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Olavarria

Kinderhooked?

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Bushman says he didnt fall for the trap.

Others have suggested that he did.

What really happened?

Please back your claim with evidence.

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Bushman says he didnt fall for the trap.

Others have suggested that he did.

What really happened?

Please back your claim with evidence.

My vote: hooked. (See my posts here.) William Clayton says that Joseph translated a portion of the Kinderhook plates, and he was a firsthand witness. The Clayton journal was also the source for D&C 131:5â??8.

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He did provide a bit of translation. Despite the attempts to deny this by Stanley Kimball and others, the evidence points decidedly in that direction. William Clayton did not acquire his information about Joseph and the Kinderhook plates from the rumor mill. Clayton was Joseph's personal secretary, and a man as much in his confidence as any at the time. He dined with Joseph at the Mansion House, examined the plates while there, and traced one of them on the reverse of the page where he recorded his journal entry for the day, including this regarding the plates, "Brother Joseph has translated a portion of them, and says they contain...."

But, apologist that I am, I have uncovered the method of translation employed by Joseph Smith--it was not claimed to be revelatory. This finding confirms a hypothesis set out by Mark Ashurst-McGee at the 1996 MHA; and Mark and I may yet publish a collaborative paper on this. I'm not going to spill the beans here; but the evidence is quite definite--Joseph did produce a putative translation, but did so through "secular" means, and not as a prophet.

Keep an eye out for a paper laying this out in a future issue of the Journal of Mormon History.

Don

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But, apologist that I am, I have uncovered the method of translation employed by Joseph Smith--it was not claimed to be revelatory. This finding confirms a hypothesis set out by Mark Ashurst-McGee at the 1996 MHA; and Mark and I may yet publish a collaborative paper on this. I'm not going to spill the beans here; but the evidence is quite definite--Joseph did produce a putative translation, but did so through "secular" means, and not as a prophet.

Don

So would this mean that he used some kind of manual or grammar guide in translating the characters on the plates? I recall that the characters were copied from a tea box or something, right? So, I dunno, maybe he was trying to translate what was on the tea box? Anyway, if he didn't use the seer stone for the translation does that mean "secular" means?

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My vote: hooked. (See my posts here.) William Clayton says that Joseph translated a portion of the Kinderhook plates, and he was a firsthand witness. The Clayton journal was also the source for D&C 131:5–8.

I think it is problematic to claim that Clayton was a "firsthand witness." There is some language in this narrative that suggests otherwise.

Having the Journal as a source for a D&C scripture is not relevant. It is a separate event.

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I think it is problematic to claim that Clayton was a "firsthand witness." There is some language in this narrative that suggests otherwise.

Having the Journal as a source for a D&C scripture is not relevant. It is a separate event.

Ya, this is the part that was problematic for me too. I thought much of the D&C was from recovered copies of the Book of Commandments when the press was vandalized in Missouri. Was the journal just used to modify the BoC passage to the current D&C passage? Because if the Clayton journal is not reliable I'm wondering if there must have been a second witness to the D&C passage. I can see how the situation would be different though if one was an eyewitness event and the other was based on hearsay.

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Ya, this is the part that was problematic for me too. I thought much of the D&C was from recovered copies of the Book of Commandments when the press was vandalized in Missouri. Was the journal just used to modify the BoC passage to the current D&C passage? Because if the Clayton journal is not reliable I'm wondering if there must have been a second witness to the D&C passage. I can see how the situation would be different though if one was an eyewitness event and the other was based on hearsay.

I would say that Clayton is generally reliable. When he was acting as scribe, I would say he was very good. The problem is that is isn't always acting as scribe.

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Joseph was very accomadating to those around him. Some took advantage of his good nature. He might have tried to use the Spirit and when the Spirit failed, not wanting to turn some request aside, used what knowledge he had to try and translate it.

As references, I use only the fact that I know Joseph Smith as both a man and a prophet. He struggled with relationships and personality weaknesses the same as everyone else. He was a "Peter" on many an occassion. (Peter both denied Christ showing his very human weakness of fear of what men might do, and he also failed to have faith to walk with Christ on the water a mong other weaknesses like found in John 18-- smoting off the ear of one of the soldiers.)

There never has been a perfect servant of the Lord, only weak and foolish men who were made great through Christ.

Out of small things, great things are accomplished.

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He did provide a bit of translation. Despite the attempts to deny this by Stanley Kimball and others, the evidence points decidedly in that direction. William Clayton did not acquire his information about Joseph and the Kinderhook plates from the rumor mill. Clayton was Joseph's personal secretary, and a man as much in his confidence as any at the time. He dined with Joseph at the Mansion House, examined the plates while there, and traced one of them on the reverse of the page where he recorded his journal entry for the day, including this regarding the plates, "Brother Joseph has translated a portion of them, and says they contain...."

But, apologist that I am, I have uncovered the method of translation employed by Joseph Smith--it was not claimed to be revelatory. This finding confirms a hypothesis set out by Mark Ashurst-McGee at the 1996 MHA; and Mark and I may yet publish a collaborative paper on this. I'm not going to spill the beans here; but the evidence is quite definite--Joseph did produce a putative translation, but did so through "secular" means, and not as a prophet.

Keep an eye out for a paper laying this out in a future issue of the Journal of Mormon History.

Don

Don, is there anything written online by a Mormon author that would accord with your views? You're the first Mormon I've ever heard this position from.

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Is Don Mormon?

It seems so:

http://mormonorigins.blogspot.com/

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Ah, perhaps not:

Having concluded from my weighing of the evidence available to me that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient historical text, it was only a matter of time before I concluded also that Joseph Smith fraudulently passed off some mundane object as the Book of Mormon plates. And I have more recently become aware of what isâ??for meâ??compelling evidence that his motives were probably not pious, but, rather, self-serving.

http://mormonorigins.wordpress.com/

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The kinderhook plates are a definite bugbear for the antilds. There are many sites out there that claim JS was a fraud because of his attemp at translation. The lds need to come up with a good comeback and it seems that with the sites Smac has posted, that the lds are trying.

I have always had a problem with the underlying notion of the kinderhook plates. Lets look at it this way: If JS was a fraud, why would he fall for this gag? A fraudster can spot a fraudster a mile away. However, if JS's story is true and that the book of mormon is what it claims to be, then I see JS being interested in this find as corraborative evidence for the book of mormon.

But I cannot see him falling for the gag if he was a fraudster. This leads me to believe that perhaps there is something not right in what Clayton claims. Something is fishy about the whole episode.

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I am a former Mormon.

Mormons who knew of the Kinderhook plates believed them to be genuine before Stanley Kimball had the surviving plate tested and it was shown to be a 19th-century production. Indeed, one can find LDS writers, I believe including Orson Pratt and B. H. Roberts, who defended the authenticity of the plates on the grounds that Joseph Smith translated from them. It was only when they appeared to be fraudulent that Latter-day Saints began propounding the view that Joseph Smith must not have translated from them. However, the evidence from the Nauvoo period uniformly indicates that Joseph Smith began translating the Kinderhook plates. Those writing that Joseph had begun such a translation include nobodies with very distant connections with Joseph Smith--you know, like Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor. Taylor even promised readers of the Times and Seasons, in a specially published broadside including facsimiles of the plates, that the translation would be published as soon as it was complete. As both an apostle and the publisher of the T&S broadside on the Kinderhook plates, Taylor was in a particularly privileged position to have the "inside scoop" on the plates and their reception by the prophet. If Joseph rejected the plates and had not begun translating, then his closest associates and those who should have been most in the know were badly misinformed. Not only that, but Joseph Smith was apparently content to have people believe he was translating this fake, since, despite his close involvement with the Times and Seasons, he didn't have them print any correction or retraction.

And this doesn't even take into account the evidence provided by Joseph Smith's personal secretary William Clayton. Clayton's diary reveals that he was privy to even shockingly intimate details about Joseph and Emma's 1843 troubles over plural marriage, and Clayton's biographer James B. Allen has opined that Clayton was as much in Joseph's confidence as anyone during the relevant period. Clayton not only records that Joseph had translated a portion of them, but states specifically what information he had received through the translation, reports it casually as "Brother Joseph says"--just as he reports the other things Joseph Smith told him directly, and does so on the same evening that he spends time at the Mansion House dining with Joseph, examining the plates, and tracing one of the plates onto this same journal page where he reports what "Brother Joseph said" the plates contained. In light of the intimacy of Clayton's relationship to Joseph, and of Joseph's presence with Clayton while he examined and traced the plates, shouldn't the presumption be that Clayton's journal entry that night more likely reflects firsthand information than absolutely false street rumor? If William Clayton wasn't in a position to know Joseph Smith's views on the Kinderhook plates, who was? Clayton surely had a more direct pipeline to the source than do apologists of over a century and a half later. And so did Taylor and Pratt. And we know they are wrong because...?

Ah, yes, we should also examine the testimonies that Joseph rejected the Kinderhook plates or did not translate from them. Here they are:

Pretty impressive, huh?

The evidence so decidedly favors Joseph Smith having translated from the Kinderhook plates that is laughable how many have deceived themselves, or allowed others to deceive them, into believing he did not.

Recognizing the weight of the evidence for translation, my friend Mark Ashurst-McGee, who now works for the church on the Joseph Smith Papers project, developed the hypothesis that Joseph Smith attempted, not a revelatory translation, but a secular one. Mark identified evidence that Joseph Smith looked for Hebrew characters on the plates. Frankly, I doubted Mark's hypothesis. But I later independently identified the source Joseph Smith employed in performing his translation of the Kinderhook plates.

Even without this source, I find the evidence for Joseph Smith's attempt to translate the Kinderhook plates overwhelming. But I think the source nails it down with certainty, and also gets Joseph Smith off the hook of having received false revelation on the contents of fake plates.

As a nonbeliever, I have no particular reason to look for evidence refuting criticisms of the church. But in this case, that's just the way the evidence goes.

Don

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Quote from my blog:

Having concluded from my weighing of the evidence available to me that the Book of Mormon was not an ancient historical text, it was only a matter of time before I concluded also that Joseph Smith fraudulently passed off some mundane object as the Book of Mormon plates. And I have more recently become aware of what isâ??for meâ??compelling evidence that his motives were probably not pious, but, rather, self-serving.

FWIW, my view of Joseph Smith continues to evolve, and has changed significantly even since I wrote the above. I continue to think that Joseph Smith was not pious, and that he sometimes made opportunistic claims. But I now think I was mistaken in reducing him to a mere opportunist, and that there is much more to the man than that. In my present view, Joseph Smith intended to benefit himself primarily by benefitting others. He developed ideas and practices that would have been of tremendous benefit to the surrounding community, the nation, and even the world, had they been accepted. Unfortunately, they largely were not.

Naturally, I expect my understanding of Joseph Smith to keep changing, and hopefully growing. But my respect for him has recently been climbing considerably, even though I do not accept his theological claims.

Don

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I think it is problematic to claim that Clayton was a "firsthand witness." There is some language in this narrative that suggests otherwise.

I'm curious what language from his journal you think suggests that William Clayton got his information about Joseph's translation of the Kinderhook plates from some source other than Joseph himself.

I thought much of the D&C was from recovered copies of the Book of Commandments when the press was vandalized in Missouri. Was the journal just used to modify the BoC passage to the current D&C passage? Because if the Clayton journal is not reliable I'm wondering if there must have been a second witness to the D&C passage. I can see how the situation would be different though if one was an eyewitness event and the other was based on hearsay.

D&C 131:5â??8 is dated May 17, 1843. The Book of Commandments was printed in 1833 and the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835. Section 131 didn't get added to the D&C until 1876. Clayton's journal is the sole source for those verses.

I don't see any reason to consider his report of the Kinderhook translation less reliable than his report of Joseph's teachings on the material character of spirit.

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There was another document brought to Joseph to translate. Seems like it was a greek something or other. My brain isnt' working this morning. Anyone remember?

Pheadrus

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[...] In my present view, Joseph Smith intended to benefit himself primarily by benefitting others. [...]

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

BYW,

Thanks for the infor regarding the Kinderhook plates. I'm going to have to do some (re)thinking.

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There is no reason to believe that Clayton got his information from Joseph Smith. This is clear in that Clayton's journal entry makes a number of factual errors. The fact that there was a skeleton, the size of the skeleton, the depth it was buried at, even the county in which the excavation took place.

On top of this, despite being his personal secretary, this was Clayton's personal journal. Clayton was not the one at the time recording details for the History of the Church. There is no reason to suggest that by virtue of his being Joseph's secretary, that this journal entry should be seen as some offial recording of what Joseph actually believed or said. Nor does the language indicate a direct connection. Clayton does not suggest that "Joseph told me" or any other first person witness type of language.

The nature of the description of the buried skeleton (which was non-existent) was quite similar to another recorded account, although the differences in details suggest that both accounts were likely the products of the rumor mill.

I don't know what Don is thinking, but, the evidence that he provides amounts to nothing but speculation.

Ben

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I don't think we have to worry even if it is all true. There is so many things we have inadaquate evidence of that this is just one more thing on the mountain of a pile.

The problems most find in the church are all piled on this mountain of speculation. Just like life, if built upon sand-- it will all come falling down in the Lord's own due time.

It is ours to worry about our lives that may be built upon sand. Prayer, fasting, dedication and rededication to the Lord in our own lives and the lives of our family members is what we must concern ourselves these day-- these last days.

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He did provide a bit of translation. Despite the attempts to deny this by Stanley Kimball and others, the evidence points decidedly in that direction. William Clayton did not acquire his information about Joseph and the Kinderhook plates from the rumor mill. Clayton was Joseph's personal secretary, and a man as much in his confidence as any at the time. He dined with Joseph at the Mansion House, examined the plates while there, and traced one of them on the reverse of the page where he recorded his journal entry for the day, including this regarding the plates, "Brother Joseph has translated a portion of them, and says they contain...."

But, apologist that I am, I have uncovered the method of translation employed by Joseph Smith--it was not claimed to be revelatory. This finding confirms a hypothesis set out by Mark Ashurst-McGee at the 1996 MHA; and Mark and I may yet publish a collaborative paper on this. I'm not going to spill the beans here; but the evidence is quite definite--Joseph did produce a putative translation, but did so through "secular" means, and not as a prophet.

Keep an eye out for a paper laying this out in a future issue of the Journal of Mormon History. Don

Hi Don,

Does the evidence (which you claim is "quite definite") go beyond that which is mentioned in Mark's FARMS Review of Palmers book: " A One-sided View of Mormon Origins? Specifically:

However, the claim that Smith compared the characters on the Kinderhook plates with the reformed Egyptian characters from the golden plates finds some contextual support in the 7 May letter of Parley P. Pratt, who wrote that the Kinderhook characters had been compared with the characters from Smith's Egyptian papyri. On the same day, in the journal Willard Richards kept for Joseph Smith, Richards recorded that Smith was "visited by several gentlemen concerning the plates which were dug out of a mound near quincy[;] sent by W[illia]m Smith to the office for Hebrew Bible & Lexicon."28 Rather than sending for a seer stone or attempting to translate by direct revelation, Smith sent for the linguistic tools that he used in his ordinary study of Hebrew. All of this suggests that Smith took a secular approach to deciphering the plates and that he did so openly. As the characters on these plates did not convey any genuine meaning, it was impossible for him to have produced any quantity of actual translation. Apparently he thought he had, but this would only mean that he made a mistakeâ??something he never thought himself above.29 There is, in fact, no solid evidence that Smith viewed the "portion" Clayton said he had translated as a revelation from God or that he presented it as such.30

I ask because: 1) The kinderhook plates may no longer have been in Nauvoo on May 7th (according to Stanely Kimball the plates had left Nauvoo by May 3rd, and there is nothing in the journal entry, kept by Richards, that would necessarily be read to suggest otherwise--the visit may have been regarding events that had happened several days before); 2) Pratt's letter, while written on May 7th, may have been a description of what he had witnessed days earlier, and while he described the plates as "small and filled with engravings in Egyptian language", he did not specify who made the determination about "Egyptian launguage" and on what basis that determination was made (it would seem odd that Joseph would send for a Hebrew Bible and Lexicon if he had thought the characters were Egyptian), nor was there any mention of a translation; 3) Conspicuously missing from Joseph's journal is any mention that he did anything more than merely "visit" about the plates (no mention of tranlating, no mention of a translation, no description of the plates or any suggestion of their content, etc.); 4) John Taylor's "Times and Seasons" article of May 4th indicates that the kinderhook plates had been "taken away", and imply that a translation hadn't been done prior to that time, but would at some later date be returned for the purpose of translation. The same implication was suggested in a Handbill distributed in June of that year (thereby indicating that the translation had yet to be made or completed at that time); 5) Brigham Young and Orson Pratt, who in addition to Parley and John Taylor, were in attendance at a meeting of the Twelve on May 2nd, spoke of the plates, but made no mention of a translation. 6) Mr. Fugate, the key conspirator in the hoax (See Harris letter), indicated in 1878 that Joseph "would not agree to translate them until they were sent to the Antiquarian Society at Philadelphia, France, and England." 7) There is evidence that the kinderhook plates were never returned to Joseph for translation (see: Kinderhook Plates: Putting an end to the Hoax).

What I would be interested to learn from you and Mark is: 1) when the alleged translation took place? 2) who took dictation? 3) where is the written text of the translation (in the hand of the person taking dictation)? 4) if the characters on the kinderhook plates were matched up with any Egyptian character or characters in the Hebrew Lexicon: and 5) was the alleged translation done in earnest or in jest or an off-hand surmising based on rumors and what was disclosed about the plates?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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There is no reason to believe that Clayton got his information from Joseph Smith. This is clear in that Clayton's journal entry makes a number of factual errors. The fact that there was a skeleton, the size of the skeleton, the depth it was buried at, even the county in which the excavation took place.

. . . Nor does the language indicate a direct connection. Clayton does not suggest that "Joseph told me" or any other first person witness type of language.

The nature of the description of the buried skeleton (which was non-existent) was quite similar to another recorded account, although the differences in details suggest that both accounts were likely the products of the rumor mill.

Clayton included secondhand information in his account, it is true, but there is no reason to suppose that when he quotes Joseph ("Prest J. has translated a portion and says . . .") he is relying on secondhand information:

I have seen 6 brass plates which were found in Adams County by some persons who were digging in a mound. They found a skeleton about 6 feet from the surface of the earth which was 9 foot high. [At this point there is a tracing of a plate in the journal.] The plates were on the breast of the skeleton. This diagram shows the size of the plates being drawn on the edge of one of them. They are covered with ancient characters of language containing from 30 to 40 on each side of the plates. 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 (William Clayton diary, 1 May 1843, quoted in James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon [urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987], 117, emphasis mine).

I don't believe that this was a translation of any length, but rather a preliminary, seeric announcement of the sort he issued when he first examined the BoA papyri:

I began the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egyptâ??a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them (History of the Church 2:235).
On top of this, despite being his personal secretary, this was Clayton's personal journal. Clayton was not the one at the time recording details for the History of the Church. There is no reason to suggest that by virtue of his being Joseph's secretary, that this journal entry should be seen as some offial recording of what Joseph actually believed or said.

From George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books/Smith Research Associates, 1995), xxiiâ??xxiii:

On September 3, 1842, Joseph Smith appointed Clayton to succeed Richards as Temple Recorder and to be Smith's secretary. Smith declared: "When I have any revelations to write you shall write them."

The intimacy of Clayton's portrait of Joseph Smith stems from his involvement in all of Smith's activities at Nauvoo. Clayton's biographer, James B. Allen, wrote, "As a diarist and historian, he described what he saw around him. Beginning early in 1842, William Clayton found himself involved in nearly every important activity of Nauvoo, but especially the private concerns of the prophet. For two and a half years," Allen continued, "until Joseph [smith's] death in 1844, they were in each other's company almost daily."

Allen explains that Clayton was not only Smith's trusted employee and associate but also his personal friend and confidant. He wrote letters for the prophet, recorded his revelations, ran his errands, and helped prepare the official history of the church. Clayton received tithes collected for building the temple, kept its construction records, and met frequently with the temple committee. He was appointed city treasurer, city recorder, clerk of the Nauvoo City Council, and secretary of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. He was a member of the secret ruling body, the Council of Fifty, which was designated to govern when Jesus returned to establish the "Kingdom of God," and he was a member of Joseph Smith's private prayer circle, where Smith introduced the temple ceremonies of washings, anointings, key words, signs, tokens, and penalties. "In this unique combination of the secular and the religious," Allen summarized, "his life probably represents as well as that of anyone, other than Joseph [smith], the totality of the Nauvoo experience."

So when Clayton says "Prest J. . . . says" it sounds to me like a firsthand account.

In case you're interested, phaedrus, I discuss the Greek Psalter incident here.

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