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The first major biography about one of the most important men of the early Church is hot off the press from BYU Studies. Many years in the making, Martin Harris: Uncompromising Witness of the Book of Mormon, by Susan Easton Black and Larry C. Porter, tells the life story of a man who was instrumental in getting the Book of Mormon translated, published, and distributed. Indeed, it is hard to overstate Martin Harris’s important role in these early events of the Restoration.
Martin Harris was probably the first person outside of Joseph Smith’s family to believe his story about the angel and the plates and to support him in his efforts to translate the record. He provided financial support to aide Joseph in moving to Harmony, PA, where the translation began. He served as Joseph’s first scribe for two full-months and took copies of the script written on the plates to scholars in New York and Philadelphia. As one of the three witnesses, he testified of the Book of Mormon throughout his life, as this new biography documents more fully and rigorously than ever before.
When the time to print the Book of Mormon came, Martin made the sacrifice of pledging his farm as security to provide the money needed for the large print run. According to one historian, this made him “the most significant financial supporter of … the early Church.”
Yet Martin’s contributions are often overshadowed by his loss of the first 116 pages translated, as well as the later conflicts that led to his estrangement from Joseph and separation from the Saints for several decades. Drawing on the latest research and best primary sources, Black and Porter help correct this perception, offering a fuller picture of Martin’s life and accomplishments to go along with candid acknowledgment of his short-comings. One of the strong points in the volume is the recounting of Martin’s return and rebaptism into the Church—enriched with an image of Martin’s rebaptism certificate, appearing for the first time in print.
Through it all, Martin shines as an “uncompromising witness” of not only the Book of Mormon, but also of other crucial events of the early years of the Restoration. Uncompromising Witness is an excellent and much needed contribution to the scholarship on early Latter-day Saint history. Every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with others interested in the Church’s history, will benefit from reading it.
Visit the BYU Studies website for further information and ordering.