Question: What are the criticisms related to the "gold plates" of the Book of Mormon?

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Question: What are the criticisms related to the "gold plates" of the Book of Mormon?

It is claimed that Joseph manufactured the plates, and that they would be too heavy to carry if they were pure gold

It is claimed that:

  1. Joseph Smith, Jr. manufactured some metal plates out of tin, copper, or some other metal in order to trick witnesses into thinking he had gold plates.
  2. Gold plates of the dimensions described by the witnesses would be too heavy (on the order of 200 lbs) to be realistically lifted and carried as Joseph and others described.

Critics' attempts to argue that the witnesses only 'saw' the plates in a spiritual state flatly contradicts their own reports, and those of others. One cannot dismiss the eyewitness reports (some of whom reported that they saw more than just plates 'under the cloth,') as irrelevant to the question of the Book of Mormon's historicity and origins.

Both witness testimony and the material of which the plates were made indicates that the weight of the plates was 40-60 lbs, and not 200 lbs.

At least one critic has been desperate enough to suggest that tin plates were fabricated, although there is no evidence of this.

Those who make such claims are assuming that the plates were not what Joseph claimed them to be

It is important to note at the outset that Dan Vogel (a prominent advocate of this attempt to redefine the witnesses' testimonies) describes his approach as beginning

"with the assumption that the Book of Mormon is not real history. Thus to the extent that one believes the evidence points to a non-historical Book of Mormon, it also points to something other than real gold plates under the cloth. The two are inseparably connected."[1]

Thus, Vogel must come up with a counter-explanation for the Book of Mormon. Having decided that the Book of Mormon cannot be true history, Vogel must ignore evidence which disproves his thesis, and manufacture evidence through speculation, rather than considering all the evidence and then drawing conclusions therefrom about both the reality of the Book of Mormon's history and the existence of the plates. As he notes, the two are connected. One cannot dismiss the eyewitness reports (some of whom reported that they saw more than just plates 'under the cloth,') as irrelevant to the question of the Book of Mormon's historicity and origins.

Vogel does not seem to realize it, but the difficulty which he has in coming up with plausible explanations for the physical plates and the testimonies of the eight witnesses is evidence for the reality of the Book of Mormon. But, that conclusion is unacceptable to him, so he must downplay the evidence for the physical plates.

There is also an attempt to argue that the witnesses never actually saw the plates

Vogel and others attempt to argue that the witnesses only 'saw' the plates in a spiritual state, and then were allowed to heft a covered box. This flatly contradicts their own reports, and those of others. Lucy Mack Smith wrote:

In a few days we were follow by Joseph and Oliver and the Whitmers who came to make us a visit and also to make some arrangements about getting the book printed soon after they came They all that is the male part of the company repaired to a little grove where it was customary for the family to offer up their secret prayers. as Joseph had been instructed that the plates would be carried there by one of the ancient Nephites. Here it was that those 8 witnesses recorded in the Book of Mormon looked upon the plates and handled them of which they bear witness in the [title page of the Book of Mormon]. . . . After the witnesses returned to the house the Angel again made his appearance to Joseph and received the plates from his hands. We commenced holding meetings that night in the which we declared those facts that we knew to be true.[2]

Many witnesses offered descriptions of the plates

Notes

  1. Dan Vogel, "Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling: Comments" John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 26 (September 2006): 322—325.
  2. Preliminary manuscript, Family and Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; cited in Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1 (2005): 18–31. [{{{url}}} off-site] wiki