Source:James H. Reeves:Palmyra Courier:24 May 1872:Martin Harris "quite skeptical, as well as superstitious"

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Palmyra Courier: Martin Harris was "quite skeptical, as well as superstitious"

One late, hostile reminiscence from Palmyra described Harris as "quite skeptical," but also "superstitious." What qualified Harris as "superstitious"? The author says:

believing in miracles, wonderful dreams, spiritual interposition, special providences, &c.[1]

Thus, Harris' "superstition" comes from his belief in God's ability to reveal things and to act in the present day. This flew in the face of the idea that God had finished speaking or acting. Despite this, however, the hostile source still saw Harris as "quite skeptical." Thus, charges of "superstition" must be seen as a critique of Harris' religion views--that God could and did continue to take an active role in revealing and acting in the present--not an admission that Harris was foolish, or would believe "any old thing."

The same source continued:

Yet only his this [believing Joseph Smith's teachings] was Martin deemed insane; on other subjects he exhibited all of his former clearness of brain; he could drive a good bargain, and manage his farming matters as well as ever....[2]

So, Harris' supposed gullibility applies only to his belief in Mormonism. This is part of what mystified his contemporaries--how could a man so skeptical and worldly-wise in business believe Joseph? But, their confusion demonstrates that Martin was not generally seen as gullible or an easy mark.


Notes

  1. [James H. Reeves], "Old Newspapers--No. 24," Palmyra Courier (24 May 1872); in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:341.
  2. [James H. Reeves], "Old Newspapers--No. 24," Palmyra Courier (24 May 1872); in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:341-342.