The Words of the Book to Be Taken to One Who is Learned

Daniel H. Ludlow

Nephi's prophecy concerning the words of the book which the translator shall "deliver . . . to another, that he may show them unto the learned" (2 Nephi 27:15) apparently refers (1) to Joseph Smith's giving a copy of some of the characters to Martin Harris and (2) to the subsequent visit of Martin Harris with Professor Charles Anthon. Sometime between December 1827 and February 1828, Joseph Smith copied a number of the characters from the plates in his possession and translated some of them by means of the Urim and Thummim. In February 1828, Martin Harris visited the Prophet in Pennsylvania, obtained a transcript of the characters, and took it to Professor Charles Anthon of New York City. For an account of what occurred, we have the following statement made by Martin Harris to Joseph Smith:

I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentlemen celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.

He then said to me, "Let me see that certificate." I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, I cannot read a sealed book." I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation. (Joseph Smith 2:64-65.)

This experience apparently convinced Martin Harris that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that he had the gold plates. Thus he later served as a scribe for Joseph Smith during the translation of part of the Plates of Mormon, was privileged to be one of the three special witnesses, and was willing to mortgage his farm to raise money for the first edition of the Book of Mormon.

A Companion To Your Study of The Book of Mormon