Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet
by Dan Vogel
Publishing the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon was a remarkable accomplishment for a farm boy. It would justifiably become the cornerstone for Joseph Smith’s claims to revelation—not so much because of what the book said but for what it represented, which was that God was once again communicating directly with humankind, prior to overthrowing wickedness and elitism and establishing his humble followers as the rulers of the world. Almost immediately, the book became less a source of doctrine than a symbol of Smith’s restoration—a justification for his unfolding program.1 The symbol was so powerful that many dissenters continued to believe in the Book of Mormon despite the fact that they came to reject Smith as a prophet. While Smith continued to produce religious texts, the Book of Mormon remained his most creative, ambitious work in scope and originality.
Upon completing the dictation, Joseph went immediately to Palmyra to conclude his negotiations with publisher Egbert B. Grandin. Lucy Smith recalled that “a few days” after her return to Manchester, following the experiences of the three witnesses in Fayette, Joseph, Oliver, and some of the Whitmers came to “make some arrangements about getting the book printed.”2 Prior to meeting with the Palmyra publisher, Joseph obtained the testimonies of an additional eight witnesses to the gold plates.
Signed by Joseph’s father and two brothers, Hyrum and Samuel, four of the Whitmers—Christian, Jacob, Peter Jr., and John—and their brother-in-law, Hiram Page, the “Testimony of Eight Witnesses” declared: “Joseph Smith, Jun. … has shown unto us the plates … and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands. … And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.” They testified that the plates had “the appearance of gold” and that they had seen “the engravings thereon,” that what they had seen had “the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.”
Despite the naturalistic language of the testimony, the experiences of the eight men were apparently visionary in nature, similar to the experiences of the three witnesses.3 The public and many church members became aware of the details of the witnesses’ experience in 1838 when Martin Harris declared in Kirtland, Ohio, that he “never saw the plates with his natural eyes” and that “the eight witnesses [also] never saw them [with their natural eyes] and hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it.” Upon hearing Harris’s statement, contemporary Stephen Burnett concluded: “If the witnesses whose names are attached to the Book of Mormon never saw the plates as Martin [Harris] admits, [then] there can be nothing brought to prove that any such thing ever existed.”4
Harris’s account is secondhand, but he was on intimate terms with the eight witnesses. Six of the eight were still alive at the time he made his statement (Christian Whitmer and Peter Whitmer Jr. had died in 1835 and 1836), and none of them contradicted him.5 Although Harris rejected Smith’s leadership in 1838, he continued to testify to the truth of the Book of Mormon and had little desire to impart information that could damage the book. At a subsequent meeting, according to Burnett, Harris expressed regret about having revealed the true nature of the experience of the eight witnesses, stating that “he never should have told that the testimony of the eight [witnesses] was false, if it had not been picked out of h[im,] but should have let it passed as it was.” The fact that Harris’s disclosure hurt his own position on the Book of Mormon argues strongly in favor of its truth, at least in Harris’s mind.
On 5 April 1839, Theodore Turley, then the church’s business agent in Far West, Missouri, publicly questioned John Whitmer concerning his testimony. Whitmer had joined with some dissenters in Missouri, and Turley wanted to know how Whitmer’s testimony of the plates could be true and the Book of Mormon false. Whitmer reaffirmed that he had both seen and handled the plates, but concluded by stating that the plates had been “shown to me by a supernatural power.”6 Turley pressed for a further explanation about how Whitmer could reject the Book of Mormon, to which Whitmer said that he could not read the original and therefore could not guarantee that Smith had translated it correctly.
There are circumstantial factors that point to a visionary experience for the eight witnesses. For instance, the lack of attention paid to their testimony, compared to that of the three witnesses, not only by non-Mormons but by the early church as well, seems unusual given the early nineteenth-century skepticism toward religious testimony. A deistic and rational America would have welcomed the statement of the eight witnesses and asked for more information if their testimony had been about a purely physical encounter with the plates. Instead, the eight witnesses attracted little attention, being completely overshadowed by the three witnesses because a vision of the angel and the plates was greater than a vision of the plates alone.
The compilers of Joseph Smith’s history let the testimony stand without explanation and provided only the brief introduction that “soon after” the experiences of the three witnesses, “the following additional testimony was obtained.”7 The only glimpse into the historical circumstances preceding this moment comes from Lucy Smith, who remembered that “soon after” Joseph and his Fayette entourage arrived, the “male part of the company repaired to a little grove where it was customary for the family to offer up their secret prayers” and that there they saw the gold plates.8 Lucy adds that “Joseph had been instructed that the plates would be carried” to the grove “by one of the ancient Nephites” and that “after the witnesses returned to the house the angel again made his appearance to Joseph and received the plates from his hands.”9
Her recollection is consistent with Joseph’s representation of his move to Fayette. Rather than transport the gold plates himself, Smith explained to David Whitmer and his family, the messenger would bring them. This change in method was no doubt the result of Smith’s increasing concern that the plates would be exposed. Martin Harris’s traveling companion, a Mr. Rogers from Waterloo, attempted to cut open the sack that held the plates in March 1829.10 Following Smith’s departure from Harmony, all contact with the gold plates was visionary.
While the circumstances surrounding the testimony of the eight witnesses remain incomplete, a partial reconstruction is possible that harmonizes the information we do have. For instance, Illinois governor Thomas Ford’s 1854 report is garbled but may contain a clue as to how Smith accomplished this effect. Repeating information from dissenters, Ford said that Smith set an empty box before the witness and told them that it contained the plates. After the men looked into the box with no result, Smith upbraided them: “O ye of little faith! How long will God bear with this wicked and perverse generation? Down on your knees, brethren, every one of you, and pray God for the forgiveness of your sins, and for a holy and living faith which cometh down from heaven.” After praying “two hours with fanatical earnestness,” they again looked into the box and this time saw the plates.11
The combination of the box and a spiritual vision is like what Harris suggested was his experience with the plates prior to his June 1829 vision. Harris told a resident of Palmyra that he saw the plates “with the eye of faith … just as distinctly as I see any thing around me,—though at the time they were covered over with a cloth.”12 He told Stephen Burnett and others in 1838 that “he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box [or] with only a tablecloth or a handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain.”13 If the eight witnesses viewed the plates through the lid of the box, then perhaps Smith procured a box, possibly borrowing Alvin’s old tool chest from Hyrum, which Smith family tradition says contained the plates for a time,14 filled it with rocks or sand, and represented it as containing the plates. Thus, each of the men could claim that they had “seen and hefted” the plates and not violate the spirit of the revelation given days before which prohibited a natural or carnal viewing of the sacred record (i.e., Doctrine and Covenants 17; hereafter D&C).
The event involving the eight witnesses was probably spontaneous, maybe inspired by the excitement of the three witnesses. Unlike the three (D&C 5:11; Ether 5:2-4; 2 Ne. 27:12-14; D&C 17:1-9), the eight witnesses had no special revelation commissioning them.15 Indeed, the initial revelation outlining the need for witnesses, dated March 1829, seemed to limit their number: “Three shall know of a surety that these things are true for I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are and to none else will I grant this power among this generation.”16 Although the original revelation said that only three would receive the “power” to “view these things,” the revisers found it necessary in 1835 to distinguish the original witnesses from the additional ones by adding: “for from heaven will I declare it unto them” (D&C 5:12). This suggests that the receipt of the “power of God” was not a definable difference between the two groups.17
Lucy said that a meeting was held in Hyrum’s crowded cabin in the evening after the eight witnesses viewed the plates and that “all the witnesses bore testimony” to what they had seen.18 Recalling this meeting, following the death of his brother Don Carlos in 1841, Joseph said that “all the witnesses, as also Don Carlos bore testimony to the truth of the latter-day dispensation.”19 This addition increased the number of special witnesses, including Smith, to twelve. Undoubtedly, this was encouraging to Smith’s followers, but more importantly at the time, it was also the beginning of a special bond that would draw the Smiths and Whitmers closer together in the following months.
On Monday following this meeting, according to Lucy, Joseph—in company with Hyrum, Oliver Cowdery, and the Whitmers—visited Grandin’s office, probably located in his book store on the first floor of the Exchange Building on Palmyra’s Main Street.20 Although the agreement between Smith, Harris, and Grandin had not been finalized, Grandin had announced on 26 June 1829 in the Wayne Sentinel that he intended to publish the Book of Mormon “as soon as the translation is completed.” Lucy reports that while an agreement was reached between the parties, it was not put into writing for another two days.
Meanwhile, Smith’s Fayette followers returned home except for Cowdery and Peter Whitmer Jr., both of whom remained in Manchester to assist in preparing a second copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript for the typesetter. This was according to a revelation Smith received which commanded him to “see that Oliver transcribed the whole work a second time and never take both transcripts to the office but leave one and carry the other so that in case one was destroyed the other would be left.”21 Smith had learned this lesson painfully through the loss of the prior manuscript. This time he was going to take every precaution to insure success. Peter’s responsibility was to guard the manuscripts and to accompany Cowdery, whose short stature and mild manner were hardly intimidating.22 However, according to John H. Gilbert, Hyrum, who struck an imposing figure, eventually took charge of delivering the manuscripts to the typesetter.23
Lucy also reports that on the day her son was to meet Grandin to sign the agreement, he was threatened by a mob of angry men. He was just preparing to start the two-mile walk to Grandin’s office when Alexander McIntyre, the Smith family physician, came to the cabin and warned them that a group of forty men led by William T. Huzzy, a hatter and member of Palmyra’s Mount Moriah Masonic Lodge, was waiting to assault him. Lucy begged her son not to go, but Joseph smiled and said: “Never mind mother, just put your trust in God, and nothing will hurt me today.”
As Joseph walked north along Stafford Road, he confronted the group about a half mile below Palmyra Village, where they had congregated at a fence belonging to David Jackway. Approaching Huzzy first, Smith said, “Good morning, Mr. Huzzy,” and as he continued to walk, greeted each man in like manner. Lucy reports that Joseph’s behavior so amazed the mob that they allowed him to pass unharmed.24 Lucy said that upon returning from his meeting with Grandin, Joseph said: “Well, mother, the devil has not overpowered me in any of my proceedings. Did I not tell you that I should be delivered from the hands of all my enemies! … Mother, there is a God in heaven, and I know it.”25
Cowdery probably began preparing a copy of the manuscript for the printer in early July. By taking six sheets of foolscap paper and folding them in half, he created booklets of twenty-four pages each, sometimes referred to as “gatherings,” upon which he copied the contents of the Book of Mormon. By mid-August when Gilbert began setting type, Cowdery had filled at least five booklets to reach the Book of Mosiah on page 116 of the printer’s manuscript. About this time, Smith prepared a brief “Preface” which explained the circumstances of having had to replace the opening portion of his book:
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 exertions to recovered it again.
Drawing from the May 1829 revelation (D&C 10), Smith explained that he was commanded not to retranslate the lost material but to replace it with Nephi’s record. Evidently, he had forgotten how many pages had been lost and used the number of manuscript pages Cowdery had produced in his copy for the printer. The actual number of pages lost by Martin Harris is probably unknown.
Apparently, the demands of printing the Book of Mormon as well as producing a weekly paper required Grandin to procure a quantity of new type. John H. Gilbert said that “Mr. Grandin got a new font of Small Pica, on which the body of the [Book of Mormon] was printed” and that “Grandin went to New York and bought the type—500 pounds of new small pica.”26 Gilbert began typesetting the Book of Mormon sometime in mid-August 1829, as he remembered, but perhaps not until Harris mortgaged his farm on 25 August.27
Preparations having been made, the actual work of printing began. “When the printer was ready to commence work,” Gilbert recalled in 1893, “Harris was notified, and Hyrum Smith brought the first installment of manuscript, of 24 pages.”28 From the start, it became apparent to Gilbert that this was going to be an unusual assignment. “[Hyrum] had it under his vest, and vest and coat closely buttoned over it.” Gilbert said that “at night Smith came and got the manuscript, and with the same precaution carried it away.”29
Gilbert said the manuscript was “closely written and legible, but not a punctuation mark from beginning to end.”30 The lack of punctuation and capitalization is overstated, but it did make Gilbert’s work arduous. One morning when Hyrum came to the office, Gilbert said: “Mr. Smith, if you would leave this manuscript with me, I would take it home with me at night and read and punctuate it, and I could get along faster in the day time, for now I have frequently to stop and read half a page to find how to punctuate it.” Hyrum replied, “We are commanded not to leave it.”31 Nevertheless, a few mornings later, Hyrum handed Gilbert the manuscript saying: “If you will give your word that this manuscript shall be returned to us when you get through with it, I will leave it with you.”32 Thereafter, Hyrum brought forty-eight pages, or two gatherings, at a time.33
On one occasion when Hyrum Smith and Martin Harris were in the shop, Gilbert called their attention to a grammatical error and asked whether he should correct it. After consulting with Hyrum, Harris said: “The Old Testament is ungrammatical, set it as it is written.”34
Stephen S. Harding, a twenty-one-year-old attorney from Indiana who came to visit his brother and other relatives including Grandin’s foreman, Pomeroy Tucker, was a witness to the proceedings at Grandin’s shop. Arriving early one morning, he was greeted by Harris, who remembered him prior to the Harding family’s removal from Palmyra in 1820. Martin introduced him to Oliver, Joseph Jr., and Joseph Sr. Harding remembered that he “entered into conversation with them—especially with Cowdery and the father of the prophet. But young Joe was hard to be approached. He was very taciturn, and sat most of the time as silent as a Sphynx.”35 Harding heard from Grandin and Tucker about the book’s history, but when he expressed a desire to read the manuscript, he was informed that it would not be possible while the day’s work was in progress. It was suggested that “probably Cowdery and Smith would have no objection to reading it to me, if I would give them an opportunity without interfering with their duties at the office.” What these “duties” were is difficult to determine, for as Harding remembered, typesetting did not occur for another four weeks.
Later the same day, Harding returned after lunch and found Harris, Cowdery, and the Smiths hard at work. He struck up a conversation with Harris, who “talked incessantly … on the subject of dreams, and the fearful omens and signs he had seen in the heavens.” Harding expressed a desire to hear about the contents of the Book of Mormon and was invited to remain overnight at the Smith home, which he accepted.
The sun was setting when Harding and the others arrived at Hyrum’s cabin. Harding remembered that Lucy Smith took his hand and said in a mysterious manner: “I’ve seed you before. You are the same young man that had on the nice clothes, that I seed in my dream. You had on this nice ruffled shirt, with the same gold breast-pin in it that you have now. Yes, jest ezactly sich a one as this!” As she said this, Harding said, she touched the ruffle of his shirt, scrutinized his pin, and then left the room.
Soon after, the senior Smith announced supper. Harding said it consisted of brown bread, milk, and raspberries. “There was no lack of these,” he said, “and if any left the table without a really good supper, it was not the fault of the hostess.” During the meal, Lucy said: “If I had only known what a nice visitor I was goin’ to have, I would have put on the table flour bread, and not ryn’ Injun.” Harding assured Lucy “that the supper was good enough for a king, and that the berries on the table were better than could be bought in any city in America.”
When it came time to hear the manuscript read, the occupants of the cabin moved from the kitchen and assembled in the now dark front room. Soon Lucy entered and lit the tallow dip of a tin candlestick, remarking: “This is the only candle I can find in the house; I thought I had two, but mabby the rats has eat it up.”
With all sitting around the table, Cowdery began reading. “The reading had proceeded for some time,” Harding said, “when the candle began to spit and splutter, sometimes almost going out, and flashing up with a red-blue blaze.” Immediately Harris asked, “Do you see that?” directing his query at Harding and Lucy, who sat beside him. “I know what that means; it is the Devil trying to put out the light, so that we can’t read any more.” “Yes,” replied Lucy. “I seed ’im! I seed ’im! as he tried to put out the burnin’ wick, when the blaze turned blue.”
When the only candle in the house was nearly gone shortly after 10:00 p.m., further reading had to be abandoned. The manuscript was carefully put away and most of the family retired for the night. Lucy showed Harding where to sleep, then “Mother Smith loaded a clay pipe with tobacco, which she ground up in her hands; a broom splint was lighted in the candle, and the delicious fumes issued in clouds from the old lady’s mouth.” Harding remembered that for the little remaining time before retiring for the evening herself, Lucy “began to talk incessantly … at some length [about] the dream that she had, when I appeared before her.” Her parting words were: “You’ll have visions and dreams, mebby, to-night; but don’t git skeered; the angel of the Lord will protect you.”
After breakfast the following morning, Lucy asked Harding if he had had a dream that “skeered” him. Having been a bit of a prankster in his youth, Harding decided to play a joke upon her credulity. So he told Mother Smith that he had indeed had a dream but that it was “so strange that I could not tell it to her or any one else.” With that, he had baited his trap.
On the return trip to Grandin’s shop, Harris begged Harding for at least a partial account of his dream. Again, Harding refused, saying that he doubted that he would ever tell anyone. All in the group became so interested, pressuring Harding to relate his dream, that finally Joseph said: “I can tell you what it was. I have felt just as you do. Wait, and the angel of the Lord will open your eyes.” At this point, the men reached Main Street, where Harding separated from the group without relating the contents of his dream.
About two weeks later, Harding saw Harris, who again asked about his dream. Perhaps to instill trust in the young man, Harris told Harding that since seeing him last “he had seen fearful signs in the heavens.” One night, while gazing into the night sky, Harris said, he “saw a fiery sword let down out of heaven, and pointing to the east, west, north, and south, then to the hill of Cumorah, where the plates of Nephi were found.” Harris went on to tell about his close encounter with the devil. As he was returning home in his wagon from Palmyra Village, his horses suddenly stopped and would not move, although he beat them with his whip, and “commenced snorting and pawing the earth as they had never done before.” Then, Harris said, he smelled brimstone and saw the devil “plainly as he walked up the hill and disappeared.” The incredulous Harding said, “What did he look like?” Harris replied, “Stephen, I will give you the best description that I can. Imagine a greyhound as big as a horse, without any tail, walking upright on his hind legs.”36 “I looked at him with perfect astonishment,” Harding said. “Now, Stephen,” Harris continued, “do tell me your dream.” Harding dropped his head and answered: “I am almost afraid to undertake it.”
Harris encouraged him, saying that “it was revealed to him that another vessel was to be chosen, and that Joseph had the gift of interpreting dreams the same as Daniel, who was cast into the lions’ den.” “Mr. Harris,” Harding said, “after considering the matter, I conclude that I ought not to repeat my dream to you, only on one condition: that you will pledge your honor not to tell it to any one.” Harris pleaded: “Oh, do let me tell it to Joseph. He can tell all about what it means.” “Well,” Harding said, “What I mean is, you may tell it to whom you please, only you shall not connect my name with it.” “I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” Harris promised. “Joseph will be able to tell who it was, the same as if I told the name.”
Harding proceeded to tell Harris about his “wonderful dream” in which he had seen “some characters … on a scroll.” Harding copied these characters onto a piece of paper and handed it to Harris. In relating this story in 1882, Harding confessed that the dream had been pure fiction and that the characters were “a mixture of stenographic characters and the Greek alphabet, rudely imitated.” Nevertheless, Harris gazed at the facsimile of characters with amazement, then springing to his feet and looking towards heaven with uplifted hands, cried out: “O Lord, God! the very characters that are upon the plates of Nephi!” His excitement alarmed Harding, for it seemed as if Harris was “going crazy.” Harris begged Harding to tell Joseph Sr. his dream, but the young man refused. “You are a chosen vessel of the Lord,” Harris declared and then left.
Harding asked readers to forgive his playful conduct with Harris but explained that he had done it “to fathom the depth of his credulity.” He repented of another trick he played on Calvin Stoddard, who had married Joseph Jr.’s sister Sophronia in 1827 and was living in a dilapidated house in nearby Macedon. In 1825, Stoddard had joined the Baptists, but soon quit over the principle of open communion.37 Harding remembered that Smith’s brother-in-law was “a very clever man, who had been a kind of exhorter among the Methodists,” but that he had been taken in by Smith’s pretensions. “I had met Mr. Stoddard on several occasions,” Harding said, “and his conversation generally turned on the subject of the new revelation.” Among other things, Stoddard declared “that young Joseph had had a dream that was more wonderful than anything he had ever read in the book of Daniel, and that if the village of Palmyra did not repent it would meet the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.” When Stoddard confessed that he was “slightly impressed” by the calling he had received to preach Mormonism but that he harbored some “perplexing doubts,” Harding resolved to “try an experiment in delusion,” using Stoddard as the subject.
As related by Pomeroy Tucker and later confirmed by Harding, at about 10:00 p.m. Harding went to Stoddard’s house in company with sixteen-year-old Abner Tucker. Knocking three times at the door with a large stone, they startled the Stoddards from sleep. “In a loud, sonorous voice, with solemn intonations,” Harding proclaimed: “Calvin Stoddard! The angel of the Lord commands that before another going down of the sun, thou shalt go forth among the people and preach the gospel of Nephi, or thy wife shall be a widow, thy children orphans, and thy ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven!”38 “I remained at the door only for a moment,” Harding recalled, “long enough to hear the startled Mormon saint in his fright cry out to his Maker in supplication for mercy and promise of obedience.”39
Early the next morning, Stoddard began earnestly preaching to his neighbors to tell them about the “command” he had received to preach. According to Harding, Stoddard repeated the words of the “celestial messenger” and said “they were communicated amid the roaring thunders of heaven and the musical sounds of angels’ wings.”40 Harding’s joke caused such a stir that it was mentioned in the Palmyra Reflector on 23 September 1829: “Some few evenings since a man in the town of Mendon [Macedon], had a loud call to go and preach the doctrines contained in the Gold Bible, under heavy denunciations.”41 In recollecting the story in later years, Harding confessed that his prank was an “unjustifiable act of a ‘wild and fast young man,’” that he was somewhat embarrassed by his conduct, and apologized in case someone had been converted to Mormonism based on Stoddard’s call.42
About this time, Smith and Cowdery visited the home of George Crane, an old Quaker who lived in Macedon, who according to Harding “had manifested some interest in the pretended translation,” perhaps as a result of Stoddard’s preaching. One account said the two men were investigating whether Crane might help finance Smith’s book.43 Regardless, Crane listened attentively as Cowdery read several chapters and then, in distinctive Quaker style, said: “Joseph, thy book is blasphemous; and I counsel thee to mend thy ways, or thee will come to some bad end.”44
Harding was at Grandin’s shop the day that Tucker, rather than Gilbert, finished setting up the title page and was about to make the first impression. When Harding entered, Harris shook his hand in fellowship. “Even the prophet himself shook hands with me,” Harding recalled, “looking me steadily in the eye as if new ideas possessed him in regard to myself; and it was evident that my dream had been repeated to these people, and that it was a puzzle to them all.” Later, when Joseph Sr. arrived, Harding perceived that he too had been informed of his remarkable dream. Concerning the printing of the title page, Harding recalled:
Mr. Grandin and two or three typos were present, as if curious in seeing the first impression of the title page. Tucker took up the ink-balls and made the form ready; then laying the blank sheet upon it, with one pull at the lever the work was done; then taking the impression, looked at it a moment, passed it to Cowdery, who scanned it carefully, and passed it to the prophet himself, who seemed to be examining every letter, and without speaking gave it into the hands of his father and Harris. It was then returned to Tucker … who … then handed it to me, saying: “Here, Steve, I’ll give this to you. You may keep it as a curiosity.” I thanked him, and put it carefully in my pocket.45
After Tucker made some corrections, Harding said, “a corrected impression of it was passed around to the young prophet and his attendant disciples, all of whom appeared to be delighted with the dawning of the new gospel dispensation, and it was accepted by Smith as ‘according to revelation.’”46 Similarly, Gilbert recalled, “The title page was first set up, and after [the] proof was read and corrected, several copies were printed for Harris and his friends.”47
Three or four days before Harding was to return to Indiana, Harris and Cowdery approached him in the village expressing concern about his departure, while at the same time informing him that “young Joseph had been having visions” concerning him. It was probably at this time that Harding received the first sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon on an uncut sheet, which he later said Harris and Cowdery gave to him.
Probably in early September, Harding boarded a small boat to travel to Buffalo on the Erie Canal. When the boat reached the first lock below Palmyra Village, Harding was surprised to see Harris and Cowdery board the boat. Both were animated, and Harris excitedly related a vision Smith had experienced the previous night. An angel had appeared to tell him that Harding was “a chosen vessel of the Lord.” The Mormon prophet instructed Harris and Cowdery to pursue Harding as far as Rochester and inform him of the angel’s command that he “must remain in Palmyra until the printing of the Book of Mormon was completed; after which,” Harding recalled, “I must go to the city of London and there remain until the Lord would inform me what to do.”
Puzzled by what he considered “wild fanaticism,” Harding asked: “Where is the money to come from to pay my passage to London?” “Oh,” Harris said, “the Lord will find the money. The Book of Mormon will sell for thousands and thousands of dollars, and I can furnish the money any day, if necessary.”
Harding confessed that he was seriously tempted to return to Palmyra and play out his charade, but his return to Indiana could not be delayed any longer. “They continued with me until we arrived at Rochester, where we parted,” Harding said. “In the mean time it seemed as if these messengers sent to intercept me would hardly take ‘No’ for an answer. Martin, with great earnestness, dwelt upon the danger of disobeying the commands of the Lord, and prophesied that I would soon be removed from the earth, and most probably before I reached my destination, quoting several passages of Scripture fitting my case. On leaving, they shook me by the hand most heartily, Martin warning me of the dangers ahead.”
In late September, Smith returned to Harmony, leaving Hyrum and Oliver to oversee the printing of the Book of Mormon. Meanwhile, Cowdery continued to work on the printer’s manuscript. Royal Skousen estimated that in copying the manuscript, Cowdery and two other scribes introduced about three errors per manuscript page.48
After an absence of about four months, Smith arrived at Harmony on 4 October. In a letter to Cowdery dated 22 October, he described the situation there:
I arrived at home … after having a prosperous Journey, and found all well. The people are all friendly to us except a few who are in opposition to every thing unless it is some thing that is exactly like themselves. And two of our most formidable persecutors are now under censure and are cited to a trial in the church for crimes which if true are worse than all the Gold Book business. We do not rejoice in the affliction of our enemies but we shall be glad to have truth prevail.49
The two “formidable persecutors” Smith alludes to may be Isaac Hale and Nathaniel Lewis, although there is no way to verify this since Methodist records for this period are not extant. “There begins to be a great call for our books in this country,” Smith told Cowdery. “The minds of the people are very much excited when they find that there is a copyright obtained and that there is really [a] book, about to be printed.” Smith was undoubtedly happy to report that Josiah Stowell planned to purchase $500 or $600 worth of books. Smith mentioned that he had bought a horse from Stowell on credit and wanted Cowdery to send someone “as soon as convenient” to convey it back to Manchester.50 Perhaps the horse would be used for travel between the Smith home to the print shop.
Meanwhile, Cowdery purchased a large pulpit Bible from Grandin’s book store on 8 October for $3.75. This book would later be used to produce Smith’s own revision of the Bible.51
About this time, Thomas Marsh, a former Methodist from Boston, Massachusetts, came to Grandin’s shop to investigate “the Golden Book found by a youth named Joseph Smith.” In addition to meeting Martin Harris, he obtained an uncut sheet of the first sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon, which “had just been struck off.” He visited the Smith residence and met Oliver Cowdery, “who gave me all the information concerning the book I desired.” After his return to Boston, Marsh recalled, “I showed my wife the sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon which I had obtained, with which she was well pleased, believing it to be the word of God.”52
Also about this time, Solomon Chamberlain, a religious seeker and visionary from nearby Lyons, Wayne County, New York, visited the Smiths in Manchester.53 While passing through Palmyra on the Erie Canal, he “felt as if some genii or good Spirit [had] told me to leave the boat.” At a farm house where he lodged, he experienced “a power like electricity [that] went from the top of my head to the end of my toes” when his hosts told about the “Gold Bible.” Chamberlain immediately went to the Smith cabin, where he apparently entered without knocking and found Hyrum pacing the floor. Without introducing himself, Chamberlain said: “Peace be to this house.” Surprised, Hyrum said: “I hope it will be peace.” “Is there any one here that believes in visions or revelations,” Chamberlain said. “Yes,” Hyrum responded, “we are a visionary house.” “Then, I will give you one of my pamphlets,” Chamberlain said. The twelve-page pamphlet contained an account of Chamberlain’s dream vision of hell and eternal torment, which he had experienced in 1807, and his father-in-law Philip Haskins’s account of being transported to heaven where he saw, among other things, his dead mother.54
Hyrum called the men of the house together, which Chamberlain remembered included Joseph Sr. and some of the Whitmers. Hyrum read from Chamberlain’s pamphlet until he became so moved by its contents that he could not continue reading, whereupon Christian Whitmer continued to the end. Chamberlain preached Seekerism to them, specifically “that all churches and denominations on the earth had become corrupt, and [there was] no church of God on the earth but that he [God] would shortly rise up a church, that would never be confounded nor brought down and be like unto the apostolic church.” The Smiths and Whitmers were shocked at Chamberlain’s words and inquired how he knew such things. “The Lord told me these things a number of years ago,” Chamberlain said. “If you are a visionary house, I wish you would make known some of your discoveries, for I think I can bear them.”
Hyrum and the others proceeded to tell him of Joseph’s discovery and translation of the gold plates. Chamberlain received a spiritual witness that “this was the work I had been looking for” and remained two days, during which time he visited Grandin’s shop and obtained four of the uncut sheets with the first sixty-four pages of the Book of Mormon. He became an early devotee, traveling through western New York and as far as Canada to preach the Book of Mormon. “I … pursued my journey to Canada,” he recalled, “and I preached all that I knew concerning Mormonism, to all both high and low, rich and poor. … I exhorted all people to prepare for the great work of God that was now about to come forth.”55
On 6 November 1829, Cowdery responded to Smith’s letter of October 4, reporting that the work of printing was progressing slowly but that Grandin expected to finish printing by the first of February. Despite the fact that Grandin had purchased additional type in August, typesetting and printing were slowed because there was still a shortage. The type was being used not only for the Wayne Sentinel but also for Abner Cole’s Palmyra Reflector, the first number of which appeared on 2 September. Cowdery informed Smith that Grandin was purchasing additional type but that there was a delay due to the foundry owner’s illness. Cowdery reported that he had copied the manuscript up to Alma chapter 36.
Cowdery had other news. “I would inform [you],” he wrote, “that Hyrum and Martin went out to Fayette last week. They had a joyful time and found all in as good health as could be expected.” Concerning the retrieval of the horse Smith had purchased from Stowell, Cowdery said: “Martin thinks of coming to the South in the course of two or three weeks and will calculate to take back that horse.” Cowdery mentioned that he had received a letter from Thomas Marsh in Boston, dated 25 October, who “says he has talked considerable to some respecting our work with freedom but others could not [tolerate it] because they had no ears.”56
One day while working in Grandin’s shop, Cowdery heard some commotion in the adjoining room and suggested that a Mr. Robinson, probably Cains Robinson, son of the pharmacist Gain Robinson with whom the Smiths did business, put his ear to the wall. By this means, it was discovered that a meeting was being held regarding the Book of Mormon. As Lucy related it,57 one man feared that the book threatened the religious stability of the community. After further discussion, three of the conspirators determined to visit Lucy Smith and destroy the manuscript. To gain access, they would pretend to be interested in the Book of Mormon and would ask Lucy to read from it. As two of the visitors diverted her attention, the third would grab the manuscript and throw it into the fireplace.
When Cowdery returned to the Smith cabin that evening, he told the others about the plot. Turning to Lucy, Oliver said: “Mother, what shall I do with the manuscript? Where shall I put it to keep it away from them?” “Oliver,” Lucy said, “I do not think the matter so serious after all, for there is a watch kept constantly about the house, and I need not take out the manuscript to read it to them unless I choose, and for its present safety I can have it deposited in a chest, under the head of my bed, in such a way that it never will be disturbed.” With the manuscript secured in the trunk, all retired for the night except Peter Whitmer Jr., who stood guard as usual.
Four days later, as Lucy recalled, three men came to her home requesting to see the gold plates. One said, “Mrs. Smith, we hear that you have a gold bible; we have come to see if you will be so kind as to show it to us?” “No, gentlemen,” Lucy said, “we have no gold bible, but we have a translation of some gold plates, which have been brought forth for the purpose of making known to the world the plainness of the Gospel, and also to give a history of the people which formerly inhabited this continent.” After Lucy finished her statement, the gentlemen said: “Can we see the manuscript, then?” “No, sir,” Lucy replied, “you cannot see it. I have told you what it contains, and that must suffice.”
Lucy likely included this account in her history because it portrayed her as the heroine, giving directions to the others and safeguarding the manuscript, just as she had protected young Joseph from the surgeon’s knife. The event would have undoubtedly also drawn the faithful closer together and helped to increase their sense of group identity.
An additional story related by Lucy involved Hyrum’s premonition one Sunday, perhaps 27 December 1829, that something was wrong at Grandin’s shop. He shared his anxiety with Oliver Cowdery, and after some discussion, they decided to visit the press. When they arrived, they were “surprised” to find Abner Cole printing a newspaper. Hyrum picked up one of them and discovered that Cole had printed a sizable extract from the Book of Mormon and announced his intention to continue publishing portions, thereby providing readers with the bulk of the work for a comparatively small sum. Moreover, those who were curious about the book’s contents but doubted its provenance could now satisfy themselves by reading Cole’s paper.58
As with other events, Lucy may have amplified the miraculous in Hyrum’s discovery. Cole’s presence at Grandin’s shop on Sundays and week nights hardly could have been a surprise since Cole had been publishing his paper—albeit anonymously—for about four months and had mentioned the Book of Mormon in six numbers of the Reflector prior to the appearance of the first extract (1 Nephi 1:1-2:3) on 2 January 1830. Hyrum’s premonition may have been nothing more than Cole’s announcement on 9 December of his intention to begin extracting portions of the Book of Mormon when the new series of the paper commenced. On the other hand, no one knew when the new series would begin, and it was not until the second number that Cole began printing portions of the Book of Mormon. But he did announce the following in the first number of the new series: “‘Gold Bible’ next week.”59 The earliest Sunday that Hyrum and Oliver were on hand and could have discovered Cole printing the extracts would have been 27 December.
Hyrum was undoubtedly angry to find the Book of Nephi included in Cole’s tabloid, and said indignantly: “Mr. Cole … what right have you to print the Book of Mormon in this manner? Do you not know that we have secured the copyright?” Cole, a former justice of the peace who no doubt knew Hyrum was right, held his ground: “It is none of your business. I have hired the press, and will print what I please, so help yourself.” “Mr. Cole,” Hyrum said sharply, “that manuscript is sacred, and I forbid your printing any more of it.” “Smith,” Cole replied, “I don’t care a damn for you; that damn gold bible is going into my paper, in spite of all you can do.” Neither Hyrum nor Oliver could dissuade him, so they returned home to council with Joseph Sr., who volunteered to ride immediately to Pennsylvania to bring Joseph back to Palmyra.
On the following day, 28 December, Cowdery wrote a letter to Joseph Jr. alluding to his father’s plans: “It may seem superfluous for me to write as Father is going directly to your country …” But there must have been a delay of about three weeks before Joseph Sr. finally made the trip because Cole continued to publish extracts from the Book of Mormon in his issues of 13 and 22 January. Joseph Jr. must have confronted Cole on about Sunday, 24 January.60 A reason for the delay in Joseph Sr.’s trip may have been his appearance with Abraham Fish before Justice Nathan Pierce on 19 January over a debt of $39.92 owed to Lemuel Durfee Jr.61
Meanwhile, perhaps due to Cole’s ongoing publication of the Book of Mormon, Martin Harris became concerned about his investment. On 16 January, with Cowdery as a witness, Joseph Sr. (perhaps acting as power of attorney for his son) signed an agreement stipulating that “Martin Harris shall have an equal privilege with me and my friends of selling the Book of Mormon of the edition now printing by Egbert B. Grandin until enough of them shall be sold to pay for the printing of the same or until such times as the said Grandin shall be paid for the printing the aforesaid books or copies.”62
According to his wife and sister-in-law, Harris boasted in 1828 that the Book of Mormon would be a financial windfall.63 According to Tucker, “Harris was led to believe that the book would be a profitable speculation for him, and very likely in this [fact] may be traced his leading motive for taking the venture. He was vouchsafed the security of a ‘special revelation’ commanding that the new Bible should in no instance be sold at a less price than ‘ten shillings,’ and that he himself should have the exclusive right of sale, with all the avails. … Indeed, he figured up the profits … thus: 5,000 books at $1.25 per book, $6,250. First cost, $3,000. Showing a clear speculation of over one hundred per sent upon the investment.”64 If Harris had in fact held some kind of speculative expectation from the Book of Mormon, the 16 January agreement made it clear to him that he would not reap any profits from the sales; rather, he would only be repaid his $3,000. The profits would go to Joseph Sr. and “friends.” Moreover, the agreement outlined a method of payment requiring that the entire run of 5,000 copies would have to be sold before 25 February 1831 to prevent foreclosure on Harris’s farm.
Having finalized this financial arrangement, and since Hyrum had spoken to Abner Cole to warn him not to publish any more excerpts from the Book of Mormon, Joseph Sr. might have thought that the trip to Pennsylvania would be unnecessary. Then on Friday, 22 January, Cole published part of the Book of Alma, likely pilfered from the type form Gilbert was preparing for the press. This left no doubt about Cole’s determination to continue, and it may have been what forced Joseph Sr. to finally prepare a sleigh and leave Manchester on about 22 January and return early the next week.65
Lucy recalled that the two Josephs returned during a harsh winter storm and that Joseph Jr. remained inside only long enough to refresh himself before going directly to the print shop that evening to confront Cole. Joseph found the newspaper publisher hard at work, probably preparing his 30 January issue. After cordially greeting him, Joseph said: “Mr. Cole, that book, and the right of publishing it, belongs to me, and I forbid you meddling with it any further.” Cole flew into a rage and threw off his coat, roaring: “Do you want to fight, sir? Do you want to fight? I will publish just what I please. Now, if you want to fight, just come on.” It may be true that the forty-seven-year-old Cole was irritable and pugnacious. Indeed, Grandin described him as one who “stands his ground.”66 But Joseph also had a reputation for fighting.
Perhaps mindful of the expectations of his followers, Smith chose not to fight but simply smiled and said: “Now, Mr. Cole, … you had better keep your coat on—it is cold, and I am not going to fight you, nevertheless, I assure you, sir, that you have got to stop printing my book, for I know my rights, and shall maintain them.” Cole persisted: “Sir, … if you think you are the best man, just pull off your coat and try it.” “Mr. Cole,” Smith said calmly and confidently, “there is law, and you will find that out, if you do not understand it, but I shall not fight you, sir.” Lucy reports that Cole finally agreed to submit to an “arbitration,” perhaps by Grandin, “which decided that he should stop his proceedings forthwith, so that he made us no further trouble.” However, Cole continued to publish items about Joseph Smith and the “Gold Bible” with increasing vituperation.
Before leaving Manchester, Joseph Jr. received a revelation directing Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, Joseph Knight Sr., and Josiah Stowell to travel to Kingston, Ontario, situated at the north end of Lake Ontario, to sell the foreign rights to the Book of Mormon. Apparently, the reason was because Harris was worried that he would lose his farm. David Whitmer remembered that Hyrum lost patience with Harris when he failed to sell part of his farm for funds to finish the printing.67 This contradicts John Gilbert’s statement that there were no delays over finances.68 Moreover, Harris had until 25 February 1831 before his note to Grandin was due. Yet, it is possible that Harris was dissatisfied with the terms of Joseph Sr.’s 16 January 1830 agreement and continued to push for something that was more advantageous to him. Whitmer may have been correct in remembering that “Hyrum was vexed with Brother Martin, and thought they should get the money by some means outside of him, and not let him have anything to do with the publication of the book, or receiving any of the profits thereof if any profits should accrue.” In other words, Grandin would be paid with proceeds from the Canadian sale and Harris would have no further commercial interest in the venture.
Hiram Page had a different impression of the Canadian trip, independent of any consideration of Harris’s debt: “Joseph thought this would be a good opportunity to get a handsome sum of money which was to be (after the expenses were taken out) for the exclusive benefit of the Smith family and was to be at the disposal of Joseph.” According to Page, preparations for the trip were made “in a sly manor so as to keep Martin Harris from drawing a share of the money.”69
Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight Sr. were probably chosen for their financial resources and ability to provide transportation. Page may have been included because it was assumed he had connections in Kingston, having “traveled considerably in … Canada as a physician.”70
“It was told me we were to go by revelation,” Page recounted. “But when we assembled at father Smiths, there was no revelation for us to go. But we were all anxious to get a revelation to go; and when it came, we were to go to Kingston where we were to sell [the copyright] if they would not harden their hearts. … We were to get 8,000 dollars.”71 Multiple copies of the revelation were recorded, none of which are known to have survived. But David Whitmer and William E. McLellin said they read the written document, McLellin having seen a copy that had fallen into Martin Harris’s hands.72
John L. Traughber reported information he gathered about this trip from Whitmer and McLellin. He indicated that the seventy-five-mile journey occurred “early in 1830” and that “the boys went over on the ice.”73 The trip may have occurred in February. Citing the Quebec Gazette, the Lyons (New York) Countryman reported that on 28 February 1830, Québécois experienced the “coldest day” of winter and Kingstonians received the heaviest snowfall in several years; that “Lake (Ontario) was frozen, and crossing had become general.”74
Notwithstanding the glimmer of promise offered by the revelation, the mission was unsuccessful. “When we got there,” Page said, “there was no purchaser. Neither were they authorized at Kingston to buy [copy]rights for the Provence; but Little York [Toronto] was the place where such business had to be done.”75 Despite Page’s belief that Toronto, 160 miles west of Kingston, was the correct location, there was no special office for transacting such business there until 1841.76
Whitmer remembered that Smith was in Fayette when Cowdery and Page returned from Canada. “We were all in great trouble,” he said, “and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto [Kingston] and sell the copy-right, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking.” To answer this question, Smith received another revelation through his stone: Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.77 One would not expect a true revelation from God to fail, so Smith conceded the possibility that the revelation had come from his own desires or from the devil’s deception. Considering his failure as a treasure seer, Smith had no doubt given similar answers before. Regardless, he left his followers on their own to decide how to apply this pronouncement to the unfulfilled revelation. Smith would soon return to Harmony, possibly accompanied by Stowell and Knight.
Meanwhile, on 3 March 1830, officials of Palmyra’s Western Presbyterian Church appointed the Reverend Alfred E. Campbell and Henry Jessup to visit Lucy, Hyrum, and Samuel Harrison Smith to ask why they had been absent from church. Sophronia is not mentioned in the record and may have withdrawn earlier, perhaps following her marriage, 2 December 1827, to Calvin Stoddard, a former Baptist with Methodist leanings. On 10 March, the two men reported that they had visited the Smiths and “received no satisfaction,” that the Smiths “acknowledged that they had entirely neglected the ordinances of the church for the last eighteen months and that they did not wish to unite with us any more.”78 This indicates that Lucy and the others had been inactive since about September 1828 when Lucy and Joseph Sr. had traveled to Harmony to visit their son and daughter-in-law, at which time they may have read King Benjamin’s sermon.79 The Presbyterian session resolved to summon the three Smiths to appear at the next meeting (24 March) to answer the charges of six witnesses. The Smiths failed to appear. Five days later, the session appointed George Beckwith to represent the Smiths and the trial resulted in the family’s suspension from church worship.
In relating how a committee of Palmyra citizens attempted to destroy the Book of Mormon manuscript in late 1829, Lucy included details that belong to the March 1830 visit of the Presbyterian committee.80 The record mentions only that Campbell and Jessup were sent, but Lucy includes George Beckwith as the committee’s spokesman. These “three delegates” from the Presbyterian church not only came to inquire about the Smiths’ absence from public worship, according to Lucy, but also to ask about their connection to the Book of Mormon. They tried to persuade her and her two sons to denounce the book, to which Lucy responded that the similarity in doctrine between the Book of Mormon and the Bible verified the truth of the former. She editorialized that “notwithstanding all this … the different denominations are very much opposed to us. The Universalists are alarmed lest their religion should suffer loss, the Presbyterians tremble for their salaries, the Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.” These comments, especially regarding a god without body or parts, might be seen as an anachronism inserted after Joseph Smith taught in Nauvoo that God the Father has a body like the Son’s. On the contrary, her statement is consistent with the Book of Mormon’s modalistic teaching that Jesus is God the Father and that God, particularly after the resurrection, is a corporeal being.
“Mrs. Smith,” Beckwith says in Lucy’s account, “you and the most of your children have belonged to our church for some length of time, and we respect you very highly. You say a great deal about the Book of Mormon, which your son has found, and you believe much of what he tells you, yet we cannot bear the thoughts of losing you, and they do wish—I wish, that if you do believe those things, you would not say anything more upon the subject—I do wish you would not.” “Deacon Beckwith,” Lucy said, “if you should stick my flesh full of faggots, and even burn me at the stake, I would declare, as long as God should give me breath, that Joseph has got that Record, and that I know it to be true.”
At this, according to Lucy’s account, the deacon observed to his colleagues, “You see it is of no use to say anything more to her, for we cannot change her mind.” Turning to Lucy, he then says, “Mrs. Smith, I see that it is not possible to persuade you out of your belief, therefore I deem it unnecessary to say anything more upon the subject.” “No, sir,” she said, “it is not worth your while.”
Leaving Lucy, the three men go into the field to speak with Hyrum. “Mr. Smith,” Beckwith says, “do you not think that you may be deceived about that Record, which your brother pretends to have found?” “No, sir, I do not,” Hyrum says. “Well, now, Mr. Smith, if you find that you are deceived, and that he has not got the Record, will you confess the fact to me?” Beckwith asked. Hyrum countered: “Will you, Deacon Beckwith, take one of the books, when they are printed, and read it, asking God to give you an evidence that you may know whether it is true?” “I think it beneath me to take so much trouble,” Beckwith said indignantly and then, according to Lucy’s account, makes an absurd proposition: “If you will promise that you will confess to me that Joseph never had the plates, I will ask for a witness whether the book is true.” Hyrum’s response is equally absurd: “I will tell you what I will do, Mr. Beckwith, if you do get a testimony from God, that the book is not true, I will confess to you that it is not true.”
Frustrated, the three men leave Hyrum and go to question Samuel, whom they also find to be unyielding. Samuel responds to their questioning by quoting Isaiah 56:9-11, a portion of which reads: “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber; yea, they are greedy dogs, which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.” The three Presbyterian delegates felt insulted and departed.
About this time, the work of printing was drawing to a close, which according to Gilbert was finished in March 1830.81 Gilbert said that he set most of the type but that Cowdery “did several times take up a ‘stick’ and set a part of a page—he may have set 10 or 12 pages, all told—he also a few times looked over the manuscript when proof was being read.”82 In his 28 December 1829 letter to Smith, Cowdery said: “It may look rather strange to you to find that I have so soon become a printer.”
Until December, the press work was mostly performed by Gilbert and his assistant John H. Bortles, and thereafter Bortles and Thomas McAuley, whom Grandin had recently hired, until the work was finished sometime in March.83 Luther Howard’s bindery was conveniently located on the second floor below Grandin’s shop. Here the pages of the Book of Mormon were sewn together and leather-covered boards glued into place.
On 19 March 1830, the Wayne Sentinel announced that the book would be ready for sale “in the course of next week.” On 26 March, the Sentinel confirmed that it was in fact available at Palmyra’s bookstore located on the floor below Howard’s bindery. While some of the books were complete, the entire first edition would not be finished until early in the summer of 1830.84
Undoubtedly excited at the release of the book, Smith arrived with Joseph Knight Sr. in Palmyra Village during the last week of March. “Now in the Spring of 1830,” Knight recalled, “I went with my team and took Joseph out to Manchester … Now when we got near to his father’s we saw a man some eighty rods before us run across the street with a bundle in his hand.”85 “There,” said Joseph, “there is Martin [Harris] going across the road with some thing in his hand.” “How could you know him so far?” Knight asked. “I believe it is him,” Smith responded.
When they got closer, Smith and Knight discovered that it was indeed Harris carrying a bundle of freshly printed copies of the Book of Mormon. After the usual greetings, Knight remembered, Harris anxiously said: “The books will not sell for no body wants them.” Smith replied: “I think they will sell well.” Worried about the eventual loss of his farm, Harris said: “I want a commandment.” “Why? Fulfill what you have got,” Smith answered. Harris insisted: “I must have a commandment.” Knight remembered that although Harris insisted “three or four times,” saying “he must have a commandment” before he would sell his farm, “Joseph put him off.” Notwithstanding Smith’s apparent indifference, Harris would soon have a commandment from God.
1. See Grant Underwood, “Book of Mormon Usage in Early LDS Theology,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Autumn 1984): 35-74; and Robert A. Gunderson, “From the Dust to the Dusty: The Rise and Fall of the Book of Mormon in the Life and Ministry of Joseph Smith,” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 22 (2002): 75-88.
2. Lucy Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, 102, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, UT; and Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for many Generations (Liverpool, Eng.: S. W. Richards, 1853), 140 (see Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2003], 1:395; hereafter EMD).
3. Apologists insist on a literal reading of the “Testimony of Eight Witnesses.” John Gee, for example, asserts that “the Eight Witnesses saw and handled [the plates] in broad daylight without any angels or anything extraordinary about the experience,” and William J. Hamblin writes that “the Eight Witnesses … claimed to have seen the plates in a completely nonvisionary setting,” neither statement being supported by the evidence (John Gee, Review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, ed. Brent Lee Metcalfe [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994], in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6 : 111; and William J. Hamblin, “Apologist for the Critics: Brent Lee Metcalfe’s Assumptions and Methodologies,” in ibid., 513). Our previous discussion of the experiences of the three witnesses revealed several points of tension between the published testimony and the event as later described by the participants (see chapter 27 of this volume). Without subsequent sources of information, one would not know that the “Testimony of Three Witnesses” is a composite document reporting more than one event or that those events were more visionary than implied by the wording of their published statement. Similar errors are probably being made by apologists who attempt to reconstruct the historical event behind the “Testimony of Eight Witnesses” based on the published statement alone. These problems are more fully explored in EMD 3:464-72; and Dan Vogel, “The Validity of the Witnesses’ Testimonies,” in Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe, eds., American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 79-121.
4. Stephen Burnett to Lyman E. Johnson, 15 Apr. 1838, Joseph Smith, Letterbook (1837-43), 2:64-66, Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Archives (EMD 2:290-93). Burnett’s account is supported by Warren Parrish, a fellow dissenter, who reported in August 1838 that “Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book [of Mormon] purports to have been translated, except in vision, and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph [Smith] not excepted” (Evangelist [Carthage, OH] 6 [1 Oct. 1838]: 226).
5. Hyrum Smith’s response to the dissenters, as reported by Sally Parker in August 1838, that “he had but two hands and two eyes” and that “he had seen the plates with his eyes and handled them with his hands” (Sally Parker to John Kempton, 26 Aug. 1838, microfilm, Family History Library, Salt Lake City [EMD 3:466]), is not unlike the response of David Whitmer, who in 1886 told Nathan Tanner: “I have been asked if we saw those things with our natural eyes. Of course they were our natural eyes. There is no doubt that our eyes were prepared for the sight, but they were our natural eyes nevertheless” (Nathan Tanner, Jr., to Nathan A. Tanner, 17 Feb. 1909, typed copy, LDS Church Archives [EMD 5:170]). Thus, Hyrum was not necessarily denying dissenter claims that he and the other witnesses had seen the plates in vision.
6. Theodore Turley, “Memoranda,” 1845, LDS Church Archives (EMD 5:241). Turley’s “Memoranda” was used by Thomas Bullock when writing the history of the church in 1845 (see Book C-1, 913; cf. Joseph Smith Jr., et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols., 2nd ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1948], 3:307-8).
7. Joseph Smith, Manuscript History of the Church, Book A-1, 26 Joseph Smith Papers, LDS Church Archives (EMD 1:86). According to David Whitmer, the three witnesses saw the plates in the “latter part” of June 1829 and the eight witnesses one or two days later (“Report of Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith,” Deseret News, 16 Nov. 1878 [EMD 5:50]).
11. Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois, from Its Commencement As a State in 1818 to 1847 (Chicago: S. C. Griggs and Co., 1854), 258 (EMD 3:332-34). Although Ford does not specify whether he refers to the three or eight witnesses, the absence of the angel implies the eight.
15. Some have assumed that 2 Nephi 27:13 alludes to the eight witnesses. There is nothing in Nephi’s “few” to imply eight, as opposed to any other incidental witnesses such as Mary Musselman Whitmer (see Andrew Jenson, “Still Another Witness,” Historical Record 7 [Oct. 1888]: 621 [EMD 5:261-62]; and Edward Stevenson, “The Thirteenth Witness to the Plates of the Book of Mormon,” Juvenile Instructor 24 [1 Jan. 1889]: 23 [EMD 5:262-63]).
16. The earliest copy of the revelation is found in the Newel K. Whitney Collection, Special Collections, Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT (cf. Doctrine and Covenants 5:11-15; hereafter D&C).
17. A similar shift seems to have occurred within the Book of Mormon itself, as argued in Brent Lee Metcalfe, “The Priority of Mosiah: A Prelude to Book of Mormon Exegesis,” in Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993), 423-27.
19. Smith, History of the Church, 4:393. A similar statement appears in the published version of Lucy’s history, but the nearly identical wording suggests that it was probably added by Howard Coray (EMD 1:396).
26. Gilbert, “Memorandum,” 2 (EMD 2:543). Stephen S. Harding reported that prior to printing, “Tucker … had just received from Albany a font of new type” (Thomas Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra [New York: John B. Alden, 1890], 47 [EMD 3:161]).
27. John H. Gilbert to James T. Cobb, 10 Feb. 1879, 1, Theodore A. Schroeder Papers, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division, New York Public Library, NY (EMD 2:523); and Gilbert, “Memorandum,” 3 (EMD 2:545). See also Martin Harris, Mortgage to Egbert B. Grandin, 25 Aug. 1829, Mortgages, Liber 3, 325, Wayne County Clerk’s Office, Lyons, NY (EMD 3:473-77). Gilbert said, “Martin Harris … had given security for the full amount agreed upon for printing, before the work was commenced” (Andrew Jenson, Edward Stevenson, and Joseph S. Black to Editor, 28 Sept. 1888, Deseret Evening News, 11 Oct. 1888 [EMD 2:540]).
31. In another version, Gilbert said Hyrum’s reply was: “This is pretty important business, young man, and I don’t know as we can trust this manuscript in your possession” (Post and Tribune [Detroit], 3 Dec. 1877, 3 [EMD 2:519]).
35. Harding’s account of his visit to Palmyra in August-September 1829 is taken, unless otherwise indicated, from his letter to Thomas Gregg dated February 1882 and subsequently published in Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra, 34-56 (EMD 3:153-66).
36. J. J. Moss of Kirtland, Ohio, testified that Martin Harris claimed the devil “looked like a jackass, and he had hair like a mouse” (Clark Braden and E. L. Kelley, Public Discussion of the Issues Between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of Christ (Disciples) Held in Kirtland, Ohio, Beginning February 12, and Closing March 8, 1884 Between E. L. Kelley, of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Clark Braden, of the Church of Christ [St. Louis: Clark Braden, ], 387).
37. On 16 August 1828, a committee appointed to visit Stoddard reported his comment that “many” of the Baptists “were Devils” (Minutes of the Palmyra Baptist Church, entries of 5 Mar., 3 Apr. 1825, 19 July, 16 Aug. 1828, Samuel Colgate Baptist Historical Collection, American Baptist Historical Society, Rochester, NY).
38. Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1867), 80 (EMD 3:124-25). Tucker repeated the story as “an anecdote, well remembered by numerous people now living near the scene of the performance.”
48. Royal Skousen, “Book of Mormon Manuscripts,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The History, Scripture, Doctrine, and Procedure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992). The printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon is housed in the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS Church) Archives, Independence, Missouri.
54. In 1989, Rick Grunder located and sold to Brigham Young University Solomon Chamberlain’s A Sketch of the experience of Solomon Chamberlin, to Which Is Added a Remarkable Revelation or Trance, of His Father-in-Law, Philip Haskins: How His Soul Actually Left His Body and Was Guided by a Holy Angel to Eternal Day (Lyons, NY: n.p., 1829). See also Larry C. Porter, “Solomon Chamberlin’s Missing Pamphlet: Dreams, Visions, and Angelic Ministrants,” BYU Studies 37 (1997-98): 113-40.
55. Chamberlain may have been the first to contact Brigham and Phineas Young. See Phineas Howe Young, “History of Brigham Young,” Millennial Star 25 [13 June 1863]: 374-75 [EMD 3:352]). He was also responsible for converting Mayhew, Sarah, and Silas Hillman of Spafford, Onondaga County, New York (see Silas Hillman, Autobiography [1838-75], Jan. 1866, Special Collections, Lee Library [EMD 3:359]).
57. The following account of the attempt to destroy the Book of Mormon manuscript is taken from L. Smith, Biographical Sketches, 145-47 (EMD 1:406-10). However, Lucy’s account conflates information belonging to a March 1830 visit from a Presbyterian committee appointed to investigate the Smiths’ lack of attendance (see below).
60. Cole published 1 Nephi 2:4-15 on 13 January and Alma 43:22-40 on 22 January. One might speculate that through Hyrum’s initiative, Grandin removed the uncut sheets of the Book of Mormon from his shop and Cole had to resort to material Gilbert was then typesetting.
63. Lucy Harris, Statement, 29 Nov. 1833, in Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH: E. D. Howe, 1834), 256 (EMD 2:35); and Abigail Harris, Statement, 28 Nov 1833, in ibid., 254 (EMD 2:33).
72. John L. Traughber reported that both David Whitmer and William E. McLellin had read the Canadian revelation (John L. Traughber to [James T. Cobb?], ca. 1881, in [Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal], Joseph Smith, the Prophet, His Family and His Friends [Salt Lake City: Tribune and Publishing Co., 1886], 311 [EMD 5:334-35]). McLellin repeated this detail often, telling Joseph Smith III in 1872: “I have seen and read a copy of it, so that I know it existed. So do all those connected with him at the time” (William E. McLellin to Joseph Smith III, July and Sept. 1872, Miscellaneous Letters and Papers, Community of Christ Archives [EMD 5:325]). McLellin wrote to Traughber on another occasion: “J[oseph]. Smith’s revelation for Cowdery to go to Canada was never printed. M[artin]. Harris had the copy that I read, in manuscript” (William E. McLellin to John L. Traughber, 7 May 1877, J. L. Traughber Collection, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City [EMD 5:328, n. 8]). In his notebook, McLellin wrote: “I have seen and read a copy of it my individual self” (William E. McLellin, Notebook, 21, J. L. Traughber Collection, Marriott Library [EMD 5:328, n. 8]).
76. According to Edith G. Firth, head of the Canadian History Department, Metropolitan Toronto Library Board, “there was no special office for the sale of copyrights in York (Toronto) in 1830. The first Canadian copyright act in effect in Ontario was not passed until 1841; before that time British copyright legislation was in force. Actually pirated editions were published on both sides of the border for many years in the absence of an international copyright agreement. Only British subjects’ copyright[s were] protected by British law. An American citizen could of course come to York and offer his copyright for sale to anyone, but it is doubtful if he would find many buyers” (letter to the author, 10 June 1981).