“He was perfectly rational”

“He was perfectly rational” September 27, 2020


Emer's brother, a witness to the BofM
Martin Harris
A retouched and colorized photograph, prepared by Bryce M. Haymond for the Interpreter Foundation


Simon Smith, a Latter-day Saint bishop in Utah , wrote an 1880 letter to President Joseph Smith III and Mark H. Forscutt, of what was then known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, responding to their inquiries.  He told them of his visit with Martin Harris shortly before the Witness’s death:


On the 5th day of July, 1875, hearing of his sickness, I visited him, <and> as I entered the room where he was in bed he held out his hand, shook hands with me saying, “I am going to leave you now, Bishop,” meaning he was going to die.  At the time he was very low; and apparently, it was hard work for him to talk, but he was perfectly rational.  I laid my hand on his head, and asked the Lord to give him strength.  As soon as I commenced to talk to him and ask him questions respecting the Book of Mormon and your Father [Joseph Smith Jr.], he revived and talked to me very freely and with much earnestness (for about two hours).

I will give you the answers he gave me to a few prominent questions respecting his knowledge of your Father, the plates, & etc.  1st I asked him if he could still testify of seeing the plates and the angel of God.  His answer was he could.  And he did truly testify to me that he both saw and handled the plates that the Book of Mormon was translated from and that an angel of God did lay them before him and the other two witnesses as recorded in the Book of Mormon, and said he, I tell you of these things that you might tell others that what I have said is true, and I dare not deny it for what he had seen and had handled he had heard the voice of God commanding him to testify to the same.

He said also he knew not the reason why the Lord had suffered him to live to such a great age unless it was to testify of these things.  (He was nearly 93 years old.) . . .  And in regard to a question I asked him of your father’s education at the time of those circumstances and he said Joseph Smith’s education was so limited that he could not draw up a note of Hand [a promissory note].

These were Martin Harris’ exact words to me.  I do not mention this part to throw any gloom upon your father’s mission but to the contrary.  I mention it to show it was out of his power with such a limited education to produce such a book as the Book of Mormon much less to translate such a book from [a] foreign language unless he did it by the gift and power of God.  (Cited by Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter, Martin Harris: Uncompromising Witness of the Book of Mormon [Provo: BYU Studies, 2018], 500-501.)



Browse Our Archives