Mormonism and Wikipedia/Golden plates/Finding

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An analysis of claims made in the Wikipedia article "Golden plates" - Finding the plates

A FairMormon Analysis of: Wikipedia article "Golden plates", a work by author: Various

An analysis of claims made in the Wikipedia article "Golden plates" - Finding the plates

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 Updated 9/21/2011

Section review

Finding the plates

Response to claim: "According to Smith, he found the plates after he was directed to them by a heavenly messenger"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

According to Smith, he found the plates after he was directed to them by a heavenly messenger

Author's sources:
  1. Smith referred to the visitor as an "angel of the Lord" at least as early as 1832 Smith (1832) , p. 4, and possibly as early as 1829 (Early Mormon Documents 1:151-152). Some early accounts related by non-Mormons described this angel as a "spirit" (Hadley (1829) ; Harris (1833) , p. 253; Chase (1833) , p. 242) or a "ghost" Burnett (1831) ; see also Lewis (Lewis) , p. 1 (a later-published account using the "ghost" terminology). In 1838, however, Smith later said that the "angel" was a man who had been "dead, and raised again therefrom" Smith (1838b) , pp. 42–43.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "whom he later identified as the angel Moroni"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

whom he later identified as the angel Moroni.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (Cowdery) , p. 180; Smith (1838b) , pp. 42–43. In distinction from his other accounts, Smith's 1838 autobiography said that the angel's name was Nephi Smith (1838a) , p. 4; nevertheless, modern historians and Latter Day Saints generally refer to the angel as Moroni.

FairMormon Response

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

We would be interested to see a reference by Modern day historians or Latter-day Saints who do not refer to the angel as Moroni.

 References not included in the Wikipedia article
These facts have not been hidden; they are readily acknowledged in the History of the Church:

In the original publication of the history in the Times and Seasons at Nauvoo, this name appears as "Nephi," and the Millennial Star perpetuated the error in its republication of the History. That it is an error is evident, and it is so noted in the manuscripts to which access has been had in the preparation of this work. [1]

Joseph refers to the name "Maroni" in his 1832 history, but does not specifically identify the angel by name,

for behold an angel of the Lord came and stood before me and it was by night and he called me by name and he said the Lord had forgiven me my sins and 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 ...

After he had finished translating the Book of Mormon, he again buried up the plates in the side of a mountain, by command of the Lord; some time after this, he was going through a piece of woods, on a by-path, when he discovered an old man dressed in ordinary grey apparel...The Lord told him that the man he saw was MORONI, with the plates, and if he had given him the five coppers, he might have got his plates again. (emphasis in original) [2]


Some Church sources give the identity of the angel that visited Joseph Smith in 1823 as "Nephi" instead of "Moroni"

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Response to claim: "According to the story, the angel first visited Smith's bedroom late at night, on September 22"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

According to the story, the angel first visited Smith's bedroom late at night, on September 22

Author's sources:
  1. September 22 was listed in a local almanac as the autumnal equinox, which has led D. Michael Quinn to argue that the date had astrological significance in Smith's worldview (Quinn (1998) , p. 144; however, this ostensible astrological significance is never mentioned by Smith or his contemporaries.

FairMormon Response

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


Question: Was the fact that the recovery of the Book of Mormon plates occurred on the autumnal equinox somehow significant?

There are many religious traditions (including Judaism) that use the equinoxes as part of their religious calendar

Joseph's meetings with Moroni and the recovery of the Book of Mormon occurred on the autumnal equinox, a date with astrological and magical significance. Some have speculated that this is evidence of Joseph Smith's preoccupation with "magick." However, there are many religious traditions (including Judaism) that use the equinoxes as part of their religious calendar. Thus, the presence of a significant "astrological" date may be coincidental or present for religious, not "magical" reasons. This again highlights the problems with "magic" as a category.

In this instance, critics presume that their claims about Joseph's preoccupation with magic is an accurate description of his attempt to recover the plates (see circular reasoning). If, however, there are other explanations for receiving the plates on the evening of 21-22 September 1827, then this cannot be used as evidence for pre-occupation with a "magic world view."

The recovery of the Book of Mormon plates occurred on a vital date in the Jewish calendar: Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year

The Book of Mormon claims to be a religious text, with a world-view sharing close affinities with Judaism. Interestingly, the plates' recovery occurred on a vital date in the Jewish calendar:

Rosh ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year (which had begun at sundown on 21 September 1827). At Rosh ha-Shanah the faithful were commanded to set a day aside as "a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation" (Leviticus 23:24).[3]

Rosh ha-Shanah also begins the Asseret Yemei Teshuva (The Ten Days of Repentance) which precede the holiest day of the Jewish year: Yom Kippur, the day of the atonement. Likewise, the Book of Mormon claimed to come forth to preach repentance, and prepare the way for Christ's second coming.

Rosh ha-Shanah is celebrated by the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar), just as Jesus' apocalyptic teachings foretold that the elect would be gathered by angels "with a great sound of a trumpet" (Matthew 24:31). The Revelation of St. John features angels with trumpets as part of the preparation or heralding of Christ's second coming (e.g., Revelation 8:2,6; compare DC 77:12). The Book of Mormon portrays itself squarely within this tradition, heralding and preparing the way for the gathering of the elect and the return of Christ (1 Nephi 13:34-42).

In the Jerusalem temple, "at the autumnal equinox the rays of the sun could enter the [holy of holies] because the whole of the edifice faced east."[4] Thus, on a date in which the idea of divine illumination, light, and knowledge streaming into God's earthly temple was so prominent, a new divine revelation of scripture fits at least as well as Quinn's claim that this date has astrological significance for "the introduction of 'broad cultural movements and religious ideas'."[5]


Response to claim: "Oliver Cowdery initially dated the angel's visit to the "15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr's, age", Cowdery changed the statement to read the 17th year of his age"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

in 1822 or 1823.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith's first mention of the angel in later histories is an appearance on the eve of September 22, 1823 Smith (1838a) , p. 4; however, other accounts say or imply that the angel may have appeared a year earlier in 1822. Smith's first history in 1832 said the angel's first visit was on September 22, 1822, although he also said he was "seventeen years of age" Smith (1832) , p. 3, which would have made the year 1823 (he turned 17 in December 1822). In 1835, after Oliver Cowdery initially dated the angel's visit to the "15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr's, age", Cowdery changed the statement to read the 17th year of his age (16 years old, or 1822)—but he said this visit in Smith's "17th year" occurred in 1823 Cowdery (1835a) , p. 78. Smith's father is quoted by an inquirer who visited his house in 1830 as saying that the first visit by the angel took place in 1822 but that he did not learn about it until 1823 Lapham (1870) , p. 305. A Smith neighbor who said Smith told him the story in 1823 said the angel appeared "a year or two before" the death of Joseph's brother Alvin in November 1823.

FairMormon Response

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


Oliver Cowdery's awareness of the story of the First Vision in 1834-35

Summary: When Oliver Cowdery published his version of the history of the Church in December 1834 and February 1835 he did not include a recital of the First Vision story - thus implying that it was not known among the Saints by that point in time. It is claimed that Cowdery's history contradicts Joseph Smith's later official history by saying that the Prophet's first visionary experience was of the angel Moroni in 1823.

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Response to claim: "Moroni told Smith that the plates could be found buried in a prominent hill near his home, later called 'Cumorah'"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Moroni told Smith that the plates could be found buried in a prominent hill near his home, later called Cumorah, a name taken from the Book of Mormon.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1838a) , p. 4 (identifying the hill, but not referring to it by a name); Cowdery (1835b) , p. 196 (referring to the hill as Cumorah).

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "Before dawn, Moroni reappeared two more times and repeated the information"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Before dawn, Moroni reappeared two more times and repeated the information.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1832) , p. 7; Smith (1842) , p. 707.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "But the angel would not allow Smith to take the plates until he obeyed certain 'commandments'"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

But the angel would not allow Smith to take the plates until he obeyed certain "commandments".

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1838a) , p. 6 (saying the angel told him to obey his charge concerning the plates, "otherwise I could not get them"); Clark (1842) , pp. 225–26 (the angel "told him that he must follow implicitly the divine direction, or he would draw down upon him the wrath of heaven"); Smith (1853) , p. 83 (characterizing the angel's requirements as "commandments of God", and saying Smith could receive the plates "not only until he was willing, but able" to keep those commandments).

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "Smith recorded some of these commandments, and contemporaries to whom he told the story said there were others"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Smith recorded some of these commandments, and contemporaries to whom he told the story said there were others, all of which are relevant to the modern debate about whether, or how closely, events of early Mormonism were related to the practice of contemporary folk magic.

Author's sources:
  1. See, e.g., Quinn (1998) .

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "that he have no thought of using the plates for monetary gain"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Smith's writings say that the angel required at least the following: (1) that he have no thought of using the plates for monetary gain,

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1832) , p. 5 (saying he was commanded to "have an eye single to the glory of God"); Smith (1838a) , p. 6 (saying the angel commanded him to "have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God".)

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "that he tell his father about the vision"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

(2) that he tell his father about the vision,

Author's sources:
  1. Smith's mother Lucy Mack Smith said he was commanded to tell his father during the third vision Smith (1853) , p. 81, but he disobeyed because he didn't think his father would believe him, and the angel appeared a fourth time to rebuke him and reiterate the commandment (82). Joseph Smith and his sister Katharine said the angel gave him the commandment in his fourth visit, but did not say whether he had received the commandment earlier that night (Smith (1838a) , p. 7; Salisbury (1895) , p. 12). Smith's father is quoted by a skeptical interviewer to say that in 1830, Smith delayed telling his father about the vision for about a year Lapham (1870) , p. 305. Smith's brother William, who was 11 at the time, said the angel commanded him to tell his entire family Smith (1883) , p. 9, although he may have been remembering Smith tell the story that night after he visited the hill, according to their mother's recollection Smith (1853) , p. 83.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "that he never show the plates to any unauthorized person"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

and (3) that he never show the plates to any unauthorized person.

Author's sources:
  1. Hadley (1829) ; Smith (1838a) , p. 6.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "Smith's contemporaries who heard the story—both sympathetic and unsympathetic—generally agreed that Smith mentioned the following additional commandments"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Smith's contemporaries who heard the story—both sympathetic and unsympathetic—generally agreed that Smith mentioned the following additional commandments: (4) that Smith take the plates and leave the site where they had been buried without looking back,

Author's sources:
  1. This commandment is described in the account of Joseph Knight, Sr., a loyal Latter Day Saint friend of Smith's Knight (1833) , p. 2, and Willard Chase, an associate of Smith's in Palmyra during the 1820s Chase (1833) , p. 242. Both Knight and Chase were treasure seekers, but while Knight remained a loyal follower until his death, Chase was a critic of Smith's by the early 1830s.

FairMormon Response

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

He oncovered it and found the Book and took it out and laid [it] Down By his side and thot he would Cover the place over again thinking there might be something else here. But he was told to take the Book and go right away. And after he had Covered the place he turned round to take the Book and it was not there and he was astonished that the Book was gone. He thot he would look in the place again and see if it had not got Back again. He had heard people tell of such things. And he opened the Box and Behold the Book was there. He took hold of it to take it out again and Behold he Could not stur the Book any more then he Could the mountin. He exclaimed “why Cant I stur this Book?” And he was answered, “you cant have it now.”


Response to claim: "that the plates never directly touch the ground until safe at home in a locked chest"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

and (5) that the plates never directly touch the ground until safe at home in a locked chest.

Author's sources:
  1. There is agreement on this commandment by Smith's mother Smith (1853) , pp. 85–86 and sister Salisbury (1895) , p. 14 and by two non-Mormons (Chase (1833) , p. 242; Lapham (1870) , p. 305).

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: "Some unsympathetic listeners who heard the story from Smith or his father recalled that Smith had said the angel required him...to wear "black clothes" to the place where the plates were buried"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Some unsympathetic listeners who heard the story from Smith or his father recalled that Smith had said the angel required him (6) to wear "black clothes" to the place where the plates were buried,

Author's sources:
  1. Chase (1833) , p. 242 (an affidavit of Willard Chase, a non-Latter Day Saint treasure seeker who believed Smith wrongly appropriated his seer stone). Chase said he heard the story from Smith's father in 1827. Fayette Lapham, who traveled to Palmyra in 1830 to inquire about the Latter Day Saint movement and heard the story from Joseph Smith, Sr., said Smith was told to wear an "old-fashioned suit of clothes, of the same color as those worn by the angel", but Lapham did not specify what color of clothing the angel was wearing Lapham (1870) , p. 305.

FairMormon Response

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

Response to claim: "to ride a 'black horse with a switchtail'"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

(7) to ride a "black horse with a switchtail",

Author's sources:
  1. Chase (1833) , p. 242 (affidavit of Willard Chase, relating story heard from Smith's father in 1827). A friendly but non-believing Palmyra neighbor, Lorenzo Saunders, heard the story in 1823 from Joseph Smith, Jr., and also said Smith was to required to ride a black horse to the hill Saunders (1884b) .

FairMormon Response

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

Response to claim: "to call for the plates by a certain name"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

(8) to call for the plates by a certain name,

Author's sources:
  1. Chase (1833) , p. 242 (affidavit of the skeptical Willard Chase).

FairMormon Response

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

Response to claim: "to 'give thanks to God'"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

and (9) to "give thanks to God."

Author's sources:
  1. Saunders (1893) (statement of Orson Saunders of Palmyra, who heard the story from Benjamin Saunders, who heard the story from Joseph Smith).

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "In the morning, Smith began work as usual and did not mention the visions to his father"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

In the morning, Smith began work as usual and did not mention the visions to his father

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1838a) , p. 7

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "because, he said, he did not think his father would believe him"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

because, he said, he did not think his father would believe him.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1853) , p. 82; Salisbury (1895) , p. 12 (stating that Smith told the angel during the fourth visit that he was afraid his Father would not believe him).

FairMormon Response

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Response to claim: "Smith said he then fainted because he had been awake all night"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Smith said he then fainted because he had been awake all night, and while unconscious, the angel appeared a fourth time and chastised him for failing to tell the visions to his father.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1853) , p. 82; Smith (1838a) , p. 6.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "When Smith then told all to his father, he believed his son and encouraged him to obey the angel's commands"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

When Smith then told all to his father, he believed his son and encouraged him to obey the angel's commands.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1853) , p. 82; Smith (1838a) , p. 7. Smith's brother William, who was 11 at the time, said he also told the rest of his family that day prior to visiting the hill Smith:1883 , pp. 9–10, although he may have been remembering Smith tell the story the night after he visited the hill, according to their mother's recollection Smith (1853) , p. 83. Smith's sister Katharine said that Joseph told his father and the two oldest brothers Alvin and Hyrum the morning prior to visiting the hill, but Katharine was too young (10 years old) to understand what they were talking about Salisbury (1895) , p. 13.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "Smith then set off to visit the hill, later stating that he used his seer stone to locate the place where the plates were buried"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Smith then set off to visit the hill, later stating that he used his seer stone to locate the place where the plates were buried

Author's sources:
  1. Harris (1833) , p. 252 (statement by Henry Harris, a non-Mormon Palmyra resident); Harris (1859) , p. 163 (statement by Martin Harris, a Latter Day Saint who became one of the Three Witnesses of the Golden Plates). According to one hearer of the account, Smith used the seer stone to follow a sequence of landmarks by horse and on foot until he arrived at the place the plates were buried.Lapham (1870) , p. 305.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: Joseph "knew the place the instant that" he arrived there

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

but that he "knew the place the instant that [he] arrived there."

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1838a) , pp. 6–7.

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "Smith said he saw a large stone covering a box made of stone"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Smith said he saw a large stone covering a box made of stone (or possibly iron).

Author's sources:
  1. Most accounts, including those written by Smith, say the plates were found in a stone box (Cowdery (1835b) , p. 196; Smith (1838a) , pp. 15–16; Whitmer (1875) , calling it a "stone casket", and stating that Smith had to dig down for the box "two and a half or three feet"); according to two non-believing witnesses, however, Smith said they were buried in an iron box (Bennett (1831) , p. 7; Lewis (Lewis) , p. 1).

FairMormon Response

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Response to claim: "Using a stick to remove dirt from the edges of the stone cover, and prying it up with a lever"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Using a stick to remove dirt from the edges of the stone cover, and prying it up with a lever,

Author's sources:
  1. Salisbury (1895) , p. 13

FairMormon Response

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


Response to claim: "Smith saw the plates inside the box, together with other artifacts"

The author(s) of Wikipedia article "Golden plates" make(s) the following claim:

Smith saw the plates inside the box, together with other artifacts.

Author's sources:
  1. Smith (1838a) , pp. 15–16. According to various accounts, these artifacts may have included a breastplate (Cowdery (1835b) , p. 196; Smith (1838a) , p. 16; Salisbury (1895) , p. 13, saying it was the "breast-plate of Laban"), a set of large spectacles made of seer stones (Chase (1833) , p. 243; Smith (1838a) , p. 16; Salisbury (1895) , p. 13), the Liahona, the sword of Laban (Lapham (1870) , pp. 306, 308; Salisbury (1895) , p. 13), the brass plates of Laban Salisbury (1895) , p. 13, the vessel in which the gold was melted, a rolling machine for gold plates, and three balls of gold as large as a fist Harris (1833) , p. 253.

FairMormon Response

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

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.
    Violated by COgden —Diff: off-site

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

The wiki editor has used a source which does not support the claim made in the main text.
  • Harris (1833) , p. 255 The third-hand account by Abigail Harris published in Mormonism Unvailed has some obvious problems, and there is nothing to support the idea that the vessel in which the gold was melted, a rolling machine and three balls of gold were found inside the box. Instead, the source notes that Joseph saw these items by "looking through his stone." The items described, and the plates "so heavy that it would take four stout men to load them into a cart" appear to be related to the story of the plates being returned to a cave in the Hill Cumorah. Here is what the source actually states:

They said that the plates he then had in possession were but an introduction to the Gold Bible -- that all of them upon which the bible was written, were so heavy that it would take four stout men to load them into a cart -- that Joseph had also discovered by looking through his stone, the vessel in which the gold was melted from which the plates were made, and also the machine with which they were rolled; he also discovered in the bottom of the vessel three balls of gold, each as large as his fist.


Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:11–12, footnote 2. Volume 1 link
  2. Eber Dudley Howe, Mormonism Unvailed (Painesville, Ohio: Telegraph Press, 1834), 277.
  3. Larry E. Morris, "'I Should Have an Eye Single to the Glory of God’: Joseph Smith’s Account of the Angel and the Plates (Review of: "From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism")," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 11–82. off-site
  4. Bruce Chilton, "Jesus’ Dispute in the Temple and the Origin of the Eucharist," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29 no. 4, 22–23.
  5. D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 121 ( Index of claims )

References

Wikipedia references for "Golden Plates"

Further reading

Articles on this subject

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