long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The golden plates - part 1

This week we'll have a few posts on the golden plates.

I recently updated my book Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates? with some new info and links.


Tagline: Everyone wonders what happened to Joseph Smith's gold plates after he translated them. Using original sources, this book proposes a new scenario. 


Here's the description of the gold plates in the Joseph Smith Papers.


Gold plates


A record engraved on gold plates, which JS translated and published as the Book of Mormon.1 The text explained that the plates were an abridgment of other ancient records and were written by an American prophet named Mormon and his son Moroni.2 The plates were buried in present-day Manchester, Ontario County, New York, in what is now known as the Hill Cumorah.3 JS’s history explained that JS received the plates in September 1827.4 According to signed statements published in the Book of Mormon, in June 1829 three witnesses were shown the plates by an angel, and an additional eight witnesses were shown the plates by JS.5

The third sentence (in bold) is fun, as is Note 3.

"what is now known as the Hill Cumorah." Anyone who reads the actual Church history sees that the sources tell us it was Moroni who identified the hill the first time he met Joseph Smith, but the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers apparently don't like that narrative so they don't cite or link to those references. Instead, they cite two sources that don't explain the origin of the name. 

Note 3. JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 4; “The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, [1]–[3].  

The first reference, Joseph's 1832 history, says:

he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N.Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni & his fathers


It's always fun the way the historians cite this to support their claim that Joseph never referred to the hill as Cumorah. (Obviously, they could have cited D&C 128:20). And then they go to great lengths to point out that the description of the First Vision in this history was just a cursory overview which is why it doesn't have all the details of later versions. I agree with their take on the First Vision, but Joseph Smith omitting the name Cumorah from this 1832 history is not evidence that the name wasn't known before then, just as his omitting the details from the First Vision is not evidence that the vision didn't happen the way he later said it did.

Next they cite this one, published by W.W. Phelps in 1833. 

In the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven, the plates came forth from the hill Cumorah, which is in the county of Ontario, and state of New-York, by the power of God.

(Evening and Morning Star I.8:57 ¶5)

Presumably they cite this one because it's the first extant published reference to Cumorah. But of course that's not evidence that the name wasn't known before then. In 1830, Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt were telling the Lamanites (their mission to the Lamanites) that the hill was called Cumorah by their ancestors. 

"This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County." 

Or, they could have cited Lucy Mack Smith's account. She said that the angel "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars <​of cement​>— then the angel left him."

Or, they could have quoted D&C 128:20, which explains that Moroni announced the name of the hill while the book was "yet to be revealed," thereby corroborating his mother's account.

Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. 

(Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)

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