H. Michael Marquardt & Wesley P. Walters
Joseph Smith’s 1832 Account of His Early Life
[p.201]In November 1832, after the birth of Joseph Smith III, Joseph Smith, Jr., commenced to dictate an account of his early life to his scribe Frederick G. Williams in Kirtland, Ohio. John Whitmer, official church historian, was residing in the Independence, Missouri, area. This account was written in Smith’s ledger book now known as “Joseph Smith Letterbook 1,” the first of two letterbooks. At some unknown time, these pages (3 leaves, 6 pages) were cut out but are located in archives, historical department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. This short history of six pages was rediscovered in the 1960s, and a typescript appeared in Paul R. Chessman, “An Analysis of the Accounts Relating Joseph Smith’s Early Visions,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1965, 127-32. Another transcription of the early portion of the manuscript was done by Dean C. Jessee and published in Brigham Young University Studies 9 (Spring 1969): 278-80. The account has been subsequently published by Jessee in The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984), 4-8, and The Papers of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989) 1:3, 5-10.
The account that follows is from the opening four pages and part of page five. The handwriting starts with that of Frederick G. Williams. Bold type indicates words in the handwriting of Joseph Smith. Williams’s writing ends the portion we have extracted. The transcript has been divided into shorter paragraphs for easier reading.
A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr. an account of his marvilous experience and of all the mighty acts which he doeth in the name of Jesus Ch[r]ist the son of the living God of whom he beareth record and also an account of the rise of the church of Christ in the eve of time according as the Lord brough<t> forth and [p.202]established by his hand <firstly> he receiving the testamony from on high seccondly the ministering of Angels thirdly the reception of the holy Priesthood by the minist[e]ring of Aangels to admin[i]ster the letter of the Gospel–<the Law and commandments as they were given unto him> and the ordinencs fo[u]rthly a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God power and ordinence from on high to preach the Gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit the Kees of the Kingdom of God confered upon him and the continuation of the blessings of God to him &c—
I was born in the town of Charon [Sharon] in the <State> of Vermont North America on the twenty third day of December AD 1805 of goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing me in <the> christian religion at the age of about ten years my Father Joseph Smith Siegnior moved to Palmyra Ontario County in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances were obliged to labour hard for the support of a large Family having nine chilldren and as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading writing and the ground <rules> of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements.
At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those different denominations led me to marvel exce[e]dingly for I discovered that <they did not> of adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul
thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind my mind become exce[e]dingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as re-[p.203]corded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world
for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever that he was no respector to persons for he was God for I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their magesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvilous even in the likeness of him who created <them> and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said <it is a> fool <that> saith in his heart there is no God
my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that <that> being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth
therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in <the> attitude of calling upon the Lord <in the 16th year of my age> a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the <Lord> opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy <way> walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life <behold> the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not <my> commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them ac[c]ording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which <hath> been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come [p.204]quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud <clothed> in the glory of my Father
and my soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but [I] could find none that would believe the he[a]v[e]nly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart
but after many days I fell into transgressions and sinned in many things which brought a wound upon my soul and there were many things which transpired that cannot be writ[t]en and my Fathers family have suffered many persicutions and afflictions
and it came to pass when I was seventeen years of age I called again upon the Lord and he shewed unto me a heavenly vision for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night and he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins and he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni [Moroni] & his fathers the servants of the living God in ancient days and deposited by the commandments of God and kept by the power thereof and that I should go and get them and he revealed unto me many things concerning the inhabitants of the earth which since have been revealed in commandments & revelations
and it was on the 22d day of Sept. AD 1822 and thus he appeared unto me three times in one night and once on the next day and then I immediately went to the place and found where the plates was deposited as the angel of the Lord had commanded me and straightway made three attempts to get them and then being exce[e]dingly frightened I supposed it had been a dreem of Vision but when I consid[e]red I knew it was not
therefore I cried unto the Lord in the agony of my soul why can I not obtain them behold the angel appeared unto me again and said unto me you have not kept the commandments of the Lord which I gave unto you therefore you cannot now obtain them for the time is not yet fulfilled therefore thou wast left unto temptation that thou mightest be made acquainted with the power of the advisary therefore repent and call on the Lord thou shalt be forgiven and in his own due time thou shalt obtain them
for now I had been tempted of the advisary and saught the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandment that I should have an eye single to the glory of God therefore I was chastened and [p.205]saught diligently to obtain the plates and obtained them not untill I was twenty one years of age and in this year I was married to Emma Hale Daughter of Isaach [Isaac] Hale who lived in Harmony Susquehan[n]a County Pen[n]sylvania on the 18th January AD. 1827, on the 22d day of Sept of this same year I obtained the plates
Interview of Martin Harris
In late January 1859, Martin Harris, who resided at Kirtland, Ohio, was interviewed by Joel Tiffany. This interview was later published in New York City in Tiffany’s Monthly 5 (Aug. 1859): 163-70. The article was titled, “Mormonism—No. II.” An original copy is located at the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. The quotation marks have been deleted and some paragraphs shortened for easier reading.
The following narration we took down from the lips of Martin Harris, and read the same to him after it was written, that we might be certain of giving his statement to the world. We made a journey to Ohio for the purpose of obtaining it, in the latter part of January, 1859. We did this that the world might have a connected account of the origin of Mormonism from the lips of one of the original witnesses, upon whose testimony it was first received. For it will be remembered that Martin Harris is one of the three witnesses selected to certify to the facts connected with the origin of that revelation.
Mr. Harris says: Joseph Smith, jr., found at Palmyra [Manchester], N.Y., on the 22d day of September, 1827, the plates of gold upon which was recorded in Arabic, Chaldaic, Syriac, and Egyptian, the Book of Life, or the Book of Mormon. I was not with him at the time, but I had a revelation the summer before, that God had a work for me to do. These plates were found at the north point of a hill two miles north of Manchester village. Joseph had a stone which was dug from the well of Mason Chase, twenty-four feet from the surface. In this stone he could see many things to my certain knowledge. It was by means of this stone he first discovered these plates.
In the first place, he told me of this stone, and proposed to bind [p.206]it on his eyes, and run a race with me in the woods. A few days after this, I was at the house of his father in Manchester, two miles south of Palmyra village, and was picking my teeth with a pin while sitting on the bars. The pin caught in my teeth, and dropped from my fingers into shavings and straw. I jumped from the bars and looked for it. Joseph and Northrop Sweet also did the same. We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him–I said, “Take your stone,” I had never seen it, and did not know that he had it with him. He had it in his pocket. He took it [out] and placed it in his hat—the old white hat—and placed his face in his hat. I watched him closely to see that he did not look [to] one side; he reached out his hand beyond me on the right, and moved a little stick, and there I saw the pin, which he picked up and gave to me. I know he did not look out of the hat until after he had picked up the pin.
Joseph had had this stone for some time. There was a company there in that neighborhood, who were digging for money supposed to have been hidden by the ancients. Of this company were old Mr. Stowel[l]–I think his name was Josiah—also old Mr. Beman, also Samuel Lawrence, George Proper, Joseph Smith, jr., and his father, and his brother Hiram Smith. They dug for money in Palmyra, Manchester, also in Pennsylvania, and other places. When Joseph found this stone, there was a company digging in Harmony, Pa., and they took Joseph to look in the stone for them, and he did so for a while, and then he told them the enchantment was so strong that he could not see, and they gave it up. There he became acquainted with his future wife, the daughter of old Mr. Isaac Hale, where he boarded. He afterwards returned to Pennsylvania again, and married his wife, taking her off to old Mr. Stowel[l]’s, because her people would not consent to the marriage. She was of age, Joseph was not.
After this, on the 22nd of September, 1827, before day, Joseph took the horse and wagon of old Mr. Stowel[l], and taking his wife, he went to the place where the plates were concealed, and while he was obtaining them, she kneeled down and prayed. He then took the plates and hid them in an old black oak tree top which was hollow. Mr. Stowel[l] was at this time at old Mr. Smith’s, digging for money.
It was reported by these money-diggers, that they had found boxes, but before they could secure them, they would sink into the [p.207]earth. A candid old Presbyterian told me, that on the Susquehannah flats he dug down to an iron chest, that he scraped the dirt off with his shovel, but had nothing with him to open the chest; that he went away to get help, and when they came to it, it moved away two or three rods into the earth, and they could not get it.
There were a great many strange sights. One time the old log school-house south of Palmyra, was suddenly lighted up, and frightened them away. Samuel Lawrence told me that while they were digging, a large man who appeared to be eight or nine feet high, came and sat on the ridge of the barn, and motioned to them that they must leave. They motioned back that they would not; but that they afterwards became frightened and did leave. At another time while they were digging, a company of horsemen came and frightened them away. These things were real to them, I believe, because they were told to me in confidence, and told by different ones, and their stories agreed, and they seemed to be in earnest—I knew they were in earnest.
Joseph did not dig for these plates. They were placed in this way: four stones were set up and covered with a flat stone, oval on the upper side and flat on the bottom. Beneath this was a little platform upon which the plates were laid; and the two stones set in a bow of silver by means of which the plates were translated, were found underneath the plates.
These plates were seven inches wide by eight inches in length, and were of the thickness of plates of tin; and when piled one above the other, they were altogether about four inches thick; and they were put together on the back by three silver rings, so that they would open like a book.
The two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre; but not so thick at the edges where they came into the bow. They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which, with the two stones, would make eight inches.
The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks. I never dared to look into them by placing them in the hat, because Moses said that “no man could see God and live,” and we could see anything we wished by looking into them; and I could not keep the desire to see God out of my mind. And beside, we had a [p.208]command to let no man look into them, except by the command of God, lest he should “look aught and perish.”
These plates were usually kept in a cherry box made for that purpose, in the possession of Joseph and myself. The plates were kept from the sight of the world, and no one, save Oliver Cowdery, myself, Joseph Smith, jr., and David Whitmer, ever saw them. Before the Lord showed the plates to me, Joseph wished me to see them. But I refused, unless the Lord should do it.
At one time, before the Lord showed them to me, Joseph said I should see them. I asked him, why he would break the commands of the Lord? He said, you have done so much I am afraid you will not believe unless you see them. I replied, “Joseph, I know all about it. The Lord has showed to me ten times more about it than you know.”—Here we inquired of Mr. Harris—How did the Lord show you these things? He replied, I am forbidden to say anything how the Lord showed them to me, except that by the power of God I have seen them.
Mr. Harris continues: I hefted the plates many times, and should think they weighed forty or fifty pounds.
When Joseph had obtained the plates, he communicated the fact to his father and mother. The plates remained concealed in the tree top until he got the chest made. He then went after them and brought them home. While on his way home with the plates, he was met by what appeared to be a man, who demanded the plates, and struck him with a club on his side, which was all black and blue. Joseph knocked the man down, and then ran for home, and was much out of breath. When he arrived at home, he handed the plates in at the window, and they were received from him by his mother. They were then hidden under the hearth in his father’s house. But the wall being partly down, it was feared that certain ones, who were trying to get possession of the plates, would get under the house and dig them out.
Joseph then took them out, and hid them under the old cooper’s shop, by taking up a board and digging in the ground and burying them. When they were taken from there, they were put into an old Ontario glass-box. Old Mr. Beman sawed off the ends, making the box the right length to put them in, and when they went in he said he heard them jink [clink], but he was not permitted to see them. He told me so.
The money-diggers claimed that they had as much right to the [p.209]plates as Joseph had, as they were in company together. They claimed that Joseph had been [a] traitor, and had appropriated to himself that which belonged to them. For this reason Joseph was afraid of them, and continued concealing the plates. After they had been concealed under the floor of the cooper’s shop for a short time, Joseph was warned to remove them. He said he was warned by an angel. He took them out and hid them up in the chamber of the cooper’s shop among the flags [flax]. That night some one came, took up the floor, and dug up the earth, and would have found the plates had they not been removed.
These things had all occurred before I talked with Joseph respecting the plates. But I had the account of it from Joseph, his wife, brothers, sisters, his father and mother. I talked with them separately, that I might get the truth of the matter.
The first time I heard of the matter, my brother Presarved [Preserved] Harris, who had been in the village of Palmyra, asked me if [I] had heard about Joseph Smith, jr., having a golden bible. My thoughts were that the money-diggers had probably dug up an old brass kettle, or something of the kind. I thought no more of it. This was about the first of October, 1827.
The next day after the talk with my brother, I went to the village, and there I was asked what I thought of the Gold Bible? I replied, The Scripture says, He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is foolishness unto him. I do not wish to make myself a fool. I don’t know anything about it. Then said I, what is it about Joe’s Gold Bible? They then went on to say, that they put whiskey into the old man’s cider and got him half drunk, and he told them all about it. They then repeated his account, which I found afterwards to agree substantially with the account given by Joseph. Then said I to them, how do you know that he has not got such gold plates? They replied, “Damn him! angels appear to men in this enlightened age! Damn him, he ought to be tarred and feathered for telling such a damned lie!” Then I said, suppose he has told a lie, as old Tom Jefferson said, it did [not] matter to him whether a man believed in one god or twenty. It did not rob his pocket, nor break his shins. What is it to us if he has told a lie? He has it to answer for [it] if he has lied. If you should tar and feather all the liars, you would soon be out of funds to purchase the material.
I then thought of the words of Christ, The kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. I knew they were of the devil’s kingdom, [p.210]and if that is of the devil, his kingdom is divided against itself. I said in my heart, this is something besides smoke. There is some fire at the bottom of it. I then determined to go and see Joseph as soon as I could find time.
A day or so before I was ready to visit Joseph, his mother came over to our house and wished to talk with me. I told her I had no time to spare, she might talk with my wife, and, in the evening when I had finished my work I would talk with her. When she commenced talking with me, she told me respecting his bringing home the plates, and many other things, and said that Joseph had sent her over and wished me to come and see him. I told her that I had a time appointed when I would go, and that when the time came I should then go, but I did not tell her when it was. I sent my boy to harness my horse and take her home. She wished my wife and daughter to go with her; and they went and spent most of the day. When they came home, I questioned them about them. My daughter said, they were about as much as she could lift. They were now in the glass-box, and my wife said they were very heavy. They both lifted them. I waited a day or two, when I got up in the morning, took my breakfast, and told my folks I was going to the village, but went directly to old Mr. Smith’s.
I found that Joseph had gone away to work for Peter Ingersol[l] to get some flour. I was glad he was absent, for that gave me an opportunity of talking with his wife and the family about the plates. I talked with them separately, to see if their stories agreed, and I found they did agree. When Joseph came home I did not wish him to know that I had been talking with them, so I took him by the arm and led him away from the rest, and requested him to tell me the story, which he did as follows. He said: “An angel had appeared to him, and told him it was God’s work.” Here Mr. Harris seemed to wander from the subject, when we requested him to continue and tell what Joseph then said. He replied, Joseph had before this described the manner of his finding the plates. He found them by looking in the stone found in the well of Mason Chase. The family had likewise told me the same thing.
Joseph said the angel told him he must quit the company of the money-diggers. That there were wicked men among them. He must have no more to do with them. He must not lie, nor swear, nor steal. He told him to go and look in the spectacles, and he would show him the man that would assist him. That he did so, and he [p.211]saw myself, Martin Harris, standing before him. That struck me with surprise. I told him I wished him to be very careful about these things. “Well,” said he, “I saw you standing before me as plainly as I do now.” I said, if it is the devil’s work I will have nothing to do with it; but if it is the Lord’s, you can have all the money necessary to bring it before the world. He said the angel told him, that the plates must be translated, printed and sent before the world. I said, Joseph, you know my doctrine, that cursed is every one that putteth his trust in man, and maketh flesh his arm; and we know that the devil is to have great power in the latter days to deceive if possible the very elect; and I don’t know that you are one of the elect. Now you must not blame me for not taking your word. If the Lord will show me that it is his work, you can have all the money you want.
While at Mr. Smith’s I hefted the plates, and I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold, and I knew that Joseph had not credit enough to buy so much lead. I left Mr. Smith’s about eleven o’clock and went home. I retired to my bedroom and prayed God to show me concerning these things, and I covenanted that if it was his work and he would show me so, I would put forth my best ability to bring it before the world. He then showed me that it was his work, and that it was designed to bring in the fullness of his gospel to the gentiles to fulfill his word, that the first shall be last and the last first. He showed this to me by the still small voice spoken in the soul. Then I was satisfied that it was the Lord’s work, and I was under a covenant to bring it forth.
The excitement in the village upon the subject had become such that some had threatened to mob Joseph, and also to tar and feather him. They said he should never leave until he had shown the plates. It was unsafe for him to remain, so I determined that he must go to his father-in-law’s in Pennsylvania.
He wrote to his brother-in-law Alvah Hale, requesting him to come for him. I advised Joseph that he must pay all his debts before starting. I paid them for him, and furnished him money for his journey. I advised him to take time enough to get ready, so that he might start a day or two in advance: for he would be mobbed if it was known when he started. We put the box of plates into a barrel about one-third full of beans and headed it up. I informed Mr. Hale of the matter, and advised them to cut each a good cudgel and put into the wagon with them, which they did. It was understood that they were to start on Monday; but they started on Saturday night [p.212]and got through safe. This was the last of October, 1827. It might have been the first of November.
Memorandum of John H. Gilbert
John H. Gilbert, who set up the majority of the type for the Book of Mormon, prepared a statement in preparation for the World’s Fair held in Chicago, Illinois, in 1892. The following transcript was published by Wilford C. Wood in Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1958): Introductory pages.
Memorandum, made by John H. Gilbert, Esq.,
Sept. 8th, 1892, Palmyra, N.Y.
I am a practical printer by trade. I have been a resident of Palmyra, N.Y., since about the year 1824, and during all that time have done some type-setting each year. I was aged ninety years on the 13th day of April 1892, and on that day I went to the office of the Palmyra Courier and set a stick-ful of type.
My recollection of past events, and especially of the matter connected with the printing of the “Mormon Bible,” is very accurate and faithful, and I have made the following memorandum at request, to accompany the photographs of “Mormon Hill,” which have been made for the purpose of exhibits at the World’s Fair in 1893.
In the forepart of June 1829, Mr. E. B. Grandin, the printer of the “Wayne Sentinel,” came to me and said he wanted I should assist him in estimating the cost of printing 5000 copies of a book that Martin Harris wanted to get printed, which he called the “Mormon Bible.”
It was the second application of Harris to Grandin to do the job,—Harris assuring Grandin that the book would be printed in Rochester if he declined the job again.
Harris proposed to have Grandin do the job, if he would, as it would be quite expensive to keep a man in Rochester during the printing of the book, who would have to visit Palmyra two or three times a week for manuscript, &c. Mr. Grandin consented to do the job if his terms were accepted.
[p.213] A few pages of the manuscript were submitted as a specimen of the whole, and it was said there would be about 500 pages.
The size of the page was agreed upon, and an estimate of the number of ems in a page, which would be 1000, and that a page of manuscript would make more than a page of printed matter, which proved to be correct.
The contract was to print and bind with leather, 5000 copies for $3,000. Mr. Grandin got a new font of Small Pica, on which the body of the work was printed. When the printer was ready to commence work, Harris was notified, and Hyrum Smith brought the first installment of manuscript, of 24 pages, closely written on common foolscap paper—he had it under his vest, and vest and coat closely buttoned over it. At night Smith came and got the manuscript, and with the same precaution carried it away. The next morning with the same watchfulness, he brought it again, and at night took it away. This was kept up for several days. The title page was first set up, and after proof was read and corrected, several copies were printed for Harris and his friends. On the second day—Harris and Smith being in the office—I called their attention to a grammatical error, and asked whether I should correct it? Harris consulted with Smith a short time, and turned to me and said: “The Old Testament is ungrammatical, set it as it is written.”
After working a few days, I said to Smith on his handing me the manuscript in the morning; “Mr. Smith, if you would leave this manuscript with me, I would take it home with me at night and read and punctuate it.” His reply was, “We are commanded not to leave it.” A few mornings after this, when Smith handed me the manuscript, he said to me:—”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.” I assured Smith that it should be returned all right when I got through with it. For two or three nights I took it home with me and read it, and punctuated it with a lead pencil. This will account for the punctuation marks in pencil, which is referred to in the Mormon Report, an extract from which will be found below.
Martin Harris, Hyrum Smith and Oliver Cowdery were very frequent visitors to the office during the printing of the Mormon Bible. The manuscript was supposed to be in the handwriting of Cowdery. Every Chapter, if I remember correctly, was one solid paragraph, without a punctuation mark, from beginning to end.
[p.214]Names of persons and places were generally capitalized, but sentences had no end. The character or short &, was used almost invariably where the word and, occurred, except at the end of a chapter. I punctuated it to make it read as I supposed the Author intended, and but very little punctuation was altered in proof-reading. The Bible was printed 16 pages at a time, so that one sheet of paper made two copies of 16 pages each, requiring 2500 sheets of paper for each form of 16 pages. There were 37 forms of 16 pages each,—570 pages in all.
The work was commenced in August 1829, and finished in March 1830,—seven months. Mr. J. H. Bortles and myself done the press work until December taking nearly three days to each form.
In December Mr. Grandin hired a journeyman pressman, Thomas McAuley, or “Whistling Tom,” as he was called in the office, and he and Bortles did the balance of the press-work. The Bible was printed on a “Smith” Press, single pull, and old fashioned “Balls” or “Niggerheads” were used—composition rollers not having come into use in small printing offices.
The printing was done in the third story of the west end of “Exchange Row,” and the binding by Mr. Howard, in the second story the lower story being used as a book store, by Mr. Grandin, and now—1892—by Mr. M. Story as a dry-goods store.
Cowdery held and looked over the manuscript when most of the proofs were read. Martin Harris once or twice, and Hyrum Smith once, Grandin supposing these men could read their own writing as well, if not better, than any one else; and if there are any discrepancies between the Palmyra edition and the manuscript these men should be held responsible.
Joseph Smith, Jr. had nothing to do whatever with the printing or furnishing copy for the printers, being but once in the office during the printing of the Bible, and then not over 15 or 20 minutes.
Hyrum Smith was a common laborer, and worked for any one as he was called on.
Cowdery taught school winters–so it was said–but what he done summers, I do not know.
Martin Harris was a farmer, owning a good farm, of about 150 acres, about a mile north of Palmyra village, and had money at interest. Martin,—as every body called him,—was considered by his neighbors a very honest man; but on the subject of Mormonism, he [p.215]was said to be crazy. Martin was the main spoke in the wheel of Mormonism in its start in Palmyra, and I may say, the only spoke. In the fall of 1827, he told us what wonderful discoveries Jo Smith had made, and of his finding plates in a hill in the town of Manchester, (three miles south of Palmyra,)—also found with the plates a large pair of spectacles, by putting which on his nose and looking at the plates, the spectacles turned the hyroglyphics into good English. The question might be asked here whether Jo or the spectacles was the translator?
Sometime in 1828, Martin Harris, who had been furnished by someone with what he said was a fac-simile of the hyroglyphics of one of the plates, started for New York. On his way he stopped at Albany and called on Lt. Gov. Bradish,—with what success I do not know. He proceeded to New York, and called on Prof. C. Anthon, made known his business and presented his hyroglyphics.
This is what the Professor said in regard to them—1834—
“The paper in question was, in fact, a singular scroll. It consisted of all kinds of singular 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 sidewise [sideways], arranged and placed in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, arched with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar, given by Humboldt, 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 Mormon excitement began, and well remembered that the paper contained anything else but `Egyptian Hyroglyphics.'[“]
Martin returned from his trip east satisfied that “Joseph” was a “little smarter than Prof. Anthon.”
Martin was something of a prophet:—He frequently said that “Jackson would be the last president that we would have; and that all persons who did not embrace Mormonism in two years would be stricken off the face of the earth.” He said that Palmyra was to be the New Jerusalem, and that her streets were to be paved with gold.
Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony [p.216]of the three witnesses,—(Harris—Cowdery and Whitmer) I said to him,—”Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?” Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, “No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.”