Section 2: Martin Harris Loses the Book of Lehi


This section was significantly changed between the Book of Commandments and the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.


Date Given: July 1828

Location Given: Harmony, Pennsylvania – Hale Farm

Date Canonized: August 17, 1835

Background: Martin Harris was a respectable, but superstitious wealthy man who lived near the Smith family in Palmyra, New York. He had even paid Joseph Smith Sr. to dig a well for him. Joseph Smith Jr. had once found a lost object for Martin Harris with the use of his seer stone. Smith Jr. told Harris about the Golden Plates between 1827-1828, and Harris gave him $50 (equivalent of nearly $1,400 in 2021) to translate the plates.

Soon after moving to the Hale family farm, Emma Hale briefly served as the scribe for The Book of Mormon. However, Harris worked as the scribe that wrote down most of the dictation of the first 116 pages of The Book of Mormon, “The Book of Lehi”, between April 12th and June 14th in 1828.

Harris was criticized by his family for spending his time and money on this project. Harris pressured Smith to allow him to show the manuscript to his wife. Smith Jr. was reluctant, but Harris was persistent and he eventually conceded. Harris set out for his home in Palmyra, New York on June 14th, 1828. After he had shown his family, the manuscript disappeared from the place that Harris had been hiding it. Harris was later depicted as being careless with the manuscript.

Harris was supposed to quickly return to Harmony Pennsylvania, and after 2 weeks Smith and Hale grew so anxious that Smith took a trip to Palmyra, despite the couple having just had their first child die near or during childbirth on June 15th, 1828. Smith discovered that the manuscript had been lost and he became distraught. Smith would later claim that the Golden Plates and “interpreters” had been taken from him by an angel and he lost the ability to translate prior to discovering that The Book of Lehi had been lost. Smith eventually turned to his seer stone for Divine guidance and this was the revelation that came from that.


A. The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God, cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught, for God doth not walk in crooked paths;

B. neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left;

C. neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; therefore his paths are straight and his course is one eternal round.


A. Remember, remember, that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men;

B. for although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet, if he boast in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him.


A. Behold, you have been intrusted with these things, but how strict were your commandments;

B. and remember, also, the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them; and, behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men:

C. for, behold, you should not have feared man more than God, although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words, yet you should have been faithful and he would have extended his arm, and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.


A. Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall, but remember God is merciful;

B. therefore, repent of that which thou hast done, which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work;

C. except thou doest this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.


A. And when thou deliveredst up that which God had given thee sight and power to translate thou deliveredst up that which was sacred into the hands of a wicked man who has set at naught the counsels of God, and has broken the most sacred promises, which were made before God, and has depended upon his own judgment, and boasted in his own wisdom;

B. and this is the reason that thou hast lost thy privileges for a season, for thou hast suffered the counsel of thy director to be trampled upon from the beginning.


A. Nevertheless, my work shall go forth, for, inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews, even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people, and to the Nephites, and the Jacobites, and the Josephites, and the Zoramites, through the testimony of their fathers;

B. and this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the Lamanites, and the Lemuelites, and the Ishmaelites, who dwindled in unbelief because of the iniquity of their fathers, whom the Lord has suffered to destroy their brethren the Nephites, because of their iniquities and their abominations;

C. and for this very purpose are these plates preserved which contain these records, that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to his people;

D. and that the Lamanites might come to the knowledge of their fathers, and that they might know the promises of the Lord,

E. and that they may believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and be glorified through faith in his name, and that through their repentance they might be saved. Amen.