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Home Scripture CRITICISM Golden plates?

Golden plates?

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Many people react in this way when they hear the story of the book of Mormon. Especially at the time of the prophet Joseph Smith this was a real deal to overcome. The Book of Mormon at the beginning was called "the golden Bible".  At the time when the book of Mormon came forth was something hard to believe, or better was something that people wanted to ridicule it. We have written an article regarding the witnesses of the Book of Mormon and now we will try to show how much evidence came forth  after the coming forth of the golden plates to support them.

The golden plates of the book of Mormon were real like were real those of Sargon, Darius, the Etruscans, the Essenes, or any others left by the ancients and we have many now after almost 200 years.

The Book of Mormon speaks about wars and history of his time, same thing it could be said about the Sargon plates.

From the book "those gold plates" by Mark E. Petersen pag 2, 3

"Although it may not be known to many who live today, the use of metal plates for permanent records was a fairly common thing in ancient times. Known from Java to Egypt, and from Spain to Iran, they date from millennia before Christ to as late as A.D. 800, and , in the case of the plates from India and Java, even as late as the eighteenth century A.D.

The manner in which they were deposited for safekeeping was similar also, even in these widely scattered sections of the earth. Nearly always they were found in heavy metal or stone boxes which in turn were hidden away, sometimes in the foundations of the kings, in the ground, or, as in Korea, in an ancient pagoda. Some plates were gold, some were silver. There also were copper, and bronze plates, and even a few made of lead and tin, although the tin when found was usually badly oxidized. Some plates had engravings upon them; others were plain. The translated engravings usually tell facts about their historical period. In the case of Sargon II, who governed Assyria in 720 B.C., a whole new vision of his reign and realm came into view as his records were read.

The discovery of the Darius plates gives authenticity to that monarch as a Bible character, for it was he put Daniel in the lion's den, and later highly honored that prophet when he saw that the God of the Israelites protected Daniel from death. The Etruscan plates found in Italy opened mysteries that have long prevailed concerning those ancient peoples, who lived, ruled and died in Italy from the eighth to the first century before Christ. They were the immediate predecessors of the Romans. But not all of the ancient plates were found in distant lands. Some, although small, have been discovered in southern Mexico, twelve in one place, to be specific..

Here we have a display where those plates were found.

Metal plates

Some pictures of the boxes and other plates found around the world

The Plates of Darius (facsimile)

The Plates of Darius (facsimile)

Close up of Plates of Darius (facsimile)

Close up of Plates of Darius (facsimile)

Silver plates from India (facsimile)

Silver plates from India (facsimile)

Plates of Sargon (facsimile)

Plates of Sargon (facsimile)

Buddhist Scriptures Plates (facsimile)

Buddhist Scriptures Plates (facsimile)

Close up of one of the Buddhist Scriptures Plates

Close up of one of the Buddhist Scriptures Plates

Hackman Stone Box (facsimile)

Hackman Stone Box (facsimile)

Carved Aztec Box (facsimile)

Carved Aztec Box (facsimile)

Kulkulcan Stone Box (facsimile)

Kulkulcan Stone Box (facsimile)

Brass plates?

Were they made of the same kind of metal which we know today?

We can't answer with certainty, but it is known that a copper alloy was called brass in Old Testament times. Cruden's Bible concordance says this of brass: "Modern brass, the alloy of copper and zinc, is not meant by the name in the Bible, as zinc was not them known. The words is generally used of a simple metal, and means copper. In other places it is properly bronze, the alloy of copper an tin."

Peloubet's Bible Dictionary agrees with Cruden and indicates that the correct translation of brass in the old Testament would, in our terminology, be copper.

But the word brass appears frequently in the Old Testament, in fact as early as Genesis 4:22. Brass was used in their altars and in their courtyards. Goliath had an helmet of brass, and David "took much brass" from aereas he conquered. Is it to be wondered at that some of their sacred records were engraved on brass and kept in the custody of officials in Jerusalem?

Since it is well known that the ancients did engrave records on metal, even in the time of Lehi and Laban, for that is the period in which the Darius plates were made, would it be considered unusual for the Jews to do as did their neighbors?

Among the Israelites, copper was used for many common purposes. Weapons, chains and so on. Since brass was so commonly used and known by that name among the Israelites, even from the time of Genesis, it would be fully expected that their engravings on metal would be placed on brass, which apparently was plentiful. Why not gold? Because they could mine copper in Palestine, but not much gold. They used the metal which was most available to them, and that was copper, together with its alloys.

The most publicized records on metal undoubtedly are the copper plates which were a part of the dead sea scrolls. Like the other ancient records found at Qumran, they, too, were rolled up inside a large jar. The interesting point here is that the records were engraved on metal. Those who scoff the idea of ancient peoples making records on metal left speechless in the face of this discovery. Engravings made in Palestine! Records hidden away and preserved for twenty centuries! They are now published to the world, like the Book of Mormon!

Is their credibility greater than that of the Book of Mormon plates? Both contain scripture. Both are ages old. Both came out of the ground, one from a cave, another from a hillside, one case in a stone box, the other in an earthen jar.

The plates of Mormon.

The plates of Mormon were shown to Joseph Smith and eleven witnesses, but neither have most people in the world seen the plates of Darius, or of Sargon, or of Korea and no one has anything to say against them.

The fact that Mormon's plates are religion oriented makes them suspect in the minds of many, but the Dead sea Scrolls are religion oriented, and so are the plates of Korea. The real problem here it seems to be because Joseph Smith claimed that an angel of God brought the plates to him. Well the Bible clearly prophesied this in revelation 14:6, so what is the problem? Maybe that angels are not supposed to appear to mankind? Did not angels appear to Paul? Did not an angel open the prison to Peter? Did not an angel appear to Mary the mother of Jesus and to Elisabeth the mother of John the Baptist? Shall we cast away the Bible because it talks about angels? Don't tell me that after the Jesus' death no more angel should come because revelation talking about the last days is full of them especially regarding angels bringing books Galatians 1:8

What is interesting in our case is that Joseph couldn't provide neither the plates according to the words of Martin Harris witnesses of the book of Mormon because he was so poor that he couldn't afford to by the metal, neither could Joseph himself produced an angel to testify to the witnesses, because this is another good point, the witnesses saw not only the plates and they handled them but even one angel they saw, nor could he have falsified the voice from heaven (like in many instances happened in the Bible to support the mission of Jesus or in the case of Paul's conversion) declaring the truthfulness of the work.

His family knew firsthand about these events.

One day a delegation from the local Presbyterian church to which most of them belonged, visited Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of the prophet and this is the account of this visit.

"Mrs. Smith, we hear that you have a gold Bible; we have come to see if you will be so kind as to show it to us?"

"No gentlemen, we have no gold Bible,  but we have a translation of some gold plates, which have been brought forth for the purpose of making known to the world the plainness of the Gospel, and also to give a history of the people which formerly inhabited this continent." Then her proceeded to relate the substance of what is contained in the Book of Mormon and the gentlemen asked

"Can we see the manuscript, then?"

"No sir, you cannot see it. I have told you what it contains, and that must suffice."

"Mrs Smith, you and the most of your children have belonged to our church for some length of time, AND WE RESPECT YOU VERY HIGHLY. You say a good deal about the Book of Mormon, which your son has found, and you believe much of what he tells you, yet we cannot bear the thoughts of losing you, and..... I wish, that if you do believe those things, you would not say anything more upon the subject, I do wish you would not"

Lucy replied:

"Deacon Beckwit,.....if you should stick my flesh full of faggots, and even burn me at the stake, I would declare, as long as God should give me breath, that Joseph has got that record, and I know it to be true." Smith, History of Joseph Smith, pages 160,161.

How the plates were translated?

The plates were engraved in a language (reformed Egyptian) unknown to modern man.

Mormon 9:32
32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.

Mormon 9:33
33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.

Mormon 9:34
34 But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.

How could Joseph translated them? He was poorly educated and this is what Isaiah predicted regarding the coming forth of the Book.

Isaiah 29:12
12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
Dr. John A. Widtsoe wrote in his book on the life of the prophet:

"Joseph Smith's mother wrote that of all her children he was the least inclined to give his time to the reading of books. He was fond of outdoor life, and physical games. His history mentions wrestling matches, jumping, and ball playing. He grew up used to hard work. His father was chiefly a farmer in the Palmyra days. Joseph had to take his share in the labors on the farm. When their farm labors permitted he sought employment elsewhere.....He writes in his journal that he was obliged to earn a scant living by the toil of his hands. His school education was very meager. He could read, write an imperfect hand, and knew enough arithmetic for his needs. In the words of Orson Pratt who lived in his  house, and became his great defender: "His advantages for acquiring scientific knowledge were exceedingly small, being limited to a slight acquaintance with two or three of the common branches of learning. He could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand; and had a very limited understanding of the elementary rules of arithmetic. These were his highest and only attainments; while the rest of those branches, so universally taught in the common schools, throughout the United States, were entirely unknown to him. However he had a fine mind. All who knew him, friend and foe, conceded that his mental ability was high....In short, Joseph Smith was not better educated than the average boy of his pioneer period, from a family reduced to poverty, inured to toil with a little chance for an education" JohnA. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith: Seeker after truth, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft 1957 pages 67-68.

Not having read through the Bible in his early years, he had no adequate knowledge with which to do such an editing job even if he had been adept at writing or editing, neither of which skills he possessed that early in life. Read for example some of the Savior's sermons in the Book of Mormon. Are we to say that the unlearned had the audacity or the skill to rewrite the Savior's sermons, thinking to improve on what Jesus said?

The whole task of translation was a miracle, according to Isaiah 29:14 the book is "a marvelous work and wonder. It was translated in about 45 working days, there was no time for editing, rewriting or Bible research, which would have been required if what the critics say had been true. A book of 600 pages in 45 days? Try it, do it and let me know.

Joseph Smith declared regarding the translation:

"Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God" Joseph Smith to John Wentworth, March 1842. Since this information is not detailed, several have given their opinion as to how this process worked.

Before to proceed I'd like to talk about the Urim and Thummim, in fact Joseph was just mentioning a means that the Bible refers clearly was the means by which God revealed many thing to the prophets of old. Moses referred to his use in Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8 and Numbers 27:21

When Joseph received the plates he also received this means, that is simply because without it no translation would have been possible. The Urim and thummim was not taken from earth when the plates were returned. Wilford Woodrof wrote in  his journal December 27 1841

"I had the privilege of seeing for the first time in my day, the Urim and Thummim."
Heber C. Kimball declared in Journal of discourses 2:111

"Has Brother Brigham Young got the Urim and Thummim? Yes he has got !"

From the journal of discourses 20:65 it is evident that the Book of Abraham was translated by the same means

The prophet translate the part of these writings which, as I have said is contained in the Pearl of Great Price, and known as the Book of Abraham."

Anyway we don't have to think that this means was the only one involved in the translation because Joseph Smith never explained in details the whole process and also we know that the Seer's stone was another means by which the prophet translated the plates. So we are going to discuss some other possible methods of translation.

Andrew Jenson, an official Church historian recorded:

"The Urim and Thummim, mentioned in the account of the vision, were a pair of transparent stone spectacles. Smith would put on the spectacles, when a few words of the text of the Book of Mormon would appear on the lenses. When these were correctly transcribed by Cowdery, who acted as his amanuensis, these words would disappear and others take their place. When 116 pages were completed, Smith entrusted them to Martin Harris, to take to his home with a view to convert his family to the new faith. They were placed at night in a bureau drawer and the next morning were missing, having been stolen. They were never found and never replaced, so that the book of Mormon today is short that number of pages of the original matter. As a chastisement for his carelessness, the Urim and Thummim was taken from Joseph Smith. But by humbling himself, he again found favor with the Lord and was presented with a strange oval shaped, chocolate colored stone about the size of an egg, but more flat, which it was promised should answer the same purpose. With this stone all the present book was translated. The prophet would place the stone in a hat, then put his face in the hat and read the words that appeared thereon. This stone was confided to Oliver Cowdery and preserved by him until his death in 1850. After that event, Phineas Young succeeded in getting it from Cowdery's widow and it is now among the sacred relics preserved at Salt Lake City..

This is confirmed by George Q. Cannon

Joseph dictated to Martin Harris (the first scribe) from the plates of gold; as the characters thereon assumed through the Urim and Thummim the forms of equivalent modern words which were familiar to the understanding of the Seer. Life of Joseph Smith the prophet page 53.

While when somebody refers to later translations, after the 116 pages were lost often the seer stone is mentioned. Clearly some people has confused the seer stone with the Urim and thummim because they had the same purpose and end.

Another possible way could have been that Joseph looked through the Urim and Thummim and saw the characters, but the meaning of the Symbols would come from revelatory thoughts or ideas that he would then speak in his own words.

Another way could have been that when Joseph looked at the symbols, he could not have associated them with any man made formula for interpretation. First he was not trained; second, no person knew the language of the writers of the plates.. As Joseph looked thorugh or into the Urim and Thummim, he actually saw past history taking place. Since he also had the plates, he associated the ancient symbols contained thereon with the action and narration. By studying them, he had the proper interpretation. This explains his use of some of the Hebrew idioms that he heard. Our previous references pointed out that many characters of the book of Mormon appeared to him. He used his own language to describe what he saw.

Anyway we should be careful because Joseph Smith like I wrote never gave detailed information of the method of the translation and in History of the Church 1:220 it is clarified this point.

"Brother Hyrum Smith said that he thought best that the information of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon be related by Joseph himself to the elders present, that all might know for themselves. Brother Joseph Smith, Junior, said that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things.

Anyway that the sight was involved in the translation is verified by the following revelations

Abraham 3:1
1 AND I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees;

Abraham 3:2
2 And I SAW the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

&C 3:12
12 And when thou deliveredst up that which God had given thee SIGHT and power to translate, thou deliveredst up that which was sacred into the hands of a wicked man,

The introduction to section 7 of the Doctrine and Covenant states that this section was received through the Urim and Thummim and involved a sight process where either a parchment or a translation of the parchment was seen.

David Withmer described in several occasions his idea regarding the translation process but remember  that nowhere in history does it state that David was present when any translating was done, it was not a firsthand witness like was Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, Emma Smith.

B.H. Roberts gives us his opinion about this.

"With the Nephite record was deposited a curios instrument, consisting of two transparent stones, set in the rim of a bow, somewhat resembling spectacles, but larger, called by the ancient Hebrews Urim and Thummim, but by Nephites Interpreters. In addition to these Interpreters the prophet had a Seer stone, which to him was as Urim and Thummim; that the prophet sometimes used one and sometimes the other of these sacred instruments in the work of translation; that whether the Interpreters or the Seer stone was used the Nephite characters with the English interpretation appeared in the sacred instrument; that the prophesy would pronounce the English translation to his scribe, which, when correctly written, would disappear and other characters with their interpretation take their place, and so on until the work was completed." CHC 1: 129-30

Other witnesses are Wilford woodroof in his Daily Journal and History wrote for February 19,1842

The Lord is blessing Joseph with power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim and Thummim ancient records and hieroglyphics old as Abraham or Adam which caused our hearts to burn within us while we behold  their glorious truths opened to us.

Elder Matthias Cowley,

On  Christmas day of 1841 Elder Woodruff says that he and other members of the twelve visited the home of Hyrum Kimball, who, before they left, presented each of the twelve with a lot to which he gave them the deed. On the 26th and 27th, the twelve visited the home of the prophet, and on one of these days Elder Woodruff says in his journal that the prophet showed him and others for the first time the Urim and Thummim.

John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith: Seeker after truth, Prophet of God Salt lake city: Bookcraft 1957 pages 67 68 it is written.

Joseph Smith's mother wrote that of all her children he was the least inclined to give his time to the reading of books. He was fond of outdoor life, and physical games. His history mentions wrestlings matches, jumping, and ball playing. Children grown to manhood related the story of games with the prophet. He grew up used to hard work. His father was chiefly a farmer in the Palmyra days. Joseph had to take his share in the labors of the farm. When their farm labors permitted he sought employment elsewhere....he writes in his journal that he was obliged to earn a scant living by the toil of his hands. His school education was very meager. He could read, write an imperfect hand, and knew enough arithmetic for his needs. In the words of Orson Pratt who lived in his house, and became his great defender:

"His advantages for acquiring scientific knowledge were exceedingly small, being limited to a slight acquaintance with two or three of the common branches of learning. He could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand; and had a very limited understanding of the elementary rules of arithmetic. These were his highest and only attainments; while the rest of those branches, so universally taught in the common schools throughout the United States, were entirely unknown to him. However he had a fine mind. All who knew him, friend and foe, conceded that his mental ability was high... In short, Joseph Smith was not better educated than the average boy of his pioneer period, from a family reduced to poverty, inured to toil with little chance for an education.

The similarity between parts of the Book of Mormon and the Bible are another proof of this because they are not the same, in many passages the translation is the same in many others is different and more ACCURATE.

Joseph declared that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth. He would not have said that if he were its author, realizing how poorly educated he was.

When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon, he knew so little about the Old Testament that he was in no way capable of taking carefully selected messages from it and putting them in the Book of Mormon. The same for the New Testament. I will show some differences that are more correct in the Book of Mormon while in the Bible are obscure.

3 Nephi 12:3
3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In the Bible the words "who come to me" are missing.

3 Nephi 12:6
6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

In the Bible the words "with the Holy Ghost" are missing

3 Nephi 12:14
14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of this people. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

Matthew has "Ye are the light of the world"

3 Nephi 12:28
28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.

3 Nephi 12:29
29 Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart;

3 Nephi 12:30
30 For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.
Was Joseph Smith, the unlettered farm boy, thinking to improve the Savior's sermon?

There are many other variations in the Book of Mormon comparing to the Bible text. Another interesting clue is found in chapter 24 and 25 where the savior saw that they where missing the words of Malachi. That is clear because Malachi lived 200 years after Lehi left Jerusalem, so he couldn't have his words. What a fine mind Joseph had to keep on mind all this historical fact and to be sure to fix everything in the right place at the right moment!

3 Nephi 26:1
1 AND now it came to pass that when Jesus had told these things he expounded them unto the multitude; and he did expound all things unto them, both great and small.

3 Nephi 26:2
2 And he saith: These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it was wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations.
Have you ever read the beautiful sermon given by abinady in Mosiah 15?

This is a bit of literary excellence

How long it took to translate the plates?

There is no evidence that Joseph and Oliver worked on the Sabbath day. Take out the Sundays from the translating schedule of two months. remove also the days when they were persecuted. It seems that they had 45 days to finish the job. They had to produce 10 to 15 pages every day. Translators today will normally cover about three pages per day when working on a book. But the translators don't have to think if the text fit in a fake they just go ahead. If Joseph was producing a fake he should make sure that Oliver would have been unable to understand what was going on and also make sure that the book would have made sense, otherwise all his job would be ended ridiculed and useless.

Joseph didn't know that the ancient Americans were well versed in astronomy, and that they had a calendar very accurate. The Book of Mormon makes clear that the people of the book knew movements of the planets and lived by them. Joseph was unaware of the pyramids in America. He didn't know that there were dark and white men in the American continent. He didn't know that the Inca rulers were white men with white wives to preserve the white race for royalty. He had not heard that there was a tradition of the coming of a white God, and that this legend is found in nearly all tribes of Americans Indians.

Names in the book of Mormon.

Dr. Hugh Nibley provided a long list of names found in the book of Mormon that were not available to the knowledge of Joseph Smith's time that are found to be common in the middle east in the old testament's time.

aha was the name of the son of a nephite commander. It was also the name of the first pharaoh in Egypt and means. "warrior"

Ammon, well known in the Book of Mormon, was also commonly used in Egypt.

Hem, the brother of the Nephite ammon. This also was the name of the high priest of Thebes.

Helaman, Nephite prophet. The name Heramon, so much like it, was the Egyptian form.

Himni was the son of Mosiah. Hmn was the Egyptian hawk-god, symbol of the emperor.

Korihor, enemy of the saints; Kherihor was an Egyptian high priest in 1085 B.C.

Paanchi was the son of Pahoran, Nephite judge; Paanchi was also a high priest at Thebes.

Pahoran was a Nephite chief judge. Paheron was ambassador of Egypt to palestine.

Manti was a Nephite city. Manti is the Semitic form of an Egyptian proper name.

Pacumeni was a son of the Nephite chief judge; Pakaman was the high priest of Horus in Egypt.

Pachus of the book of Mormon resembles Pachs, an Egyptian proper name.

Zenock was a prophet, Zenekh was an Egyptian proper name. If you think that the book of Mormon was written in Reformed Egyptian, you understand why many name have origin from Egyptian names..

When Isaiah prophesied the coming forth of the Book, he gave us time limits and some clues

Isaiah 29:11
11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which [men] deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it [is] sealed:

Isaiah 29:12
12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

The unlearned is clearly Joseph Smith.

Isaiah 29:14
14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, [even] a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise [men] shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent [men] shall be hid.

Isaiah 29:17
17 ¶ [Is] it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?

Isaiah 29:18
18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.
The point here is the timing. Isaiah said that the book should come forth before Palestine again becomes a fruitful field..

Palestine had been a desert for centuries before 1830 when the Book of Mormon was published. It was a desert until 90 years ago when the Jews came back after the British army liberated the area  from the Turks in 1917 and they made the desert literally bloom as a fruitful field.. There was neither resettlement of the Jews nor any tilling of the land before of that date.

Well what can I write more?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 13:37  

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