Jump to content

The stone box in Cumorah that housed the gold plates


Sevenbak

Recommended Posts

In reading another link recently, I came across this that I have never noticed before. It's an account from Oliver Cowdery written to W. W. Phelps. The series of letters were later made into an historical pamphlet and published by the Church in the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate.

Here's the relevant points, bolded and underlined. I'm curious if there are any other accounts of these 3 pillars of cement inside the box upon which the plates rested?

LETTER VIII.

DEAR BROTHER,

IN my last I said I should give, partially, a "description of the place where, and the manner in which these records were deposited:" the first promise I have fulfilled, and must proceed to the latter:

The hill of which I have been speaking, at the time mentioned, presented a varied appearance: the north end rose suddenly from the plain, forming a promontory without timber, but covered with grass. As you passed to the south you soon came to scattering timber, the surface having been cleared by art or by wind; and a short distance further left, you are surrounded with the common forest of the country. It is necessary to observe, that even the part cleared was only occupied for pasturage, its steep ascent and narrow summit not admitting the plow of the husbandman with any degree of ease or profit. It was at the second mentioned place where the record was found to be deposited, on the west side of the hill, not far from the top down its side; and when myself visited the place in the year 1830, there were several trees standing: enow [enough] to cause a shade in summer, but not so much as to prevent the surface being covered with grass?which was also the case when the record was first found.

Whatever may be the feeling of men on the reflection of past acts which have been performed on certain portions or spots of this earth, I know not, neither does it add or diminish to nor from the reality of my subject. When Moses heard the voice of God, at the foot of Horeb, out of the burning bush, he was commanded to take his shoes off his feet, for the ground on which he stood was holy. The same may be observed when Joshua beheld the "Captain of the Lord's host" by Jerico. And I confess that my mind was filled with many reflections; and though I did not then loose my shoe, yet with gratitude to God did I offer up the sacrifice of my heart.

How far below the surface these records were placed by Moroni, I am unable to say; but from the fact that they had been some fourteen hundred years buried, and that too on the side of a hill so steep, one is ready to conclude that they were

page 38

some feet below, as the earth would naturally wear more or less in that length of time. But they being placed toward the top of the hill, the ground would not remove as much as two-thirds, perhaps. Another circumstance would prevent a wearing of the earth: in all probability, as soon as timber had time to grow, the hill was covered, after the Nephites were destroyed, and the roots of the same would hold the surface. However, on this point I shall leave every man to draw his own conclusion and form his own speculation, as I only promised to give a description of the place at the time the records were found in 1823. It is sufficient for my present purpose, to know that such is the fact, that in 1823, yes, 1823, a man with whom I have had the most intimate and personal acquaintance, for almost seven years, actually discovered by the vision of God, the plates from which the Book of Mormon, as much as it is disbelieved, was translated! Such is the case, though men rack their very brains to invent falsehoods, and then waft them upon every breeze, to the contrary notwithstanding.

I have now given sufficient on the subject of the hill Cumorah?it has a singular and imposing appearance for that country, and must excite the curious enquiry of every lover of the Book of Mormon, though, I hope, never like Jerusalem and the sepulchre of our Lord, the pilgrims. In my estimation, certain places are dearer to me for what they now contain, than for what they have contained. For the satisfaction of such as believed I have been thus particular, and to avoid the question being a thousand times asked, more than any other cause, shall proceed and be as particular as heretofore. The manner in which the plates were deposited. First, a hole of sufficient depth, (how deep I know not,) was dug. At the bottom of this was laid a stone of suitable size, the upper surface being smooth. At each edge was placed a large quantity of cement, and into this cement, at the four edges of this stone were placed erect, four others, their bottom edges resting in the cement at the outer edges of the first stone. The four last named, when placed erect, formed a box, the corners, or where the edges of the four came in contact, were also cemented so firmly that the moisture from without was prevented from entering. It is to be observed, also, that the inner surface of the four erect, or side stones was smooth. This box was sufficiently large to admit a breast-plate, such as was used by the ancients to defend the chest, &c., from the arrows and weapons of their enemy. From the bottom of the box, or from the breast-plate, arose three small pillars composed of the same description of cement used on the edges; and upon these three pillars was placed the record of the children of Joseph, and of a people who left the tower far, far before the days of Joseph, or a sketch of each, which had it not been for this, and the never failing goodness of God, we

page 39

might have perished in our sins, having been left to bow down before the altars of the Gentiles, and to have paid homage to the priests of Baal! I must not forget to say that this box, containing the record was covered with another stone, the bottom surface being flat and the upper, crowning. But those three pillars were not so lengthy as to cause the plates and the crowning stone to come in contact. I have now given you, according to my promise, the manner in which this record was deposited; though when it was first visited by our brother, in 1823, a part of the crowning stone was visible above the surface, while the edges were concealed by the soil and grass, from which circumstance you will see, that however deep this box might have been placed by Moroni at first, the time had been sufficient to wear the earth so that it was easily discovered, when once directed, and yet not enough to make a perceivable difference to the passer by. So wonderful are the works of the Almighty, and so far from our finding out are his ways, that one who trembles to take his holy name into his lips, is left to wonder at his exact providences, and the fulfilment of his purposes in the event of times and seasons. A few years sooner might have found even the top stone concealed, and discouraged our brother from attempting to make a further trial to obtain this rich treasure, for fear of discovery; and a few later might have left the small box uncovered, and exposed its valuable contents to the rude calculations and vain speculations of those who neither understand common language nor fear God. But such would have been contrary to the words of the ancients and the promises made to them; and this is why I am left to admire the works and see the wisdom in the designs of the Lord in all things manifested to the eyes of the world: they show that all human inventions are like the vapors, while his word endures forever and his promises to the last generation.

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letters_by_Oliver_Cowdery_To_W.W._Phelps_on_the_Rise_of_the_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints/Letter_VIII

Link to comment

So, what's your question regarding them, other than if they are mentioned elsewhere?

My view of them is that it is a technique ancients used in order to prevent rain water from damaging the materials being buried. Interesting because it certainly is another one of many evidences which give validity to the story.

Link to comment

So, what's your question regarding them, other than if they are mentioned elsewhere?

My view of them is that it is a technique ancients used in order to prevent rain water from damaging the materials being buried. Interesting because it certainly is another one of many evidences which give validity to the story.

That's the first I've read about the specifics of the cement columns. I too find it fascinating and makes a lot of sense. Are you aware of any other writings on it?

Link to comment

Orson Pratt quotes Oliver Cowdery as mentioning the three cement pillars in his 1840 Interesting Account. Lucy Smith's preliminary manuscript made the number of cement pillars four. In the 1839 history JS himself said the plates were laid in the box on top of two stones.

Link to comment

Orson Pratt quotes Oliver Cowdery as mentioning the three cement pillars in his 1840 Interesting Account. Lucy Smith's preliminary manuscript made the number of cement pillars four. In the 1839 history JS himself said the plates were laid in the box on top of two stones.

Do you have links to these sources? I'd love to read them.

BTW, the PoGP account says this: "In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them."

What does "crossways" mean, is he referring to the same pillars, but records a different number of them than does Oliver?

Link to comment
Do you have links to these sources? I'd love to read them.

No, but if you have access to a copy of Early Mormon Documents, vol. 1, they're in there.

BTW, the PoGP account says this: "In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them."

Yeah, that's the "1839 History" to which I referred.

What does "crossways" mean

Think of the capital letter "H", where the sides of the "H" are the sides of the box, and the crossbar is one of the two stones. The other stone would be placed parallel to it, so the plates could be laid across the top of them. I hope that made sense.

is he referring to the same pillars, but records a different number of them than does Oliver?

Yes, I think that Joseph's stones replace the pillars of Oliver's and David's accounts. It is not only the number that is different, but also the substance. Oliver makes it pretty clear that the pillars were made of mortar, but Joseph says they were stones.

Link to comment

As I understand it, others looking for treasure after Joseph got the plates dug up and tore up the box, and it later slid down the hill in subsequent storms.

A few interesting stories regarding the box. After speaking of the gold plates Martin Harris described a money digging incident that took place after Joseph found the plates. Harris is quoted as saying:

"Three of us took some tools to go to the hill and hunt for more boxes of gold or something, and indeed we found a stone box. We got quite excited about it and dug carefully around it, and by some unseen power it slipped back into the hill. We stood there and looked at it and one of us took a crow-bar and tried to drive it through the lid and hold it, but the bar glanced off and broke off one of the corners of the box. Sometime that box will be found and you will see the corner broken off, and then you will know I have told you the truth" ("The Last Testimony of Martin Harris," by E. Cecil McGavin in The Instructor, October, 1930, Vol. 65, No. 10, pp. 587-589).

In a series of interviews a Mormon writer named Edward Stevenson, who was aquainted with Joseph Smith relates what he was told by an old man living near the Hill Cumorah:

"Questioning him closely he stated that he had seen some good-sized flat stones that had rolled down and lay near the bottom of the hill. This had occurred after the contents of the box had been removed and these stones were doubtless the ones that formerly composed the box. I felt a strong desire to see these ancient relics and told him I would be much pleased to have him inform me where they were to be found. He stated that they had long since been taken away."

(REMINISCENCES OF JOSEPH THE PROPHET, And the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon by Elder Edward Stevenson, 1893 Salt Lake City, Utah)

Link to comment

A few interesting stories regarding the box. After speaking of the gold plates Martin Harris described a money digging incident that took place after Joseph found the plates. Harris is quoted as saying:

"Three of us took some tools to go to the hill and hunt for more boxes of gold or something, and indeed we found a stone box. We got quite excited about it and dug carefully around it, and by some unseen power it slipped back into the hill. We stood there and looked at it and one of us took a crow-bar and tried to drive it through the lid and hold it, but the bar glanced off and broke off one of the corners of the box. Sometime that box will be found and you will see the corner broken off, and then you will know I have told you the truth" ("The Last Testimony of Martin Harris," by E. Cecil McGavin in The Instructor, October, 1930, Vol. 65, No. 10, pp. 587-589).

In a series of interviews a Mormon writer named Edward Stevenson, who was aquainted with Joseph Smith relates what he was told by an old man living near the Hill Cumorah:

"Questioning him closely he stated that he had seen some good-sized flat stones that had rolled down and lay near the bottom of the hill. This had occurred after the contents of the box had been removed and these stones were doubtless the ones that formerly composed the box. I felt a strong desire to see these ancient relics and told him I would be much pleased to have him inform me where they were to be found. He stated that they had long since been taken away."

(REMINISCENCES OF JOSEPH THE PROPHET, And the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon by Elder Edward Stevenson, 1893 Salt Lake City, Utah)

Thanks for those. I had heard the first, but not the last statement. Here's another:

In 1875 David Whitmer told a Chicago Times reporter that he had seen the stone ?casket? at Cumorah three times before it was ?washed down to the foot of the hill,?(People of Paradox [New York: Oxford, 2007]

Link to comment
  • 4 weeks later...

Just to be clear, the idea that the box "washed down" to the bottom of the hill is based on some people seeing flat rocks at the bottom of the hill and assuming these must have been the same ones used in the construction of the box?

Link to comment

Just to be clear, the idea that the box "washed down" to the bottom of the hill is based on some people seeing flat rocks at the bottom of the hill and assuming these must have been the same ones used in the construction of the box?

Washed down, rolled down, rock rolling by kids, carried down. Doesn't matter. Whatever was there, from the multiple accounts from others, there was something resembling stone box remains that were carried off for other uses.

Link to comment

Why is it that the cement box remained in place for over 1,500 years, and then was "washed down" just after the plates were removed?

Because the capstone protected it, and because after Joseph got the plates, it was left opened and available for treasure seekers and looters to trash the site looking for more.

Link to comment

So the supernatural forces that kept it in the ground for over a thousand years were suddenly switched off?

Nothing left to protect. And why isn't a large flat boulder that sealed the box now supernatural? Joseph had to remove the earth all around the sides of it even before he could get a lever underneath it. Moroni was smart and inspired.

Link to comment

Nothing left to protect. And why isn't a large flat boulder that sealed the box now supernatural? Joseph had to remove the earth all around the sides of it even before he could get a lever underneath it. Moroni was smart and inspired.

I don't understand how digging up a few inches of earth and removing the capstone would make the rest of the box--made up of slabs of stone buried deep in the ground and cemented together--wash down the hill. Seems to me that a hard rain would just fill it with water.

Link to comment

I don't understand how digging up a few inches of earth and removing the capstone would make the rest of the box--made up of slabs of stone buried deep in the ground and cemented together--wash down the hill. Seems to me that a hard rain would just fill it with water.

Do you honestly think that those who were trying to get the plates from Joseph would have left the box intact, without digging it up and around it looking for more?

Link to comment

Do you honestly think that those who were trying to get the plates from Joseph would have left the box intact, without digging it up and around it looking for more?

You're assuming that Joseph left the box open and uncovered and that other treasure-seekers were able to find, neither of which I have seen evidence for.

Link to comment

You're assuming that Joseph left the box open and uncovered and that other treasure-seekers were able to find, neither of which I have seen evidence for.

You're assuming that Joseph, after finally getting his charge, the plates he was waiting for for 4 years, sent to the trouble to put the stone back, covering over an empty box that held no value for the work, leaving a lasting box on top of Cumorah for future generations to see, neither of which I have seen evidence for.

Link to comment

covering over an empty box that held no value for the work, leaving a lasting box on top of Cumorah for future generations to see,

If someone had found the box and ransacked it, why didn't anyone ever mention it? Since no one did, is it fair to assume that that's what happened, what with Occam's razor and all?

Link to comment

If someone had found the box and ransacked it, why didn't anyone ever mention it? Since no one did, is it fair to assume that that's what happened, what with Occam's razor and all?

Why was Joseph constantly moving the plates? Why were so many undesirables constantly trying to steal them? What single "proof" would set these money diggers after him so much that he was forced to move to Pennsylvania in order to translate?

Think about it.

And why would anyone talk about it publicly or write it down? That would only make them look bad and make Joseph's claims legitimate. These types did not want that.

I take Whitmer at his word about seeing it 3 times. He had nothing to gain, he was not associated with the Church.

All the nay-sayer would have had do is search where Joseph said he had found them, atop Cumorah. Only 2 possibilities:

No box/chamber -" Joseph was making it up", and they leave him alone.

box/slabs/ancient cement - "Joseph has gold, let's take it."

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...