The Murder of Martin Harris

The Murder of Martin Harris June 18, 2020


James Jordan with four crew/actors
Mark Goodman (director), Lincoln Hoppe (“Martin Harris”), Joseph L Garrard, and Paul Reid Wuthrich (“Joseph Smith”) on the set of the Interpreter Foundation’s “Witnesses” film project. A 2019 still photograph by James Jordan.


From Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter, Martin Harris: Uncompromising Witness of the Book of Mormon (Provo: BYU Studies, 2018), 317-319:


In 1841, rumor spread through the national press in the United States and even in England that Martin Harris had been murdered — shot through the head — somewhere in the vicinity of Nauvoo.  (It seems to have been implied that this resulted from his having supposedly lectured against Joseph Smith and the Restored Church.)


Alvah Strong, the editor of the Rochester [New York] Daily Democrat, took the occasion not only to say that he had known the Witness personally, but published an extended and very favorable eulogy of Martin’s character:


We have ever regarded Mr. Harris as an honest man.  We first became acquainted with him in Palmyra, in the spring of 1828, shortly after the plates from which the Book of Mormon is said to have been translated, were found.  At that time Jo Smith had a mere handful of followers, most of whom were as destitute of character and intelligence as the “Prophet” himself.  Mr. H. however, was an exception.  Though illiterate and naturally of a superstitious turn of mind, he had long sustained an irreproachable character for probity.  He became an early believer in the doctrines of Mormonism, and neglected no opportunity of inculcating them, even at the expense of his pecuniary interests.  By his neighbors and townsmen with whom he earnestly and almost incessantly labored, he was regarded rather as being deluded himself, than as wishing to delude others knowingly; but still he was subjected to many scoffs and rebukes, all of which he endured with meekness becoming a better cause.  (cited on page 318)


Eber D. Howe’s Painesville [Ohio] Telegraph responded to the rumor very early on.  Among other things, Howe — author in 1834 of the very first anti-Mormon book, Mormonism Unvailed — offered the following quite relevant comment:


The Rochester Democrat has a long article, predicated upon the statement of Harris’ death, in which he is eulogised for his honesty, and lamented for the sacrifices which he has made to his credulity, &c. — This is all very well, and concurs with our own opinion of him.  But the best of the affair is, that Martin Harris is a living witness of what shall be said of him after his death.  He is now, or was two days since, alive and well, at his residence in Kirtland, in this county.  (cited on page 318)



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