Who stole the Lost Pages of the Book of Mormon? Up to now, suspicion has been squarely laid at the feet of Lucy Harris, Martin’s wife. Historian Don Bradley believes that Lucy is innocent of the charge. How does he come to that conclusion?
Don: Lucy Harris was a very devout Quaker. She also was someone who really tended to speak her mind. She had a reputation for being combative. She’s not somebody who tended to slink around, lie, do things behind people’s back and hide them. She was very forthright, and she was very devout in her Quaker beliefs. For her to say before God, on her death bed, which is what the account says, that she didn’t know what happened to the manuscript gives us pretty good reason to believe that she didn’t know what happened to the manuscript. Someone who was completely convinced by this was Martin Harris. So even though they had been estranged for eight years, Martin Harris was no stranger to the fact that his wife had become an enemy to Mormonism. She was certainly an antagonist to him. She was a combative person. She had her faults, but he could not bring himself to believe, when he found out she said this on her deathbed, that she had lied on her deathbed about this as she’s about to meet God. He couldn’t believe it. So he then completely abandons the view for the rest of his life that Lucy Harris had anything to do with the theft. Recall, he never thought she burned the manuscript.
Don further explains how the story about her burning the manuscript came about decades later. (By the way, here is a link to Don’s book on Amazon.)
If Lucy Harris didn’t burn the lost manuscript, who stole it? Historian Don Bradley thinks a big suspect might have been an extended member of the Harris family. What else does he know?
Don: It turns out, for instance, the Harris’s had a son-in-law who was a con man. He was a swindler. His name was Flanders Dike. Flanders Dike came from an entire family of swindlers. Two years after the manuscript disappeared, Flanders Dike is mentioned in a newspaper article saying he has skipped town. He’s left Palmyra, with about $1,000 of other people’s goods and money. There’s another notice in the paper several years later saying he’s escaped from jail after doing similar shenanigans again. There are accounts of other swindles carried out by various [relatives] like his father and his brothers. Lucy Mack Smith gives an account in her memoir, saying that Flanders Dike, at one time before the manuscript disappeared, he stole the Anthon transcript temporarily. So, this guy had already stolen documents, other documents associated with the coming fourth of the Book of Mormon. Then just four months later, the Book of Mormon manuscript goes missing. Why wouldn’t we suspect this guy?
I was also surprised to find out that Martin Harris missed his daughter’s wedding because he was helping Joseph translate the Book of Mormon! Did you know that? It explains why Martin was so insistent on showing the manuscript to his family. Do you think Lucy burned the manuscript? Are you open to other suspects, such as money diggers?