I remember how dark it was, late one night, when a strange man came to our home desiring to hire a boy to go and live with him for a year. My family had immigrated to Utah from England a short time earlier, and I was still a lad yet to be 14. But after agreeing on a wage of a two-year-old heifer and board and clothes, I was obliged to kiss my family goodbye and go with him. It was this dark night that I learned of how the wonderful light of God and His works and purposes cannot be frustrated by the dark designs of the devil and wicked men.
Do you need a little more?
Then I shall go to bed.
This is where you will sleep. We'll start at sun up. Good night.
[COUGHING] What is your name? William Pilkington. I'll call you Willie. You're an immigrant? Yes, sir, from England.
Are you a Mormon? Yes, sir, and my family as well. Have you ever read the Book of Mormon?
Yes, sir. Well, if you have ever read the Book of Mormon, tell me, what is the first reading in the preface of the book that we find?
The first reading is the testimony of the three men testifying before the world that it is true. Can you tell me those three men's names?
Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin--Martin Harris it was. My young friend, I am Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I was the first to render my services as a scribe to Joseph and the work of translating the book.
And it was I who was the cause of the circumstance of the 116 pages being lost and never found.
The lost manuscript.
Indeed, the lost manuscript.
Joseph. She's threatened to put me out of the house. We've already asked the Lord twice. And the answer is-- I know the answer, but know it is not going to satisfy my wife and family's doubts about this work.
I've got to convince them that I'm not wasting my time and means if I'm to continue.
I will ask once more.
Both he and the Lord having grown weary of my pleas, I was allowed to take the manuscript at Joseph's and my own peril.
You understand, I gave my solemn oath that I would show them to none other than my wife and four family members as were designated by God.
Indeed, I gave my solemn oath.
Martin, Martin, have you lost that manuscript?
Have you broken your oath?
Yes. It is gone.
All is lost.
I should have been satisfied with the first answer. I've lost my soul. I've lost my soul.
The Prophet suffered the torment of the damned at the loss of the manuscript, one of the most bitter lessons he would learn. Because I had pressed him, he set at naught the counsels of God. The Lord later soundly rebuked him for having feared men more than God.
It wasn't until later revelation that Joseph learned the true fate of the lost manuscript. It seemed the devil had sought to lay a cunning plan. He had put it into the hearts of wicked men who altered the writings of the manuscript to see if God would give Joseph the power to translate again. If he did retranslate the same words, they would have already altered those of the first translation so that the two manuscripts would not agree, and they would say that Joseph had lied, that he had no gift. Thereby, they sought to destroy him and also the work. But Brother Harris, what happened then? The wicked men, the Book of Mormon, other things missing?
A revelation to Joseph tells us that the works and the designs and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, for the wisdom of God is greater than the cunning of the devil.
And with it, God had prepared for just such a circumstance. Many centuries earlier, the historian-prophet Nephi was directed to engrave not one but two accounts of his people upon plates of metal. "The Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose which I know not. But the Lord knoweth all things, wherefore he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works." A thousand years later, the Lord would rely upon the prophet Mormon to make an abridged version of all the sacred records of the Nephites.
I searched among the records and I found these small plates. I shall take these small plates and put them with the remainder of my record. And I do this for a wise purpose according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things. But the Lord knoweth all things which are to come, wherefore He worketh in me to do according to His will. And thus, the words of the manuscript that went out of our hands were never redone. After that, Joseph was told in revelation to translate from these small plates instead, thereby thwarting the plans of the wicked men.
But I was never permitted to write for the Prophet anymore.
Oliver Cowdery did the rest of that.
Do you still believe that the Book of Mormon is true?
Just as sure as you see the sun shining, just as sure am I that it is a divine work brought forth by the power of God.
Remember, Willie, always put your trust in God and His promises, as it is not His work that is frustrated but only the works of men.
When God makes promises to us, He is able to fulfill them.
And He will fulfill them.
Neither mortal man nor the devil can prevent the light of the Lord's works and purposes and designs from shining through.
Such was the lesson I learned from Martin Harris himself.