Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter discuss Martin Harris's association with Strangite Mormonism in the 1840s.

Susan Easton Black

Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter, Martin Harris: Uncompromising Witness of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2018), 330–347

BYU Studies
Larry C. Porter, Susan Easton Black
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After his separation from the Shakers, Martin joined with a small nucleus of his old associates in a regeneration of the Church of Christ, which was in the process of conducting regular meetings in the Kirtland Temple. At this juncture, James J. Strang, accompanied by William Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, arrived in Kirtland on Friday, August 7, 1846, to conduct a four-day conference (August 7–10) with his followers in the community and to make an appeal to others who were still in a state of flux as to their religious commitment. The Strangite conference was held in the Kirtland Temple and excited considerable interest as the news spread. Strang reported that the conference was attended by an estimated four hundred persons on Saturday, August 8, and that the lower court of the temple was “well filled” on Sunday, August 9. He declared, “W[illia]m preached twice during the setting and I did four times. Sabbath day I spoke eight hours in my most rapid manner on the order of the Church and in a congregation filling a space fifty-five feet square there was not one inattentive person and I may safely say there were not five persons who were not convinced of the truth of every position I took.”

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When Martin and his weary companions disembarked from their seafaring vessel at Liverpool, there was no one to greet them. They were the first representatives of Strang in the British Isles and therefore had no expectant base from which to operate. Martin and his friends complained “very much that they could not get an opportunity to do the work which the Lord sent them to perform.” Under these circumstances Martin made a strident effort to gain an audience. Joseph Tuttle reported Martin’s approach, explaining that when Harris arrived in England, he “rented a hall; had large circulars posted, announcing that Martin Harris, one of the three special witnesses to the Book of Mormon, would . . . lecture to the people, exposing Mormonism; and all were invited to come and hear.”

. . .

By January 2, 1847, Martin had reached Kirtland. There Caroline and family members joyfully greeted their husband and father. He also took occasion to journey north to Mentor, where he reminisced about his experience in England with his longtime friend Joseph Tuttle. There he chose to rehearse that singular moment of gratitude when “surrounded by those Saints, who, with streaming eyes and broken utterances, were thanking me for the glorious manner in which I had defended the faith, and the powerful testimony I had borne to the truth of the work.” For years afterward, while in a reflective mood, Martin would express a latent desire to return to England. When Mormon missionary David B. Dille of Ogden, Utah, came through Kirtland on his way to England in the spring of 1855, seventy-two-year-old Martin entreated him: “Just let me go with you to England, I see you can preach. You do the preaching and I will bear testimony to the Book of Mormon and we will convert all England.”

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