Book of Mormon Printing Arrangements, which resulted in Martin Harris selling much of his farm to pay the printer — Rich Kelsey

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Book of Mormon Printing Arrangements:

Early on, Joseph Smith convinced1 Martin Harris that together they would make money publishing the Book of Mormon.  Harris initially agreed to invest $1,500.00 which was half of the publishing cost for the first printing run.  Complete payment was due within 18 months from the start of printing.  Joseph and his brother Hyrum were to cover the remaining $1,500.00   Yet, the publisher demanded collateral before printing began; so Martin put up his farmland.  Joseph and his brother tried but were unable to raise their half of the money — 'God' spoke through Joseph Smith asking, 

"Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Page & Josiah Stowel" 

to enter into a covenant with Him to sell the Book of Mormon copyright in Canada to help pay the printer.  It did not sell.  Martin was left owing the entire $3,000.00. For a while Harris refused to sell his land; he was counting on selling2 books to cover the printing cost. Then, after 'God' threatened Harris with endless punishment if he did not pay the Smith's half of the printing fee, Harris sold his land:

The Doctrine

and Covenants

Section 19

Revelation given through Joseph Smith, at Manchester, New York, March 1830…  In his history, the Prophet introduced it as “a commandment of God and not of man, to Martin Harris, given by him who is Eternal”

Verse (10): For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—

Verse (11): Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. 

Verse (12): Endless punishment is God’s punishment. 

Verse (13): Wherefore, I command you to repent, and keep the commandments which you have received by the hand of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., in my name;

Verse (14): And it is by my almighty power that you have received them;

Verse (15): Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not


Verse (26): And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God—

Originally, Martin Thought An Immense Fortune Could Be Made:

"... 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 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.

… 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." (Thomas Gregg, The Prophet of Palmyra, New York: John B. Alden, 1890 — letter from Stephen S. Harding: former governor of Utah territory Feb, 1882, to Thomas Greg)

Martin's Wife Said:

“Whether the Mormon religion be true or false, I leave the world to judge, for its effects upon Martin Harris have been to make him more cross, turbulent and abusive to me. His whole object was to make money by it. I will have one circumstance in proof of it. One day, while at Peter Harris house, I told him he had better leave the company of the Smiths, as their religion was false; to which he replied, if you would let me alone, I could make money by it.

It is in vain for the Mormons to deny these facts; for they are all well known to most of his former neighbors. The man has now become rather an object of pity; he has spent most of his property, and lost the confidence of his former friends. If he had labored as hard on his farm as he has to make Mormons, he might now be one of the wealthiest farmers in the country. He now spends his time in traveling through the country spreading the delusion of Mormonism, and has no regard whatever for his family."3

Upon Martin's Death It Was Written:

“… Mrs. Harris, knowing her husband's credulity and Smith's trickery, did all she could to stop the expenditure of money; but Smith not only plied [Martin] Harris with ‘revelations,’ but explained the certainty of making a spec out of the publication of the manuscripts. An edition of 5,000 would cost, say, $3,000. Joseph had a revelation that the books would sell for $1.25 each, and he went on to assure his victim that there was a chance to clear $3,250. The Chicago Daily Tribune – September 12, 1875, A  MORMON  SAINT, DEATH  OF MARTIN  HARRIS

Book of Mormon Financing Arrangements:

In March 1830, a revelation [D&C 19] was received in which the Lord admonished Martin to sell a portion of his land, all save that needed for the support of his family, and to pay the debt which he had contracted with Mr. Grandin.

Martin Harris had mortgaged [240 acres] his farm to Mr. E. B. Grandin on August 5, 1829, for the sum of three thousand dollars. This amount was to pay for the printing of five thousand copies of the Book of Mormon. The terms of the agreement were, in effect that Martin was to pay Mr. Grandin the three thousand dollars within a time limit of eighteen months. Should Harris default, Grandin was authorized to have the real estate sold at public auction and allow Mr. Harris the sum in excess of the amount of the contract...

Any remaining doubts as to the financial status of the publishing were quickly assuaged when a notice appeared in the Wayne Sentinel on March 26 1830, indicating that the Book of Mormon was published and was for sale at the Palmyra Bookstore.

Martin Harris expected that the book would find ready sale and that there would be no difficulty in paying off the mortgage. Because of a general boycott placed on the book, however, it became necessary for him to take steps to redeem the mortgage which was to come due February 5, 1831. One hundred and fifty-one acres of the farm were sold at private sale on April 1, 1831, to Thomas Lakey...

Although this was not a foreclosure, the time element of the mortgage was two months overdue, and the terms of the agreement would indicate that Mr. Grandin would not likely receive full payment for another eighteen months. We have no definite information that this agreement was unsatisfactory to Mr. Grandin, but the following account of transaction would indicate that perhaps the printer wanted his money sooner than Mr. Lakey could furnish it.

[Quoting from Cook, Palmyra, p. 205] "When Martin Harris sold his farm to Thomas Lakey to raise money to print the Book of Mormon it had to be paid for in gold. In 1831 John Graves came from England accompanied by his wife and daughter. . . Mrs. Grainger also brought with her $3,000 in gold, wrapped in a belt and fasted around her waist. Mr. Graves purchased the farm from Mr. Lakey and paid the $3,000 which was passed on to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon." (Wayne Cutler Gunnell, "Martin Harris--Witness and Benefactor to the Book of Mormon" M.S. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955, pp. 37-38). 

Canadian Copyright Revelation:

Revelation received at Manchester, New York, A.D. 1830 for Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, Josiah Stowell, and Joseph Knight Sr. - John Whitmer as scribe. The early text is used  — Revelation Book I — words in brackets were added to help make the work easier to understand.

A Revelation given to Joseph Oliver Hyram Josiah & Joseph Knight given at Manchester Ontario C[ounty] New York

"Behold I the Lord am God I Created the Heavens & the Earth & all things that in them is wherefore they are mine & I sway my scepter over all the Earth & ye are in my hands to will & to do that I can deliver you out of ev[e]ry difficulty & affliction according to your faith & dilligence & uprightness Before me & I have covenanted with my Servent [Joseph Smith Jr.] that earth nor Hell combined againsts him shall not take the Blessing out of his hands which I have prepared for him if he walketh uprightly before me neither the spiritual nor the temporal [p.30]

Blessing & Behold I also covenanted with those who have assisted him in my work that I will do unto them even the same Because they have done that which is pleasing in my sight yea even all save M[ar]tin [Harris] only it be one only

Wherefore be dilligent in Securing the Copy right of my work upon all the face of the Earth of which is known by you unto my Servent Joseph & unto him whom he willeth accordinng as I shall command him that the faithful & the righteous may retain the temperal [temporal] Blessing as well as the Spirit[u]al & also that my work be not destroyed by the workers of iniquity to their own distruction [destruction] & damnation when they are fully ripe

& now Behold I say unto you that I have covenanted & it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Page & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing yea even in securing the Copy right & they shall do it with an eye single to my Glory that it may be the means of bringing souls unto Salvation through mine only Begotten Behold I am God I have spoken it & it is expedient in me

Wherefor[e] I say unto you that ye shall go to Kingston seeking me continually through mine only Begotten & if ye do this ye shall have my spirit to go with you & ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me & I grant unto my servent a privelige [privilege] that he may sell a copyright through you speaking after the manner of men for the four Provinces if the People harden not their hearts against the enticeings of my spirit & my word for Behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation or to their salvation

Behold my way is before you & the means I will prepare & the Blessing I hold in mine own hand & if ye are faithful I will pour out upon you even as much as ye are able to Bear & thus it shall be Behold I am the father & it is through mine only begotten which is Jesus Christ your Redeemer amen" [p.31] (Book of Commandments and Revelations, p.p. 30-31)  See the original document

Assessment by Charles Butler:

"...the public credentials of Martin Harris are impressive, they can be verified by recovering his confidential credit report. Loan officers measure both ability and reliability in venturing money, and one of considerable stature recalled Martin Harris's loan application in detail. The Book of Mormon witness had a professional assessment from Charles Butler, who in 1830 was a lawyer and regional loan officer for the New York Life Insurance and Trust Company, and in later life was an impeccable New York financier and philanthropist. Early in 1830 it is evident that Martin Harris lacked ready cash to pay the printer of the Book of Mormon, though valuable land was pledged as security. It was probably at this time that he traveled thirty miles to Geneva to see Butler about a loan, taking with him the recommendation of the prominent Palmyra businessman Henry Jessup. Butler left several recollections of this event but comments most specifically upon the appraisal of Harris's financial and personal capacities in the following account:

"He brought a letter of introduction to me from a highly respectable citizen of that town, a Mr. Jessup, who was a leading man and an elder in the Presbyterian Church and on whose judgment I depended in respect to the character of the borrower and the value of the property in all cases of applications for loans from that quarter. From the letter of Mr. Jessup the bearer was introduced to me as a very worthy and substantial farmer, possessing a very excellent farm, which would furnish a very ample security for the amount of money which he wished to obtain, viz. $1,300.00, and he commended Mr. Harris to me as a desirable borrower."

It does not particularly concern this discussion that Butler determined that the purpose of the loan was to finance the Book of Mormon and rejected the application. In another memorandum recollection, Butler reports "my agent' as indicating that 'this was one of the most respectable farmers in Wayne County.'" (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981, pp 98-103) 

Publication of the Book of Mormon:

“…Negotiations with Grandin [the printer] continued from July to August 1829. On August 25, 1829, Grandin entered into a secured transaction, using Harris' land as collateral, to print 5,000 copies of the book for $3,000, to be paid within 18 months after printing began. Half the sum was to be paid by Martin Harris, and the other half was to be paid by Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum).

… In order to pay his $1500 share of the costs for printing the Book of Mormon, Smith attempted unsuccessfully to raise at least $500 from his old friend Josiah Stowell. He also sent Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page as missionaries to Toronto, unsuccessfully, to raise money by selling the book's Canadian copyright.

… Martin Harris was coming to realize that the full share of the $3000 cost of printing the book would fall on his shoulders when it came due in early 1831, and under the prodding of his wife Lucy, was considering breaching his contract to pay his share. In response, Smith traveled once again from Harmony Palmyra, and placated Harris by entering into a contract on January 16, 1830 stating: "I hereby agree that Martin Harris shall have an equal privilege with me and my friends of selling the Book of Mormon of the edition now printing by Egbert B. Grandin until enough of them shall be sold to pay for the printing of the same.” Smith and Harris then went to Grandin's office, and convinced Grandin to resume printing, which he did on January 26, 1830

In late March 1830, Smith travelled once again from Harmony to Palmyra.  The first advance copies of the Book of Mormon were becoming available, and Harris was attempting to sell them, but not getting any buyers. Harris, therefore, waffled on his commitment to pay the printing costs. In response, Smith dictated a revelation commanding Harris, upon penalty of eternal damnation he could not imagine, to: "Impart a portion of thy property; Yea, even a part of thy lands and all save the support of thy family. Pay the printer's debt." Harris renewed his commitment to pay the printing costs, and on March 26, 1830, Grandin made copies of the Book of Mormon available for purchase at the bookshop on the ground floor of his shop.


1. Early Mormon Documents, 2: 540. Gilbert, the typesetter, disputed that there had been a suspension of publication saying that because Martin Harris "had given security for the full amount agreed upon for printing, before the work was commenced...there was no delay because of financial embarrassment."


2. The revelation also commanded, "Release thyself from bondage. Leave thy house and home, except when thou shalt desire to see them" (Phelps 1833, p. 42, XVI:38–39). It was about this time that Harris and his wife separated (Tucker 167, p. 54).


3. Harris eventually satisfied the $3,000 printing bill by selling a portion of his land when payment came due in early 1831 (Tucker 167, pp. 54–55).

(Wikipedia Article)

Selling Price of the Book of Mormon:

"The Wayne Sentinel advertised the Book of Mormon for sale in its 26 March 1830 issue. The selling price in Grandin's bookstore ranged from $1.25 to $1.75 per volume. The lower price was no doubt the more realistic price. ...  early Mormon missionaries were able to obtain copies of the volume for $1.25, and they seem to have then tried to sell them for $2.50.* This was a high price for the average American to pay for a book, and because it was a significant amount of the average wage of the period, it is clear that it was difficult to recoup the costs for printing it." ("That Most Important of All Books": A Printing History of The Book of Mormon - David J. Whittaker, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute)

*Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: Appleton, 1867), 60—61.

“The Mormons said the price of the ‘Book of Mormon’ was established at $1.75 by revelation. It did not sell well and they claimed to receive another to sell it at $1.25.” (Naked Truths About Mormonism - Sylvia Walker, p.1)

"They [a brother of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery] wished me to purchase one of their books, saying, if I read it with candor, and asked God for faith, and still did not believe, it was because I was given up of God. I objected to purchasing lest I might be supporting a deception, and as they were selling the works at $1.75 per copy, when the first cost was but 60 cts per copy, I thought it possible it might be a mere speculation. They said the angel of the Lord told Smith to sell the book for that price, that they might have the temporal profit as well as the spiritual." (MORNING  STAR, Vol. VII, Limerick, Me.,  Thurs., March 7, 1833, No. 45)


[i] Testimony of Abigail Harris

Palmyra, Wayne Co. N. Y. 11th mo. 28th, 1833.
In the early part of the winter in 1828, I made a visit to Martin Harris and was joined in company by Jos. Smith, sen. and his wife. The Gold Bible business, so called, was the topic of conversation, to which I paid particular attention that I might learn the truth of the whole matter.--They told me that the report that Joseph, jun. had found golden plates, was true, and that he was in Harmony, Pa. translating them--that such plates were in existence, and that Joseph, jun. was to obtain them, was revealed to him by the spirit of one or the Saints that was on this continent, previous to its being discovered by Columbus. Old Mrs. Smith observed that she thought he must be a Quaker, as he was dressed very plain.


They said that the plates he then had in possession were but an introduction to the Gold Bible--that all of them upon which the bible was written, were so heavy that it would take four stout men to load them into a cart--that Joseph had also discovered by looking through his stone, the vessel in which the gold was melted from which the plates were made, and also the machine with which they were rolled; he also discovered in the bottom of the vessel three balls of gold, each as large as his fist. The old lady said also, that after the book was translated, the plates were to be publicly exhibited--admittance 0-5 cents. She calculated it would bring in annually an enormous sum of money-that money would then be very plenty, and the book would also sell for a great price, as it was something entirely new-that they had been commanded to obtain all the money they could borrow for present necessity, and to repay with gold.


The remainder was to be kept in store for the benefit of their family and children. This and the like conversation detained me until about 11 o'clock. Early the next morning, the mystery of the Spirit being like myself (one of the order called Friends) was reveal by the following circumstance: The old lady took me into another room, and after closing the door, she said, "have you four or five dollars in money that you can lend until our business is brought to a close? the spirit has said you shall receive four fold." I told her that when I gave, I did it not expecting to receive again--as for money I had none to lend. I then asked her what her particular want of money was; to which she replied "Joseph wants to take the stage and come home from Pennsylvania to see what we are all about." To which I replied, he might look in his stone and save his time and money. The old lady seemed confused, and left the room, and thus ended the visit.

In the second month following, Martin Harris and his wife were (at my house. In conversation about Mormonites she observed, that she wished her husband would quit them as she believed it was all false and a delusion. To which I heard Mr. Harris reply : "What if it is a lie ; if you will let me alone I will make money out of it ! I was both an eye and an ear witness of what has been stated above, which is now fresh in my memory, and I give it to the world for the good of mankind. I speak the truth and lie not, God bearing me is witness. ABIGAIL HARRIS (Mormonism Unvailed, Eber Howe's 1834 book)


[ii] "He [Martin Harris] Came to us … he says,

'The Books will not sell for no Body wants them. Joseph [Smith] says, 'I think they will sell well.' Says he, 'I want a Commandment.' 'Why,' says Joseph, 'fullfill what you have got.' 'But,' says he, 'I must have a Commandment.' Joseph put him off. But he insisted three or four times he must have a Commandment." (Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History)


[iii] Lucy Harris, wife of Martin Harris
Palmyra, Nov. 29, 1833

Being called upon to give a statement to the world of what I know respecting the Gold Bible speculation, and also or the conduct of Martin Harris, my husband, who is a leading character among the Mormons, I do it free from prejudice realizing that I must give an account at the bar of God for what I say. Martin Harris was once industrious attentive to his domestic concerns, and thought to be worth about ten thousand dollars. He is naturally quick in his temper and in his mad-fits frequently abuses all who may dare to oppose him in his wishes. However strange it may seem, I have been a great sufferer by his unreasonable conduct. At different times while I lived with him, he has whipped, kicked, and turned me out of the house. About a year previous to the report being raised that Smith had found gold plates, he became very intimate with the Smith family, and said he believed Joseph could see in his stone any thing he wished. After this he apparently became very sanguine in his belief, and frequently said he would have no one in his house that did not believe in Mormonism, and because I would not give credit to the report he made about the gold plates, he became more austere towards me. In one of his fits of rage he struck me with the but end or a whip, which I think had been used for driving oxen, and was about the size or my thumb, and three or four feet long. He beat me on the head four or five times, and the next day turned me out of doors twice, and beat me in a shameful manner. The next day I went to the town or Marion, and while there my flesh was black and blue in many places. His main complaint against me was, that I was always trying to hinder his making money.

When he found out that I was going to Mr. Putnam's, in Marion, he said he was going too, that they had sent for him to pay them a visit. On arriving at Mr. Putnam's, I asked them if they had sent for Mr. Harris; they replied, they knew nothing about it; he, however, came in the evening. Mrs. Putnam told him never to strike or abuse me any more; he then denied ever striking me; she was however convinced that he lied, as the marks of his beating me were plain to be seen, and remained more than two weeks. Whether the Mormon religion be true or false, I leave the world to judge, for its effects upon Martin Harris have been to make him more cross, turbulent and abusive to me. His whole object was to make money by it. I will have one circumstance in proof of it. One day, while at Peter Harris house, I told him he had better leave the company of the Smiths, as their religion was false; to which he replied, if you would let me alone, I could make money by it.

It is in vain for the Mormons to deny these facts; for they are all well known to most of his former neighbors. The man has now become rather an object of pity; he has spent most of his property, and lost the confidence of his former friends. If he had labored as hard on his farm as he has to make Mormons, he might now be one of the wealthiest farmers in the country. He now spends his time in traveling through the country spreading the delusion of Mormonism, and has no regard whatever for his family.

With regard to Mr. Harris being intimate with Mrs.. Haggard, as has been reported, it is but justice to myself to state what facts have come within my own observation, to show whether I had any grounds for jealousy or not. Mr. Harris was very intimate with this family, for some time previous to their going to Ohio. They lived a while in a house which he had built for their accommodation, and here he spent the most of his leisure hours ; and made her presents of articles from the store and house. He carried these presents in a private manner, and frequently when he went there, he would pretend to be going to some of the neighbors, on an errand, or to be going into the fields. After getting out of sight of the house, he would steer a straight course for Haggard's house, especially if Haggard was from home. At times when Haggard was from home, he would go there in the manner above described, and stay till twelve or one o'clock at night, and sometimes until day light.

If his intentions were evil, the Lord will judge him accordingly but if good, he did not mean to let his left hand, know what his right hand did. The above statement or facts, I affirm to be true.
(Mormonism Unvailed, Eber Howe's 1834 Book)