January 14, 2023

Life of Martin Harris

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Most people have heard of Martin Harris in The History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon and the man who lost the 116 pages of translation of The Book of Mormon. There is so much more to Martin Harris, he was placed in the life of Joseph Smith to keep the work of God moving forward. Martin Harris was the one who stepped in, at crucial times of the Church, and helped when nobody else would.

General Information on Martin Harris

Martin Harris was born May 18, 1783 in East-town New York. He is the son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham.

At age twenty-five Martin Harris married his sixteen-year-old cousin, Lucy Harris.

Martin Harris was a patriot. He was the first sergeant in the in the 39th New York Militia during the War of 1812.

In 1824, Martin Harris hired Joseph Smith Sr. and Hyrum Smith to work on his farm. During that time Martin learned about the young Joseph Smith and his prophetic calling.

Martin Harris was supportive of Joseph Smith and even gave Joseph Smith fifty-dollars(about 1,500$ today) to help with expenses when Joseph was moving to Harmony Pennsylvania.

Martin Harris brought the transcribed characters of The Book of Mormon to linguists Charles Anthon and Dr. Mitchell. Anthon stated that they were characters of ancient writings, but when Anthon found out it was from Joseph Smith he ripped up the paper with his authentication.

Martin acted as a scribe for the prophet Joseph Smith. He was the scribe to the book of Lehi. This is also the section of the Book of Mormon that Martin Harris asked to show his wife and lost.(D&C 3, 10). Nobody knows what happened to the manuscript but most scholars agree that Martins wife, Lucy Harris had something to do with it disappearing.

Martin Harris repented to the Lord and was forgiven. Martin ended up being able to be one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon along with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer. (D&C 5:23-29)

Martin Harris mortgaged his farmland to help with the publication of the Book of Mormon. Eighteen months later when the mortgage was due Martin was unable to pay the debt. He and his wife separated around the same time of the losing the farm.

Martin Harris was baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on April 6, 1831 in the Seneca River by Oliver Cowdery.

Martin Harris served a mission with his brother Emer Harris in 1832 and they baptized a 100 people in Chenango Point New York.

While on his mission Martin Harris was taken to jail on false charges and he was in jail until bail was received to release him.

Martin returned to Kirtland where he marched with Zions Camp. Martin became one of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Martin struggled with his relationship with Joseph Smith and was rejected as a member of the high council for speaking against the prophet. He was never excommunicated, according to Brigham Young, but Martin distanced himself from the Church.

Martin tried multiple different churches and organizations but never stayed in any of them.

When Martin Harris was eighty-six years old he sent a letter to Brigham Young in Utah asking to visit Utah, and he would need the church to pay for the round trip ticket. Brigham Young said “I was never more gratified more gratified over any message in my life. Send for him! Yes, even if it were to take the last dollar of my own.”(p.126)

Martin Harris was re-baptized on September 17, 1870 by Edward Stevenson in the presence of five Apostles.

When Martin Harris saw the Salt Lake Temple, the tabernacle, and the Salt Lake Valley he exclaimed “Who would have thought the Book of Mormon would have done all this?”

Martin Harris died on July 10, 1875 in Clarkston, Utah. He was buried with his Book of Mormon in his right hand and his copy of the Doctrine and Covenants in his left.(p.127)


”Who’s who in the Doctrine and Covenants” by Susan Easton Black

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