The Anthon Transcript: People, Primary Sources, and Problems
Of the many important and little understood events of early Church history, certainly the consultation of Martin Harris with Professor Charles Anthon in New York City in February 1828 regarding the Book of Mormon is one of the most important and intriguing. It is also one of the earliest events of the Restoration which can be assessed rationally and tested.
By late 1827 the story of Joseph Smith and the "gold plates" was sufficiently well known in and around Palmyra, New York to have caused great curiosity and cupidity among some of his contemporaries. In order to protect the plates and to have sufficient time and peace of mind to commence the translation of the plates, Joseph and Emma moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, a friend of the Smith family, Martin Harris of Palmyra, visited him, secured a handwritten copy of some of the characters on the plates, took them to New York City for the evaluation of men of learning. This story, familiar in Mormon lore, raises a great many important questions which need careful examination. Among these questions are the following: Who was Martin Harris? How did he become involved with Joseph Smith? Who advised him whom to consult regarding the transcription? Who were the persons with whom he did consult? What were their qualifications? What was the import and significance of their opinions? What was the necessity, if any, of the consultations? How reliable is Martin Harris' account of what transpired?