While the Book of Mormon was still in translation, Harris asked Joseph to allow him to take some of the writings home, 116 pages, and show them to members of his family, who were skeptical of Smith and the plates. The History of the Church records:
Sometime after Mr. Harris had begun to write for me, he began to importune me to give him liberty to carry the writings home and show them; and desired of me that I would inquire of the Lord, through the Urim and Thummim, if he might not do so. I did inquire, and the answer was that he must not. However, he was not satisfied with this answer, and desired that I should inquire again. I did so, and the answer was as before. Still he could not be contented, but insisted that I should inquire once more. After much solicitation I again inquired of the Lord, and permission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions; which were, that he show them only to his brother, Preserved Harris, his own wife, his father and his mother, and a Mrs. Cobb, a sister to his wife. In accordance with this last answer, I required of him that he should bind himself in a covenant to me in a most solemn manner that he would not do otherwise than had been directed. He did so. He bound himself as I required of him, took the writings, and went his way. Notwithstanding, however, the great restrictions which he had been laid under, and the solemnity of the covenant which he had made with me, he did show them to others, and by stratagem they got them away from him, and they never have been recovered unto this day. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Volume 1, pages 20-21)
After, Martin Harris lost these pages, Joseph Smith, as a punishment for his disobedience, lost the ability to translate and to receive revelations from God for a time. After a while, the Lord spoke to him again, explained what had happened to the 116 pages, and gave him instructions as to how he should proceed (Doctrine and Covenants Section 10):
10. And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.
11. And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;
12. And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work;
13. For he hath put it into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate.
14. Verily, I say unto you, that I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing.
15. For behold, he has put it into their hearts to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God in asking to translate it over again.
16. And then, behold, they say and think in their hearts—We will see if God has given him power to translate; if so, he will also give him power again;
17. And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them;
18. Therefore they will not agree, and we will say that he has lied in his words, and that he has no gift, and that he has no power:
19. Therefore we will destroy him, and also the work; and we will do this that we may not be ashamed in the end, and that we may get glory of the world.
29. Now, behold, they have altered these words, because Satan saith unto them; He hath deceived you—and thus he flattereth them away to do iniquity, to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God.
30. Behold, I say unto you, that you shall not translate again those words which have gone forth out of your hands;
31. For, behold, they shall not accomplish their evil designs in lying against those words. For, behold, if you should bring forth the same words they will say that you have lied and that you have pretended to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself.
32. And, behold, they will publish this, and Satan will harden the hearts of the people to stir them up to anger against you, that they will not believe my words.
In summary, Martin Harris wanted to show the translated pages to family and friends. Joseph Smith asked the Lord, and the Lord said, “No.” Martin Harris kept pestering Joseph, and Joseph asked the Lord again, and he said, “No” again. After the third request (I think that I would not have kept pushing the point, but some people won´t take no for an answer, even from God), the Lord decided to teach Joseph and Martin a lesson, one which Joseph shared with the rest of us and to which we would be wise to pay attention. He let them have what they wanted.
As a result, Joseph lost his ability to translate for awhile, But as the Lord explained, He was in charge, and would not allow His work to be destroyed. He told Joseph that the men who stole the pages had altered them, and that if he re-translated them, they would show the altered pages, and claim that they proved that Joseph Smith was not really a prophet. On the other hand, by not re-translating, there would be some upset people, some even claiming that if he really was a prophet, he could re-translate them exactly as before. An important decision had to be made, one that appeared to be lose-lose. But, the Lord was in control, nothing was re-translated, and yet none of the important teachings were lost.
So, what exactly does this incident have to do with the situation the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints finds itself in today? How does it apply to homosexuality and homosexual marriage, and women receiving the priesthood?
Stay tuned for my upcoming post, as we see how the Church is having it´s modern-day 116-page moment.