An other of our co-posts with Kurt Manwaring is here. This is 10 Questions with Susan Easton Black. Black has written some great books over the years and contributed a lot to apologetics as well. I’ve given friends many copies of her 400 Questions and Answers about the Book of Mormon. It’s a great entry to get people thinking about the Book of Mormon and answering some basic questions. However her publishing history is pretty huge and well worth checking out. Her most recent book is Martin Harris: Uncompromising Witness of the Book of Mormon written along with Larry Porter. (Sadly not available in a Kindle edition for some reason) She’s an emeritus professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU and is an instructor at the Utah Valley Institute of Religion.
Regarding the difficulties of writing a biography on Harris.
There were several significant obstacles in writing the biography of Martin Harris. Martin didn’t keep a journal and he didn’t write his memoirs or any autobiographical material. Trying to pull his life together from newspapers, journals of those who wrote about him, land transactions, etc., left many gaping holes in research.
What I had hoped would be a writing project that would be finished within a few years went on for about 15 years. When I was ready to pronounce a chapter done, Larry would say, “Just one more inch.” That inch stretched out to fill a 500-page biography on Martin Harris.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is wonderful and represents original documents, for the most part, held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We began our research efforts long before there was ever a Joseph Smith Papers Project. Due to the Joseph Smith Papers Project after most of our chapters had been written, we reread and resourced the biography where necessary. Having original manuscripts to compare and contrast with our work proved most valuable.
Regarding Harris and people’s preconceptions.
This biography reveals the compelling story of a man who struggled to keep his faith in the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ when family and friends turned against him. It tells of a businessman whose fascination with worldly honors, flirtations with apostasy, and pride nearly cost him the joy of his later years in the west.
If readers will set aside their preconceived notion about the flawed character of Martin Harris, they will discover in the text insights about this Book of Mormon witness not found elsewhere.
Too often when we think of Martin Harris we think of the lost 116 pages. At one point I wanted to title the biography, “More Than a Lost Manuscript.”