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Divided by a blanket or “thick curtain”

By Bill McKeever

Note: The following was originally printed in the April 2024 edition of MRM Update, a special edition given to supporters of Mormonism Research Ministry.

In our Book of Mormon display at the Utah Christian Research Center is a table with a 19th century-style hat on top. In the hat is a rock that looks very similar to the description Joseph Smith gave for the “seer stone” he used to “translate” the gold plates.

Next to the table, hanging on the wall, is a wool blanket. Some may be puzzled as to why we included this in the display.

According to Martin Harris, the second scribe to assist Smith, a blanket or “thick curtain” hung between Harris and Smith during the translation process. In an article titled “Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon,” the official website cites Reverend John Clark, a Palmyra minister, who said he had been told by Martin Harris that a curtain or blanket separated him from Smith. Footnote 54 states, “This is one of the few sources mentioning a ‘suspended blanket’ dividing Joseph Smith and the scribe.”

We must assume that this account was accepted as true by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day since its official websites contain pictures of such a blanket. Not only that, but many LDS authors also felt safe to include illustrations of such a blanket.

Mormon apologists have insisted that the blanket was meant to shield Smith’s scribes from looking at the plates. Smith claimed he was commanded by the angel Moroni that should he show the plates to anyone other than “to those whom I should be commanded” he would be “destroyed” (Joseph Smith History 1:42). Not even his wife Emma was allowed to see the plates.

Some surmise that Joseph Smith needed something to separate himself from his scribe(s) so he could read (perhaps a Bible?) without detection.  However, the blanket was not always used and it appears that Smith often concealed the plates by simply wrapping a cloth around them or perhaps used a pillow case.

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