In the month of February in the year 1828 Joseph Smith wrote out on a page many of the symbols and characters engraved upon the gold plates. These symbols belonged to the Egyptian, Assyriac, Arabic and Chaldaic languages. Also written on this page was the translation of the above mentioned characters. Joseph’s first scribe, Martin Harris, took this page to the state of New York, to a man named Professor Charles Anthon.
Professor Charles Anthon, of Columbia College, was the best in the business of these ancient languages and it was for this reason that Harris went to him. The aim was to get a certificate of verification from Professor Anthon stating that the symbols, and the translation thereof, that Joseph Smith brought forth from the gold plates are correct characters and a correct translation. This was to lessen the persecution upon the prophet concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon.
Brother Martin Harris found the esteemed professor and showed him the page with the symbols and translation written upon it. Harris writes that “Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian.” (Joseph Smith History 1:64.) The professor then produced the certificate that Harris and Smith had anticipated and longed for, which he gave to Harris. Martin Harris put the certificate into his pocket and was leaving when the professor asked him a question.
Charles Anthon asked Brother Harris where Joseph Smith had found the plates. Martin told the learned man that the plates were given to him from the holy angel Moroni. At hearing this the professor asked for the certificate back, with which Martin obeyed, and the professor tore his verification on the spot, telling the scribe that angels no longer visit men on earth, and he would translate the plates himself if Joseph would bring them to him. Upon hearing this Harris told the professor that the plates are for Joseph to translate and that the book is sealed and he cannot bring it to the college. Professor Anthon replied, “I cannot read a sealed book,” fulfilling the prophecy of Nephi as written in 2 Nephi 27:17-18.
The scribe left the learned man’s office with his page of symbols and translation to find another professor on the subject. He found another professor who acted in a like manner as Professor Anthon.