Martin Harris: Unreliable Book of Mormon Witness

I am going to be traveling to Palmyra, New York this coming July to do outreach at the Hill Cumorah Pageant, and looked up a few Mormon historical sites to visit while I’m there. While visiting the official LDS website,, I found a site known as the Martin Harris Farm. Located in Palmyra, New York, where Mormonism’s founding was located, the farm was home to Martin Harris, one of the three “witnesses” to the Book of Mormon.

martin harris

Visit the link here:    The interesting thing about this is that it says the following under the picture of the Martin Harris Farm:

“Martin Harris was very influential in the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was known as “an honorable and upright man, and an obliging and benevolent neighbor.” He faithfully served his community in many appointed capacities, and through his industry and integrity, he became a respected and prosperous farmer.”

This comes from an OFFICIAL website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That should say a lot and speak volumes. Okay, so it says how credible Martin Harris was and how they say he was full of integrity?

Joseph Smith said in Doctrine and Covenants 3:12-13 that Martin Harris was a “wicked man.” Martin Harris even changed his religious beliefs and orientation eight times during the time he was settled in Kirtland, Ohio:

“The foregoing tendencies explain the spiritual wanderlust that afflicted the solitary witness at Kirtland. In this period of his life, he changed his religious position eight times,… Every affiliation of Martin Harris was with some Mormon group, except when he was affiliated with the Shaker belief…”  (Improvement Era, March 1969, p. 63)

The Kirtland period was just a few years after the Book of Mormon was published. Jerald and Sandra Tanner mention in Major Problems of Mormonism (p. 145) that “Mormon writer E. Cecil McGavin admitted that,

‘Martin Harris was an unaggressive, vacillating, easily influenced person who was no more pugnacious than a rabbit… His conviction of one day might vanish and be replaced by doubt and fear before the setting of the sun. He was changeable, fickle, and puerile in his judgment and conduct.” (The Historical Background for the Doctrine and Covenants, p. 23, as cited in an unpublished manuscript by LaMar Petersen.)'”

G.W. Stodard, a Palmyra resident who knew Martin Harris for over thirty years, testified of Harris by saying,

“Although he possessed wealth, his moral and religious character was such, as not to entitle him to respect among his neighbors… He was first an orthodox [sic] Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationer, then a Baptist, next a Presbyterian, and then a Mormon.” (Mormonism Unveiled, 1834, pp. 260-261; Quoted in Tanner, Major Problems of Mormonism, 145)


Martin Harris’ wife even said that he had “mad-fits,” and even Mormons at the time declared that he had “fits of monomania.” (Major Problems of Mormonism, 145). Mormons admitted that when Martin Harris came to England, “a lying deceptive spirit” came with him. The Tanners explain that “Harris’ wife stated that Mormonism had made him ‘more cross, turbulent, and abusive to me.'” (Ibid)

The website is wrong about Martin Harris. In the July 2012 issue of Ensign, the LDS Church’s official magazine, it says on pg. 60 in the article entitled, The Life of Martin Harris: Patterns of Humility and Repentance, that after the Book of Mormon was printed, “Martin served faithfully through the coming years.” This is not accurate as seen above.

Here is another account of Martin Harris:

“Once while reading scripture, he reportedly mistook a candle’s sputtering as a sign that the devil desired him to stop. Another time he excitedly awoke from his sleep believing that a creature as large as a dog had been upon his chest, though a nearby associate could find nothing to confirm his fears. Several hostile and perhaps unreliable accounts told of visionary experiences with Satan and Christ, Harris once reporting that Christ had been poised on a roof beam.” Ronald W. Walker, “Martin Harris: Mormonism’s Early Convert,”Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19 (Winter 1986): 34-35.

And the list goes on. There is even a pro-LDS pageant display about the life of Martin Harris in the Clarkston Pageant, held in Utah during the month of August. I cannot rely on the testimony of Martin Harris, a man who vouched for the Book of Mormon when it first came out. Why not? Well, why would a witness to the Book of Mormon who verified its significance leave for other churches and religious sects if the Book of Mormon was really true? Why did the other witnesses leave as well?

Even though Martin Harris claimed to have seen the golden plates of the Book of Mormon, he says he did not see them with his natural eyes, but with “spiritual eyes,” meaning, only “in vision or imagination.” (Jesse Townsend to Phineas Stiles, 24 December 1833, in Vogel 1996-2003, 3: 22; Stephen Burnett to Lyman E. Johnson, 15 April 1838, in Vogel 1996-2003, 2: 291)

Martin Harris’ witness and testimony cannot be trusted; he was an unstable man, and not capable of being trustworthy for a testimony of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

The disheartening thing is this: the first quote in my article from says that Martin Harris was and “honorable and upright man…” but this is not the case.

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