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Charles Anthon

Rosetta Stone discovered.
Marin Harris claims that Prof. Charles Anthon certified the accuracy of Joseph Smith’s translation of Egyptian characters. Prof. Anthon denies.
Book of Mormon published.
English translation of Rosetta Stone completed.

In February 1828, Joseph Smith claimed he copied characters from the Book of Mormon’s gold plates and gave them to Martin Harris, so he could have them inspected by Professor Charles Anthon, a respected classical scholar at Columbia College in New York.

Sometime in this month of February, the aforementioned Mr. Martin Harris came to our place, got the characters which I had drawn off the plates, and started with them to the city of New York.

Joseph Smith

— Joseph Smith

Mormonism founder
Joseph Smith—History 1:63

Martin Harris Charles Anthon

I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. 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, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him. He then said to me, 'Let me see that certificate.' I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, 'I cannot read a sealed book.' I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation.

The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be "reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics" is perfectly false.

Some years ago, a plain, and apparently simple-hearted farmer, called upon me... requesting me to decypher, if possible, a paper....

Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax....

The farmer added, that he had been requested to contribute a sum of money towards the publication of the "golden book," the contents of which would, as he had been assured, produce an entire change in the world and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these solicitations, that he intended selling his farm and handing over the amount received to those who wished to publish the plates. As a last precautionary step, however, he had resolved to come to New York, and obtain the opinion of the learned about the meaning of the paper which he brought with him....

On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax upon the learned, I began to regard it as part of a scheme to *cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving....

The paper contained any thing else but "Egyptian Hieroglyphics."

Martin Harris

— Martin Harris

Book of Mormon witness
Joseph Smith—History 1:64-65

Prof. Charles Anthon

— Charles Anthon

Columbia University
Letter to E.D. Howe, Esq., Painseville, Ohio

The Prophet 1844 Broadside

1844 broadside in the LDS newspaper The Prophet promoting the Book of Mormon characters shown to Professor Charles Anthon. The newspapers’ editors include Mormon apostles William Smith and Parley P. Pratt.


Martin Harris, who financed the first printing of the Book of Mormon, had a personal interest in its success. Meanwhile, Joseph Smith needed to establish that his book was a genuine ancient record to support his claim of being divinely chosen—to translate and ultimately restore Christianity. The fact that Joseph’s church promoted the story of Professor Anthon’s alleged endorsement exposes how unscrupulous the founders of the LDS church were.

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Mark Hoffman
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