Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Kinderhook Plates and Translator & Seer Claims Concerns & Questions

Table of Contents

Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Kinderhook Plates and Translator & Seer Claims Concerns & Questions"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Chart CES Letter kinderhook.png

Response to section "Kinderhook Plates and Translator/Seer Claims Concerns & Questions"

Summary: The author claims that, "Joseph Smith made a scientific claim that he could translate ancient documents. This is a testable claim. Joseph failed the test with the Book of Abraham. He failed the test with the Kinderhook Plates."

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith made a scientific claim that he could translate ancient documents. This is a testable claim"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith made a scientific claim that he could translate ancient documents. This is a testable claim. (April 2013 revision)
Joseph Smith made a claim that he could translate ancient documents. This is a testable claim. (October 2014 revision)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph never made a "scientific claim" that he could translate - he said that he could translate by the "gift and power of God." The only way to test such a claim is by asking God.


Question: How exactly did Joseph Smith translate the gold plates?

Joseph Smith only stated that he translated the Book of Mormon by the "gift and power of God"

All that we know for certain is that Joseph translated the record "by the gift and power of God." (D&C 135:3) We are given some insight into the spiritual aspect of the translation process, when the Lord says to Oliver Cowdery:

"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." (D&C 9:8)

Beyond this, the Church does not take any sort of official stand on the exact method by which the Book of Mormon translation occurred. Joseph Smith himself never recorded the precise physical details of the method of translation:

"Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., said that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; and also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things"[1]

It is important to remember that what we do know for certain is that the translation of the Book of Mormon was carried out "by the gift and power of God." These are the only words that Joseph Smith himself used to describe the translation process.


Response to claim: "Joseph failed the test with the Book of Abraham"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph failed the test with the Book of Abraham.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The fragments of papyri that have been recovered do not represent the rolls of papyri that eyewitnesses reported that Joseph had. For example, where are the originals for Facsimiles 2 and 3? They are not among the extant papyri fragments.


Improvement Era (January 1968): "Often the funerary texts contained passages from the 'Book of the Dead,' a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world"

Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968):

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[2]


Response to claim: "He failed the test with the Kinderhook Plates"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

He failed the test with the Kinderhook Plates.
See also the followup(s) to this claim from "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (20 July 2014 revision):
Response to claim: "Joseph Smith was parading around and showing others the Egyptian hieroglyphics he copied off the gold plates around the same time as the discovery of the Kinderhook Plates"
Response to claim: "This is consistent with the New York Herald’s non-Mormon’s account...which refers to Joseph’s copy of the hieroglyphics from the gold plates"

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author severely misunderstands the data related to the Kinderhook plates.

Logical Fallacy: Argument from Ignorance—The author has difficulty understanding the topic, so he or she assumes that it simply must not have any validity.

Question: What are the Kinderhook Plates?

The Kinderhook Plates are a forged set of metal plates that were given to Joseph Smith to translate

Image of front and back of four of the six Kinderhook plates are shown in these facsimiles (rough copies of even earlier published facsimiles), which appeared in 1909 in History of the Church, 5:374–375. Volume 5 link

A set of small plates, engraved with characters of ancient appearance, were purported to have been unearthed in Kinderhook, Illinois, in April 1843. The so-called "Kinderhook plates" have been something of an enigma within the Mormon community since they first appeared. While there are faithful LDS who take a number of different positions on the topic of these artifacts, most have concluded that they were fakes.

Joseph Smith appears to have had the plates in his possession for about five days.

Joseph Smith's personal secretary, William Clayton said,

President Joseph has translated a portion [of the Kinderhook plates], and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found; and he was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom through the ruler of heaven and earth.

The Kinderhook plates were fakes, thus bringing into question any claim of "inspiration" that Joseph used to translate them and by extension any other revelations he received.

Joseph Smith "translated" a portion of those plates, not by claiming inspiration, but by comparing characters on the plates to those on his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL)

However, Joseph Smith "translated" a portion of those plates, not by claiming inspiration, but by comparing characters on the plates to those on his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL). (The GAEL was composed in Kirtland about the time of the translation of the Book of Abraham.) Joseph found one of the most prominent characters on the plates to match a character on the second page of characters in the GAEL. Both were boat shaped. The GAEL interpretation of this boat-shaped character included everything that William Clayton said Joseph said.

Corroborating this is a letter in the New York Herald for May 30th, 1843, from someone who signed as "A Gentile." Research shows "A Gentile" to be a friendly non-Mormon then living in Nauvoo:

The plates are evidently brass, and are covered on both sides with hieroglyphics. They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared them, in my presence, with his Egyptian Alphabet…and they are evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them.

We know that Joseph was interested in languages. He studied Greek, Hebrew, and German in a secular manner. Therefore, we can easily believe that he attempted to translate the Kinderhook plates without assuming prophetic powers, which powers consequently remain credible.


Question: Why does History of the Church say that Joseph Smith said "I have translated a portion of them..."?

History of the Church was written by others in the "first person," as if Joseph wrote it himself

The following is from Stanley B. Kimball, "Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax," Ensign, August 1981 off-site

These two oblique references to a “translation” were followed thirteen years later by a more direct published statement that until recently was wrongly thought to have been written by Joseph Smith himself. On September 3 and 10, 1856, the following paragraphs appeared in the Deseret News as part of the serialized “History of Joseph Smith”:

“[May 1, 1843:] I insert fac similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. R. Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton, and were covered on both sides with ancient characters.

“I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.” (Then followed a reprint of material from the Times and Seasons article.)

Although this account appears to be the writing of Joseph Smith, it is actually an excerpt from a journal of William Clayton. It has been well known that the serialized “History of Joseph Smith” consists largely of items from other persons’ personal journals and other sources, collected during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and continued after the Saints were in Utah, then edited and pieced together to form a history of the Prophet’s life “in his own words.” It was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for biographers to put the narrative in the first person when compiling a biographical work, even though the subject of the biography did not actually say or write all the words attributed to him; thus the narrative would represent a faithful report of what others felt would be helpful to print. The Clayton journal excerpt was one item used in this way. For example, the words “I have translated a portion” originally read “President J. has translated a portion. …”


Question: Why is the statement of William Clayton regarding the Kinderhook Plates in History of the Church written as if Joseph Smith himself said it?

History of the Church was written in the "first person" after Joseph's death

It should be noted that the critical "mormoninfographic" includes a portion of a quote from History of the Church that is written as if it came from Joseph Smith.

Mormoninfographic.kinderhook.clayton.jpg

The graphic is correct, but it is useful to know the actual source of the quote used by History of the Church.:

I insert fac-similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. Robert Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides with ancient characters. I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth.

The quote in question was written in William Clayton's journal. It was rewritten in the first person (as if Joseph Smith had said it himself) when it was included in History of the Church. Clayton's journal is the primary source, which was used in History of the Church (a secondary source).

The quote by William Clayton is indeed accurate: Joseph Smith did attempt to translate a portion of the Kinderhook Plates. This is explained in the following section.

The following is from Stanley B. Kimball, "Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax," Ensign, August 1981 off-site

These two oblique references to a “translation” were followed thirteen years later by a more direct published statement that until recently was wrongly thought to have been written by Joseph Smith himself. On September 3 and 10, 1856, the following paragraphs appeared in the Deseret News as part of the serialized “History of Joseph Smith”:

“[May 1, 1843:] I insert fac similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. R. Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton, and were covered on both sides with ancient characters.

“I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.” (Then followed a reprint of material from the Times and Seasons article.)

Although this account appears to be the writing of Joseph Smith, it is actually an excerpt from a journal of William Clayton. It has been well known that the serialized “History of Joseph Smith” consists largely of items from other persons’ personal journals and other sources, collected during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and continued after the Saints were in Utah, then edited and pieced together to form a history of the Prophet’s life “in his own words.” It was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for biographers to put the narrative in the first person when compiling a biographical work, even though the subject of the biography did not actually say or write all the words attributed to him; thus the narrative would represent a faithful report of what others felt would be helpful to print. The Clayton journal excerpt was one item used in this way. For example, the words “I have translated a portion” originally read “President J. has translated a portion. …”


Question: Did Joseph Smith attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates?

Joseph Smith attempted to translate a character on the Kinderhood Plates by matching it to his "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL)"

Don Bradley presented compelling evidence during his 2011 FAIR Conference presentation that Joseph Smith did indeed attempt to translate a character on the Kinderhook Plates. [3] Bradley noted that William Clayton's account is likely representing personal and specific knowledge acquired from Joseph Smith, since evidence indicates that he made his journal entries that day while he was at the Prophet's home. Clayton's account states that

Prest J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.

Bradley noted that one of the most prominent characters on the Kinderhook Plates (a symbol shaped like a boat), when broken down into its individual elements matched a symbol found on page 4 (the second page of characters) of the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL), often referred to as the "Egyptian Alphabet. The GAEL provides meanings for the individual symbols, and the meaning assigned to the particular symbol found on the plates supports the translation reported to have been provided by Joseph.

The conclusion is that Clayton's account appears to be accurate, that Joseph did attempt to translate "a portion" of them by non-revelatory means, and the translation provided matches a corresponding symbol and explanation in the GAEL.

  • As William Clayton noted in his journal, Joseph "translated a portion" of the Kinderhook plates. Joseph attempted to translate one of the characters on the plates by matching it to a similar character on the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL), a document that was produced in the same timeframe as the Book of Abraham. It is from the GAEL that he derived the "descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh" meaning.
  • This data was introduced by Don Bradley at the 2011 FAIR Conference. For a detailed explanation, see Don Bradley "‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates," 2011 FAIR Conference.
Kinderhook.plates.don.bradley.description.jpg


Question: Did Joseph attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates using the "gift and power of God?"

Joseph apparently did not attempt to translate by the "gift and power of God". Joseph never translated more than the single character

At the time that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he only claimed the ability to translate by the "gift and power of God." Over time, Joseph studied other languages and wished to learn to translate by other means. His attempt to use the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (a document that he and others had created) to attempt a translation of the Kinderhook Plates fits in with this desire. Since only a single character "matched," Joseph would have been unable to continue to translate the plates in this manner. This may explain why such a translation was never produced: beyond the single character which happened to match, it would not have even been possible to translate the fraudulent plates either manually or by the "gift and power of God." Therefore, no translation was ever produced.


Question: What does Joseph's attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates tell us about his "gift of translation?"

Joseph's attempt to translate manually tells us that he didn't attempt to translate the plates using the "gift and power of God"

A critical graphic from "mormoninfographics" states that "Joseph didn't discern the fraud. The LDS Church now concedes it's a hoax. What does this tell us about Joseph Smith's gift of translation?"

Mormoninfographic.kinderhook.josephs.gift.jpg

Simply put, Joseph's attempt to translate the plates manually tells us that he didn't attempt to translate the plates using the "gift and power of God."


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith was parading around and showing others the Egyptian hieroglyphics he copied off the gold plates around the same time as the discovery of the Kinderhook Plates"

The author(s) of "Debunking FAIR’s Debunking" (also known as "Debunking FairMormon" - from the author of the Letter to a CES Director) (20 July 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

It matters because Joseph Smith was parading around and showing others the Egyptian hieroglyphics he copied off the gold plates around the same time as the discovery of the Kinderhook Plates.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph wasn't "parading around" showing of characters copied from the gold plates. He was using them to demonstrate what he believed Egyptian characters looked like.

Logical Fallacy: False Cause—The author assumes that a real or perceived relationship between two events means that one caused the other.

The author assumes, contrary to all of the evidence, that the fact that Joseph had and showed a copy of the Book of Mormon characters to someone indicates that this is the document that was used in the attempt to translate the Kinderhook Plates.

Question: Couldn't the "Egyptian Alphabet" have referred to the "reformed Egyptian" characters on the Anthon transcript?

The Anthon transcript was never referred to as the "Egyptian Alphabet". That label was applied to the GAEL.

It is noted that Joseph did indeed have a copy of the Book of Mormon characters in his possession in December 1842, months after he saw the Kinderhook plates. The following is a diary entry from the Reverend George Moore:

Tuesday Evening, December 19th (1843)

Called on the "Prophet Jo [Joseph] Smith." His carriage was at the door and he was about going away, but he received me very kindly, asked me into his house. I remained about 10 minutes. He was very communicative. We conversed about the golden plates, which he professes to have dug up and translated into the Book of Mormon. "Those plates are not now in this country," he said--"they were exhibited to a few at first for the sake of obtaining their testimony--no others have ever seen them--and they will never again be exhibited." He showed me some specimens of the hieroglyphics, such as, he says, were on the gold plates. He asked me if I was a Clergyman--and of what denomination--and what were the fundamental doctrines of our faith--on my telling him that we believed in divine Unity--in one God in one person--he said, we don't agree with you there. We believe in three Gods, equal in power and glory. There are three personages in heaven, but those three are not one. I suppose, from what I hear, that Smith makes it a point not to agree with any one in regard to his religious opinions, and adapts himself to the person with whom he talks for the time being . . . He expressed a desire to have a long conversation with me, but he had an engagement, and I was soon going away, so that we could not have much conversation. Our interview was short, but pleasant. [Diary, pp. 105-106.] [4]

Therefore, Joseph had a copy of the Book of Mormon characters and he did show them to someone. As our critic puts it, "Joseph Smith was parading around and showing others the Egyptian hieroglyphics he copied off the gold plates around the same time as the discovery of the Kinderhook Plates." [5] Could this not be the source of the comment from "A Gentile" that the Egyptian Alphabet came "from the plates which the Book of Mormon was translated?"

Moores's diary entry doesn't seem to indicate that Joseph was "parading around and showing others" (this appears to be a bit of hyperbole on the part of the critic), but Joseph does seem to have shown Moore what he likely would have referred to as "reformed Egyptian" characters. This may or may not have been the actual Anthon transcript. However, there was already a document in existence called the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language for the last eight years - it would certainly have been known to the Saints as the "Egyptian Alphabet," whereas the Anthon transcript, to our knowledge, was never referred to by that name.

A critic misses the point: "We can play this game too using the Anthon transcript"

After making a perfunctory and failed attempt to address Don Bradley's data, the critic erroneously assumes that the deconstruction of the Kinderhook character was produced by FairMormon, when it is, in fact, part of Bradley's own data. The critic states: "So, what does FAIR do? They 'deconstruct' it".[5]

The critic then assumes that the document referred to as the "Egyptian Alphabet" by "A Gentile" was, in reality, the Anthon transcript, noting that "We can play this game too using the Anthon transcript".[5] He offers his own "reconstruction" of a deconstructed "boat" character on the Anthon transcript similar to that demonstrated by Don Bradley which matches the "boat" character on the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, thereby removing the "boat" character from the Kinderhook plates themselves from the process. Once you link to the character on the GAEL, the entire "translation" produced by Joseph comes with it:

A "reconstruction" by a critic of a "boat" character from the Anthon transcript matched to the corresponding character from the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL). Given that it has been demonstrated by Don Bradley that the GAEL "boat" character shown correlates with Joseph's "translation" of a portion of the Kinderhook plates, we are unsure why the critic has "proven" that Joseph "translated" a portion of the Anthon transcript instead.[5]

So, let's assume that Joseph did use the "boat" character from the Anthon transcript. The critic demonstrates a match between a "boat" character on the Anthon transcript and the corresponding character on the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language'. All he has done is remove the actual Kinderhook plates from Don Bradley's explanation and replace them with the Anthon transcript.

To summarize:

  • Bradley: Kinderhook "boat" character -> GAEL "boat" character -> GAEL explanation of the character -> Joseph's "translation" of a portion of the Kinderhook plates.
  • Critic: Anthon transcript "boat" character -> GAEL "boat" character -> GAEL explanation of the character -> Joseph's "translation" of a portion of the Kinderhook plates.

Where are the Kinderhook plates in this process? The author's graphic simply "proves" that Joseph "translated" a portion of the Anthon transcript.

Unlike the GAEL, there is no extant "translation" of the Anthon transcript characters

Moreover, it makes absolutely no sense that Joseph would have used the Anthon transcript in any attempt to "translate" the Kinderhook Plates - there is no extant translation of the Anthon transcript characters. The characters likely came from the portion of the Book of Mormon plates corresponding to the lost 116 pages, and no translation of these characters was ever recorded by Joseph Smith. Don Bradley's Kinderhook explanation, however, clearly links the "boat" character on the GAEL and its assigned meaning with the actual "translation" of a portion of the Kinderhook plates produced by Joseph. The text shows a correlation.

The critics are missing the point in that the GAEL=Kinderhook "boat" connection has quite a bit of explanatory power--it really accounts for all available evidence quite nicely. Just because you can play games with other "boat" shaped characters in other contexts (for which the imagined connection explains exactly nothing) does not invalidate that. It is the explanatory power of all of the available evidence, the character on the Kinderhook plates, the explanation of a similar character on the GAEL, and the similarity to the content of translation that Joseph produced, that makes Bradley's thesis compelling.


Response to claim: "This is consistent with the New York Herald’s non-Mormon’s account...which refers to Joseph’s copy of the hieroglyphics from the gold plates"

The author(s) of Debunking FairMormon - Letter to a CES Director make(s) the following claim:

This is consistent with the New York Herald’s non-Mormon’s account of “which he took from the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and they are evidently the same characters,” which refers to Joseph’s copy of the hieroglyphics from the gold plates.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The author does not understand the sources that he is attempting to use to support his point.

Logical Fallacy: False Cause—The author assumes that a real or perceived relationship between two events means that one caused the other.

In this case the author does the following:
  • The author quotes a non-Mormon who assumed that the "Egyptian Alphabet" was associated with the plates from with the Book of Mormon was translated.
  • The author noted that Joseph Smith still had a copy of the characters copied from the Book of Mormon plates in his possession, which he showed to a different individual.
  • The author failed to note that a document produced in connection with the Book of Abraham was actually referred to as the "Egyptian Alphabet".
  • The author concludes that Joseph must have used the characters copied from the Book of Mormon plates in his attempt to translate the Kinderhook plates, instead of the historically known "Egyptian Alphabet" document associated with the Book of Abraham.

Question: Why does the non-Mormon eyewitness say that the "Egyptian Alphabet" was "from the plates which the Book of Mormon was translated?"

The non-Mormon eyewitness did not understand that the "Egyptian Alphabet" actually refers to the "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" produced in 1835

A non-Mormon made the following statement regarding the Kinderhook Plates: "They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared them in my presence with his Egyptian alphabet, which he took from the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated..." [6] The translation produced supports this. Joseph did not attempt to translate using his "gift of translation."

Note that the eyewitness, a non-Mormon, assumed that the "Egyptian Alphabet" was "from the plates which the Book of Mormon was translated." Don Bradley explains this in the quote below. The "Egyptian Alphabet" was not taken from the Book of Mormon plates, and the characters copied from the plates by Joseph, known as the "Anthon transcript," has never been referred to as the "Egyptian Alphabet." The "Egyptian Alphabet," also known as the "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL) was created after the translation of the Book of Abraham.

From Don Bradley's 2011 presentation, "‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates":

"[T]he [Kinderhook] plates are evidently brass, and are covered on both sides with hieroglyphics. They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared, in my presence, with his Egyptian Alphabet,” Now, the guys a non-Mormon here, and so he doesn’t actually understand what this Egyptian Alphabet is. So he says, “which he took from the plates which the Book of Mormon was translated,” but he doesn’t know it’s from the Book of Abraham papyrus, he says, “He compared, in my presence, with his Egyptian Alphabet…and they’re evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them.” So this is the Alphabet and Grammar volume, and you can see the title on the spine says “Egyptian Alphabet.” Now, Robin Jenson, of the Joseph Smith papers tells me that we don’t know when this label was added, it could have been added in Utah. If it was added early on, then this “gentile” would have seen this on the spine and obviously would have called it the “Egyptian Alphabet.” Even if it is a later name that is affixed to it, it shows what the Saints actually knew this volume as, they knew it as “Egyptian Alphabet.” So that is likely the name under which he would have heard of it.

Passage from the New York Herald, May 30, 1843: "They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared them in my presence with his Egyptian alphabet, which he took from the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated..." It should be noted that the non-Mormon writer erroneously assumed that the "Egyptian alphabet" was associated with the plates of the Book of Mormon - The "Egyptian alphabet," or "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (GAEL), however, was a document that was created after the translation of the Book of Abraham. The characters copied from the Book of Mormon plates, sometimes called the "Anthon transcript" or "Caractors document" were never referred to as the "Egyptian alphabet." Image taken from Don Bradley, "‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates"
Outside.spine.of.egyptian.alphabet.jpg


Question: When was the "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" produced?

The Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language was produced between July and December 1835 in Kirtland, Ohio

The document was produced around the time that the Book of Abraham was dictated, and it is in the handwriting of William W. Phelps and Warren Parrish. The original documents may be viewed on the Joseph Smith Papers website: Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, circa July–circa December 1835. For more information about the relationship of the GAEL to the Book of Abraham, see: Kirtland Egyptian Papers.


Question: Does anyone assert that the GAEL was an actual correlation between Egyptian and the explanations offered?

The assumed correlations between the characters and explanations on the GAEL has nothing to do with actual Egyptian

Scholars do not know the role that the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL) played in the production of the Book of Abraham. The text of the Book of Abraham was produced by revelation. The GAEL lists Egyptian characters taken from the papyri on the right, and associates them with long passages of text from the Book of Abraham on the right. Critics assume that the GAEL is some sort of "crib sheet" used to produce the Book of Abraham.

It appears, however, that after the Book of Abraham was translated, that a group of individuals used both the papyri and the Book of Abraham text in an attempt to deduce which characters matched specific passages in the Book of Abraham. In essence, they were attempting to "reverse engineer" the translation and produce an "Egyptian Grammar."

As noted, the explanations corresponding to the Egyptian characters copied from the papyri do not match the true Egyptian meanings of those characters. However, Joseph and his contemporaries appear to have believed that the explanations were valid, which explains why Joseph would have used them in his attempt to translate the Kinderhook plates.

The validity of the GAEL explanations has nothing to do with the Kinderhook plates

A critic of the Church offers the following, which completely avoids the fact that Don Bradley's Kinderhook presentation, "‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates," [7] has accounted for all of the existing historical evidence [8]:

Anyone who seriously thinks that a single Egyptian hieroglyphic, let alone one which represents two consonants, translates into: "Ha e Oop Hah - honor by birth, kingly power by the line of Pharaoh, possession by birth; one who reigns upon his throne universally…possessor of heaven and earth and of the blessings of the earth" …either does not understand the Egyptian language or is deliberately making stuff up. [5]

and

"The GAEL is nonsense. The Kinderhook Plates are fake. There is no indication that Joseph believed anything other than that both were legitimate and real." [5]

The critic then shifts the focus away from Don Bradley's data by simply concluding that none of it matters, because the GAEL is "nonsense" and the "Kinderhook plates are fake" (a fact which Bradley himself clearly notes at the beginning of his presentation). Rather than even coherently describing Bradley's data, the critic simply reverts to the argument that it is all fake anyway and doesn't warrant the attention.

The critic therefore avoids engaging the totality of Bradley's Kinderhook presentation directly. Nobody is asserting the the GAEL was an actual correlation between Egyptian and the explanations offered - the validity of the GAEL has nothing to do with the Kinderhook plates. What is important in this instance is that Joseph Smith believed that the GAEL explanations were valid, and was therefore willing to utilize them as a translation tool. It is therefore ironic that the critic's last statement: "There is no indication that Joseph believed anything other than that both were legitimate and real" actually validates Bradley's data: Joseph believed that the GAEL explanations had value sufficient to use them to translate "a portion" of the Kinderhook plates.


Response to claim: "I’m now supposed to believe that Joseph has the credibility of translating the keystone Book of Mormon? With a rock in a hat?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

I’m now supposed to believe that Joseph has the credibility of translating the keystone Book of Mormon? With a rock in a hat? That the gold plates that ancient prophets went through all the time and effort of making, engraving, compiling, abridging, preserving, hiding, and transporting were useless?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

  • The author, as a believer, accepted the translation method when he knew that it involved two seer stones mounted in a wire frame that were used like a pair of glasses to convert reformed Egyptian characters on the plates into English text.
  • The author has difficulty accepting the idea that Joseph translated using a single seer stone that he placed in the bottom of a hat to block out the light.
  • Why was the translation method using the two stones more believable than the method using the the single stone? Is it because the author thought that Joseph was looking at the plates through two transparent stones and somehow seeing English text?
  • Joseph Smith himself never clarified how the translation was accomplished, and instead only said that it was done by the "gift and power of God" through revelation.
  • The plates were necessary in order to prove that the Nephite record actually existed. There would be no Book of Mormon witnesses without the plates, regardless of the plates' role in the translation process itself.


Question: Did Joseph Smith use the Nephite interpreters to translate? Or did he use his own seer stone?

Joseph Smith used both the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone, and both were called "Urim and Thummim"

Joseph Smith used both the Nephite Interpreters and his own seer stone during the translation process, yet we only hear of the "Urim and Thummim" being used for this purpose.

  1. He described the instrument as ‘spectacles’ and referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim.
  2. He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed, called ‘seer stones’ because they aided him in receiving revelations as a seer. The Prophet received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones.
  3. Records indicate that soon after the founding of the Church in 1830, the Prophet stopped using the seer stones as a regular means of receiving revelations. Instead, he dictated the revelations after inquiring of the Lord without employing an external instrument.

Emma Smith confirmed that Joseph switched between the Nephite interpreters and his own seer stone during the translation

Emma Smith Bidamon described Joseph's use of several stones during translation to Emma Pilgrim on 27 March 1870 (original spelling retained):

Now the first that my <husband> translated, [the book] was translated by use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color.”[9]

Joseph Smith's small, egg-shaped seer stone. Emma said that "he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color." Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr. Copyright © The Church Historian's Press.


Question: What are the Nephite interpreters?

The Nephite interpreters are two seer stones set in a framework resembling a set of "spectacles"

The Lord provided a set of seer stones (which were formerly used by Nephite prophets) along with the plates. The term Nephite interpreters can alternatively refer to the stones themselves or the stones in conjunction with their associated paraphernalia (holding rim and breastplate). Some time after the translation, early saints noticed similarities with the seer stones and related paraphernalia used by High Priests in the Old Testament and began to use the term Urim and Thummim interchangeably with the Nephite interpreters and Joseph's other seer stones as well. The now popular use of the term Urim and Thummim has unfortunately obscured the fact that all such devices belong in the same class of consecrated revelatory aids and that more than one were used in the translation.

The manner in which the interpreters were used was never explained in detail

The Nephite interpreters were intended to assist Joseph in the initial translation process, yet the manner in which they were employed was never explained in detail. The fact that the Nephite interpreters were set in rims resembling a pair of spectacles has led some to believe that they may have been worn like a pair of glasses, with Joseph viewing the characters on the plates through them. This, however, is merely speculation that doesn't take into account that Joseph soon disassembled the fixture, the spacing between seer stones being too wide for his eyes. The accompanying breastplate also appeared to have been used by a larger man. Like its biblical counterpart (the High Priest's breastplate contained 12 gems that symbolized him acting as a mediator between God and Israel), the Nephite breastplate was apparently non-essential to the revelatory process.


Question: Did Joseph Smith use his own seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon?

Many eyewitness accounts confirm that Joseph employed his seer stone during part of the translation process

Joseph Smith translates using the seer stone placed within his hat while Martin Harris acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat. This image appears in the Church publication From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith's Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, by Michael Hubbard Mackay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Religious Studies Center, BYU, Deseret Book Company (May 11, 2015)

Martin Harris states that Joseph used the Nephite interpreters and then later switched to using the seer stone "for convenience." [10] In fact, Elder Nelson refers to the use of the seer stone in his 1993 talk:

The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote:

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.) [11]


Response to claim: "Moroni’s 5,000 mile journey lugging the gold plates from Mesoamerica...all the way to New York to bury the plates"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Moroni’s 5,000 mile journey lugging the gold plates from Mesoamerica (if you believe the unofficial apologists) all the way to New York to bury the plates, come back as a resurrected angel, and instruct Joseph for 4 years only for Joseph to translate instead using just a…rock in a hat?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Mormon gave the plates to Moroni in approximately A.D. 385. Moroni did not bury the plates until A.D. 421. During this 36-year period Moroni explained: "[The Lamanites] put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ. And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life." (Moroni 1:3) During that 36-year wandering to escape the Lamanites, it is not unreasonable to believe that Moroni could have traveled the 3100-mile distance (not 5000 miles) between Central America and New York. Moroni would have had to travel 86 miles per year, which is an average of only one-fifth of a mile per day.


Response to claim: "A rock he found digging in his neighbor’s property in 1822"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

A rock he found digging in his neighbor’s property in 1822; a year before Moroni appeared in his bedroom, 5 years before he got the gold plates and Urim and Thummim, and the same stone and method Joseph used for his treasure hunting activities?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

One of Joseph's seer stones was located while digging a well. This has been documented in the official Church magazine the Ensign.


Question: How did Joseph Smith use his seer stones as a youth?

Joseph as the village seer: the use of the seer stone prior to the Restoration

Brant Gardner clarifies the role that Joseph and his stone played within the community of Palmyra,

Young Joseph Smith was a member of a specialized sub-community with ties to these very old and very respected practices, though by the early 1800s they were respected only by a marginalized segment of society. He exhibited a talent parallel to others in similar communities. Even in Palmyra he was not unique. In D. Michael Quinn's words: "Until the Book of Mormon thrust young Smith into prominence, Palmyra's most notable seer was Sally Chase, who used a greenish-colored stone. William Stafford also had a seer stone, and Joshua Stafford had a 'peepstone which looked like white marble and had a hole through the center.'" [9] Richard Bushman adds Chauncy Hart, and an unnamed man in Susquehanna County, both of whom had stones with which they found lost objects. [10] [12]

During his tenure as a "village seer," Joseph acquired several seer stones. Joseph first used a neighbor's seer stone (probably that belonging to Palmyra seer Sally Chase, on the balance of historical evidence, though there are other possibilities) to discover the location of a brown, baby's foot-shaped stone. The vision of this stone likely occurred in about 1819–1820, and he obtained his first seer stone in about 1821–1822.[13]

The second seer stone was reportedly found while digging a well on the property of William Chase in 1822

Joseph then used this first stone to find a second stone (a white one). The second seer stone was reportedly found on the property of William Chase in 1822 as Chase described it:

In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me.... After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity. I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat.... The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alleging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but I would lend it.[14]

Joseph Smith locates a seer stone while digging a well. Image copyright (c) 2016 by Anthony Sweat.


Gospel Topics: "As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture"

"Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013):

Joseph Smith and his scribes wrote of two instruments used in translating the Book of Mormon. According to witnesses of the translation, when Joseph looked into the instruments, the words of scripture appeared in English. One instrument, called in the Book of Mormon the “interpreters,” is better known to Latter-day Saints today as the “Urim and Thummim.” ....

The other instrument, which Joseph Smith discovered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, was a small oval stone, or “seer stone.” As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture.[15]


Response to claim: "5 years before he got the gold plates and Urim and Thummim"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

5 years before he got the gold plates and Urim and Thummim

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph received the gold plates and the "spectacles," or Nephite interpreters. These are normally referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" in Church materials, but Church historians know that this name was not applied to the instrument until later.


Gospel Topics: "Joseph Smith and his associates often used the term 'Urim and Thummim' to refer to the single stone as well as the interpreters"

"These two instruments—the interpreters and the seer stone—were apparently interchangeable"

Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

These two instruments—the interpreters and the seer stone—were apparently interchangeable and worked in much the same way such that, in the course of time, Joseph Smith and his associates often used the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to the single stone as well as the interpreters. In ancient times, Israelite priests used the Urim and Thummim to assist in receiving divine communications. Although commentators differ on the nature of the instrument, several ancient sources state that the instrument involved stones that lit up or were divinely illumin[at]ed. Latter-day Saints later understood the term “Urim and Thummim” to refer exclusively to the interpreters. Joseph Smith and others, however, seem to have understood the term more as a descriptive category of instruments for obtaining divine revelations and less as the name of a specific instrument. [16]


Ensign (Jan. 2013): "He...referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim...He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed"

Gerrit Dirkmaat (Church History Department - January 2013 Ensign):

Those who believed that Joseph Smith’s revelations contained the voice of the Lord speaking to them also accepted the miraculous ways in which the revelations were received. Some of the Prophet Joseph’s earliest revelations came through the same means by which he translated the Book of Mormon from the gold plates. In the stone box containing the gold plates, Joseph found what Book of Mormon prophets referred to as “interpreters,” or a “stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light” (Alma 37:23–24). He described the instrument as “spectacles” and referred to it using an Old Testament term, Urim and Thummim (see Exodus 28:30).2

He also sometimes applied the term to other stones he possessed, called “seer stones” because they aided him in receiving revelations as a seer. The Prophet received some early revelations through the use of these seer stones. For example, shortly after Oliver Cowdery came to serve as a scribe for Joseph Smith as he translated the plates, Oliver and Joseph debated the meaning of a biblical passage and sought an answer through revelation. Joseph explained: “A difference of opinion arising between us about the account of John the Apostle … whether he died, or whether he continued; we mutually agreed to settle it by the Urim and Thummim.”3 In response, Joseph Smith received the revelation now known as section 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which informed them that Jesus had told the Apostle John, “Thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory” (D&C 7:3).

Records indicate that soon after the founding of the Church in 1830, the Prophet stopped using the seer stones as a regular means of receiving revelations. Instead, he dictated the revelations after inquiring of the Lord without employing an external instrument. One of his scribes explained that process: “The scribe seats himself at a desk or table, with pen, ink, and paper. The subject of inquiry being understood, the Prophet and Revelator inquires of God. He spiritually sees, hears, and feels, and then speaks as he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”[17]


W.W. Phelps (1833): "through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles—(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)"

W.W. Phelps wrote the following in the January 1833 edition of The Evening and The Morning Star:

The book of Mormon, as a revelation from God, possesses some advantage over the old scripture: it has not been tinctured by the wisdom of man, with here and there an Italic word to supply deficiencies.-It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim) and while it unfolds the history of the first inhabitants that settled this continent, it, at the same time, brings a oneness to scripture, like the days of the apostles; and opens and explains the prophecies, that a child may understand the meaning of many of them; and shows how the Lord will gather his saints, even the children of Israel, that have been scattered over the face of the earth, more than two thousand years, in these last days, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion. [18]

It appears that the seer stone was also referred to as the "Urim and Thummim" after 1833, indicating that the name could be assigned to any device that was used for the purpose of translation.[19]


Response to claim: "the same stone and method Joseph used for his treasure hunting activities"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

the same stone and method Joseph used for his treasure hunting activities?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct.


Question: Why would Joseph Smith use the same stone for translating the Book of Mormon that he used for "money digging"?

Would God approve the use of a "magic peep stone" in translating a sacred record?

Joseph was given a set of Nephite interpreters along with the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was produced. In addition, Joseph already possessed and utilized several seer stones. Although Joseph began translating the Book of Mormon using the Nephite interpreters, he later switched to using one of his seer stones to complete the translation. Critics (typically those who reject Mormonism but still believe in God) reject the idea that God would approve the use of an instrument for translation that had previously been used for "money digging."

Regardless of the perspective (believing or non-believing) from which we tell the story of the translation, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged

The conclusion that Joseph used a "magical" or "occult" stone to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon is entirely dependent upon one's own preconception that the use of such an instrument would not be acceptable by God. Believers, on the other hand, ought not to take issue with a distinction between one set of seer stones versus another. As Brant Gardner notes: "Regardless of the perspective from which we tell the story, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged. How was the Book of Mormon translated? As Joseph continually insisted, the only real answer, from any perspective, is that it was translated by the gift and power of God." [20]

  • The point is not necessarily that the stone had the same ability, but that it provided a means for Joseph to exercise his spiritual abilities.
  • If one stops assuming that Joseph was a liar and deceiver, we can consider the matter from Joseph's point of view:
    • He's being called upon to reveal things that are hidden, and to translate an ancient record.
    • Joseph is painfully aware that he cannot do these things.
    • How could Joseph know that he wasn't going crazy or being delusional? Tying his early prophetic work to something with which he had already had objective success (the use of the seer stone) allowed Joseph to trust both God and himself.
    • The Lord seems to have used Joseph's preexisting beliefs about how the world worked (including seer stones to reveal hidden things) to help Joseph gain confidence in his own abilities.
    • The Nephite interpreters had been blessed and dedicated for the purpose of translating the Book of Mormon—this would have increased Joseph's faith, and they did help him receive revelation more effectively, initially. This is what excited Joseph more than even the plates themselves—he was able to do more with the Nephite stones.
    • With time, Joseph was able to translate with his "original" stone—thus, his own ability had increased, because he no longer needed the "stronger" Nephite stones.
    • Eventually, he did not require the "prop" or "crutch" of the stone at all—his faith and experience had grown.
  • Critics of the Church often act as if the stone or Urim and Thummim were a type of "magic translator" that anyone could have looked through. They weren't. Joseph always insisted he was only able to do what he did "by the gift and power of God." It is probable that anyone else examining the stones would have found nothing unusual or different about them.
  • The power to translate or reveal hidden things came from God—as Joseph's experience and spiritual maturity increased, his reliance upon a physical instrument became less and less.


Response to claim: "I'm sure he was wrong on only two out of three. After all, wouldn't you buy a third car from a man who had already sold you two clunkers?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Abraham proven a fraud. The Kinderhook plates found to be a hoax. The Book of Mormon. The only one of the three for which we do not have the original. I'm sure he was wrong on only two out of three. After all, wouldn't you buy a third car from a man who had already sold you two clunkers? (This claim is contained in a graphic accompanying the text)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is simply sarcastic hyperbole. The Book of Abraham was received by revelation, and it is evident that we don't have all of the papyri (remember the missing originals for Facsimiles 2 and 3?). The Kinderhook hoax was discussed in the Ensign years ago. No translation of the Kinderhook plates was ever produced beyond the single paragraph that can be directly related to the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, which demonstrates that Joseph didn't attempt to translate them by revelation. According to the author, this is all supposed to disprove the Book of Mormon by inference?

Logical Fallacy: Texas Sharpshooter—The author located some pattern in the data that he or she believes was the cause of something else, despite the lack of any supporting connection, and asserted that this was, in fact, the actual cause.

The author believes that he has found a pattern that fits his presumption that the Book of Mormon cannot be true.

Notes

  1. History of the Church, 1:220. Volume 1 link
  2. Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968)
  3. Don Bradley, "President Joseph Has Translated a Portion': Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates," 2011 FAIR Conference, August 5, 2011. off-site
  4. George Moore, 1811-1847 Diary (1842-1844) off-site (emphasis added)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Jeremy Runnells, "Debunking FairMormon - Letter to a CES Director" (2014)
  6. New York Herald, May 30, 1843
  7. Don Bradley, "‘President Joseph Has Translated a Portion’: Solving the Mystery of the Kinderhook Plates" (2011) off-site
  8. The term typically used by critics to describe such a change of focus is "moving the goalposts."
  9. "Emma Smith Bidamon to Emma Pilgrim, 27 March 1870," Early Mormon Documents, 1:532.
  10. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:128–129. GospeLink (requires subscrip.) "[Martin Harris] said that the Prophet possessed a Seer Stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as with the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he sometimes used the Seer Stone."
  11. Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign (July 1993), 61. off-site
  12. Brant A. Gardner, Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, 2009 FAIR Conference presentation. Gardner references [9] D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987), 38. and [10] Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 70.
  13. Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 200–215.
  14. Eber Dudley Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834), 241-242; cited in Richard Van Wagoner and Steven Walker, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 no. 2 (Summer 1982), 48–68.
  15. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013)
  16. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013).
  17. Gerrit Dirkmaat (Church History Department), "Great and Marvelous Are the Revelations of God," Ensign, January 2013. (emphasis added) off-site
  18. W.W. Phelps, "The Book of Mormon," The Evening and The Morning Star 1:58 .
  19. Stephen D. Ricks, The Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, Featured Papers, Maxwell Institute, Provo UT. off-site
  20. Brant A. Gardner, Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, 2009 FAIR Conference presentation.


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Letter to a CES Director
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells