Monday, January 19, 2009

How Dumb Did He Think She Was?

We all know the story of Marin Harris and the lost 116 pages. Martin Harris believed in Joseph Smith as a prophet and that the translation of the Book of Mormon was an important and inspired project. He believed so much that he lent Joseph Smith financial assistance and acted as a scribe. Martin's wife, Lucy, did not believe, and it sounds like she made Martin's life kind of difficult. In fact, Steven Harper (Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants) says that once, to make a point, she moved her furniture out of their house just so Martin would not sell it to finance Joseph Smith's crazy schemes.

Lucy's skepticism about Joseph and the Book of Mormon led to one of the most dramatic chapters in LDS history. Martin begs to be able to take the manuscript of the Book of Mormon home to show Lucy and others. The Lord, through Joseph, tells Martin, "No" several times, but finally relents. Martin takes the 116-pages document home and, of course, loses it. Martin and Joseph suffer mental and spiritual anguish for their foolishness and disobedience, and are severely chastened by the Lord. Joseph loses the ability to translate fro a time, but is eventually forgiven.

But here is the part of the story that has never made sense to me: Did Martin really think that by showing his wife a manuscript of the Book of Mormon, she would believe that Joseph was a prophet? Why? I can imagine Lucy seeing the manuscript and saying, "Dear, I never doubted that your friend Joseph had a vivid imagination or that he was writing a book. It is the golden plates, the angels and the whole prophet thing that sounds a little far-fetched. Keep your hands off my sideboard."

Maybe I don't have much faith, but I have never really understood why Martin thought he was going to get anywhere just by showing his wife the manuscript. Maybe he thought Lucy would read it and gain her own testimony. But, Joseph was so early in the translation process that I am not sure he even fully understood how the text could be used or how it would effect people. Maybe showing her that they really were working on a book was going to be enough. I don't know. Lucy Harris just sounds like the kind of woman who was not going to be convinced of the restoration of the gospel because she saw several pages of handwritten manuscript.


  1. What an excellent point. I have never really thought about that but I must agree that it is doubtful Lucy Harris would have been convinced by merely seeing the manuscript.

  2. For all Lucy knew, Joseph and Martin were whiling away their days at the local tavern chasing women.

    I think Martin was relying on the manuscript as evidence that they were at least writing, as opposed to doing something more sinister.


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