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Joseph Smith-Detailed Account of the 1828 Translation and Loss


"Mr. Harris, having returned from this tour [to visit Professor Anthon], he left me and went home to Palmyra, arranged his affairs, and returned again to my house about the twelfth of April, 1828, and commenced writing for me while I translated from the plates, which we continued until the fourteenth of June following, by which time he had written one hundred and sixteen pages of manuscript on foolscap paper. Some time after Mr. Harris had begun to write for me, he began to tease me to give him liberty to carry the writings home and shew them; and desire of me that I would enquire of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim if he might not do so. I did enquire and the answer was that he must not. However, he was not satisfied with this answer, and he desired that I should enquire again. I did so, and the answer was as before. Still but he could not be contented but insisted that I should inquire once more. After much solicitation I again enquired of the Lord, and permission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions, which were: that he show them only to his brother, Preserved Harris, his own wife, his father and his mother, and a Mrs. Cobb, a sister to his wife. In accordance with this last answer I required of him that he should bind himself in a covenant to me in the most solemn manner that he would not do otherwise than had been directed. He did so. He bound himself as I required of him, took the writings, and went his way. Notwithstanding, however, the great restrictions which he had been laid under, and the solemnity of the covenant which he made with me, he did show them to others, and by stratagem they got them away from him, and they never have been recorded nor obtained back again until this day.

"In the meantime, while Martin Harris was gone with the writings, I went to visit my father’s family at Manchester. I continued there for a short season and then returned to my place in Pennsylvania. Immediately after my return home, I was walking out a little distance, when, behold, the former heavenly messenger appeared and handed to me the Urim and Thummim again. For it had been taken away from me in consequence of my having wearied the Lord in asking for the privilege of letting Martin Harris take the writings, which he lost by transgression."

Earliest existing draft (1839) of this section of the Prophet’s history, Papers of Joseph Smith 1:286-287; edited in Joseph Smith, HC 1:20-22.