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The Gold Plates


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On 9/10/2022 at 10:43 AM, Tacenda said:

As I was watering my strawberries yesterday that are planted in a wine barrel my husband found online, I touched the metal rings on them, I have 6 of them, the metal ring is way too thick to be used for the plates, so he'd have to have done some handy work for them to be thinner.

But as I posted earlier, Dan Vogel said back in the day, they had very thin tin shingles for a roof in the right shape that JS could have ordered and used. But all of it is anyone's guess. 

I found this conversation from googling. https://www.reddit.com/r/mormon/comments/kfx6a5/tin_plates_based_on_dan_vogels_theory/

There are problems with the tin sheet theory. Tin coated iron was the most common form in the Colonies. Wrong color, availability and access, wrong feel, difficulty with engraving, among others. AFAIK, there are no reports that the Smith men were tinsmiths.  Tinplate tiles for roofs were imported from England and could be expensiveIt was not commonly used on homes at that time. I don’t know their dimensions. I don’t believe Joseph could afford them.

Tinplate was used to make household items like cups and lantern. I don’t know what the dimensions of this form would be. Tinsmiths punched or stamped ornamentations rather than engraving them. If the tin coating was damaged, the iron would oxidize. Tinsmiths used specific tools, and they developed precise punching and stamping skills only after apprenticeship and experience. I don’t believe Joseph Sr. or Jr. had that training or skill.

Let’s suppose the gold plates were made from tinplate. (Someone should check my rounded off math)

Descriptions of the plates include their approximate dimensions: 6” wide x 8” long x 6” deep = about 280 cubic inches of tinplate.

The thickness of a BoM gold plate was estimated to be like a sheet of common tin which would be maybe around .03”.
 6” pile of sheets at .03 “ per sheet would be around 180 sheets (allowing for .5” of air gaps between the sheets).

180 sheets x 6”wide x 8”long = about 8,500 square inches of plate surface (allowing for margins).

Let’s say that 1/2 the plates were sealed (estimates are 1/3 to 2/3).
That would make about 90 sheets of tinplate and about 4,200 square inches of surface (allowing for margins) to be punched or stamped, if the plates were engraved on one side only.

John Whitmer said the plates were engraved on both sides. That would double the work.

I don’t know the length or width of early 1800s imported tinplate sheets, but I doubt they were 6”x8”. To make them this size would require cutting them with tin snips. I suppose Joseph could have figured that using the commonly available size of tinplate sheets would give away his deception.

I don’t think farm boy Joseph would have had the skill, tools, time, or patience for such a tedious endeavor.  

What do you think?

Best wishes!

Bernard Gui

 

For more information see https://rsc.byu.edu/book-mormon-first-nephi-doctrinal-foundation/book-mormon-plates.

Edited by Bernard Gui
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1 hour ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Given that access to the plates was under the strictest scrutiny, why would he bother etching more than a couple plates?

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History of the Church, 1:54–55
…we knelt down again, and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air, of exceeding brightness; and behold, an angel stood before us. In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. He turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discern the engravings theron distinctly.

Testimony of the 8 witnesses…

…and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.

John Whitmer:

I — Were the leaves thick? He — Yes, just so thick, that characters could be engraven on both sides.

"I — How were the leaves joined together? He — In three rings, each one in the shape of a D with the straight line towards the centre. ...

"I — Did you see them covered with a cloth? He — No. He handed them uncovered into our hands, and we turned the leaves sufficient to satisfy us.”

https://www.deseret.com/2015/5/23/20565198/did-book-of-mormon-witnesses-simply-see-the-golden-plates-with-their-spiritual-eyes

 

Edited by Bernard Gui
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1 hour ago, Rivers said:

He must have had accomplices in the tinsmith business.

Of course. It was his cousin Tim.

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5 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

There are problems with the tin sheet theory. Tin coated iron was the most common form in the Colonies. Wrong color, availability and access, wrong feel, difficulty with engraving, among others. AFAIK, there are no reports that the Smith men were tinsmiths.  Tinplate tiles for roofs were imported from England and could be expensiveIt was not commonly used on homes at that time. I don’t know their dimensions. I don’t believe Joseph could afford them.

Tinplate was used to make household items like cups and lantern. I don’t know what the dimensions of this form would be. Tinsmiths punched or stamped ornamentations rather than engraving them. If the tin coating was damaged, the iron would oxidize. Tinsmiths used specific tools, and they developed precise punching and stamping skills only after apprenticeship and experience. I don’t believe Joseph Sr. or Jr. had that training or skill.

Let’s suppose the gold plates were made from tinplate. (Someone should check my rounded off math)

Descriptions of the plates include their approximate dimensions: 6” wide x 8” long x 6” deep = about 280 cubic inches of tinplate.

The thickness of a BoM gold plate was estimated to be like a sheet of common tin which would be maybe around .03”.
 6” pile of sheets at .03 “ per sheet would be around 180 sheets (allowing for .5” of air gaps between the sheets).

180 sheets x 6”wide x 8”long = about 8,500 square inches of plate surface (allowing for margins).

Let’s say that 1/2 the plates were sealed (estimates are 1/3 to 2/3).
That would make about 90 sheets of tinplate and about 4,200 square inches of surface (allowing for margins) to be punched or stamped, if the plates were engraved on one side only.

John Whitmer said the plates were engraved on both sides. That would double the work.

I don’t know the length or width of early 1800s imported tinplate sheets, but I doubt they were 6”x8”. To make them this size would require cutting them with tin snips. I suppose Joseph could have figured that using the commonly available size of tinplate sheets would give away his deception.

I don’t think farm boy Joseph would have had the skill, tools, time, or patience for such a tedious.  

What do you think?

Best wishes!

Bernard Gui

 

For more information see https://rsc.byu.edu/book-mormon-first-nephi-doctrinal-foundation/book-mormon-plates.

Any idea what it likely would have cost back then…and then adjust and tell us what that means in today’s dollars because I am really lazy tonight, please?

Edited by Calm
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5 hours ago, Calm said:

Any idea what it likely would have cost back then…and then adjust and tell us what that means in today’s dollars because I am really lazy tonight, please?

I have looked for that without success.

Some sources say the tin itself was expensive, others say objects made of tin were affordable. That leads me to think it was sold in larger sheets from which enough objects coulD be made to make them affordable.

 

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In the early 1700s, Britain banned production of tinplate and tinware in its Colonies to encourage dependence on imports. Britain continued to dominate the tinsmithing industry until the late 1800s, with around 70% of tin products exported to America. https://workingtheflame.com/tinsmithing-in-colonial-america/

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As early as 1858, the U.S. had produced tinplate, but was unable to compete with Great Britain on a cost basis. https://www.amm.com/History.html

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Tin-punched items were inexpensive during colonial times, much less expensive than silver or crockery. They were also more durable and required less maintenance. Silver items had to be regularly polished to maintain their sheen, but tin items were easy to care of. They were also lightweight, decorative and readily available from peddlers who traveled from village to village. https://www.ehow.com/about_4568660_colonial-tin-punching.html

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The price of tin in modern times has fluctuated with periods of war and peace, rising to peaks in 1810,1856, 1872,1900, 1917 and 1947-50…

During this period the supply of iron or steel was ample, but the supply of tin was not. The price of tin, which stood at about £77 per ton in 1850, began to creep up as the demand increased, reaching £132 in 1859.

It then again fell, but crept up once more until it reached a peak of £146 in 1872.

The price of tin-plate followed suit, rising from 27/4 per box in 1850 to 32/3 in 1857, fluctuating thereafter and falling as low as 21/4 (1862) and 21/8 (1870) before reaching 34/1 in 1872. The price of tin-plate was, of course, influenced by the price of tin, but it was also affected by the skill of the manufacturer, who applied a thinner coating of tin as time went on.

https://www.historytoday.com/archive/tinplate-outline-history

 

Edited by Bernard Gui
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13 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

turned the leaves sufficient to satisfy us.

An 1878 recollection recounted by the faithful leaves a lot of room for memory (which is very malleable) to shift and turn. And how much is “sufficient to satisfy”? 
 

As for the history of the church and witness statements, who exactly wrote the words found in each?

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1 hour ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

An 1878 recollection recounted by the faithful leaves a lot of room for memory (which is very malleable) to shift and turn. And how much is “sufficient to satisfy”? 
 

As for the history of the church and witness statements, who exactly wrote the words found in each?

Surely in all your seeking you have read some of the excellent scholarly works on the witnesses. I doubt that anything I can provide would satisfy you, but…..

From the original witness statements:

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And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon

Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.

Any comments about the topic which was the tinplate theory? Do think it holds water?

Edited by Bernard Gui
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Quote

Tinsmithing became common in England in the 1630s, but the large sheets of tin necessary for making household items had to be imported from Hamburg. Early in the 1700s, long, thin sheets of tin were being produced in England, and England exported this tin to the American colonies.There were no tin deposits in colonial America, and the colonists were not allowed to import raw tin to run their own tin mills until after the American Revolution

https://www.ehow.com/about_4568660_colonial-tin-punching.html

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55 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

An 1878 recollection recounted by the faithful leaves a lot of room for memory (which is very malleable) to shift and turn. And how much is “sufficient to satisfy”? 

John Whitmer was a dissenter from the Church and as far as I know at that time was not a member of any splinter group.  He was faithful to his testimony of having seen the plates, but that would be expected if he had actually seen it.

If Joseph only engraved a limited number to fool the witnesses, but still gave the plates into the witnesses’ hands and allowed them to turn the plates’ leaves on their own, how would he know they would stop before they got to the blank ones?  
 

I agree that late of recollection may have memory shift.  What are you suggesting was the original experience?

Edited by Calm
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7 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

Surely in all your seeking you have read some of the excellent scholarly works on the witnesses. I doubt that anything I can provide would satisfy you.

My understanding is that the authorship of the history of the church is a hot mess. I also don’t think we know who wrote the witness statements printed in the Book of Mormon. So both those things are problematic for me. Memory changes each time we tell the story. It is influenced by others telling as well. If you have anything anywhere near contemporaneous, written by an actual witness that describes how many pages they saw then I’m willing to reevaluate. Otherwise my original statement works just fine. We have an object that is tightly controlled, shown by the modern equivalent of a stage magician (treasure digger), to believing witnesses. No I don’t think any more than a page or two of inscribing would be necessary assuming there was an actual physical artifact. 

7 minutes ago, Bernard Gui said:

Any comments about the topic which was the tinplate theory? Do think it holds water?

I think getting involved in a detailed how was it done discussion is pretty pointless. I don’t need to understand how David Copperfield produced a UFO from thin air in front of my eyes to know there was a trick involved. I do think the witness statements are the best proof there is for the Book of Mormon, but I don’t find them particularly convincing myself. 

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3 minutes ago, Calm said:

John Whitmer was a dissenter from the Church and as far as I know at that time was not a member of any splinter group.  He was faithful to his testimony of having seen the plates, but that would be expected if he had actually seen it.

Was it recounted by a faithful member or not? It was my understanding that this encounter was related to us by a believer. 

3 minutes ago, Calm said:

If Joseph only engraved a limited number to fool the witnesses, but still gave the plates into the witnesses’ hands and allowed them to turn the plates’ leaves on their own, how would he know they would stop before they got to the blank ones?  
 

Did he hand it to them? I’m not aware of contemporaneous first person accounts of the experience. How does a magician know which card I choose? 

3 minutes ago, Calm said:


 

I agree that late of recollection may have memory shift.  What are you suggesting was the original experience?

I honestly have no idea, but to me Joseph seems best explained as a conman (treasure digger), mentalist type of individual. People back then embraced what Quinn describes as a magic world view. I don’t understand what I see when I watch Derren Brown on television. I don’t understand what I see when flamboyant evangelicals miraculously heal the sick. But given that they control the stage, what I see, I am skeptical that there are no tricks involved. 

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On 9/9/2022 at 9:07 PM, smac97 said:

Information.  Data.  Evidence.

Or the witnesses were simply part of a fraud.  Or deceived somehow.  

On 9/9/2022 at 9:07 PM, smac97 said:

 

Yes, it does.

Yes, it does.

 

No it does not give any plausibility to whether there were Nephites or not. Even in the unlikely event  the plates were ancient who know what they really said.  Joseph hardly even used then in the translation process.

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On 9/9/2022 at 10:12 PM, smac97 said:

Does the witness testimony make the claimed provenance of the Book of Mormon more probably?  Yes.  Decidedly yes. 

Not the eight witnesses. They add nothing to the claim of divine provenance for the Book of Mormon.  The saw something the thought were gold plates.  That is it.  As to how JS claimed to get them all they have is his word for it.  FOr the three witnesses that is something more. However, it is toned down a bit by Harris's statement that what they saw was in the minds eye or spiritual eyes.

On 9/9/2022 at 10:12 PM, smac97 said:

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

My understanding is that the authorship of the history of the church is a hot mess. I also don’t think we know who wrote the witness statements printed in the Book of Mormon. So both those things are problematic for me. Memory changes each time we tell the story. It is influenced by others telling as well. If you have anything anywhere near contemporaneous, written by an actual witness that describes how many pages they saw then I’m willing to reevaluate. Otherwise my original statement works just fine. We have an object that is tightly controlled, shown by the modern equivalent of a stage magician (treasure digger), to believing witnesses. No I don’t think any more than a page or two of inscribing would be necessary assuming there was an actual physical artifact. 

I think getting involved in a detailed how was it done discussion is pretty pointless. I don’t need to understand how David Copperfield produced a UFO from thin air in front of my eyes to know there was a trick involved. I do think the witness statements are the best proof there is for the Book of Mormon, but I don’t find them particularly convincing myself. 

So you haven’t read any of the excellent books about the witnesses?

I wonder if David Copperfield and his accomplices would endure moving his family all over the wilderness, mob beatings, tar and feathers, and death of loved ones to maintain his act.

Like I said….

Edited by Bernard Gui
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2 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

So you haven’t read any of the excellent books about the witnesses?

Just Anderson’s short book on the subject. And FairMormon’s treatment of the issue. If you are aware of a first person account written by one of the witnesses that is anywhere near contemporaneous, that describes how they leafed throw the entire unsealed portion feel free to correct the record. 

2 hours ago, Bernard Gui said:

I wonder if David Copperfield and his accomplices would endure moving his family all over the wilderness, mob beatings, tar and feathers, and death of loved ones to maintain his act.

I don’t want to minimize Joseph’s suffering, but frontier life was hard. It’s my understanding that almost half of children under five didn’t make it in the year 1800 in America. Joseph’s family growing up was poor. Forced to move from place to place. The sons worked as day laborers. It was a hard life. From where I sit that life improved significantly for the whole Smith family after the founding of the church. They were looked up to by hundreds then thousands. As for the mob beating? I’m not sure how it’s relevant. If Joseph were a fraud would his life get easier or harder if he woke up the morning after and confessed it was all a fraud? Would more or less people want him dead? Would he have more or less friends and support? Would his life going forward be easier or harder? Despite significant hardship, Joseph wasn’t beaten or tortured on a regular basis. 

I get that you see things differently, but there is a reason that your argument fails to convince the masses that Joseph must have been a prophet else why would he endure hardship. 

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4 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Just Anderson’s short book on the subject. And FairMormon’s treatment of the issue. If you are aware of a first person account written by one of the witnesses that is anywhere near contemporaneous, that describes how they leafed throw the entire unsealed portion feel free to correct the record. 

I don’t want to minimize Joseph’s suffering, but frontier life was hard. It’s my understanding that almost half of children under five didn’t make it in the year 1800 in America. Joseph’s family growing up was poor. Forced to move from place to place. The sons worked as day laborers. It was a hard life. From where I sit that life improved significantly for the whole Smith family after the founding of the church. They were looked up to by hundreds then thousands. As for the mob beating? I’m not sure how it’s relevant. If Joseph were a fraud would his life get easier or harder if he woke up the morning after and confessed it was all a fraud? Would more or less people want him dead? Would he have more or less friends and support? Would his life going forward be easier or harder? Despite significant hardship, Joseph wasn’t beaten or tortured on a regular basis. 

I get that you see things differently, but there is a reason that your argument fails to convince the masses that Joseph must have been a prophet else why would he endure hardship. 

Who said they leafed through the unsealed portion?

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as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon,

If you were to have such a document, would it convinced you that the person was telling the truth? Why not?

Yes, his life would unquestionably have been easier. Enduring a little ridicule would be better than execution. Beatings and torture are to expected, but now worries if they occur just now and then.

How about David Copperfield? What would he be willing to suffer to maintain his career of illusions?

The only way to convince anyone is through personal revelation. Providing that  way above my pay grade.

iMO the extraordinary events surrounding the witnesses’ testimonies would be firmly planted in their memories and repeated many time through their lives. It’s unlikely they would never had spoken of them again until 60 years later. YMMV.

Some recent research on the witnesses’ statements…

https://rsc.byu.edu/coming-forth-book-mormon/eleven-witnesses

https://witnessesofthebookofmormon.org

Edited by Bernard Gui
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20 hours ago, Teancum said:
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Does the witness testimony make the claimed provenance of the Book of Mormon more probably?  Yes.  Decidedly yes. 

Not the eight witnesses. They add nothing to the claim of divine provenance for the Book of Mormon. 

Fair enough.  I think there is some value as to the "claimed provenance," which is that Joseph had discovered an ancient artifact.  The Eight Witnesses attest to the existence of an artifact, though they were not situated to ascertain whether it was "ancient," or that Joseph found it under the circumstances he claimed.

That there was an actual, physical, tangible artifact, however, remains a fairly important point.  If anything, their testimony contravenes many of the various theories that posit mass delusion, conspiratorial fraud, etc.

The artifact, the gold plates, existed, their their existence needs to be addressed and accounted for.  This article, from Doctrine & Covenants Central, sums it up well:

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Joseph Smith set some very high stakes with his account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. As one historian recognized, Joseph “rested his own veracity, the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the reality of his prophetic mission, and the legitimacy of his church on the existence of the plates”9 In other words, Joseph Smith made stark and matter-of-fact assertions about the angel, the plates, and the method of the translation. Therefore, if these declarations are not true, then his credibility as an inspired prophet, as well as the credibility of his claim of having restored the church of Jesus Christ, is fatally undermined.10

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon under such dramatic and miraculous circumstances compels everyone to decide for him or herself whether to accept the book—and thereby the statements of Joseph Smith—or not. “The strong historical assertions of the [Book of Mormon] seem to allow for only three possible origins,” scholar Grant Hardy observed. “As a miraculously translated historical document, as a fraud (perhaps a pious one) written by Joseph Smith, or as a delusion (perhaps sincerely believed) that originated in Smith’s subconscious.”11 Ultimately everyone must make a decision at some point about whether the book is what it claims to be.

 

In order to bypass this situation, some have proposed that the Book of Mormon should be read as non-historical and yet as inspired scripture—that is, as nineteenth century inspired fiction.12 One proponent of this approach has argued that “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should confess in faith that the Book of Mormon is the word of God but also abandon claims that it is a historical record of the ancient peoples of the Americas. We should accept that it is a work of scripture inspired by God in the same way that the Bible is inspired, but one that has as its human author Joseph Smith, Jr.”13

Another proponent of the “inspired fiction” theory for the Book of Mormon has claimed that Joseph Smith utilized vast amounts of reworked biblical material to create “new holy fictions.”14 In this way, this author alleged, Joseph Smith was the “inspired author” of the Book of Mormon because he created new fictional scripture in the same way that ancient biblical authors created fictional scripture.

Finally, another advocate for reading the Book of Mormon as “inspired fiction” has argued that the book was produced by a method called “automatic writing.” Automatic writing is the phenomenon where texts are allegedly written with no conscious or deliberate effort, and instead are the result of the author’s or scribe’s subconscious or supernatural powers. If the Book of Mormon was produced in this manner, the argument goes, then Joseph Smith could not have been consciously attempting to deceive anyone. Therefore his integrity might remain intact, and the book might be read as inspired scripture while not having any historical authenticity.15

These efforts to read the Book of Mormon as “inspired fiction” may be well-meaning, but they are logically incoherent. Daniel Peterson has succinctly laid out the logical problem with this theory. “If the plates really existed, somebody made them. And if no Nephites existed to make them, then either Joseph Smith, or God, or somebody else seems to have been engaged in simple fraud. The testimony of [those associated with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon] exists, I think, to force a dichotomous choice: true or false?”16 Failing to provide an explanation for this dichotomy ignores an essential aspect of the Book of Mormon.17

Daniel Peterson's presentation on this is, in my view, pretty good: The Logic Tree of Life, or, Why I Can’t Manage to Disbelieve

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My argument would be that all of the counter-explanations of the Book of Mormon that I’ve looked at – and I think I’ve looked at all of them – run into walls. You eventually run into something where, it simply can’t get you there. It can’t explain everything that needs to be explained. And so I sometimes see, well, I’ve had people tell me, “Look, I don’t owe you an explanation for the Book of Mormon. All I have to say is I don’t believe it.” Well, of course, you know, you can make your own decision, lead your life the way you want to, but it seems to me intellectually honestly that you really should try to come up with a counter-explanation. If you think Joseph Smith wrote it, how did he do it? If you think there were no plates, what’s going on there? You need to come up with another explanation.

All right, so let’s get with this.

Slide04.jpg

These are the logical options as I see them: That Joseph either had plates or he didn’t have plates. And then there are subdivisions that you can follow through to see possible ways in which each of these might be the case.

I remember my friend Bill Hamblin once being in communication with a one-time, fairly prominent, ex-member critic of the Church and of the Book of Mormon. And he said, “Look, let’s assume for a moment that you’re right and that Joseph Smith did not have plates. Did he know that he didn’t have plates or did he think that he had the plates? In other words, was he a conscious deceiver, or was he in some sense mad?”

To which this critic responded: “I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Well, see, I think it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack.

Well to me, that simple-minded little dichotomy that this person refused to give an answer to. or refused to take part in, is still a really important question. If Joseph Smith didn’t have the plates, did he know that he didn’t have plates, or did he think that he did?

OK, so let’s look a little more in detail: Joseph had no plates. This is what most critics say; there were none.

The witness statements are, in my view, a pretty formidable piece of evidence.  They need to be addressed.

20 hours ago, Teancum said:

The saw something the thought were gold plates.  That is it. 

That's a pretty big "it."

There are, broadly speaking, three theories as to the origins of the Book of Mormon: 

  • Theory 1: Fraud
  • Theory 2: Delusion / Hallucination
  • Theory 3: Joseph Smith's narrative

Theory 2 seems heavily predicated on the absence of a physical, tangible artifact.  As DCP puts it: "Joseph had no plates. This is what most critics say; there were none."

Theory 2 is heavily contravened by the witness statements.  Do you concur?

20 hours ago, Teancum said:

As to how JS claimed to get them all they have is his word for it. 

Largely, yes.  I think they have a bit more to go on than that.  

Did Joseph have the skills (working with metal to create the plates, giving the plates "the appearance of gold," fabricating "engravings" on each "leaf" so as to give the artifact "the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship")?  It seems not.

Did Joseph have the resources (a smithy, for example) to fabricate the artifact?  It seems not.  I am not aware of any evidence for such a proposition.

Did Joseph have the financial means (to purchase the raw materials, presumably copper plus some) to fabricate the artifact?  Again, it seems not (since according to Martin Harris, "Joseph had not credit enough to buy so much lead," it would seem purchasing 60 or so pounds of copper  and/or other metals would be just as expensive or more so).

20 hours ago, Teancum said:

For the three witnesses that is something more. However, it is toned down a bit by Harris's statement that what they saw was in the minds eye or spiritual eyes.

Not sure about that.  From FAIR:

Quote

Question: Did Martin Harris tell people that he only saw the plates with his "spiritual eye"?

John H. Gilbert, who printed the Book of Mormon, reported that Harris said that he saw the plates with his "spiritual eye"

John H. Gilbert:

Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses,—(Harris—Cowdery and Whitmer—) I said to him,—"Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, "No, I saw them with a spir[i]tual eye."[2]

Pomeroy Tucker told of Harris using the phrase "seeing with the spiritual eye"

Pomeroy Tucker in his book Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (1867) also refers to Harris using the phrase "spiritual eye":

How to reconcile the act of Harris in signing his name to such a statement, in view of the character of honesty which had always been conceded to him, could never be easily explained. In reply to uncharitable suggestions of his neighbors, he used to practise a good deal of his characteristic jargon about "seeing with the spiritual eye," and the like. [3]

Martin elsewhere emphasized that the vision was also with the "natural eye," to enable them to "testify of it to the world"

In 1875, Martin said:

"The Prophet Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer and myself, went into a little grove to pray to obtain a promise that we should behold it with our eyes natural eyes, that we could testify of it to the world (emphasis added)."[4]

Harris did not, then, see "spiritual eye" and "natural eye" as mutually exclusive categories. Both described something about the witness experience.

Thanks,

-Smac

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21 hours ago, Teancum said:
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Information.  Data.  Evidence.

Or the witnesses were simply part of a fraud. 

Yes, that's a possibility.  But fraud is not presumed.  It must be demonstrated.

There is, I think, less evidence of a conpiracy to commit fraud as to the plates' origins than there is for Joseph Smith's explanation.

21 hours ago, Teancum said:

Or deceived somehow.

Yes, that's a possibility. 

But again, there does not seem to be any evidence in support of this proposal.

21 hours ago, Teancum said:

No it does not give any plausibility to whether there were Nephites or not.

I think it does.

21 hours ago, Teancum said:

Even in the unlikely event  the plates were ancient who know what they really said. 

Joseph's narrative undoubtedly requires a healthy amount of faith to accept.

But we don't just have to take his word for it.  We have the text.  We also have other instances of ancient records with similarities to the plates.  

From BOMC: Are the Accounts of the Golden Plates Believable?

Quote

Although it may be surprising to some, ongoing research has only increased the plausibility of the numerous accounts of the plates. The reported weight, dimensions, and composition of the plates are believable. The story of their discovery is supported by a large number of similar archeological finds. And several of the record’s unusual features—such as being bound by D-shaped rings, having a sealed portion, and being written in reformed Egyptian—have a surprising amount of corroboration from the ancient world. Each reported detail, no matter how unusual or unlikely from a 19th century perspective, has checked out in light of 20th and 21st century research.

Neal Rappleye has noted that, in many cases, the eyewitnesses who provided these consistent details did so “after their estrangement from Joseph, independently and spontaneously upon questioning and cross-examination (sometimes from skeptical interviewers), during a time when [they] were scattered and isolated from each other, when no collusion was possible.”22 Recognizing that so many independent witnesses firmly ground the plates in reality, some people have assumed that Joseph Smith or one of his associates simply forged them. Yet those who resort to this theory often fail to account for the metallurgical expertise required to create such an object.23

Whoever made the plates would have needed to be competent in hammering, gilding, annealing, smelting, and engraving metal records.24 They would have needed familiarity with the properties of gold, copper, and perhaps silver.25 They would have needed a good deal of time to create the object, presumably in secret. And, most unlikely of all, they would have needed a large amount of gold! Yet, the historical record suggests that neither Joseph Smith nor any of his associates would have had the competence or the materials to pull off such a scheme.26

We have essentially no evidence that Joseph had the means (skills, financial means, materials, work area, etc.) to fabricate a sham artifact.

21 hours ago, Teancum said:

Joseph hardly even used then in the translation process.

From the above article:

Quote

The reality of the golden plates is a key element in the story of the Restoration. If Joseph Smith never possessed them, then the foundation of Mormonism is built upon a hoax.27 Yet if he actually did possess an ancient record, then his claims of translating it through divine power are significantly supported. It seems that for this very reason, the Lord has provided profound physical and spiritual evidences for the existence of the plates.28 According to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, both types of evidence are important because “truly rock-ribbed faith and uncompromised conviction comes with its most complete power when it engages our head as well as our heart.”29

The plates were more than just a finely-crafted artifact. They contained the most important spiritual messages from an ancient civilization, recorded and preserved by prophets over the course of a thousand years. For this reason, their contents are far more valuable than the precious metals from which they were created.30 Yet the evidence for their tangible reality helps confirm the historical reality of the ancient prophets who created them, as well as the true doctrines and miraculous experiences which they recorded.32

In Elder Holland’s view, “the reality of those plates, the substance of them if you will, and the evidence that comes to us from them in the form of the Book of Mormon is at the heart, at the very center, of the hope and testimony and conviction of this work.”32 The plates meaningfully represent the reality of Jesus Christ and the truth of His restored gospel.32 They contain His words and to accept them is to accept Him.34

And this: Why Were the Plates Present During the Translation of the Book of Mormon?

Thanks,

-Smac

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On 9/9/2022 at 8:24 PM, jkwilliams said:

Maybe we just approach things differently.

Perhaps so.

I am, owing to my occupation, rather steeped in the presumptions and processes involved in the weighing of evidence.

On 9/9/2022 at 8:24 PM, jkwilliams said:

The witness testimony is just that: witness testimony that they saw plates and an angel.

Cursory and incomplete, but yes.  Meanwhile, the Three Witnesses state they saw the plates in mundane circumstances.

On 9/9/2022 at 8:24 PM, jkwilliams said:

Whether I’m stacking the deck or not (I don’t think I am), I don’t know how the testimony adds anything to the claims of an ancient civilization and it’s history, any more than the Strang witnesses add anything to his claims of an ancient brass record. 

Well, the presence of the angel is an indicator, as was the "voice of the Lord" they say they heard, and by which they were commanded to "bear record of it."

"And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true."

Of course, it takes quite a bit of faith to accept these statements as competent evidence.  I acknowledge that.

On 9/9/2022 at 8:24 PM, jkwilliams said:

In the end, faith in the Book of Mormon is a matter not of evidence but of spiritual witness.

I don't really differentiate in this way.  I think "spiritual witness" is a form of evidence.

I also think it is difficult to accept the Book of Mormon for what it claims to be, and for what Joseph Smith claimed about it, without reading the text, including the Title Page and the statements of the Witnesses.  In other words, the "spiritual witness" confirms the other evidence, and is not an utterly separate basis for accepting the Book of Mormon.

On 9/9/2022 at 8:24 PM, jkwilliams said:

I have no argument with spiritual experiences and have never questioned anyone’s testimony. I’m sure you think I’m hard-hearted or something because I don’t find the witness testimony particularly relevant. So be it. 

I have said nothing about you being "hard-hearted or something."

Thanks,

-Smac

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6 hours ago, smac97 said:
On 9/11/2022 at 1:51 PM, Teancum said:

No it does not give any plausibility to whether there were Nephites or not.

I think it does.

I agree with smac97.

Every unlikely aspect of Joseph Smith's story that turns out to have substantial corroboration produces a net positive effect on the plausibility of his essential claims. It's a lot like Jesus claiming that he can forgive sins and then backing up the statement by healing a paralytic. Technically, there is no direct, scientifically verifiable relationship between a miraculous ability to heal and a metaphysical ability to forgive sins. However, at least for most people, witnessing such a miracle would naturally invite belief in Christ's claimed divine authority. 

Joseph Smith's possession of a seemingly ancient artifact which he claimed to have been directed to by an angel, and which he was unlikely to have been able to produce on his own (both due to a lack of financial means and metallurgical know how), adds credibility to his story about the artifact's historical origins and divine preservation. On its own, the eye-witness testimonies to the reality of the plates only moves the plausibility meter so far, but it can't be denied that it substantially helps Joseph Smith's overall case. 

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