Question: How much did the gold plates weigh?

Table of Contents

Question: How much did the gold plates weigh?

The plates weighed approximately sixty pounds

Witnesses of the Book of Mormon were consistent in their witness that the plates weighed 40-60 pounds.

Some critics assume that the "golden plates" are pure gold, or that they are a solid block of gold. Neither conclusion is warranted.

  1. Pure gold plates would be too soft to hold engraving well. An alloy of gold and copper called "tumbaga," known in Mesoamerica, would suit both the appearance and weight of the plates.[1]
  2. The plates were not a solid block of gold, but a set of page-like leaves, which reduces the weight by about 50%.
  • "weighing altogether from forty to sixty lbs."[2] —Martin Harris

Witness statements regarding the weight of the gold plates

  • "I was permitted to lift them. . . . They weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgement."[3] —William Smith
  • "I . . . judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds."[4]—William Smith
  • "They were much heavier than a stone, and very much heavier than wood. . . . As near as I could tell, about sixty pounds."[5] —William Smith
  • "I hefted the plates, and I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold."[6] —Martin Harris
  • "My daughter said, they were about as much as she could lift. They were now in the glass-box, and my wife said they were very heavy. They both lifted them."[7] —Martin Harris
  • "I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work."[8] —Emma Smith
  • Joseph's sister Catherine, while she was dusting in the room where he had been translating, "hefted those plates [which were covered with a cloth] and found them very heavy."[9] —H. S. Salisbury, paraphrasing Catherine Smith Salisbury

Notes

  1. See Roy W. Doxey, "I Have A Question: What was the approximate weight of the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated?," Ensign (December 1986), 64.
  2. Martin Harris interview, Iowa State Register, August 1870, as quoted in Milton V. Backman Jr., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 226.
  3. William Smith, William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Steam, 1883), 12.
  4. William Smith interview with E. C. Briggs. Originally written by J. W. Peterson for Zions Ensign (Independence, Mo.); reprinted in Deseret Evening News, 20 January 1894, 11.
  5. William Smith interview, The Saints' Herald, 4 October 1884, 644.
  6. "Interview with Martin Harris," Tiffany's Monthly, May 1859, 169.
  7. "Interview with Martin Harris," Tiffany's Monthly, May 1859, 168.
  8. Emma Smith interview, published as "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," The Saints' Herald, 1 October 1879.
  9. I. B. Bell interview with H. S. Salisbury (grandson of Catherine Smith Salisbury), Historical Department Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.