Among the items in our collection of the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are several which deal directly with the testimony of Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Among those are the Joseph Hunter Journal and the statement of William Harrison Homer regarding Harris’ Testimony during his final days.

The Journal of Joseph Hunter (1833-1885) contains entries covering the years 1866-1884.  A native of England, Hunter was baptized a member of the Church on February 12, 1854. He married Isabella Sanders on September 10, 1854, and they were the parents of six children. The family emigrated to America in 1866, and resided for three years in Illinois, working in a mine, before taking the train to Utah Territory.  They settled in Farmington, Utah, and Joseph found employment as a general workman with Union Pacific Railroad for whom he worked for the remainder of his life. The Hunters moved to Woods Cross, Utah in 1872, and to Smithfield, Utah in 1874.

Joseph Hunter’s Journal records the day to day aspects of his work–laying and repairing railroad track, putting in cattle guards, clearing weeds, etc.  However, the heart of his journal carries entries having to do with his faith and civic responsibilities as a member of his communities. For someone who wanted to better understand how early Mormon settlements functioned and how one’s faith contributed to the development of these settlements, Joseph Hunter’s Journal is a treasure.  

A few examples of these entries include:

“Sunday, August 29, 1869:  A general fast & prayer day in Cache Valley for the Lord to turn away the grasshoppers.
Sunday, September 5, 1869:  Got to Logan attended morning meeting in the Bowery. Heard Elder [Charles W.] Penrose deliver a discourse on the death of Elder Benson.  Afternoon, heard of the Twelve, Elders Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Brigham Young, Jr., Franklin D. Richards & Bishop Maughn of Logan.  E.T. Benson was buried today at Logan.

Sunday, October 9, 1870:  Attended 
General Conference with Isabella, my wife.  In the New Tabernacle heard John Taylor, one of the Twelve.  Martin Harris bore his testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon & also that an angel of the Lord laid the plates before the witnesses.  Presidents Young & {George A.]  Smith spoke also on the same subject….”
William Harrison Homer (1845-1932) in a typed four page statement signed in the presence of John A. Widtsoe, covering the final days of the life of Martin Harris (1783-1875) one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, wrote:

“Martin Harris had been unconscious for a number of days.  When we first entered the room the old gentleman appeared to be sleeping.  He soon woke up and asked for a drink of water. I put my arm under the old gentleman, raised him, and my mother held the glass to his lips.  He drank freely, then he looked up at me and recognized me.  He said, ‘I know you. You are my friend.’  He said, ‘I did see the plates on which the Book of Mormon was written; I did see the Angel; I did hear the voice of God; and I do know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, holding the keys to the Holy Priesthood.’  

This was the end.  Martin Harris, divinely–chosen witness of the work of God, relaxed, gave up my hand he lay back on his pillow, and just as the sun went down behind the Clarkston [Utah] mountains, the soul of Martin Harris passed on.  When Martin Harris, Jr., and his wife returned to the house they found that their father had passed away; but in his passing, Martin Harris, favored of God, repeated an irrefutable testimony of the divine inspiration and the prophetic genius of the great Prophet Joseph Smith.”