Martin Harris: What kind of fellow was he, really?
The “Encyclopedia of Mormonism” (definitively described as “[t]he History, Scripture, Doctrine and Procedure of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"--edited by Daniel H. Ludlow and published by Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, New York, in cooperation with LDS, Inc.--predictably, glowingly, selectively and misleadingly declares the following about Martin Harris in Volume 1, pp. 574, 576:
“Martin Harris, . . . a New York farmer, was one of the Three Witnesses to the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. He also financed the first publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 at a cost of $3,000 and later helped finance publication of the Book of Commandments. . . .
“His wife characterized him as industrious, attentive to domestic concerns and an excellent provider and father. . . . Non-Mormon contemporaries extolled Harris's sincerity, honesty, memory, generosity, neighborliness, shrewd business practices and civic spirit. . . .
“Martin Harris inspired a folk-hero tradition that has lasted down to the present. In 1983, the Church's musical play, 'Martin Harris: The Man Who Knew,' was produced in Clarkston [Utah, where Harris died after a lifetime of merry-go-rounding with all kinds of jumbled-up personal beliefs]. The play marked a fourth generation's rehearsal of Martin Harris's witness. 'Yes, I did see the plates on which the Book of Mormon was written. I did see the angel. I did hear the voice of God and I do know that Joseph Smith is a true Prophet of God, holding the keys of the Holy Priesthood,' recorded by William H. Homer in a statement sworn before J. W. Rominson, April 9, 1927." (taken from the Historical Department of the Mormon Church, Salt Lake City, Utah, “Improvement Era," 1897-1970)
That's nice but, as is typical of Mormon Church “history,” it doesn't tell the whole story--and what it does tell, more often than not, is filled with glaring omissions, clear misstatements of fact and downright hilarious horse pucky.
In reality, Martin Harris was, well, the kind of nut bird that only Mormonism could hatch.
Jerald and Sandra Tanner make due note of Harris's well-known, certifiable craziness. (It so happens that it's an opinion of this key witless "witness" for the Book of Mormon that was shared not only by his non-Mormon neighbors in Palmyra, but also by Mormons themselves, including none other than Joseph Smith).
Employing the tool of immense understatement, the Tanners report;
"Martin Harris seems to have been very unstable in his religious life. G. W. Stoddard, a resident of Palmyra, made this statement in an affidavit dated November 28, 1833:
“'I have been acquainted with Martin Harris about 30 years. . . . Although he possessed wealth, his moral and religious chracter was such as to not entitle him to respect among his neighbord. . . . He was first an orthodox Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationer, then a Baptist, next a Presbyertian and then a Mormon. By hiw willingness to become all things unto all men, he has attained a high stand among his Mormon brethren.'"
(E.D .Howe, 'Mormonism Unvailed,' 1834, pp. 260-61)
The Tanners continue:
“Martin Harris's instability certainly did not cease when he joined the Mormon Church. The Mormons themselves admitted that Harris 'became partially deranged or shattered, as many believed, flying from one thing to another, as if reason and common sense were thrown off their balance.'"
("Millenial Star," Vol. 8, p. 124)
The Tanners further note:
"The [Mormon] writer, Richard E. Anderson, admits that Martin Harris 'changed his religous position eight times' during the period when he was in Kirtland, Ohio . . . [including, as Anderson acknowledges] a re-baptism by a Nauvoo missioanry in 1842. [Anderson apologetically writes that] [e]very affiliation of Martin Harris was with some Mormon group, except when he was affiliated with the Shaker belief, a position not basically contrary to his Book of Mormon testimony because the foundation of that involvement was acceptance of personal revelation from heavenly beings.'"
(Richard E. Anderson, "Improvement Era," March 1969, p. 63)
Nice attempt at saintly spin, Brother Anderson.
In reality, the Tanners observe that, contrary to Andreson's claim that Harris re-invented his “religious position” only eight times in Kirtland, Harris actually “changed his mind 13 times! Richard Anderson is forced to admit that Martin Harris's life shows evidence of 'religious instability.' . . .
"The Mormon writer E. Cecil McGavin stated that 'Martin Harris was an unaggressive, vacillating, easily-influenced person who was no more pugnacious than a rabbit. . . . His conviction on one day might vanish and be replaced by doubt and fear before the setting of the sun. He was changeable, fickle and puerile in his judgment and conduct.'"
("The Historical Background for the Doctrine and Covenants," p. 23, as quoted from an unpublished manuscript by LaMar Peterson, in Jerald and Sandra Tanner's “Mormonism: Shadow or Reality” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987], p 54)
But that's not the end of Harris's wonderful world of whack-a-doodle weirdness.
The Tanners further report:
“After changing his mind about religion many times, Martin Harris returned to the Mormon Church. There is evidence to show, however, that he was still not satisfied. . . . Joseph Smith's own revelations referred to Harris as a 'wicked man' and the Church's publication, [the] 'Millenial Star,' said that he was an 'evil' man and that 'a lying, deceptive spirit' attended him and his friends. Dr. Storm Rosa said. 'My acquaintance with him induced me to believe him a monomaniac.' [The term is defined as 'pathological obsession with one idea or subject,' as well as 'intent concentration on or exaggerated enthusiasm for a single subject or idea'].
“. . . [Even] the Mormons themselves said that Harris had 'fits of monomania.' Harris's wife made some very serious charges against his character but they are not actually much worse than those made by the Mormons.
"Mrs. Harris stated that Martin had 'mad-fits.' The Mormons said that when he left the Church he 'was filled with the rage and madness of a demon.'
"She stated that Martin was a liar. The Mormons admitted that when he came to England, 'a lying, deceptive spirit' attended him.
"She stated that Mormonism had made him 'more cross, turbulent and abusive to me.' Joseph Smith himself later classified Martin Harris as one of those who was 'too mean to mention.'”
(Jerald and Sandra Tanner,”The Changing World of Mormonism: A Behind-th-Scenes Look at Changes in Mormon Doctrine and Practice” [Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1980-81], pp. 103-04)
Martin Harris was, to put it mildly, a Latter-day Lunatic.
As proof of that non-prophet posit, let us count some more of the ways:
--Harris, on one occasion, claimed that a sputtering candle was the dastardly work of Satan:
“Once while reading scripture, he reportedly mistook a candle's sputtering as a sign that the Devil desired him to stop.”
--Harris claimed that he was awakened from his sleep one night by a creature the size pf a dog that had planted itself on his chest but a neighbor couldn't find any evidence that this had been the case.
--In another of Harris's hallucinations, he was said to have spotted Jesus (not as described in the LDS Primary song as a “sunbeam”) but, rather, as perched up on a roof beam. Geezus.
(Ronald W. Walker, "Martin Harris: Mormonism's Early Convert,” in “Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought” 19 (4), 1986, pp. 34-35).
--An individual who personally knew Harris said that Harris told him he had, in fact, met Jesus during the time that Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon. Harris claimed that on this memorable occasion, Jesus appeared to Harris in the form of a deer; and that this Christ-creature then proceeded to visit with Harris as the two of them walked along chatting over the space of a two- to three-mile hike (who's counting distances when you're discoursing with the Redeemer of the World?)
(Dan Vogel, “Early Mormon Documents” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1996-2003)])
--On another occasion, as reported by a couple of Ohio newspapers, Harris insisted shortly after landing in Kirtland that he had spotted both Jesus Christ and the Devil. He declared Jesus to be "the handsomest man he ever did see,” while describing the Devil, “as a very sleek-haired fellow with four feet and a head like that of a jackass."
(ibid., 2: 271, note 32).
Another source notes how Harris described the Satan who he says he saw as not only appearing as a jackass, but sporting “short, smooth hair like a mouse.“
Glad we got that straight.
(Janis Hutchinson, “The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon: What Did They Really See?,” at: http://www.janishutchinson.com/threewit.html
Martin Harris was, in short, a not-too-smooth, certifiable goof for the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, (the Latter Who is Otherwise Known as the Beam-Squatting Deer).
Don't let all those whacked-out official apologists for the their crazy cult convince you otherwise.
(related RfM thread, "FAIR is PHONEY: Harris Admitted He Never Actually Saw the Gold Plates," at: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1003784
Edited 28 time(s). Last edit at 08/27/2013 09:35AM by steve benson.