Martin Harris' dying words on July 10, 1875, as recorded by his friends, William Pilkington and William H. Homer, were: "Yes, 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 know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, holding the keys of the Holy Priesthood."
Today, 114 years later, his testimony is being repeated through the historical musical play, "Martin Harris, the Man Who Knew."The annual production is staged at the Martin Harris Memorial Amphitheater here, just 100 feet from the grave of Harris, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Now in its seventh consecutive year, the pageant opened Aug. 18 and is scheduled for performances on Aug. 19 and 22-25.
Rhett S. James, author and creator of the play, said capacity audiences are expected each night in the 2,300-seat amphitheater. After this year, he said, more than 100,000 will have seen the play.
"The testimony of Martin Harris has been passed on by a generation who heard him personally, by a second generation who heard those who knew him, and now by the Church pageant," James pointed out.
"Periodically, attempts have been made to discredit Martin Harris' testimony and the work of Joseph Smith of whom he bore witness. The pageant reflects the most recent historical research on the life of Martin Harris, confirming that Harris was ever faithful to his witness as recorded in the front of the Book of Mormon."
James said research shows Brigham Young and George Albert Smith both stated Martin Harris was never officially excommunicated from the Church. "Harris, however, owned up to having been critical of Joseph Smith over the policies of the Kirtland Safety Society, which failure, as it turned out, was not due to the Prophet.
"Martin Harris came to Utah not seeking position in the Church, but to be reunited with his family," James related. "He was warmly received by Brigham Young and the Church, who invited him to recount his experiences with Joseph Smith and the publication of the Book of Mormon. He traveled throughout Utah bearing witness: `I heard the voice of God. I did see the angel. I saw and held the golden plates. The Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith is the true prophet of the Almighty God.' "
Harris' union with the saints in Utah was joyous, James said, adding that the residents of Clarkston and Smithfield in northern UtahT loved him, and that he was a "born missionary," given to making friends with non-Mormons.
"Harris was in good health and vigorous when he arrived in Utah and continued reaching out to all, bearing testimony of what he had seen and heard," the pageant author commented.
In light of his life and subsequent events, this statement from Harris' patriarchal blessing, given by Joseph Smith Sr. on Aug. 27, 1835, and quoted by James with permission from the Martin Harris Family Organization, is prophetic: "Thy mind shall be enlarged, and thy testimony shall yet convince its thousands and its tens of thousands; yea it shall shine like the sun, and though the wicked seek to overthrow it, it shall be in vain, for the Lord God shall bear it off victorious."