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“When Martin arrived in New York City, he went to see Charles Anthon, a professor of Latin and Greek at Columbia College. Professor Anthon was a young man—about fifteen years younger than Martin—and was ​best known for publishing a popular encyclopedia on Greek and Roman culture. He had also begun collecting stories about American Indians.

“Anthon was a rigid scholar who resented interruptions, but he welcomed Martin and studied the characters and translation Joseph had provided. Although the professor did not know Egyptian, he had read some studies on the language and knew what it looked like. Looking at the characters, he saw some similarities with Egyptian and told Martin the translation was correct.”

Saints: The Standard of Truth 1815-1846 – Volume 1 (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, January 2018), 46-47.

The reliability of any claim made by Martin Harris can be quickly discounted based on first-hand accounts of his nature. Though he was no doubt sincere, he was also a religious fanatic, and apparently, a philanderer as well. In fact, in 1838, Joseph Smith had this to say about Martin, as well as other early giants in Mormonism…

“Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.”

Joseph Smith, Jr. – 16 December 1838/Liberty Jail, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Volume 3 (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1973), 232.

Martin was the first of this group to be excommunicated in December of 1837.

Notice the emphasis “Saints” places on Professor Anthon’s academic focus: “a professor of Latin and Greek.” Then, in the same paragraph: “[He] was best known for publishing a popular encyclopedia on Greek and Roman culture.” The reason for highlighting this is to give the reader a false sense of security in thinking perhaps Anthon wasn’t the best judge of either Native America writing (he only collected a few “stories about” them), or Egyptian (which no one was at the time). Thus, giving the faithful the confidence that although he was educated, he really wouldn’t know much about these characters. Which begs the question, “Who could? There is no evidence of ‘Reformed Egyptian’ on the planet!”

From the Pearl of Great Price:

“Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket.”

Joseph Smith – History 1, Pearl of Great Price (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2021 on-line edition), 64.

Note: This reference states, “he said that they were Egyptian” yet in “Saints” the new narrative is “the professor did not know Egyptian.”

Evidently, Martin Harris approached a man named “Samuel L. Mitchill” prior to his visit with Charles Anthon (not the other way around as Martin claimed), and wasn’t satisfied with his evaluation. Dr. Anthon felt obliged to entertain Martin since he held a referral from Mitchill. The referral would be critical since Anthon “was a rigid scholar who resented interruptions.” Anthon smelled a rat from the beginning.

A man of Dr. Anthon’s respectability would obviously react with a description of the real circumstances, since the church was making the false claim that he acknowledged the authenticity of the language:

“The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be ‘reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics’ is perfectly false… Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax… This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained any thing else but ‘Egyptian Hieroglyphics.’

Dr. Charles Anthon – New York, 17 February 1834, E.D. Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, OH, Self-Published, 1834), 270-272.


“[A] plain looking countryman [Martin Harris] called upon me with a letter from Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell [sic] requesting me to examine, and give my opinion upon, a certain paper, marked with various characters, which the Doctor confessed he could not decipher, and which the bearer of the note was very anxious to have explained. A very brief examination of the paper convinced me that it was a mere hoax, and a very clumsy one too. The characters [which could not have been the ‘caractors’ we’ve been taught about] were arranged in columns, like the Chinese mode of writing, and presented the most singular medley that I ever beheld. Greek, Hebrew, and all sorts of letters, more or less distorted, either through unskilfulness [sic], or from actual design, were intermingled with sundry delineations of half moons, stars, and other natural objects, and the whole ended in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac. The conclusion was irresistible, that some cunning fellow had prepared the paper in question for the purpose of imposing upon the countryman who brought it, and I told the man so without any hesitation…

“On my telling the bearer of the paper that an attempt had been made to impose on him, and defraud him of his property, he requested me to give him my opinion in writing about the paper which he had shown to me. I did so without any hesitation, partly for the man’s sake, and partly to let the individual “behind the curtain” see that his trick was discovered. The import of what I wrote was, as far as I can now recollect, simply this, that the marks in the paper appeared to be merely an imitation of various alphabetical characters, and had, in my opinion, no meaning at all connected with them. The countryman then took his leave, with many thanks, and with the express declaration that he would in no shape part with his farm or embark in the speculation of printing the golden book.”

Dr. Charles Anthon – 3 April 1841, in John Clark’s Gleanings by the Way (Philadelphia, PA: W.J. & J.K. Simon, 1842), 233, *235-236.

RE-rewrite: “When Martin arrived in New York, he visited Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill, who *declined giving any opinion about the matter, but gave a letter of referral to visit Dr. Charles Anthon, a professor of Latin and Greek at Columbia College. Anthon was a rigid scholar who resented interruptions, but he welcomed Martin and studied the characters and translation Joseph had provided. Dr. Anthon immediately dismissed the writings as a hoax and warned Martin to avoid financing the Book of Mormon.”