South Park retells
the crucial story of Joseph Smith and Martin Harris losing
the first Book of Mormon manuscript. In the South Park version,
Martin Harris takes the first 116 pages of the manuscript
to his wife and explains how they plan to publish it as
Lucy Harris is skeptical. She suspects that Smith is “just
making stuff up and pretending he’s translating off
gold plates.” To prove her point, Lucy takes the 116
pages from Harris and tells him that if Smith really is
translating from gold plates, then he should have “no
problem” re-translating the plates again and coming
up with a matching manuscript.
Martin Harris agrees to the test, and reassures his wife
that Smith will have no problem reproducing the 116 pages.
Harris returns to Smith and tells him the manuscript is
lost, Joseph Smith receives a revelation that “the
Lord is very angry at me for letting you take those pages.”
The Lord is so mad, Smith explains, that the Lord will never
let him translate from the same part of the golden plates.
Instead, the golden plates happen to have the same story
written on different plates by someone else. “So it
will be the same basic story,” Smith explains, “but
written a little differently.” Martin Harris concludes
that “God got angry with you then you must be telling
the truth.” It’s funny, but it does leave out
some historical elements.
with, Martin Harris took the 116-page manuscript to Manchester
New York and did not contact Joseph Smith who was living
in Harmony Pensylvania. According to Church History, this
was a critical time for Joseph Smith. His first wife, Emma,
had just given birth to a stillborn baby boy that was horribly
deformed. Smith was nursing Emma back to health himself,
as she was still bed-ridden. Since Smith hadn't heard from
Martin Harris in two weeks, Smith was getting anxious.
decided to leave Emma in Harmony and travel to Manchester,
NY in order to see Martin Harris and find out what had happened.
Smith started out traveling by stagecoach, but walked the
last twenty miles alone in the middle of the night!
to Smith's mother, Lucy Smith, when Joseph reached Martin’s
house, Martin broke down and told Smith the 116 pages were
lost. Martin cried, "Oh I have lost my soul!"
and Joseph Smith replied, "Oh my God! All is lost!
Must I return to my wife with such a tale as this I dare
not do it lest I should kill her at once." (Lucy
Smith History, 365-365)
thereafter, Smith received his first revelation written
down – now known as Section 3 of the Doctrine and
Covenants. Until that point, Smith had only claimed to be
the translator of an ancient record. But at that moment
he took the step from translator to prophet - a man who
speaks the words of God. From that point on, Smith started
writing revelations, not just translations. As we see in
D&C Section 3, the 116 pages were truly lost and God
would not tell Smith where they were.
revelation regarding what to do next, Smith wrote that the
Lord said "if you should bring forth the same words
they will say that you have lied and that you have pretended
to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself. And,
behold, they will publish this, and Satan will harden the
hearts of the people to stir them up to anger against you,
that they will not believe my words." (D&C
Smith was commanded not to go back and re-translate the
Book of Lehi from the gold plates, but to skip to the Plates
of Nephi, which happened to be an account of the same story,
but from a different person’s perspective. Thus, the
Book of Mormon story could be told but it would not match
the same version as the first 116-page manuscript, because
it would be a translation from different plates. (See
Official History of the Church 1:56).
the interests of time, South Park shows Joseph Smith immediately
going back to translating the Book of Mormon and with Martin
Harris again acting as scribe. Nothing could be further
from the truth! After the lost manuscript fiasco, Joseph
Smith did not go back and start work on the Book of Mormon
again for seven months. When he finally did go back to work
on the Book of Mormon, Martin Harris did not act as scribe.
you can see, most of the elements of the South Park depiction
of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are as true as they
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