Stephen S. Harding recalls meeting Martin Harris and Joseph Smith, portrays Harris as superstitious and prone to imagining things.

Feb 1882
Stephen S. Harding
2nd Hand

Stephen S. Harding, Letter to Thomas Gregg, February 1882, rep. Thomas Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra (New York: John B. Alden, 1890), 34–37, 42–43, 45–46

John Alden
Thomas Gregg, Martin Harris, Joseph Smith, Jr., Stephen S. Harding
Thomas Gregg, Reading Public

“MILAN, IND., Feb., 1882 .

"DEAR SIR :-Yours of 9th January duly received, and I send you this reply. The incidents I am about to relate would not be worth repeating only as illustrative of the wild fanaticism, superstition, and credulity of persons upon whose ve racity mainly depends the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. That such a book, replete with self evident plagiarisms and humbuggery, that sink it below the dignity of criticism, should find tens of thousands of persons of ordinary intelligence throughout Christendom, who have accepted it as a Revelation from God to man, is indeed a moral phenomenon unparalleled in the nineteenth century. In view of these things it is not strange that some daring iconoclast should go forth with his merciless sledge, breaking in fragments the shrines and idols that for thousands of years have struck with rever ential awe the hearts of untold millions of men, and leading captive the human will.

"In the summer of 1829, I resolved to return to the place of my nativity, in the vicinity of Palmyra, N. Y. It was from this place that my father had emigrated in the spring of 1820, with his large family, to the newly admitted State of Indiana. This was before the days of railroads, and I took stage from Cincinnati for Cleveland, from Cleveland down the lake shore for Buffalo, where I saw, for the first time, the great canal, only recently completed. On this I took passage for Palmyra.

. . .

At that time the Book of Mormon had not been printed, and no Mormon church had been organized. I do not believe that such a thing as the latter had ever been seriously contemplated, and that the publication of the Book of Mormon bad for its object only the making of money, by publishing and putting on sale a book that could be readily sold as a curiosity at a high profit. Nevertheless, there was something so unusual in the affair, that it excited a good deal of curiosity and comment. The fact that such a man as Martin Harris should mortgage his farm for a large sum, to secure the publisher for printing the book, should abandon the cultivation of one of the best farms in the neighborhood, and change all his habits of life from industry to indolence and general shiftlessness, was truly phenomenal. He, at the same time, was the only man among all the primitive Mormons who was responsible in a pecuniary sense for a single dollar. Nevertheless, he had become absolutely infatuated, and believed that an immense fortune could be made out of the enterprise. The misfortune that attended Harris from that day did not consist in the loss of money merely, and the general breaking up of his business as a farmer; but the blight and ruin fell upon all his domestic relations—causing his separation from his wife and family forever. In early life he had been brought up a Quaker, then took to Methodism as more congenial to his nature. He was noted as one who could quote more Scripture than any man in the neighborhood; and as a general thing could give the chapter and verse where some important passage could be found. If one passage more than another seemed to be in his mind, it was this: "God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise." His eccentricities and idiosyncrasies had been charitably passed over by all who knew him, until his separation from his wife and family, when he was looked upon as utterly infatuated and crazy. I had been acquainted with this man when a little boy, until my father emigrated from that neighborhood in 1820. He was intimately acquainted with my father's family, and on several occasions had visited our house, in company with Mrs. Harris. None in all that neighborhood were more promising in their future prospects than they.

. . .

“Cowdery commenced his task of reading at the table, the others sitting around. The reading had proceeded for some time, when the candle began to spit and splutter, sometimes almost going out, and flashing up with a red-blue blaze. Here was a phenomenon that could not be mistaken. To say that the blaze had been interrupted by the flax shives that remained in the tow wicking, would not do; but Martin Harris arrived at a conclusion 'across lots:' 'Do you see that,' said he, directing his remark to me and the old lady, who sat be side him. 'I know what that means; it is the Devil trying to put out the light, so that we can't read any more.' 'Yes,' replied the old lady; 'I seed 'im! I seed 'im! as he tried to put out the burnin' wick, when the blaze turned blue.'

. . .

“ABOUT two weeks after this I met Martin Harris. He was glad to see me; inquired how I felt since He told me that since he saw me at Mr. Smith's, he had seen fearful signs in the heavens. That he was standing alone one night, and saw a fiery sword let down out of heaven, and point ing to the east, west, north, and south, then to the hill of Cumorah, where the plates of Nephi were found. At another time, he said, as he was passing with his wagon and horses from town, his horses suddenly stopped and would not budge an inch. When he plied them with his whip, they commenced snorting and pawing the earth as they had hever done before. He then commenced smelling brimstone, and knew the Devil was in the road, and saw him plainly as he walked up the hill and disappeared. I said , 'What did he look like?' He replied: 'Stephen, I will give you the best description that I can. Imagine a greyhound as big as a horse, without any tail, walking upright on his hind legs.' I looked at him with perfect astonishment. 'Now, Stephen,' continued he, 'do tell me your dream.' I dropped my head and answered: 'I am almost afraid to undertake it.' He encouraged me, and said it was revealed to him that an other vessel was to be chosen, and that Joseph had the gift of interpreting dreams the same as Daniel, who was cast into the lions' den. . . .

[Here the narrator proceeded to relate a wonderful dream that never was dreamed, during the course of which he took occasion to describe some characters that had appeared to him on a scroll—presenting some of them with a pencil, a mixture of stenographic characters and the Greek alphabet, rudely imitated. These were handed to Mr. Harris.]

"Speechless with amazement, he looked at them for a moment, and then springing to his feet, and turning his eyes toward heaven, with uplifted hands, cried out:

"O Lord, God! the very characters that are upon the plates of Nephi!'

“He looked again at the characters, and then at me, with perfect astonishment. His excitement was such that I became positively alarmed, for it seemed to me that he was going crazy. I began to have some compunctions of conscience for the fraud that I had practiced upon him; for I might as well say just here, as well as anywhere, that the dream had been improvised for the occasion. He suggested that we go to the house of old man Smith and there relate my dream. I told him that I would never repeat it again to anybody. He bade me goodbye, saying: 'You are a chosen vessel of the Lord.'

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