Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

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Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by hauslern »

On Sic Et Non Petersen argues on the reliability of Martin Harris's testimony regarding the plates. In a Meridian article Petersen cites favorable testimony from neighbours "descriptions given of Martin Harris by his neighbors:"

"He was “an honest, industrious citizen,” “an honest and industrious farmer,” “an honest worthy citizen,” “an honest man,” “a very honest man,” “honest and benevolent.” He was “a prosperous, independent farmer, strictly upright in his business dealings,” “a very worthy and substantial farmer,” “one of the most respectable farmers in Wayne County,” “one of the first men of the town,” and “an honorable and upright man”"
https://latterdaysaintmag.com/martin-ha ... ible-dupe/

In D&C 19 25-26 " And again I command thee that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; nor seek thy neighbors life."

In her affidavit Lucy says ""At different times while I lived with him, he has whipped, kicked and turned me out of the house.....With regard to Mr Harris' being intimate with Mrs Haggard, as has been reported, it is but justice to myself o state what facts come within my own observation, to show whether I had grounds for jealously or not. Mr Harris was very intimate with this family for some time previous to their going to Ohio. They lived a wile in a house which he had built for their accommodation , and here he spent most of his leisure hours; and made her presents of articles from the store and house. .....he would steer a straight course for Haggard's especially if Haggard was from home..At times when Haggard was from house he would go there in the manner above described, and stay till twelve or one 'clock at night and sometimes until day light" Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined (Roger Anderson)pp 132 -134.

Which Anderson has the better argument: Richard L. or Rodger?
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sock puppet
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by sock puppet »

Well, if we go by accolades that some piled on someone, then I think Todd Ballard is a saint, just like Ruby Franke and Jody Hildebrandt. :roll:
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"The truth has no defense against a fool determined to believe a lie." Mark Twain
The best lack all conviction, while the worst//Are full of passionate intensity." Yeats
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by Gadianton »

All the positive appraisal from his neighbors make for the reasons he was a great mark for Joseph Smith. Absent the dominant character of Smith infecting his life, Harris would unlikely have instigated any fraud of his own. He hitched his rail car to an engine promising adventures. He didn't do so with bad intentions.

I don't see the account of his wife as contradictory to the account of his neighbors. How people act civilly and privately can be at great odds. His wife and his neighbors knew two different sides of the same person.
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by Rick Grunder »

In the Meridian Magazine article, it states (and then reasons):
One contemporary describes him as “an industrious, hard-working farmer, shrewd in his business calculations.” But shrewdness in business calculations seems quite incompatible with being delusional, irrational, and prone to hallucination.
Now here is that snipped quote in its original source text:
Until he had arrived at the age of thirty-five years, he was an industrious, hard-working farmer, shrewd in his business calculations, frugal in his habits, and what was termed a prosperous man in the world.
. . . . .
. . . until the summer of 1828. Shortly previous to this he had become somewhat religiously awakened and began the study of the Bible. He also became quite skeptical, as well as superstitious, believing in miracles, wonderful dreams, spiritual interposition, special providences, &c. He pursued the study of the Bible with great tenacity, committing to memory whole books, and at the time of the Mormon incubation, could quote chapter and verse with surprising correctness. When Joe Smith first [revealed] to him the wonders of him new religion, it found a fertile soil in Martin's brain, where it took root, and he became an incurable monomaniac in religious matters. Yet only in this was Martin deemed insane; on other subjects he exhibited all of his former clearness of brain; he could drive a good bargain, and manage his farming matters, as well as ever, only when he had his "spells" on.
-- Palmyra Courier for May 24, 1872. http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/ny/miscNYS5.htm

My point here is not to depend on this original source text for historical accuracy, but to show that the writer in Meridian completely reverses the irenic logic of the very witness being quoted.
“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.”
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by Physics Guy »

A nice catch!

An apologist might like to argue that shrewdness in business was incompatible with religious delusion. And perhaps that kind of shrewdness might indeed be incompatible with delusion, in some cases. Depending on how well a person compartmentalised parts of their life, though, it might not be incompatible at all.

So if somebody describes someone else as being shrewd in business, one might have to ask for further clarification. "Do you mean, shrewd in business in such a way as to preclude delusion in any aspect of life? Or do you allow that this person might be shrewd only in business? Which is it?"

There is no such need to ask in this case, however, because the very source that describes Harris as shrewd in business also literally calls him insane about his religion. So whatever the source meant by shrewdness in business, it cannot in fact have been anything incompatible with religious delusion. All you have to do to see this is read the actual source.

I'm not sure that the apologists are necessarily cheating deliberately. I think they could simply be exercising their full critical powers when examining Mormon-skeptical arguments, but not bothering to look closely or think hard about anything which seems to support the conservative Mormon position. Either the Meridian writer read through the source quickly and plucked some nice-sounding phrases from it without thinking much about what the whole piece meant, or perhaps they simply found the good parts quoted by some third party, and copied them without consulting the original source. It's overconfidence, or perhaps incompetence, but not necessarily dishonesty.

It's happened often enough by now though, and pro-Mormon writers have been caught in this kind of trivial misrepresentation many enough times, that you'd think a sincere Mormon apologist would be paranoid nowadays, and check this kind of thing relentlessly first before publishing yet another clumsy Mormon whitewash. I guess the real goal isn't to convince non-Mormons, let alone find the truth, but just to feed feel-good stories to a Mormon audience that isn't actually curious enough to think hard or look closely.
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by Philo Sofee »

PG wrote:I guess the real goal isn't to convince non-Mormons, let alone find the truth, but just to feed feel-good stories to a Mormon audience that isn't actually curious enough to think hard or look closely.
Yep... and hence, from my view, untrustworthy and shrewd, just like Harris whom they ululate about.
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by Boomer57 »

You gotta remember - this is the same guy who became a 'witness' for Strang's plates! That, along with the 'deer Jesus' episode should give anyone pause. :lol:
' :idea: Give me truth and clarity, not fluff and charity'
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by Rivendale »

Boomer57 wrote:
Tue Feb 06, 2024 3:24 pm
You gotta remember - this is the same guy who became a 'witness' for Strang's plates! That, along with the 'deer Jesus' episode should give anyone pause. :lol:
Stephen B. Smoot isn't persuaded by the Deer Jesus. You would think with Martin's track record of getting leaders killed would have given Strang pause but apparently not. He ended up being unalived also. Similiar to Eyring's record of healing the sick. If you see Eyring headed your way to give you a healing blessing run like hell.
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by drumdude »

The Witnesses will never be a stumbling block to non-believers. Between the superstitious beliefs, the backwater yokel culture, the fact they were all friends and family of the Smiths… it’s not a big deal for someone who becomes acquainted with the facts to decide they were gullible.

Hitchens puts it very succinctly:
In March 1826 a court in Bainbridge, New York, convicted a twenty-one-year-old man of being “a disorderly person and an impostor.” That ought to have been all we ever heard of Joseph Smith, who at trial admitted to defrauding citizens by organizing mad gold-digging expeditions and also to claiming to possess dark or “necromantic” powers. However, within four years he was back in the local newspapers (all of which one may still read) as the discoverer of the “Book of Mormon.” He had two huge local advantages which most mountebanks and charlatans do not possess. First, he was operating in the same hectically pious district that gave us the Shakers and several other self-proclaimed American prophets. So notorious did this local tendency become that the region became known as the “Burned-Over District,” in honor of the way in which it had surrendered to one religious craze after another. Second, he was operating in an area which, unlike large tracts of the newly opening North America, did possess the signs of an ancient history.

A vanished and vanquished Indian civilization had bequeathed a considerable number of burial mounds, which when randomly and amateurishly desecrated were found to contain not merely bones but also quite advanced artifacts of stone, copper, and beaten silver. There were eight of these sites within twelve miles of the underperforming farm which the Smith family called home. There were two equally stupid schools or factions who took a fascinated interest in such matters: the first were the gold-diggers and treasure-diviners who brought their magic sticks and crystals and stuffed toads to bear in the search for lucre, and the second those who hoped to find the resting place of a lost tribe of Israel. Smith’s cleverness was to be a member of both groups, and to unite cupidity with half-baked anthropology.

The actual story of the imposture is almost embarrassing to read, and almost embarrassingly easy to uncover. (It has been best told by Dr. Fawn Brodie, whose 1945 book No Man Knows My History was a good-faith attempt by a professional historian to put the kindest possible interpretation on the relevant “events.”) In brief, Joseph Smith announced that he had been visited (three times, as is customary) by an angel named Moroni. The said angel informed him of a book, “written upon gold plates,” which explained the origins of those living on the North American continent as well as the truths of the gospel. There were, further, two magic stones, set in the twin breastplates Urim and Thummim of the Old Testament, that would enable Smith himself to translate the aforesaid book. After many wrestlings, he brought this buried apparatus home with him on September 21, 1827, about eighteen months after his conviction for fraud. He then set about producing a translation.

The resulting “books” turned out to be a record set down by ancient prophets, beginning with Nephi, son of Lephi, who had fled Jerusalem in approximately 600 BC and come to America. Many battles, curses, and afflictions accompanied their subsequent wanderings and those of their numerous progeny. How did the books turn out to be this way? Smith refused to show the golden plates to anybody, claiming that for other eyes to view them would mean death. But he encountered a problem that will be familiar to students of Islam. He was extremely glib and fluent as a debater and story-weaver, as many accounts attest. But he was illiterate, at least in the sense that while he could read a little, he could not write. A scribe was therefore necessary to take his inspired dictation. This scribe was at first his wife Emma and then, when more hands were necessary, a luckless neighbor named Martin Harris. Hearing Smith cite the words of Isaiah 29, verses 11–12, concerning the repeated injunction to “Read,” Harris mortgaged his farm to help in the task and moved in with the Smiths. He sat on one side of a blanket hung across the kitchen, and Smith sat on the other with his translation stones, intoning through the blanket. As if to make this an even happier scene, Harris was warned that if he tried to glimpse the plates, or look at the prophet, he would be struck dead.

Mrs. Harris was having none of this, and was already furious with the fecklessness of her husband. She stole the first hundred and sixteen pages and challenged Smith to reproduce them, as presumably—given his power of revelation—he could. (Determined women like this appear far too seldom in the history of religion.) After a very bad few weeks, the ingenious Smith countered with another revelation. He could not replicate the original, which might be in the devil’s hands by now and open to a “Satanic verses” interpretation. But the all-foreseeing Lord had meanwhile furnished some smaller plates, indeed the very plates of Nephi, which told a fairly similar tale. With infinite labor, the translation was resumed, with new scriveners behind the blanket as occasion demanded, and when it was completed all the original golden plates were transported to heaven, where apparently they remain to this day.

Mormon partisans sometimes say, as do Muslims, that this cannot have been fraudulent because the work of deception would have been too much for one poor and illiterate man. They have on their side two useful points: if Muhammad was ever convicted in public of fraud and attempted necromancy we have no record of the fact, and Arabic is a language that is somewhat opaque even to the fairly fluent outsider. However, we know the Koran to be made up in part of earlier books and stories, and in the case of Smith it is likewise a simple if tedious task to discover that twenty-five thousand words of the Book of Mormon are taken directly from the Old Testament. These words can mainly be found in the chapters of Isaiah available in Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews: The Ten Tribes of Israel in America. This then popular work by a pious loony, claiming that the American Indians originated in the Middle East, seems to have started the other Smith on his gold-digging in the first place. A further two thousand words of the Book of Mormon are taken from the New Testament. Of the three hundred and fifty “names” in the book, more than one hundred come straight from the Bible and a hundred more are as near stolen as makes no difference. (The great Mark Twain famously referred to it as “chloroform in print,” but I accuse him of hitting too soft a target, since the book does actually contain “The Book of Ether.”) The words “and it came to pass” can be found at least two thousand times, which does admittedly have a soporific effect. Quite recent scholarship has exposed every single other Mormon “document” as at best a scrawny compromise and at worst a pitiful fake, as Dr. Brodie was obliged to notice when she reissued and updated her remarkable book in 1973.
DCP loves to harp on the couple of details Hitchens gets wrong, but fails to acknowledge that the main idea of Mormonism is still just plain silly to any objective observer.
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Re: Harris Reputation - Who do you believe?

Post by BeNotDeceived »

How anyone would believe that a God or deity that created the heavens and the earth would have some con-man from upstate New York 'restore' Christ's 'church' (when Christ never organized a church) by having him bury his face in a tophat and looking at a rock (that he used to scam people claiming he could see buried treasure in the bowels of the earth) to tell a story about the ancient inhabitants of America, when the guy was already a fictitious storyteller according to his own mother... just boggles the mind. :lol:
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