Martin's Beliefs Before Mormonism

CES Letter Core Question

Did Martin join 5 religions before joining the church?

Before Harris became a Mormon, he had already changed his religion at least five times.

CES Letter, Page 90

Historical evidence only shows Martin to have been a Methodist and a Universalist. Above all, he was a religious seeker.

Palmyra sources do not prove that Martin was a Quaker, though his wife probably was, and there is no evidence yet associates Martin with the Baptist or Presbyterian churches.

In one autobiography, Martin Harris indicated that “I was inspired of the Lord and taught of the Spirit that I should not join any church, although I was anxiously sought for by many of the sectarians.” 

This is an old charge from one of the earliest anti-Mormon works. Richard L. Anderson noted:

The arithmetic of Martin's five religious changes before Mormonism is also faulty. The claim comes from the hostile Palmyra affidavits published by E. D. Howe; G. W. Stoddard closed his in sarcasm against Martin Harris: "He was first an orthodox Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationer, then a Baptist, next a Presbyterian, and then a Mormon."[1] Palmyra sources do not yet prove that Martin was a Quaker, though his wife probably was.[2] And no evidence yet associates Martin with the Baptist or Presbyterian churches. Note that the other two names are religious positions, not necessarily churches—philosophical Universalists dissent from traditional churches in believing that God will save all, and Restorationists obviously take literally the many Bible prophecies of God's reestablished work in modern times. An early Episcopal minister in Palmyra interviewed Martin and reduced his five positions to two: "He had been, if I mistake not, at one period a member of the Methodist Church, and subsequently had identified himself with the Universalists."[3] Of course Martin could have been a Universalist and Restorationer simultaneously. This view fits what other Palmyra sources say about Martin Harris. In the slanted words of Pomeroy Tucker, who knew him personally, "He was a religious monomaniac, reading the Scriptures intently, and could probably repeat from memory nearly every text of the Bible from beginning to end, chapter and verse in each case."[4]

These charges are simply ad hominem--to deny Harris' testimony because of beliefs he had prior to the restoration.


Additional resources:

Martin Harris had five religions prior to MormonismSome claim that Martin Harris was unstable or flighty because he had five religions prior to the Church’s restoration.

"Martin Harris: Mormonism's Early Convert", by Ron Walker

Tangible Restoration: The Eye Witnesses of The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon Witnesses: Evidence for The Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 1: Motives (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 2: Oliver Cowdery (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 3: Martin Harris (PDF) by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon Witnesses, Part 4: David Whitmer (PFD) by Michael Ash

Explaining Away the Book of Mormon Witnesses (2004 FAIR Conference) by Richard L. Anderson

Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced (PDF) (2006 FAIR Conference) by Daniel C. Peterson

The Cowdery Controversies (PDF) (2007 FAIR Conference) by Larry Morris

The Testimony of Eight by Scott Gordon

Faith and Reason 39: Hidden Records, Michael R. Ash

Faith and Reason 7: Book of Mormon Witnesses, Michael R. Ash

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses, Martin Tanner

Mormon FAIR-Cast 150: The Apostasy of the Witnesses,

The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project and Mary Whitmer Witness to the Gold Plates by Royal Skousen

pt 1 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

pt 2 Book of Mormon Witnesses and the Restoration

pt 1, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 2, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 3, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 4, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address

pt 5, Tangible Restoration: The Witnesses and What They Experienced 2006 FAIR Conference address