Mormon History

Death Notice of Martin Harris - 1875

The Chicago Daily Tribune September 12, 1875



There is in the Cincinnati Commercial an obituary notice of one of the alleged authors of the Mormon Bible, which was evidently written by one who had never heard of the nil nisi bonum percept. It is copied below:

Martin Harris, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has just departed life at Clarkson, Utah, at the advanced age of 92 years. Mr. harris first appeared in print in the year 1830, at which time, in company with Oliver Coudery and David Whitmer, he subscribed to the solemn affidavit which appears on the title-page of the Mormon Bible.

Joseph Smith, the Palmyra impostor, having noticed Harris' relish for religious wonders, and his capacity for receiving and retaining all the bosh that folly and knavery could furnish, took it into his head to use Harris in the matter of getting up a new religion. Harris had seen the devil in a dug-way near Palmyra, and his contact with that distinguished personage had so improved his swallowing apparatus that Joe Smith's angels, revelations, golden Bible, sword of Laban, etc., went down in a single gulp. He had been something of a Friend, then a Wesleyan, then a Baptist, afterward a Presbyterian, and, if not halted by the Mormon fraud, he would, in all probability, have gone the round through all existing sectaries. Having advanced $50 and accepted the position of a scribe to Joseph, he found himself fully committed to the "fullness of the Gospel," and earnestly proclaimed whatever foolishness or blasphemy Joe might put into him. Mrs. Harris, knowing her husband's credulity and Smith's trickery, did all she could to stop the expenditure of money; but Smith not only plied Harris with "revelations," but explained the certainty of making a spec out of the publication of the manuscripts. An edition of 5,000 would cost, say, $3,000. Joseph had a revelation that the books would sell for $1.25 each, and he went on to assure his victim that there was a chance to clear $3,250. Mrs. Harris objected. Harris explained the gain to be derived from the investment. She railed at his folly, and, egtting hold of the manuscript, burned "the more history part" of Lehi. Harris quarreled with and beat her; they separated, and Smith got his Golden Bible printed at the expense of Harris. Any other knave than Joe Smith would have been backed out by the burning of Lehi by Mrs. Harris, but, as Joe told Ingersoll, "he had the fools into it, and he proposed to put it through." So with promises of advancement to Harris, he had a "revelation" that his father (old man Smith) should help sell the Bibles. But the old man was arrested with a basket full of Bibles, and to pay costs he had "to cut" on the Lord's price ($1.25) and sell the lot for 80 cents apiece! This interfered with "prior revelations" given in favor of Harris, and troubles increasing, Smith, Harris, Coudery, and the Whitmers cleared out for Kirtland, O. Here the "Twelve Apostles" were appointed, -- Harris being left out; but as he still had some money, a little honesty, and increased capacity for credulous business, Smith smoothed him with new promises and daily revelations. In 1833, the Mormons in Jackson County, Mo., having excited the wrath of the Jacksonians by their immoralities and fanatical insolence, were ordered out of the State. On learning this, Joe Smith, Harris, and perhaps 200 others, started for Missouri to "redeme Zion." On the way they ran into the cholera; and, notwithstanding Harris was saved in articulo mortis by Divine interposition, twenty of the Saints turned their toes to the lines, in spite of Joseph's "laying on of hands." In Missouri Bishop Partridge succeeded in getting old Harris to advance $1,200 more to purchase land on which to establish Zion -- Zion never to be removed! Too many birds of a feather having got together, Joseph found his hands full in trying to settle the difficulties which beset the Church without and within. Many of the Saints were whipped, jailed, and shot for bad conduct, and some of the chiefest among the Apostles turned against the Prophet. Cowdery and Whitmer, two of the witnesses, were "cut off" for lying, theiving, counterfeiting, etc.; and the brethren mooted it openly that Joseph was bad -- real bad. Some of the sisters said so, and Coudery believed it. Coudery with Whitmer were turned over to Satan. Poor Harris, who had helped Joseph to get up the Mormon business, lost $3,000 in the Bible investment, and had recently lent the Lord $1,200 to fix the foundations of Zion, did not escape the troubles which excessive piety had brought upon the brethren. In company with Parish, who had been charged with swindling, Harris was kicked out of the camp of Israel. His earnestness and ignorance had served Joseph to their fullest extent; his money was gone, and he was named among the "negroes with white skins," and the Prophet posted him publicly as a "lackey," one so far beneath contempt that to notice him would be a sacrifice too great for a gentleman like himself (Smith) to make! Packing his valise, he cut sticks for Kirtland, where he lived unto 1870, when he went to Utah and ended a miserable life, raving in his last delirium over the Book of Mormon -- witnesses, facts, and fictions of the most deplorable fraud recorded in history. Never was credulity or avarice more useful in a bad way or knavery more successful than in the lives of Joe Smith and Martin Harris.