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To celebrate the study of the Doctrine & Covenants and Church History this year, Meridian is serializing The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother.
To see the previous installment, click here.
To see all the installments, published in order, click here.
Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother—
By Lucy Mack Smith
Translation of the Book of Mormon is completed. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris receive divine witness of the work. Testimony of the Three Witnesses. Testimony of the Eight Witnesses. Contract negotiations completed for publication of the Book of Mormon with E. B. Grandin of Palmyra. Mob gathers to stop Joseph and is confounded. Copyright secured. Careful instructions are given concerning protection of the sacred manuscript.
June 1829 to end of August 1829
As soon as the Book of Mormon was translated, Joseph dispatched a messenger to Mr. Smith, bearing intelligence of the completion of the work and a request that Mr. Smith and myself should come immediately to Waterloo.[i]
That same evening we communicated this intelligence to Martin Harris, for we loved the man although his weakness had cost us much unnecessary trouble. He seemed to have a heart that designed no evil, and we felt a commiseration for the disappointment which his misguided zeal had brought upon him in an evil hour. When he heard that the translation was finally completed, he seemed as greatly rejoiced as if he knew that it affected his salvation, and determined to go straightway to Waterloo as soon as he could get away. The next morning, we accordingly set off together, and before sunset we met Joseph and Oliver at Waterloo.
The evening was spent in reading the manuscript, and it would be superfluous for me to say to anyone who has read these pages that we were greatly rejoiced. It then appeared to us, who did not realize the magnitude of the work, as though the greatest difficulty was then surmounted.[ii] But with Joseph it was not so, for he knew that a dispensation of the gospel had been committed to him, of which the starting bud had scarcely yet made its appearance.
The next morning after breakfast, we repaired to the sitting room, and after attending the morning service, namely reading, singing, and praying, Joseph arose from his knees and approached Martin with a solemnity which thrills through my veins to this day, whenever it comes to my recollection. “Martin Harris,” he said, “you have got to humble yourself before your God this day and obtain, if possible, a forgiveness of your sins. If you will do this, it is God’s will that you and Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer should look upon the plates.”
Soon after this, these four left and went into a grove a short distance from the house, where they continued in earnest supplication to God, until he permitted an angel from his presence to bear to them a message, declaring to them that all which Joseph had testified of concerning the plates was true, and showing them the same.
When they returned to the house, it was between three and four o’clock. Mrs. Whitmer, Mr. Smith, and myself were sitting in a bedroom, myself on a bedside. When Joseph came in, he threw himself down beside me and exclaimed, “Father! Mother! You do not know how happy I am. The Lord has caused the plates to be shown to three more besides me. They have also seen an angel and will have to testify to the truth of what I have said, for they know for themselves that I do not go about to deceive the people. I do feel as though I was relieved of a dreadful burden which was almost too much for me to endure. But they will now have to bear a part, and it does rejoice my soul that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.”[iii]
Martin Harris then came in. He seemed almost overcome with an excess of joy. He then testified to what he had seen and heard, as did also the others, Oliver and David, who added that no tongue could express the joy of their hearts and the greatness of the things which they had both seen and heard. Their testimony was the same in substance as that in the Book of Mormon:
The Testimony of Three Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things.[iv] And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.
Martin Harris seemed particularly willing to give out his feelings in words. He said, “I have now seen an angel from heaven who has of a surety testified of the truth of all that I have heard concerning the record. I have also looked upon the plates and handled them with my hands and can testify of the same to the whole world. I have received for myself a witness that words cannot express, and no tongue can describe, and I bless God in the sincerity of my soul that he has condescended to make me, even me, a witness of the greatness of his work and designs in behalf of the children of men.” Oliver and David also joined with him in solemn praises to God for his goodness and mercy.
We returned home the next day, a cheerful, happy little company. In a few days, we were followed by Joseph, Oliver, and the Whitmers, who came to make us a visit and make some arrangements about getting the book printed. Soon after they came, all the male part of the company, with my husband, Samuel, and Hyrum, retired to a grove where the family were in the habit of offering up their secret devotions to God. They went to this place, because it had been revealed to Joseph that the plates would be carried thither by one of the ancient Nephites. Here it was that those eight witnesses, whose names are recorded in the Book of Mormon, looked upon them and handled them, of which they bear record in the following words:
The Testimony of Eight Witnesses
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.”
Peter Whitmer, Jun.
Joseph Smith, Sen.
Samuel H. Smith
After the witnesses returned to the house, the angel again made his appearance to Joseph and received the plates from his hands. That evening we held a meeting in which all the witnesses bore testimony to the facts, as stated above; and all of our family, even to Don Carlos, who was but fourteen years of age,[v] testified of the truth of the latter-day dispensation-that it was ushered in.
In a few days the whole company from Waterloo went to Palmyra for the purpose of contracting with Mr. E. B. Grandin for the printing of the book.[vi] They succeeded in making a contract, but did not draw the writings at that time. The next day, the company from Waterloo returned home, excepting Joseph and Peter Whitmer, Joseph remaining to draw writings in regard to the printing of the manuscript, which was to be done on the day following.
When Joseph was about starting for Palmyra, where the writings were to be executed, Dr. McIntyre came in and informed us that forty men were collected in the capacity of a mob, with the view of waylaying Joseph on his way thither; that they requested him (Dr. McIntyre), as they had done once before, to take command of the company; and that upon his refusing to do so, one Mr. Huzzy, a hatter of Palmyra, proffered his services and was chosen as their leader.
On hearing this I besought Joseph not to go; but he smiled at my fears, saying, “Never mind, Mother; just put your trust in God, and nothing will hurt me today.” In a short time he set out for Palmyra. On his way thither lay a heavy strip of timber, about half a mile in width, and beyond it, on the right side of the road, lay a field belonging to David Jacaway. When he came to this field, he found the mob seated on the string fence running along the road. Coming to Mr. Huzzy first, he took off his hat and good-naturedly saying, “Good morning, Mr. Huzzy,” passed on to the next, whom he saluted in like manner, and the next, and so on till he came to the last.
This struck them with confusion, and while they were pondering in amazement, he passed on, leaving them perched upon the fence like so many roosting chickens, and arrived at Palmyra without being molested. Here he met Mr. Grandin, and writings were drawn up between them to this effect: that half of the price for printing was to be paid by Martin Harris, and the residue by my two sons Joseph and Hyrum. These writings were afterwards signed by all the parties concerned.[vii]
When Joseph returned from Palmyra, he said, “Well, Mother, the Lord has been on my side today; the devil has not overpowered me in any of my proceedings. Did I not tell you that I should be delivered from the hands of my enemies? They thought they were going to perform great feats; they have done wonders to prevent me from getting the book printed; they mustered themselves together, and got upon the fence, made me a low bow, and went home, and I’ll warrant you they wish they had stayed there in the first place. Mother, there is a God in heaven, and I know it.”
Soon after this, Joseph secured the copyright; and before he returned to Pennsylvania, where he had left his wife, he received a commandment, which was in substance as follows:
Joseph was told to see that Oliver transcribed the whole work a second time and that he never take both transcripts to the office, but leave one and carry the other, so that in case one was destroyed, the other would be left. Furthermore, Peter Whitmer was commanded to remain at our house to assist in guarding the writings, and also to accompany Oliver to the office and back, when no other person could be spared from the place, to go and come with him. It was necessary that Oliver should be accompanied by someone to protect him against those who would try to waylay him in order to get the manuscript, and also to protect the house against infestation by those intrusive persons who were willing to sacrifice their character for the sake of putting a stop to the printing, because they were exceedingly mad against the truth and went about to establish their own kind of righteousness.
This astonished us very much, but we did not gainsay the counsel of the Most High; wherefore we did all things according to the pattern that was given; and accordingly, they guarded Oliver on his way to work in the morning, went after him at night, and kept a guard over the house all night long, although we saw no enemy, and knew not that anyone designed evil against us.
After giving these instructions, Joseph returned to Pennsylvania.
[i] Although it appears that the translation was not yet completed, Joseph deposited the title page of the Book of Mormon in the office of R. R. Lansing, clerk of the Northern District of New York, on Thursday, June 11, 1829, to obtain the copyright (see Bushman, Beginnings, p. 107).
[ii] David Whitmer reported, “In regard to the translation, it was a laborious work for the weather was very warm, and the days were long and they worked from morning till night. But they [Joseph and Oliver] were both young and strong and were soon able to complete the work.” (In Cook, Whitmer Interviews, p. 115.)
[iii] Oliver Cowdery witnessed: “I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates. . . . I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the ‘holy interpreters.’ That book is true. . . . It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high.” (Quoted in Millennial Star 27 [January 28, 1865]: 58.) Elizabeth Whitmer Cowdery, wife of Oliver, testified of her husband: “From the hour when the glorious vision of the Holy Messenger revealed to mortal eyes the hidden prophecies which God had promised his faithful followers should come forth in due time, until the moment when he passed away from earth, he always without one doubt or shadow of turning affirmed the divinity and truth of the Book of Mormon” (quoted in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], p. 63).
Martin Harris testified: “I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen, and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates. . . . An angel appeared to me and others.” He further testified: “I might as well doubt my own existence as to doubt the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon or the divine calling of Joseph Smith.” (Quoted in Anderson, Investigating, p. 117.)
David Whitmer boldly averred: “I have been visited by thousands of people, believers and unbelievers, men and ladies of all degrees, sometimes as many as 15 in one day, and have never failed in my testimony. And they will know some day that my testimony is true. I had a mob of from four to five hundred surrounding me at one time, demanding that I should deny my published statement in the Book of Mormon; but the testimony I bore the mob made them tremble before me. I heard the voice of the Angel just as stated in said Book, and the engravings on the plates were shown to us, and we were commanded to bear record of them; and if they are not true, then there is no truth, and if there is no truth there is no God; if there is no God then there is no existence. But there is a God, and I know it.” (In Cook, Whitmer Interviews, pp. 95-96.)
[iv] One correspondent reported David Whitmer’s description of God’s voice as “a voice that seemed to fill all space, musical as the sighing of a wind through the forest.” Of Whitmer’s experience of hearing Moroni’s voice, the same correspondent wrote: “The voice, majestic, ringing out from earth to the mighty dome of space, still lingers in his ears like a chime of silver bells.” (In Cook, Whitmer Interviews, pp. 75, 78-79.)
[v] Don Carlos was in his “fourteenth year.”
[vi] After an initial refusal by E. B. Grandin, Joseph and his companions had tried to get printers in nearby Rochester, New York, to do the work; but the contract eventually came to Grandin after he relented. Egbert Bratt Grandin was born in 1806 and died in 1845. He was the editor of the local newspaper, the Wayne Sentinel. He was twenty-three years old when he printed the Book of Mormon.
[vii] The publishing contract was for five thousand copies to be printed at a cost of three thousand dollars. Martin Harris was to guarantee the payment within eighteen months by a security agreement and mortgage on his farm. The agreement was signed August 26, 1829. To complete the obligation, Martin Harris’s farm was sold at public auction on April 7, 1831.