Immediately after publishing the Book of Mormon in 1830, Joseph
received a revelation that Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery were
to go to Toronto, Canada to sell the copyright of the Book
of Mormon. They failed to do so, (partly because the revelation
sent them to the wrong town) and upon their return, accused
Joseph Smith of falsely prophesying.
"Joseph looked into the hat in which
he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some
of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they
would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Hiram
Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission,
but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning
without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when
they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to
these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John
Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery
returned from Canada."
" Well, we were all in great trouble;
and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation
from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell
the copyright, and the brethren had utterly failed in their
undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired
of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation
came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some
revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the
devil." So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and
sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil
or of the heart of man."
- David Witmer, AN
ADDRESS TO ALL BELIEVERS IN CHRIST, 1887
So why did Joseph Smith try selling
the Book of Mormon copyright?
"Joseph Capron wrote that Smith hoped his
volume would "relieve the family from all pecuniary embarrassment."
There is evidence from Mormon sources to confirm Capron's
recollections. Smith himself admitted in his unpublished
history that "he sought the plates to obtain riches."
Hyrum Smith wrote to his grandfather, Asael, that he believed
that service to the Lord would bring the family their
long-awaited prosperity. In October 1829, Joseph wrote
excitedly to Oliver Cowdery that Josiah Stowell had a chance
to obtain five or six hundred dollars and that he was going
to buy copies of the Book of Mormon. Lucy Mack Smith said
that when it was finally published in March 1830 the family
had to sell copies of the book to buy food."
"The economic situation of the Smith families
was so desperate at this time that Joseph tried to sell
the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page wrote with
bitterness years later that the prophet heard he could sell
the copyright of any useful book in Canada and that he then
received a revelation that "this would be a good opportunity
to get a handsome sum." Page explained that once expenses
were met the profits were to be "for the exclusive benefit
of the Smith family and was to be at the disposal of Joseph."
Page indicated that they hoped to get $8,000 for the copyright
and that they traveled to Canada covertly to prevent Martin
Harris from sharing in the dividend. Smith evidently believed
that Harris was well enough off while his own family was
destitute. When Page, Cowdery, and Knight arrived at Kingston,
Ontario, they found no buyer. Martin Harris apparently learned
of what was done, and Joseph guaranteed him in writing
that he would share in any profits made from the subsequent
sales of the book. In the spring of 1830 Harris walked
the streets of Palmyra, trying to sell as many copies of
the new scripture as he could. Shortly after Joseph Smith
and Jesse Knight saw him in the road with books in his hand,
he told them "the books will not sell for nobody wants them."
- Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge, p.20-21