Although Martin Harris lost the first 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon during the summer of 1828, he maintained a desire to assist in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. In March 1829, Martin planned to travel from his home in New York to visit Joseph and Emma Smith in Harmony, Pennsylvania. However, Martin’s wife, Lucy Harris, was upset about the time and money her husband was dedicating to the publication of the Book of Mormon. She was also angry with Joseph Smith for having denied her earlier requests to see the gold plates. She filed a legal complaint against Joseph and gathered a number of people who were willing to testify that he had lied about the existence of the plates. In addition to the threat of the lawsuit against Joseph, these people warned Martin Harris that if he did not join them in testifying of Joseph Smith’s alleged deception and fraud, Martin would also be guilty and would join Joseph in prison.
At this time Martin had never seen the gold plates himself, although he had acted as a scribe for Joseph. After traveling to Joseph’s home, Martin expressed his desire to receive a further witness of the reality of the gold plates. After Joseph listened to Martin’s request to see the plates, he inquired of the Lord and received the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 5. In this revelation the Lord declared that three witnesses would be called to testify of the Book of Mormon and informed Martin of what he must do to qualify to become one of these witnesses.
Have you ever been asked to be a witness? What does it take to become an expert witness? Is there some event in world history that you would like to have witnessed personally? Is there any event in Church history that you would like to have seen or witnessed? Why?
In the introduction to this lesson you learned that Martin Harris desired to see the gold plates. Have you ever felt a desire to see the gold plates? Why?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:1–3, and look for how the Lord told Joseph Smith to answer Martin Harris’s request. According to these verses, why couldn’t Joseph Smith show Martin Harris the plates?
Have you ever wondered why the Lord has not allowed the gold plates to be displayed before the world? President Joseph Fielding Smith explained at least one reason why people would desire to see the plates: “Frequently when [people] … hear the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, they ask if the plates are in some museum where they may be seen. Some of them with some scientific training [suggest] that if the scholars could see and examine the plates and learn to read them, they would then bear witness to the truth of the Book of Mormon and the veracity of Joseph Smith, and the whole world would then be converted” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 1:40).
As you read Doctrine and Covenants 5:5–10, look for why the Lord told Joseph Smith not to display the plates before the world.
According to Doctrine and Covenants 5:7, those who did not believe the Lord’s words revealed through Joseph Smith would not believe even if they were to see the plates.
Based on what you have learned from Doctrine and Covenants 5:5–10, write a couple of sentences in your scripture study journal about why the Lord did not want Joseph Smith to display the plates before the world.
From Doctrine and Covenants 5:10 we learn that the Lord called Joseph Smith to deliver His word to the world. This was a calling unique to the Prophet Joseph Smith. You may want to mark the words that teach this truth in Doctrine and Covenants 5:10.
Write in your scripture study journal why you think it is important to have a testimony of this truth.
Before this revelation was received, Martin Harris was called before a judge in New York to testify concerning the charges of deception and fraud against Joseph Smith. Martin boldly testified of Joseph Smith’s honesty and character and told the court: “As to the plates which he professes to have, gentlemen, if you do not believe it, but continue to resist the truth, it will one day be the means of damning your souls” (in Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 146). After hearing Martin’s testimony, the judge dismissed the case against Joseph Smith.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:11, and look for what the Lord said He would do to support the Prophet Joseph Smith’s testimony of the Book of Mormon. From this verse we learn that the Lord declared that the testimony of the Three Witnesses will stand as evidence of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:11–15, looking for what the Three Witnesses would hear, see, and be charged to do. As you read, you may want to mark what you discover.
Write your thoughts about the following questions in your scripture study journal:
How could the testimony of three additional witnesses of the Book of Mormon plates be helpful to someone who is not a member of the Church?
How could this truth be helpful for someone who is a member of the Church?
In addition to directing Joseph Smith and the Three Witnesses to bear testimony, the Lord provided another means by which we can know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:16, and look for what the Lord promised those who believe in the Book of Mormon.
Based on what you read, complete the following truth: If we will believe on the Lord’s words, . (You also may want to write the completed principle in your scriptures near verse 16.)
President Ezra Taft Benson spoke of our individual responsibility to gain and share a witness of the Book of Mormon: “We each need to get our own testimony of the Book of Mormon through the Holy Ghost. Then our testimony, coupled with the Book of Mormon, should be shared with others so that they, too, can know through the Holy Ghost of its truthfulness” (“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 84).
Write one or both of the following in your scripture study journal:
Your own testimony of the Book of Mormon
What you can do to gain or strengthen your witness that the Book of Mormon is true
Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:21–22, replacing the name “Joseph” with your own name. Ponder how you can avoid yielding “to the persuasions of men.”
What did the Lord promise that Joseph Smith would receive if he would be faithful, even if he was “slain”?
What is necessary to make a lightbulb work?
In addition to electricity, we would need to put the lightbulb in a lamp, plug in the lamp, and then turn on the lamp. Just as there are several steps to lighting a lightbulb, Martin Harris learned that there would be several steps to receiving the witness of the plates he desired from the Lord.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:23–24, and identify the conditional promise the Lord gave to Martin Harris. As you read, look for the word if and identify the several steps or conditions that follow that word. Complete the following statement based on what you read: If Martin Harris will , then the Lord will grant him a view of the plates as he desired. Through this promise, the Lord was offering Martin Harris the opportunity to be a witness of the Book of Mormon.
The promise that the Lord gave to Martin Harris in Doctrine and Covenants 5:24 also applies to us: If we sincerely pray in humility and faith, then we can receive answers according to our righteous desires.
Ponder what it means to pray in humility, faith, and sincerity. Think about when you have heard or offered a prayer that you felt was offered in this way. What made this prayer different from other prayers you have heard or offered?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 5:25–26, and look for what the Lord expected Martin Harris to do after he became a witness to the Book of Mormon. Then read Doctrine and Covenants 5:27–28, 32, and look for additional counsel and warnings that the Lord gave to Martin Harris.
In your scripture study journal, answer the following questions:
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 5 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: