LDS Book of Mormon Copyright

 
      MAIN MENU

 

 

 




Why did Joseph Smith try selling the Book of Mormon copyright?


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 Smith himself admitted in his unpublished history that "he sought the plates to obtain riches."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




Top of Page | Home Page | Mormon Biographies | E-Mail

Copyright www.think-link.org, all rights reserved.
Terms of Use