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Lucy Harris was born on May 1, 1792 at Swift’s Landing (later Palmyra), Ontario County, New York. She was the daughter of Rufus Harris and Lucy Hill, who were affiliated with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Lucy married her first cousin Martin Harris on March 27, 1808, in Palmyra, New York. She had become partially deaf by the year 1827. She separated from her husband in June 1830, and died in Palmyra in 1836.
Early on during the translation of the Book of Mormon Lucy became frustrated with Martin (and skeptical of Joseph Smith) because of how much her husband was helping Smith with the translation of the Book of Mormon. In order to convince Lucy that they were translating an ancient book of scripture, Martin Harris asked Joseph Smith to let him borrow the first 116 pages of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Smith said that these pages of the translation of the Book of Mormon were a translation from the Book of Lehi. At Harris' insistence (and despite Smith saying he was warned not to by the Lord) Smith reluctantly loaned the pages to Harris. The manuscript was subsequently lost, and a variety of theories as to its disappearance have arisen. Some Mormons believe that Lucy hid them from Joseph Smith after they had been altered, or that they were given to friends, otherwise disposed of in some way, or that they were stolen from the Harris's house.
When Harris approached Smith and told him what happened, Smith became angry with himself for not heeding "the Lord's admonition" not to loan the manuscript to Harris and left to go and pray. Subsequently Joseph lost the ability to translate "for a season" while he went through "the repentance process." Ultimately he claimed to receive a revelation wherein he was instructed not to retranslate the portion of the Golden Plates the 116 pages were taken from "because wicked men had stolen the pages and altered them, hoping to discredit Joseph when he translated them again and the two manuscripts didn’t match because of their alterations." Instead, the material would be replaced with Nephi's Abridgment of his father's record.
In part due to their continued disagreement over the legitimacy of Joseph Smith and the golden plates, and because of the loss of his farm, which he had mortgaged to publish the Book of Mormon, Harris and his wife separated. Lucy Harris was described by her detractors Lucy Mack Smith as a woman of "irascible temper," but Harris may also have abused her. Lucy Harris also suggested that her husband may have committed adultery with a neighboring "Mrs. Haggart."
In popular culture
- Lucy Harris is portrayed in the comedy series South Park in an episode "All About the Mormons?" which shows her talking her husband into hiding Smith's original manuscript. She is shown as a skeptic of Joseph Smith, eliciting the only break from the chorus's "Joseph Smith was called a prophet, dum dum dum dum dum." theme with "Lucy Harris smart smart smart, Martin Harris dumb."
- Author Christopher Hitchens uses the Lucy Harris story as proof that Joseph Smith was a fraud in his book God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Both the Hitchens and South Park references were based on Fawn Brodie's biography No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, which first asserted the claim that Lucy Harris stole the manuscript.
- "Reference: People (Biography)", JosephSmithPapers.org (Joseph Smith Papers Project), retrieved 2013-01-29
- Richter, Kimberly (September 2012), "The Book of Mormon: From Plates to Press", New Era
- In March 2007, Russell Martin Harris, great-great-grandson of Martin Harris, gave a leather wallet, said to have been the one that carried Harris's money to the printer, to the LDS Church so that the wallet could be displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art. (Dobner, Jennifer (March 23, 2007). "Family donates wallet of early Mormon scribe to LDS Church". The Salt Lake Tribune. (AP). Retrieved 2013-01-29.)
- Lucy Mack Smith, 1853, in EMD (Early Mormon Documents) 1: 367; "Lucy Harris statement," in EMD, 2: 34-36: "In one of his fits of rage he struck me with the butt end of a whip, which I think had been used for driving oxen, and was about the size of 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....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."
- In March 1830, a revelation from Smith warned Harris not to "covet thy neighbor's wife." ()
- Parker, Trey (2003-11-19). "All About The Mormons Transcript". The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb). Fox/South Park Studios. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Exclusive excerpts from Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine[unreliable source?]
- Brodie, Fawn M. K. (1971). No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith. Knopf. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-394-46967-6.