Question: Emer Harris is mentioned in D&C 75:30. How was he related to Martin Harris? Which current General Authority is one of his descendants?
Answer: Emer was born 29 May 1781 in New York to Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham, the oldest of eight children. In 1793 twelve-year-old Emer Harris moved with his parents to Palmyra, New York, where his father purchased a six-hundred-acre farm for three hundred dollars. He sold some of this land to his sons Emer and Martin. Within a few years Emer sold his acreage and moved to Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, where he purchased shares in a sawmill.
It is assumed that his younger brother, Martin Harris, told him of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as early as 1828. He and Martin were together when the first bound copy of the Book of Mormon came off the Grandin Press in 1830. It is said that Martin picked up the book and presented it to Emer. Emer read the book and was baptized on February 10, 1831, by Hyrum Smith. He soon rented his property in Pennsylvania and moved to Ohio to be with the Saints. He was ordained a high priest on October 25, 1831 by Oliver Cowdery. Two days later he was appointed as a scribe for Joseph Smith.
On January 23, 1832, Emer was called to preach the gospel with Simeon Carter. They started out together but then Simeon joined with Jared Carter, and Emer went with his brother Martin. Emer wrote, “Brother Martin is with me..We have traveled much and preached much. Eighty-two have been baptized and many more have believed.” The Evening and Morning Star reported that “brothers Martin and Emer Harris have baptized 100 persons at Chenango point, New York, within a few weeks.” They also organized a branch of the Church with seventy members in Springville, Pennsylvania.
Emer is the great-great-grandfather of Elder Dallin H. (Harris) Oaks through his mother’s line. It also seems likely that Emer Harris was one of the missionaries who brought the gospel to the Oaks family.
In midsummer 1833 Emer returned from his mission. He sold his land in Pennsylvania for $550, which he used to purchase a farm in Florence township, Ohio. When not working on the farm,
Emer labored as a carpenter and a joiner on the Kirtland Temple. He created the window sash in the temple and other intricate details within the sacred building.
In 1838 he moved his family to Missouri. Exhaustion and exposure as a result of the violence in Missouri caused Emer’s health to fail.
After a year of recovery in Quincy, Illinois, he moved to Nauvoo and bought forty acres in the timber. He worked on the Nauvoo Temple, using the same tools he had used on the Kirtland Temple, and is credited with building the circular stairway. He received his endowment in the Nauvoo Temple on January 30, 1846.
In 1848 Emer received his patriarchal blessing from John Smith in the Iowa Territory. He was told, “Thou has endured in faith. The Lord is well pleased with thee because of the integrity of thy heart.” Emer migrated west in 1850 with the Wilford Woodruff company. He settled first in Ogden and then in Provo in 1853 Among his Church callings was that of patriarch. He was appointed to preside over the high priests in Provo in 1855. One of the young men he blessed was John Henry Smith, who later became an apostle and the father of George Albert Smith, eighth president of the Church.
In 1862 Brigham Young advised Emer to move to Dixie for his health. He resided with his children in southern Utah but preferred to live in Logan.
He died in 1869 in Logan at the home of his son, Alma Harris, at the age of eighty-eight. He is buried in the Logan City Cemetery.
Source: Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black, FamilySearch.org; Billiongraves.com; Joseph Smith papers.org