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Monday, September 12, 2011

LDS Church History no. 5 - Loss of the 116 Manuscript Pages

The loss of the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Lehi by Brother Martin Harris are a tragedy of untold heights and depths.  What the circumstances are surrounding these events are examined herein.

President Joseph Smith, Jun. states,

Some time after Mr.Harris had begun to write for me [in 1828], he began to importune me to give him liberty to carry the writings home and show them; and desired of me that I would inquire of the Lord. . . . The answer was that he must not.  However, he was not satisfied with this answer, and desired that I should inquire again.  I did so, and the answer was as before.  Still he could not be contented, but insisted that I should inquire once more.  After much solicitation I again inquired of the Lord, and premission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions; which were, that he show them only to his brother, Preserved Harris, his own wife, his father and his mother, and a Mrs. Cobb, a sister to his wife. (HC 1:21)

Brother Harris bound himself by solemn covenant with President Smith that he would abide by the instructions set down by the Lord.  But alas, Brother Harris showed them to others, who then used cunning devices to get the papers away from him, and they are lost unto this day.   

At a breakfast prepared by Joseph Smith, Sen. and his wife Lucy Mack in New York, where Joseph Smith the Prophet had gone in search of Martin, Martin Harris came, hours late, and without the manuscript pages.  The account reads thus, from the pen of Lucy Mack Smith:

He [Brother Harris] took up his knife and fork as if he were going to use them, but immediately dropped them.  Hyrum, observing this, said "Martin, why do you not eat; are you sick"  Upon which Mr. Harris pressed his hands upon his temples, and cried out in a tone of deep anguish, "Oh, I have lost my soul!  I have lost my soul!"

“Joseph who had not expressed his fears till now, sprang from the table, exclaiming, "Martin, have you lost that manuscript?  Have you broken your oath, and brought down condemnation upon my head as well as your own?"

“Yes; it is gone," replied Martin, "and I know not where."

[Joseph cried,] “All is lost! all is lost!  What shall I do?  I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God.  I should have been satisfied with the first answer which I received from the Lord; for he told me that it was not safe to let the writing go out of my possession."  He wept and groaned, and walked the floor continually.

At length he told Martin to go back and search again.

“No; said Martin, "it is all in vain; for I have ripped open beds and pillows [looking for the manuscript]; and I know it is not there."

“Then must I", said Joseph, "return with such a tale as this?  I dare not do it.  And how shall I appear before the Lord?  Of what rebuke am I not worthy from the angel of the Most High?" . . .

The next morning, he set out for home.  We parted with heavy hearts, for it now appeared that all which we had so fondly anticipated, and which had been the source of so much secret gratification, had in a moment fled, and fled forever.
(History of Joseph Smith, p. 128–29)

Because of the loss of the 116 pages, President Smith was commanded by the Angel Moroni to give back the plates and the Urim and Thummim.  This he did, and after sincere repentance, the Angel returned them to him.  Joseph later remarked about receiving the Plates again, "The angel seemed pleased with me . . . and he told me that the Lord loved me, for my faithfulness and humility" (History of Joseph Smith, p. 135).  Later on, President Smith said, "I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it"  (History of the Church, 2:170).

We can learn a lot from Martin Harris and Joseph Smith.  We can learn that the Lord has strict commands, which must be obeyed without question; also that the Lord's wisdom and knowledge and foresight is better than man's.  Let the Latter-day Saints, therefore, always follow the Lord and His Prophet, which at this time is President Thomas S. Monson.  I know this as fact, for I have asked the Lord in prayer.  All who likewise ask Him in faith with receive a like answer.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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