Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


Modern Church, Martin Harris, Restoration, Coming forth of the Book of Mormon


The familiar narrative of how Martin Harris mortgaged his farm to pay the printing cost of the first five thousand copies of the Book of Mormon overlooks details that make possible a fuller appreciation of his key role in the restoration of the gospel. Financially and otherwise, Harris was uniquely situated to secure the publisher’s note and relieve the financial tension that imperiled the book’s publication. Details of his family background, land ownership, business enterprises, and generosity are reviewed. Despite his pattern of vacillating in his religious commitments, his loss of 116 pages of translated manuscript, his exposure to public ridicule, and his fracturing marriage, Harris proved willing and able to honor the mortgage agreement and the Lord’s directives to him in Doctrine and Covenants, section 19. He did so at great personal cost when all attempts to recoup the publication costs failed and the shared financial responsibility unexpectedly fell solely on him. The view is expressed that Harris was raised up by the Lord to assist the Prophet Joseph Smith by securing and then personally financing the first publication of the Restoration.