immediately and take the prophet and Cowdery to his house,"

as an evildesigning people were seeking to take away his

[Joseph's] life in order to prevent the work of God from going

forth to the world. "When the letter arrived, David's father told

him that, as they had wheat sown that would require two days'

harrowing, and a quantity of plaster to spread, he could not go

"unless he could get a witness from God that it was absolutely

necessary. "In answer to his inquiry of the Lord on the subject,

David was told to go as soon as his wheat was harrowed in.

Setting to work, he found that at the end of the first day the

two days' harrowing had been completed, and, on going out the

next morning to spread the plaster, he found that work done also,

and his sister told him she had seen three unknown men at work in

the field the day before: so that the task had been accomplished

by "an exhibition of supernatural power."*

* "Biographical Sketches," Lucy Smith, p. 135.

The translation being ready for the press, in June, 1829 (I

follow Tucker's account of the printing of the work), Joseph, his

brother Hyrum, Cowdery, and Harris asked Egbert B. Grandin,

publisher of the Wayne Sentinel at Palmyra, to give them an

estimate of the cost of printing an edition of three thousand

copies, with Harris as security for the payment. Grandin told

them he did not want to undertake the job at any price, and he

tried to persuade Harris not to invest his money in the scheme,

assuring him that it was fraudulent. Application was next made to

Thurlow Weed, then the publisher of the Anti-Masonic Inquirer, at

Rochester, New York. "After reading a few chapters," says Mr.

Weed, "it seemed such a jumble of unintelligent absurdities that

we refused the work, advising Harris not to mortgage his farm and

"beggar his family." Finally, Smith and his associates obtained

from Elihu F. Marshall, a Rochester publisher, a definite bid for

the work, and with this they applied again to Grandin, explaining

that it would be much more convenient for them to have the

printing done at home, and pointing out to him that he might as

well take the job, as his refusal would not prevent the

publication of the book. This argument had weight with him, and

he made a definite contract to print and bind five thousand

copies for the sum of $3000, a mortgage on Harris's farm to be

given him as security. Mrs. Harris had persisted in her refusal

to be in any way a party to the scheme, and she and her husband

had finally made a legal separation, with a division of the

property, after she had entered a complaint against Joe, charging

him with getting money from her husband on fraudulent

representation. At the hearing on this complaint, Harris denied

that he had ever contributed a dollar to Joe at the latter's


Tucker, who did much of the proof-reading of the new Bible,

comparing it with the manuscript copy, says that, when the

printing began, Smith and his associates watched the manuscript

with the greatest vigilance, bringing to the office every morning

as much as the printers could set up during the day, and taking

it away in the evening, forbidding also any alteration. The

foreman, John H. Gilbert, found the manuscript so poorly prepared

as regards grammatical construction, spelling, punctuation, etc.,

that he told them that some corrections must be made, and to this

they finally consented.

Daniel Hendrix, in his recollections, says in confirmation of


"I helped to read proof on many pages of the book, and at odd

times set some type.... The penmanship of the copy furnished was

good, but the grammar, spelling and punctuation were done by John

H. Gilbert, who was chief compositor in the office. I have heard

him swear many a time at the syntax and orthography of Cowdery,

and declare that he would not set another line of the type. There

were no paragraphs, no punctuation and no capitals. All that was

done in the printing office, and what a time there used to be in

straightening sentences out, too. During the printing of the book

I remember that Joe Smith kept in the background."

The following letter is in reply to an inquiry addressed by me to

Albert Chandler, the only survivor, I think, of the men who

helped issue the first edition of Smith's book:--

"COLDWATER, MICH., Dec. 22, 1898.

"My recollections of Joseph Smith, Jr. and of the first steps

taken in regard to his Bible have never been printed. At the time

of the printing of the Mormon Bible by Egbert B. Grandin of the

Sentinel I was an apprentice in the bookbindery connected with

the Sentinel office. I helped to collate and stitch the Gold

Bible, and soon after this was completed, I changed from

book-binding to printing. I learned my trade in the Sentinel


"My recollections of the early history of the Mormon Bible are

vivid to-day. I knew personally Oliver Cowdery, who translated

the Bible, Martin Harris, who mortgaged his farm to procure the

printing, and Joseph Smith Jr., but slightly. What I knew of him

was from hearsay, principally from Martin Harris, who believed

fully in him. Mr. Tucker's 'Origin, Rise, and Progress of

Mormonism' is the fullest account I have ever seen. I doubt if I

can add anything to that history.

"The whole history is shrouded in the deepest mystery. Joseph

Smith Jr., who read through the wonderful spectacles, pretended

to give the scribe the exact reading of the plates, even to

spelling, in which Smith was woefully deficient. Martin Harris

was permitted to be in the room with the scribe, and would try

the knowledge of Smith, as he told me, saying that Smith could

not spell the word February, when his eyes were off the

spectacles through which he pretended to work. This ignorance of

Smith was proof positive to him that Smith was dependent on the

spectacles for the contents of the Bible. Smith and the plates

containing the original of the Mormon Bible were hid from view of

the scribe and Martin Harris by a screen.

"I should think that Martin Harris, after becoming a convert,

gave up his entire time to advertising the Bible to his neighbors

and the public generally in the vicinity of Palmyra. He would

call public meetings and address them himself. He was

enthusiastic, and went so far as to say that God, through the

Latter Day Saints, was to rule the world. I heard him make this

statement, that there would never be another President of the

United States elected; that soon all temporal and spiritual power

would be given over to the prophet Joseph Smith and the Latter

Day Saints. His extravagant statements were the laughing stock of

the people of Palmyra. His stories were hissed at, universally.

To give you an idea of Mr. Harris's superstitions, he told me

that he saw the devil, in all his hideousness, on the road, just

before dark, near his farm, a little north of Palmyra. You can

see that Harris was a fit subject to carry out the scheme of

organizing a new religion.

"The absolute secrecy of the whole inception and publication of

the Mormon Bible stopped positive knowledge. We only knew what

Joseph Smith would permit Martin Harris to publish, in reference

to the whole thing.

"The issuing of the Book of Mormon scarcely made a ripple of

excitement in Palmyra.


* Mr. Chandler moved to Michigan in 1835, and has been connected

with several newspapers in that state, editing the Kalamazoo

Gazette, and founding and publishing the Coldwater Sentinel. He

was elected the first mayor of Coldwater, serving several terms.

He was in his eighty-fifth year when the above letter was


The book was published early in 1830. On paper the sale of the

first edition showed a profit of $3250 at $1.25 a volume, that

being the lowest price to be asked on pain of death, according to

a "special revelation" received by Smith. By the original

agreement Harris was to have the exclusive control of the sale of

the book. But it did not sell. The local community took it no

more seriously than they did Joe himself and his family. The

printer demanded his pay as the work progressed, and it became

necessary for Smith to spur Harris on by announcing a revelation

(Sec. 19, "Doctrine and Covenants"), saying, "I command thee that

thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to

the printing of the Book of Mormon. "Harris accordingly disposed

of his share of the farm and paid Grandin.

To make the book "go," Smith now received a revelation which

permitted his father, soon to be elevated to the title of

Patriarch, to sell it on commission, and Smith, Sr., made

expeditions through the country, taking in pay for any copies

sold such farm produce or "store goods" as he could use in his

own family. How much he "cut" the revealed price of the book in

these trades is not known, but in one instance, when arrested in

Palmyra for a debt of $5.63, he, under pledge of secrecy, offered

seven of the Bibles in settlement, and the creditor, knowing that

the old man had no better assets, accepted the offer as a joke.*

* "Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism," Tucker, p. 63.

The Witnesses To The Plates Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail