Martin Harris, The Mormon


Rochester Daily Democrat

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“Martin Harris, the Mormon.” Rochester Daily Democrat (New York) (23 June 1841).


In the article we published on Tuesday, from the Journal of Commerce, it was announced that MARTIN HARRIS was lately found near Nauvoo, the city of the Mormons, shot through the head, and that there was no doubt of his having been murdered.

We have ever regarded Mr. Harris as an honest man. We first became acquainted with him at 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 a meekness becoming a better cause.

Mr. Harris was the only man of wealth among the early Mormons, and many were the calls made upon his purse for the purpose of feeding Smith and fostering his humbug in its incipient stages. The heavier taxes to which he was at first subjected, were for two journies to Pennsylvania, by command of Smith, who was then in that State, and who had received, if we are to credit him, a revelation from the Lord, to the effect that the suffering condition of the Gentiles in that region demanded of Mr. H. these visits.—That Smith’s pecuniary sufferings at least were relieved, is certain. The next was for a journey to Dr. MITCHELL of New York, and other men of science in the eastern states, to ascertain whether they were sufficiently profound to render into English the hieroglyphic characters which had been intrusted to Mr. H., and represented as fac similes of those on some of the plates which Smith pretended to have found.

But the most severe tax upon Mr. H.’s purse, was for the publication of the Book of Mormon. To secure the printer, he mortgaged his farm, one of the best in the town, and ultimately lost it. The work did not meet with as ready a sale as was anticipated; but had those to whom its sale was entrusted, appropriated the proceeds as honesty would have dictated, he would probably have been enabled to redeem his farm.

A few years after this, we saw Mr. Harris in Lyons, and found him as firm as ever in his belief in the purity of Mormonism, notwithstanding he had been fleeced of his goodly estate. He had just arrived from Liberty, Missouri, the then “Promised Land,” and soon afterwards returned to that place. We have not seen him since, and had supposed, until we saw the announcement of his death, and the cause of it conjectured, that he was still among the most zealous and conspicuous of Jo. Smith’s followers. But we were mistaken. Mr. Harris’ native honesty had gained the mastery of his credulity. He had been so long a confident of Smith and his leading associates, and had seen so much of their villainy, that he undoubtedly felt it a duty to expose them and their debasing doctrines. Hence his lectures against Mormonism in Illinois, and hence, too, his probable murder by some of that sect.

Mr. Harris was about 55 years of age. His first wife died in Palmyra some four years since, having refused to accompany him to the “Promised Land”—about a year after which time, he returned to Wayne county and married again.

We have so often expressed our conviction of the humbuggery of Mormonism and the worthlessness of its propagators, that we need not do so at this time. We have merely to express the hope, that the authorities of Illinois may spare no pains or expense in ferretting out the murderers of Mr. Harris, and in bringing them to merited punishment.

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