Golden plates


Golden plates

In Latter Day Saint theology, the golden plates (also called the "gold plates" or in some 19th century literature, the "golden Bible") [Use of the terms "golden bible" and "gold Bible" by both believers and non-believers dates from the late 1820s. See, for instance, Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=167 (use of the term "gold Bible" by Martin Harris in 1827); Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=102, 109, 113, 145 (use of the term "gold Bible" in 1827–29 by believing Palmyra neighbors); Harvtxt|Grandin|1829 (stating that by 1829 the plates were "generally known and spoken of as the 'Golden Bible'"). Use of these terms has been rare, especially by believers, since the 1830s.] are a set of bound and engraved metal plates from which Joseph Smith, Jr. said he translated the Book of Mormon, one of the sacred Latter Day Saint texts. According to Smith, he discovered the plates on September 22, 1823 on Cumorah hill in Manchester, New York. The plates had been hidden there, he said, in a buried box and protected for centuries by an angel Moroni, an ancient American prophet who had been last to write in the plates. Smith claimed that the angel required him to obey certain commandments prior to receiving the plates, but his repeated failure to obey prevented him from obtaining them until four years later, on September 22, 1827.

Smith's announcement that he had taken possession of the plates brought him local notoriety, and brought the curious to his door to see the wooden chest in which the plates were kept. He allowed visitors to heft the chest, but never to look inside, because he said the angel had commanded him not to display the plates to others. After moving near his wife's parents in northern Pennsylvania, he began dictating to his scribes what he said was an English translation of the inscribed characters, from a language he called reformed Egyptian. Translation took place sporadically between 1827 and 1829, and consisted of looking into a hat containing a seer stone or stone spectacles, where he said he could see the translated words and characters.

During translation, Smith also began dictating written commandments in the voice of God, including a commandment to form a new church, and to choose eleven men who would join Smith as witnesses of the plates. These witnesses later declared, in a written statements attached to the 1830 published Book of Mormon, that they had seen the plates. [Two separate statements were later incorporated into printed editions of the Book of Mormon.] Some of these witnesses later gave descriptions of the plates, not always entirely consistent with each other. According to Smith, he returned the plates to the angel Moroni. Many adherents of the faith believe that Moroni retains them, or that they still exist within a hidden cave in the hill Cumorah, which is now a tourist site closed to further excavations.

The golden plates are the most significant of a number of metallic plates important to Latter Day Saint history and theology. Many of these plates are discussed within the Book of Mormon. As there are no extant plates for researchers to examine, belief in their existence is a matter of faith. Although the Book of Mormon is generally accepted by adherents as a sacred text, not all Latter Day Saints view the plates as an ancient, physical artifact engraved by ancient prophets.

Origin and historicity

Only men who were Joseph Smith's associates were allowed to become witnesses to the plates; he invited no strangers to inspect the plates. These witnesses, first a group of three, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, and then a group of eight, including five members of the Whitmer family, Joseph Smith's father, and two brothers, Hyrum and Samuel, all stated they "saw and hefted" the plates. [Jan Shipps, "Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition," University of Illinois Press, pp. 23] As with all books of faith, assertions of their existence or authenticity remain a matter of religious faith. [See generally Harvtxt|Metcalfe|1993, which outlines the main arguments for and against Book of Mormon authenticity.]

Although viewed differently by the various Latter Day Saint denominations, most declare the golden plates to be an authentic historical artifact and the Book of Mormon a literal translation of them. These churches accept the Book of Mormon as scripture, along with the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants (or Book of Commandments). [The LDS Church also includes the Pearl of Great Price in its canon.] Of course, individual adherents of the respective churches have personal views about the authenticity of the golden plates. ["In the early 20th century, B. H. Roberts, historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), entertained the notion that Joseph Smith was capable of producing the Book of Mormon himself. In 1999, Richard N. Ostling,a religion journalist, wrote that within "the loyal Mormon community, there is a moderate intellectual group that believes the Book of Mormon does have ancient roots but, as part of the process of revelation properly understood, is expressed through nineteenth-century thought processes....an ancient text mediated through the mind of Joseph Smith" (Osling 1999, 264). At the 2007 Community of Christ World Conference, President Stephen M. Veazey ruled a resolution to "reaffirm the Book of Mormon as a divinely inspired record" out of order. In so doing he stated that "while the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use. This position is in keeping with our longstanding tradition that belief in the Book of Mormon is not to be used as a test of fellowship or membership in the church." Andrew M. Shields, "Official Minutes of Business Session, Wednesday March 28, 2007," in 2007 World Conference Thursday Bulletin, March 29, 2007. Community of Christ, 2007.] Some Mormons and non-believers have suggested that the plates were fashioned by Joseph Smith or one of his associates, [Harvtxt|Vogel|2004|pp=98, 600 note 65 (suggesting the plates were made of common tin).] that Joseph Smith had the ability to convince others of their existence through illusions or hypnosis, [Harvtxt|Riley|1903|p=211 (proposing the theory that Smith hypnotized his followers in a way that suggested to them that they had seen the plates).] or that the plates were mystical and should be understood in the context of Smith's historical era, when magic was an accepted part of reality. [Harvtxt|Metcalfe|1993|p=178.] These theories are explored in the article "Origin of the Book of Mormon". Scholarly examinations of the plates' historicity are discussed in the article "Historicity of the Book of Mormon".

According to the Book of Mormon itself, the golden plates were engraved by two pre-Columbian prophet-historians from around the year AD 400: Mormon and his son Moroni. Mormon and Moroni, the book says, had abridged earlier historical records from other sets of metal plates. Their script, according to the book, was called "reformed Egyptian" a language not known or recognized by Egyptologists or linguists, [Harvtxt|Smith|1830|p=538. Standard language references such as Harvtxt|Daniels|Bright|1996; Harvtxt|Crystal|1997; and Harvtxt|Woodard|2004 contain no reference to "reformed Egyptian". "Reformed Egyptian" is also not discussed in Harvtxt|Robinson|2002, although it is mentioned in harvtxt|Williams|1991.] but which is described in the Book of Mormon as a language "altered...according to our manner of speech" and that "none other people knoweth our language". [sourcetext|source=Book of Mormon|book=Mormon|chapter=9|verse=32-34] Part of the plates were said to have been sealed, and thus could not be translated. According to Joseph Smith, Moroni buried the plates just prior to his death, and they remained buried until, at the direction of God, Moroni led Joseph to them in a nearby hill in 1823.

Joseph Smith's story of obtaining the plates

The story of Smith's finding and taking possession of the golden plates is taken from accounts by Smith and from interviews and writings of his contemporaries who heard the story. Many Latter Day Saint denominations have adopted official accounts. For example, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially recognizes a version of Smith's 1838 account, [Harvtxt|Smith|1838a] which the denomination has canonized in its scripture The Pearl of Great Price.

Experience with treasure hunting

During the Second Great Awakening, Joseph Smith, Jr. lived on his parents' farm near Palmyra, New York. This was a period where Christian churches in the region contended vigorously for followers; so much so that it became known as the "burned-over district" due to the fires of religion having burned it so often. [Jan Shipps, "Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition," University of Illinois Press, pp. 7] It was also a region noted for its participation in a "craze for treasure hunting" by its citizenry. [Harvtxt|Bennett|1893. The treasure-seeking culture in early 19th century New England is described in Harvtxt|Quinn|1998|pp=25–26.] Beginning as a youth in the early 1820s, Smith was both recognized and paid to act as what was called a "seer", using seer stones in attempts to locate lost items and buried treasure earning about $14 per month. [Harvtxt|Smith|1838b|pp=42–43 (stating that he was what he called a "money digger", but saying that it "was never a very profitable job to him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it").] Smith later rejected his youthful treasure-hunting activities as frivolous and immaterial, but he "never repudiated the stones or denied their power to find treasure. Remnants of the magical culture stayed with him to the end." [Harvtxt|Bushman|2005|pp=50–51; Jan Shipps, "Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition," University of Illinois Press, 11.] Smith's contemporaries described his method for seeking treasure as putting the stone in a white stovepipe hat, putting his face over the hat to block the light, and then "seeing" the information in the reflections of the stone. [Harvtxt|Harris|1833|pp=253-54; Harvtxt|Hale|1834|p=265; Harvtxt|Clark|1842|p=225; Harvtxt|Turner|1851|p=216; Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=164; Harvtxt|Tucker|1867|pp=20–21; Harvtxt|Lapham|1870|p=305; Harvtxt|Lewis|Lewis|1879|p=1; Harvtxt|Mather|1880|p=199; Harvtxt|Bushman|2005|pp=50–51, 54–55.] His first stone, which some said he also used later to translate the golden plates, was chocolate-colored and about the size of an egg, [Harvtxt|Roberts|1930|p=129] found in a deep well he helped dig for one of his neighbors. [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=163; Harvtxt|Lapham|1870|pp=305–306. The stone was found in either 1819 (Harvnb|Tucker|1867|pp=19–20 Harvnb|Bennett|1893) or 1822 Harv|Chase|1833|p=240.] Smith later defined the difference between using a seer stone versus "peeping" for buried treasure. He states that "seeing" with a stone was a gift from God, the work of a seer, but "peeping" or "glass-looking" was a fraudulent practice and nonsense. [Harvtxt|Bushman|2005|pp=50–51,]

Finding the plates

According to Smith, he found the plates only after a period of preparation during which the angel Moroni [Smith referred to the visitor as an "angel of the Lord" at least as early as 1832 Harv|Smith|1832|p=4, and possibly as early as 1829 ("Early Mormon Documents" 1:151-152). Some early accounts related by non-Mormons described this angel as a "spirit" (Harvnb|Hadley|1829; Harvnb|Harris|1833|p=253; Harvnb|Chase|1833|p=242) or a "ghost" Harv|Burnett|1831; see also Harvtxt|Lewis|Lewis|1879|p=1 (a later-published account using the "ghost" terminology). In 1838, however, Smith later said that the "angel" was a man who had been "dead, and raised again therefrom" Harv|Smith|1838b|pp=42–43.] appeared to him annually and finally directed him to their location. [Harvnb|Smith|Cowdery|Rigdon|1835|p=180; Harvnb|Smith|1838b|pp=42–43. Contrary to his other statements, Smith's 1838 autobiography said that the angel was Nephi Harv|Smith|1838a|p=4; nevertheless, modern historians and Latter Day Saints generally refer to the angel as Moroni.] (According to the story, the angel's first visit occurred late at night in Smith's bedroom on September 22 [September 22 was listed in a local almanac as the autumnal equinox, which has led D. Michael Quinn to argue that the date had astrological significance according to Smith's worldview (Harvnb|Quinn|1998|p=144; however, this is not recorded or referred to in any correspondence by Smith or any of his contemporaries.] in 1822 or 1823.) [Smith's first mention of the angel in later histories is an appearance on the eve of September 22 1823 Harv|Smith|1838a|p=4; however, other accounts say or imply that the angel may have appeared a year earlier in 1822. Smith's first history in 1832 said the angel's first visit was on September 22 1822, although he also said he was "seventeen years of age" Harv|Smith|1832|p=3, which would have made the year 1823 (he turned 17 in December 1822). In 1835, after Oliver Cowdery initially dated the angel's visit to the "15th year of our brother J. Smith Jr's, age", he corrected the statement to read the 17th year of his age (16 years old, or 1822)—but he said this visit in Smith's "17th year" occurred in 1823 Harv|Cowdery|1835a|p=78. Smith's father is quoted by an inquirer who visited his house in 1830 as saying that the first visit by the angel took place in 1822 but that he did not learn about it until 1823 Harv|Lapham|1870|p=305. A Smith neighbor who said Smith told him the story in 1823 said the angel appeared "a year or two before" the death of Joseph's brother Alvin in November 1823.] While Smith was thinking about his First Vision, [Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=11.] Moroni appeared, and told him that the plates could be found buried in a prominent hill near his home later referred to as "Cumorah", a name taken from the Book of Mormon. [Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=4 (identifying the hill, but not referring to it by a name); Harvtxt|Cowdery|1835b|p=196 (referring to the hill as "Cumorah").] Before dawn, Moroni reappeared two more times and repeated the information. [Harvtxt|Smith|1832|p=7; Harvtxt|Smith|1842|p=707.]

The angel would not allow Smith to take the plates until he was able to obey certain "commandments". [Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=6 (saying the angel told him to obey his charge concerning the plates, "otherwise I could not get them"); Harvtxt|Clark|1842|pp=225–26 (the angel "told him that he must follow implicitly the divine direction, or he would draw down upon him the wrath of heaven"); Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=83 (characterizing the angel's requirements as "commandments of God", and saying Smith could receive the plates "not only until he was willing, but able" to keep those commandments).] Smith recorded some of these commandments, but contemporaries to whom he told the story said there were others as well. The sort of commands Smith was required to follow is relevant to a modern debate about whether, or how closely, events of early Mormonism were related to the practice of contemporary folk magic. [See, e.g., Harvtxt|Quinn|1998.] Smith's writings say that the angel required at least the following: (1) that he have no thought of using the plates for monetary gain, [Harvtxt|Smith|1832|p=5 (saying he was commanded to "have an eye single to the glory of God"); Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=6 (saying the angel commanded him to "have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God".)] (2) that Smith tell his father about the vision, [Smith's mother Lucy Mack Smith said he was commanded to tell his father during the third vision Harv|Smith|1853|p=81, but he disobeyed because he didn't think his father would believe him, and the angel appeared a fourth time to rebuke him and reiterate the commandment (p. 82). Joseph Smith and his sister Katharine said the angel gave him the commandment in his fourth visit, but did not say whether he had received the commandment earlier that night (Harvnb|Smith|1838a|p=7; Harvnb|Salisbury|1895|p=12). Smith's father is quoted by a skeptical interviewer to say that in 1830, Smith delayed telling his father about the vision for about a year Harv|Lapham|1870|p=305. Smith's brother William, who was 11 at the time, said the angel commanded him to tell his entire family Harv|Smith|1883|p=9, although he may have been remembering Smith tell the story that night "after" he visited the hill, according to their mother's recollection Harv|Smith|1853|p=83.] and (3) that he never show the plates to any unauthorized person. [Harvtxt|Hadley|1829; Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=6.] Smith's contemporaries who heard the story—both sympathetic and unsympathetic to Mormonism—generally agree that Smith mentioned the following additional commandments: (4) that Smith take the plates and go directly away from the burial site without looking back, [This commandment is described in the account of Joseph Knight, Sr., a loyal Latter Day Saint friend of Smith's Harv|Knight|1833|p=2, and Willard Chase, an associate of Smith's in Palmyra during the 1820s Harv|Chase|1833|p=242. Both Knight and Chase were treasure seekers, but while Knight remained a loyal to his death, Chase was a critic of Smith's by the early 1830s.] and (5) that the plates never directly touch the ground until safe at home in a locked chest. [There is agreement on this commandment by Smith's mother Harv|Smith|1853|pp=85–86 and sister Harv|Salisbury|1895|p=14 and by two non-Mormons (Harvnb|Chase|1833|p=242; Harvnb|Lapham|1870|p=305).] In addition to the above, some unsympathetic listeners who heard the story from Smith or his father add that Smith said the angel required him (6) to wear "black clothes" to the site of the plates, [ Harvtxt|Chase|1833|p=242 (an affidavit of Willard Chase, a non-Latter Day Saint treasure seeker who believed Smith wrongly appropriated his seer stone). Chase said he heard the story from Smith's father in 1827. Fayette Lapham, who traveled to Palmyra in 1830 to inquire about the Latter Day Saint movement and heard the story from Joseph Smith, Sr., said Smith was told to wear an "old-fashioned suit of clothes, of the same color as those worn by the angel", but Lapham did not specify what color of clothing the angel was wearing Harv|Lapham|1870|p=305.] (7) to ride a "black horse with a switchtail", [Harvtxt|Chase|1833|p=242 (affidavit of Willard Chase, relating story heard from Smith's father in 1827). A friendly but non-believing Palmyra neighbor, Lorenzo Saunders, heard the story in 1823 from Joseph Smith, Jr., and also said Smith was to required to ride a black horse to the hill Harv|Saunders|1884b.] (8) to call for the plates by a certain name, [Harvtxt|Chase|1833|p=242 (affidavit of the skeptical Willard Chase).] and (9) to "give thanks to God". [Harvtxt|Saunders|1893 (statement of Orson Saunders of Palmyra, who heard the story from Benjamin Saunders, who heard the story from Joseph Smith).]


Mormon Hill" (looking south), where Smith said he found the Golden Plates on the west side, near the peak

In the morning, Smith began work as usual and did not mention the visions to his father [Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=7] because, he said, he did not think his father would believe him. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=82; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=12 (stating that Smith told the angel during the fourth visit that he was afraid his Father would believe him).] Smith said he then fainted because he had been awake all night, and while unconscious, the angel appeared a fourth time and chastised him for failing to tell the visions to his father. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=82; Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=6.] When Smith then told all to his father, he believed his son and encouraged him to obey the angel's commands. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=82; Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=7. Smith's brother William, who was 11 at the time, said he also told the rest of his family that day prior to visiting the hill Harv|Smith:1883|pp=9–10, although he may have been remembering Smith tell the story the night "after" he visited the hill, according to their mother's recollection Harv|Smith|1853|p=83. Smith's sister Katharine said that Joseph told his father and the two oldest brothers Alvin and Hyrum the morning prior to visiting the hill, but Katharine was too young (10 years old) to understand what they were talking about Harv|Salisbury|1895|p=13.] Smith then set off to visit the hill, later stating that he used his seer stone to locate the place where the plates were buried, [Harvtxt|Harris|1833|p=252 (statement were by Henry Harris, a non-Mormon Palmyra resident); Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=163 (statement by Martin Harris, a Latter Day Saint who became one of the Three Witnesses of the Golden Plates). According to one hearer of the account, he used the seer stone to follow a sequence of landmarks by horse and on foot until he arrived at the place the plates were buried.Harvtxt|Lapham|1870|p=305.] and he "knew the place the instant that [he] arrived there." [Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|pp=6–7.]

At the proper location, the story goes, Smith saw a large stone covering a box made of stone or possibly iron. [Most accounts, including those written by Smith, say the plates were found in a stone box (Harvnb|Cowdery|1835b|p=196; Harvnb|Smith|1838a|pp=15–16; Harvnb|Whitmer|1875, calling it a "stone casket", and stating that Smith had to dig down for the box "two and a half or three feet"); according to two non-believing witnesses, however, Smith said they were buried in an iron box (Harvnb|Bennett|1831|p=7; Harvnb|Lewis|Lewis|1879|p=1).] Using a stick to remove dirt from the edges of the stone cover, and after prying the cover up with a lever, [Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=13] he saw the plates inside the box, together with other artifacts. [Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|pp=15–16. According to various accounts, these artifacts may have included a breastplate (Harvnb|Cowdery|1835b|p=196; Harvnb|Smith|1838a|p=16; Harvnb|Salisbury|1895|p=13, saying it was the "breast-plate of Laban"), a set of large spectacles made of seer stones (Harvnb|Chase|1833|p=243; Harvnb|Smith|1838a|p=16; Harvnb|Salisbury|1895|p=13), the Liahona, the sword of Laban (Harvnb|Lapham|1870|pp=306, 308; Harvnb|Salisbury|1895|p=13), the brass plates of Laban Harv|Salisbury|1895|p=13, the vessel in which the gold was melted, a rolling machine for gold plates, and three balls of gold as large as a fist Harv|Harris|1833|p=253.]

tories of unsuccessful retrieval attempts

According to Smith's followers, Smith said he took the plates from the box, put them on the ground, and covered the box with the stone to protect the other valuable treasures that it contained from being taken by passers-by. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2 (account by Joseph Knight, Sr., a loyal life-long follower who had worked with Smith in treasure expeditions); Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=85 (account by Smith's mother, saying this occurred on Smith's "second" visit to the hill); Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=14 (account of Smith's sister, saying this occurred on Smith's "third" visit to the hill, but that it happened prior to their brother Alvin's death, which was in November 1823); Harvtxt|Cowdery|1835b|p=197 (account by Smith's second-in-command Oliver Cowdery, stating that when Smith was looking in the box for other artifacts, he hadn't yet removed the plates).] Nevertheless, the accounts say, when Smith looked back at the ground after closing the box, the plates had once again disappeared into it. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=85 (account by Smith's mother); Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2 (account by Smith's life-long friend Joseph Knight, Sr.); Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=14 (account of Smith's sister).] According to two non-believing Palmyra residents, when Smith once again raised the stone and attempted to retrieve the plates, Smith saw in the box something like a toad that grew larger and struck him to the ground. [Harvtxt|Chase|1833|p=242 (account of Palmyra resident Willard Chase, who heard the story from Smith's father in 1827 and was a non-believer); Harvtxt|Saunders|1884a (account of Benjamin Saunders, a sympathetic non-believer who heard the story from Joseph Smith in 1827); Harvtxt|Saunders|1893 (account of Orson Saunders, a non-believer who heard it from Benjamin Saunders).] Although Smith's contemporary followers do not mention a toad-like creature, they agree with several non-believers that Smith said he was stricken by a supernatural force that hurled him to the ground as many as three times. [Oliver Cowdery, writing for a church periodical with Smith's assistance, said Smith was stricken three times with an ever increasing force, persisting after the second time because he thought the plates were held by the power of an "enchantment" (like hidden-treasure stories he had heard) that could be overcome by physical exertion Harv|Cowdery|1835b|pp=197–98. Smith's mother said he was stricken by a force but did not say how many times Harv|Smith|1853|p=86. Willard Chase said Smith was stricken at least twice Harv|Chase|1833|p=242. Fayette Lapham, who said he heard the story in about 1830 from Smith's father, said Smith was stricken three times with ever-increasing force Harv|Lapham|1870|p=306. Two neighbors who heard the story from Smith in Harmony in the late 1820s said Smith was knocked down three times Harv|Lewis|Lewis|1879|p=1. Smith himself said he made three unsuccessful attempts that day but did not mention being stricken Harv|Smith|1832|p=3. Smith's sister Katharine stated that three times, "he felt a pressure pushing hom [him] away" Harv|Salisbury|1895|p=14. David Whitmer said that the angel struck Smith three times with such force that he was knocked off the hill onto the surrounding plain and had to reascend Harv|Whitmer|1875.]

Disconcerted by his inability to obtain the plates, Smith said he briefly wondered whether his experience had been a "dreem of Vision" [sic] . [Harvtxt|Smith|1832|p=3.] Concluding that it was not, he said he prayed asking why he had been barred from taking the plates. [Harvtxt|Smith|1832|p=3; Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2 (saying Smith exclaimed, "why Cant I stur this Book?"); Harvtxt|Cowdery|1835b|p=198 (saying that Smith exclaimed, without premeditation, "Why can I not obtain this book?"); Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=14 (saying Smith asked, "Lord, what have I done, that I can not get these records?")]

In response to his question, Smith said the angel appeared and told him he could not receive the plates because he "had been tempted of the advisary (sic) and saught (sic) the Plates to obtain riches and kept not the commandments that I should have". [Harvtxt|Smith|1832|p=3; Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2 (saying the angel said "you cant have it now", to which Smith responded, "when can I have it?" and the angel said "the 22nt Day of September next if you Bring the right person with you".); Harvtxt|Cowdery|1835b|pp=197–98 (stating that although Smith "supposed his success certain", his failure to keep the "commandments" led to his inability to obtain them). In Smith's 1838 account he said the angel had already told him he would not receive the plates for another four years Harv|Smith|1838a|p=7. Smith's brother, who was 11 at the time, said "upon his return [he] told us that in consequence of his not obeying strictly the commandments which the angel had given him, he could not obtain the record until four years from that time" Harv|Smith|1883|p=10. Smith's sister Katharine (who was 10 at the time) said that Moroni told him, "You have not obeyed the commandments as you were commanded to; you must obey His commandments in every particular. You were not to lay them out of your hands until you had them in safe keeping" Harv|Salisbury|1895|p=14.] According to Smith's followers, Smith had also broken the angel's commandment "not to lay the plates down, or put them for a moment out of his hands", [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=85; Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2.] and according to a non-believer, Smith said "I had forgotten to give thanks to God" as required by the angel. [Harvtxt|Saunders|1893 (statement of Orson Saunders, who heard the account from his uncle Benjamin Saunders, who heard it from Smith in 1827).]

Smith said the angel instructed him to return the next year, on September 22 1824, with the "right person": his older brother Alvin. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2 (account of Joseph Knight, Sr., a life-long follower of Smith); Harvtxt|Lapham|1870|p=307 (account of Fayette Lapham, who became a skeptic after hearing the story from Smith's father in 1830); Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=14 (account of Smith's sister Katharine).] Alvin died in November 1823, so Smith returned to the hill in 1824 and said he asked what he should do, [Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=14.] but to his family's disappointment, he did not return with the plates. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=85 (account of Smith's mother). About the time of the scheduled September 22, 1824 meeting with the angel that Alvin was to attend, there were rumors in Palmyra that Alvin's body had been dug up and dissected. To quell these rumors, Joseph's father brought witnesses to exhume the body three days after Joseph's reported meeting with the angel (September 25) and then ran a notice in a local newspaper stating that the body remained undisturbed—except, of course, by Smith, Sr. and the witnesses. Harv|Smith|1824.] Instead, Smith said he was told to return the next year (1825) with the "right person", but the angel did not tell Smith who that person might be. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=14 (saying the angel said, "You will know her when you see her.").] For the visit on September 22 1825, Smith may have attempted unsuccessfully to bring his treasure-hunting associate Samuel T. Lawrence, [Harvtxt|Chase|1833|p=243; Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=3 (saying Lawrence was a seer and had been to the hill and knew what was there); Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=164 (identifying Samuel T. Lawrence as a practitioner of crystal gazing).] but eventually, Smith determined after looking into his seer stone that the "right person" was Emma Hale, his future wife. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=2; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15 (saying that Smith "knew when he saw her that she was the one to go with him to get the records").]

Smith said that he visited the hill "at the end of each year" for four years after the first visit in 1823, [Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=7.] but there is no specific record of him being in the Palmyra vicinity between January 1826 and January 1827 when he returned to Palmyra from Pennsylvania with his new wife. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=99–100.] After his arrival in Palmyra in January 1827, Smith visited the hill and returned to tell his parents that the angel had severely chastised him for not being "engaged enough in the work of the Lord", [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=99.] which could have meant that he missed his annual visit to the hill in 1826. [Smith's father is cited as stating Smith was late one year and missed the date for visiting the hill, and therefore was chastised by the angel Harv|Lapham|1870|p=307.]

tory of taking possession of the plates

The next annual visit on September 22 1827 would be, Smith told associates, his last chance to receive the plates. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=3.] According to Brigham Young, as the scheduled final date to obtain the plates approached, several Palmyra residents expressed concern "that they were going to lose that treasure" and sent for a skilled necromancer from 60 miles (96 km) away, encouraging him to make three separate trips to Palmyra to find the plates. [Harvtxt|Young|1855|p=180.] During one of these trips, the unnamed necromancer is said to have discovered the location, but was unable to determine the value of the plates. [Harvtxt|Young|1855|pp=180–81.] A few days prior to the September 22 1827 visit to the hill, Smith's loyal treasure-hunting friends Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight, Sr. traveled to Palmyra, in part, to be there during Smith's scheduled visit to the hill. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=3 (Saying Knight went to Rochester on business, and then passed back through Palmyra so that he could be there on September 22); Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=99 (Smith's mother, stating Knight and Stowell arrived there September 20 1827 to inquire on business matters, but stayed at the Smith home until September 22).]

Another of Smith's former treasure-hunting associates, Samuel T. Lawrence, was also apparently aware of the approaching date to obtain the plates, and Smith was concerned he might cause trouble. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=3 (saying Lawrence was a seer, had been to the hill, and knew what was there).] Therefore, on the eve of September 22 1827, the scheduled date for retrieving the plates, Smith dispatched his father to spy on Lawrence's house until dark. If Lawrence attempted to leave, the elder Joseph would have informed him that his son would "thrash the stumps with him" if he found him at the hill, but Lawrence never left his home. [Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=3.] Late at night, Smith took a horse and carriage to the hill Cumorah with his wife Emma. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=100; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15 (Emma "didn't see the records, but she went with him").] While Emma stayed in the wagon kneeling in prayer, [Harvtxt|Harris|1853|p=164.] Joseph walked to what he said was the site of the Golden Plates. Some time in the early morning hours, he said he retrieved the plates and hid them in a hollow log on or near Cumorah. [Harvtxt|Chase|1833|p=246; Harvtxt|Smith|1850|p=104 (Smith had cut away the bark of a decaying log, placed the plates inside, then covered the log with debris); Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=165; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15 (saying Smith "brought them part way home and hid them in a hollow log").] At the same time, Joseph said he received a pair of large spectacles he called the "Urim and Thummim" or "Interpreters", with lenses consisting of two seer stones, which he showed his mother when he returned in the morning. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=101. Smith's friend Joseph Knight said Smith was even more fascinated by the Interpreters than the plates Harv|Knight|1833|p=3.]

Over the next few days, Smith took a well-digging job in nearby Macedon to earn enough money to buy a solid lockable chest in which to put the plates. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=101.] By then, however, some of Smith's treasure-seeking company had heard that Smith said he had been successful in obtaining the plates, and they wanted what they believed was their share of the profits from what they viewed as part of a joint venture in treasure hunting. [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=167.] Spying once again on the house of Samuel Lawrence, Smith, Sr. determined that a group of ten to twelve of these men, including Lawrence and Willard Chase, had enlisted the talents of a renowned and supposedly-talented seer from 60 miles (96 km) away, in an effort to locate where the plates were hidden by means of divination. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=102; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15 (saying that Smith's father "heard that they had got a conjurer, who they said would come and find the plates".] When Emma heard of this, she rode a stray horse to Macedon and informed Smith, Jr., [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=103; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15.] who reportedly determined through his Urim and Thummim that the plates were safe. He nevertheless hurriedly rode home with Emma. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=103–104.]

Once home in Manchester, he said he walked to Cumorah, removed the plates from their hiding place, and walked home through the woods and away from the road with the plates wrapped in a linen frock under his arm. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=104–06.] On the way, he said a man had sprung up from behind a log and struck him a "heavy blow with a gun." "Knocking the man down with a single punch, Joseph ran as fast as he could for about a half mile before he was attacked by a second man trying to get the plates. After similarly overpowering the man, Joseph continued to run, but before he reached the house, a third man hit him with a gun. In striking the last man, Joseph said, he injured his thumb." [Harvtxt|Vogel|2004|p=99Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15; Harvtxt|Howe|1834|p=246; Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=104–06; Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=166.] He returned home with a dislocated thumb and other minor injuries. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=104–06 (mentioning the dislocated thumb); Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=166 (mentioning an injury to his side); Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15 (mentioning the dislocated thumb and an injury to his arm).] Smith sent his father, Joseph Knight, and Josiah Stowell to search for the pursuers, but they found no one. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=105–06; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15.]

Smith is said to have put the plates in a locked chest and hid them in his parents' home in Manchester. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=106; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15.] He refused to allow anyone, including his family, to view the plates or the other artifacts he said he had in his possession, although some people were allowed to heft them or feel what were said to be the artifacts through a cloth. [Harvtxt|Howe|1834|p=264; Harvtxt|Harris|1859|169–70; Harvtxt|Smith|1884.] A few days after retrieving the plates, Smith brought home what he said was an ancient breastplate, which he said had been hidden in the box at Cumorah with the plates. After letting his mother feel through a thin cloth what she said was the breastplate, he placed it in the locked chest. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=107 (saying she saw the glistening metal, and estimating the breastplate's value at over 500 dollars).]

The Smith home was approached "nearly every night" by villagers hoping to find the chest where Smith said the plates were kept. [Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=15.] After hearing that a group of them would attempt to enter the house by force, Smith buried the chest under the hearth, [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=108; Harvtxt|Harris|1859|pp=166–67.] and the family was able to scare away the intended intruders. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=108.] Fearing the chest might still be discovered, Smith hid it under the floor boards of his parents' old log home nearby, then being used as a cooper shop. [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=167.] Later, Smith said he took the plates out of the chest, left the empty chest under the floor boards of the cooper shop, and hid the plates in a barrel of flax. Shortly thereafter the empty box was discovered and the place ransacked by Smith's former treasure-seeking associates, [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=107–09; Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=167.] who had enlisted one of the men's sisters to find the hiding place by looking in her seer stone. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=109 The seer was the sister of Willard Chase who said she had "found a green glass, through which she could see many very wonderful things".]

Translating the plates

Joseph Smith said that the plates were engraved in an unknown language, and Smith told associates that he was capable of reading and translating them. This translation took place mainly in Harmony, Pennsylvania (now Oakland Township), Emma's hometown, where Smith and his wife had moved in October 1827 with financial assistance from a prominent, though superstitious, Palmyra landowner Martin Harris. [The local Presbyterian minister, Jesse Townsend, described Harris as a "visionary fanatic". A acquaintance, Lorenzo Saunders, said, "There can't anybody say word against Martin Harris...a man that would do just as he agreed with you. But he was a great man for seeing spooks." Harv|Walker|1986|p=35.] The translation occurred in two phases: the first, from December 1827 to June 1828, during which Smith transcribed some of the characters and then dictated 116 manuscript pages to Harris, which were lost. The second phase began sporadically in early 1829 and then in earnest in April 1829 with the arrival of Oliver Cowdery, a schoolteacher who volunteered to serve as Smith's full-time scribe. In June 1829, Smith and Cowdery moved to Fayette, New York, completing the translation early the following month.

Translation process

Smith used scribes to write the words he said were a translation of the golden plates, dictating these words while peering into seer stones, which he said allowed him to see the translation. Smith said that he translated using what he called the "Urim and Thummim"—a set of large spectacles with stones where the eye-pieces should be. [Harvtxt|Smith|Mulholland|Thompson|Phelps|1838a|p=5. Early followers of Smith used the term "Urim and Thummim" to refer both to these large spectacles and Smith's other seer stones, most notably one commonly called the "Chase stone" that Smith had found in a Palymra well during the early 1820sHarv|Wagoner|1982|pp=59–62.] There is no eye-witness testimony that Smith ever wore the large spectacles, although some witnesses suggest he placed them in his hat while translating. [Martin Harris, one of Smith's scribes, is reported to have said that the spectacles were made for a giant, and would not have been wearable by Joseph Smith Harv|Anton|1834. David Whitmer, another scribe, also said that the spectacles were larger than normal spectacles, and indicated that Smith placed them in his hat while translating, rather than wearing them Harv|Whitmer|1875. However, a man who interviewed Smith's father in 1830 said that Smith did at least some of the translation while wearing the spectacles Harv|Lapham|1870.] Witnesses did observe Smith using a single seer stone (not part of a set of spectacles) in the translation, [Harvtxt|Hale|1834|p=265; Harvtxt|Smith|1879|pp=536-40; Harv|Wagoner|1982|pp=59–62 (containing an overview of witnesses to the translation process).] and some said that this stone was one of those Smith had earlier used for treasure seeking. [Smith's father-in-law, Isaac Hale, said that the "manner in which he pretended to read and interpret was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time hid in the woods!" Harv|Hale|1834|p=265.] Smith placed the stone (or the spectacles) in a hat, buried his face in it to eliminate all outside light, and peered into the stone to see the words of the translation. [Harvtxt|Whitmer|1875 ("Having placed the Urim and Thummim in his hat, Joseph placed the hat over his face, and with prophetic eyes read the invisible symbols syllable by syllable and word by word."). Michael Morse, Smith's brother-in-law, stating that he watched Smith on several occasions: "The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face." (Harvnb|Wagoner|1982|52–53, quoting W.W. Blair, "Latter Day Saints' Herald" 26 (15 Nov. 1879): 341, who was quoting Michael Morse). Smith's wife Emma stated that she took dictation from her husband as she sat next to him, and that he would put his face into a hat with the stone in it, dictating for hours at a time. Harv|Smith|1879|pp=536-40.] A few times during the translation, a curtain or blanket was raised between Smith and his scribe or between the living area and the area where Smith and his scribe worked. [Harvtxt|Cook|1991|p=173. However, Elizabeth Ann Whitmer, later to be the wife of scribe Oliver Cowdery, said she had never seen a curtain raised between Smith and Cowdery or her brothers while translation took place in the Whitmer home Harv|Wagoner|1982|p=51.] Sometimes Smith dictated to Martin Harris from upstairs or from a different room. [Harvtxt|Howe|1834|p=14.]

Smith's process of what he called "translation" was not typical of the usual meaning of that word because his dictation of the English words did not require his understanding of the source text. As he looked into the seer stone, Smith said that the words of the ancient script appeared to him in English. These dictations were written down by a number of assistants including Emma Smith, Martin Harris, and most notably, Oliver Cowdery. [Harvtxt|Clark|1842 ("Although in the same room, a thick curtain or blanket was suspended between them, and Smith concealed behind the blanket, pretended to look through his spectacles, or transparent stones, and would then write down or repeat what he saw, which when repeated aloud, was written down by Harris."); Harvtxt|Benton|1831 ("Oliver Cowdery, one of the three witnesses to the book, testified under oath, that said Smith...translated his book [with] two transparent stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates.").] In May 1829, after Smith had lent 116 un-duplicated manuscript pages to Martin Harris, and Harris lost them, Smith dictated a revelation explaining that Smith could not simply re-translate the lost pages because his opponents would attempt to see if he could "bring forth the same words again". [Harvtxt|Phelps|1833|p=24.] Smith seems to have assumed that a second transcription of the lost pages should be identical to the first rather than be filled with the variants that would naturally occur if one was translating a text from one language into another in the normal manner. [Harvtxt|Palmer|2002|p=7.]

Location of the plates during translation

When Joseph and Emma moved to Harmony, Pennsylvania in October 1827, the golden plates were said to have been transported in a glass box hidden in a barrel of beans. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=113; Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=170.] For a time the couple stayed in the home of Emma's father Isaac Hale, but when Smith refused to show Hale the plates, only allowing him to heft the box that contained them, Hale banished the concealed object from his house. [Harvtxt|Hale|1834|p=264; Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=3.] Afterwards, the plates were said to have been hidden for much of the time in the nearby woods, [Harvtxt|Hale|1834|p=264; Harvtxt|Knight|1833|p=3; Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=115.] although Emma said that for at least part of the time, Joseph kept them in the house, on a table, wrapped in a linen tablecloth, which she moved from time to time when it got in the way of her chores. [Harvtxt|Smith|1879.] In one instance, the plates were said to have been stored in a trunk on Emma's bureau. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=124.]

Smith did not require the physical presence of the plates in order to translate them; and many witnesses said the plates were hidden during the translation process, presumably in the woods. [Harvtxt|Stevenson|1882; Harvtxt|Hale|1834|pp=264–65; Harvtxt|Van Horn|1881; Harvtxt|Whitmer|1875 ("The plates were not before Joseph while he translated, but seem to have been removed by the custodian angel."). Isaac Hale said that while Joseph was translating, the plates were "hid in the woods" Harv|Hale|1834|p=264. Joseph Smith, Sr. said they were "hid in the mountains" Harvtxt|Palmer|2002|pp=2-5.] In April 1828, Martin Harris' wife Lucy visited Harmony with her husband and demanded to see the plates. When Smith refused to show them to her, she searched the house, grounds and woods, where the plates were reportedly protected by a large black snake that frightened her and prevented her from digging them up. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=115–116.] Lucy may have caused the "loss" of the 116 pages of translation manuscript, which Smith had lent her husband so that he could prove to his friends and family that the plates were real.

Smith said that between July and September 1828, the angel Moroni took back both the plates and the Urim and Thummim as a penalty for his having delivered "the manuscript into the hands of a wicked man". [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=125 (stating that the angel took back the Urim and Thummim, but referring to the revelation that stated the plates were taken too); Harvtxt|Smith|1832|p=5 (referring only to the plates); Harvtxt|Phelps|1833|loc=9:1, p. 22 (a revelation referring only to the plates and to Smith's "gift" to translate).] The angel is said to have returned the objects to Smith on September 22, 1828, the autumn equinox and the anniversary of the day he first received the plates. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=126.]

In March 1829, Martin Harris visited Harmony and asked to see the plates. Smith told him that he "would go into the woods where the Book of Plates was, and that after he came back, Harris should follow his tracks in the snow, and find the Book, and examine it for himself." Harris followed these directions but could not find the plates. [Harvtxt|Hale|1834|pp=264–265.]

In early June 1829, the unwanted attentions of locals around Harmony necessitated Smith's move to the home of David Whitmer and his parents in Fayette, New York. Smith said that on this move the golden plates were transported by the angel Moroni, who placed them in the garden of the Whitmer house in Fayette where Smith could recover them. [Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=137; Harvtxt|Salisbury|1895|p=16.] Translation was completed at the Whitmer home in Fayette.

tories of returning the plates and their present location

After translation was completed, Smith said he returned the plates to the angel, without elaboration. [Harvtxt|Van Horn|1881; Harvtxt|Smith|1853|p=141.] According to accounts by several early Mormons, a group of Mormon leaders including Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and possibly others [Harvtxt|Young|1877|p=38 (mentioning only Smith and Cowdery); Harvtxt|Packer|2004|p=52, 55 (including David Whitmer in the list and describing Whitmer's account of the event, and citing William Horne Dame Diary, 14 January 1855, stating that Hyrum Smith was also in the group).] went with Smith to return the plates to a cave inside the Hill Cumorah. [Harvtxt|Packer|2004|p=52.] There, Smith is said to have placed the plates on a table near "many wagon loads" of other ancient records, and the Sword of Laban hanging on the cave's wall. [Harvtxt|Young|1877|p=38 (Young said he heard this from Oliver Cowdery).] According to Brigham Young's understanding which he said he heard from Cowdery, on a later visit to the cave, the Sword of Laban was said to be unsheathed and placed over the plates, and inscribed with the words "This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ." [Harvtxt|Young|1877|p=38.]

Smith taught that part of the golden plates were "sealed". [Harvtxt|Smith|1842|p=707.] This "sealed" portion is said to contain "a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof". ["Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 27:7.] Many Latter Day Saints understand that because of this, the plates will be kept hidden until some future time, when the sealed part will be translated [Harvtxt|Packer|2004|p=55.] and, according to one early Mormon leader, transferred from the hill to one of the Mormon temples. [Harvtxt|Packer|2004|p=55 (quoting a statement by Orson Pratt).]

David Whitmer, is quoted as stating that he saw just the "untranslated" portion of the plates sitting on the table with the sword (and also a breastplate). [Harvtxt|Packer|2004|p=55 (citing reporter Edward Stevenson's 1877 interview with Whitmer).] Apparently, Whitmer was aware of expeditions at Cumorah to locate the sealed portion of the plates through "science and mineral rods", which he said "testify that they are there". [Harvtxt|Packer|2004|p=55. At least one Mormon scholar doubts the existence of a Cumorah cave and instead argues that early Mormons saw a vision of a cave in another location.Harvtxt|Tvedtnes|1990]

Description of plates by Smith and his contemporaries

Witnesses to the plates

Smith said the angel commanded him not to show the plates to any unauthorized person. [Harvtxt|Hadley|1829; Harvtxt|Smith|1838a|p=6.] He reportedly expected that the first authorized witness would be his firstborn son, but his first child was stillborn in 1828. [Harvtxt|Chase|1834 (citing Martin Harris as stating in 1829 that Smith’s unborn son would translate the plates at the age of two (this son was stillborn), and thereafter, "you will see Joseph Smith, Jr. walking through the streets of Palmyra, with the Gold Bible under his arm, and having a gold breast-plate on, and a gold sword hanging by his side."); Harvtxt|Hale|1834|p=264 (stating that the first witness would be "a young child”).] In March 1829, after pressure by Martin Harris to see the plates, [In March 1829, Martin Harris returned to Harmony and wanted to see the plates firsthand. Smith reportedly told Harris that Smith "would go into the woods where the Book of Plates was, and that after he came back, Harris should follow his tracks in the snow, and find the Book, and examine it for himself"; after following these directions, however, Harris could not find the plates Harv|Hale|1834|pp=264–265. The next day Harv|Hale|1834|p=265, Smith dictated the revelation stating that witnesses were not necessary, but that three witnesses could be called, and Harris could be one of them if he “humble [d] himself in mighty prayer and faith” Harv|Phelps|1833|pp=10–12.] , Smith dictated a revelation stating that the words of the plates would be accompanied by the testimonies of three witnesses who would have the exclusive privilege to "view [the plates] as they are" [Harv|Phelps|1833|pp=11–12] Some time later, Smith’s dictation of the Book of Ether (chapter 2) also made reference to three witnesses, stating that the plates would be shown to them "by the power of God". [Harv|Smith|1830|p=548.]

Thus, in the second half of June 1829, [Harvtxt|Van Horn|1881.] Smith took Harris, together with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer (known collectively as the Three Witnesses), [Smith selected the Three Witnesses soon after a visit by Martin Harris to the Whitmer home in Fayette, accompanied by Smith's parents Harv|Smith|1853|p=138, to inquire about the translation Harv|Roberts|1902|p=51. According to Smith's mother, this trip was prompted by news that Smith had completed the translation of the plates Harv|Smith|1853|p=138. When Harris he arrived, he joined with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer to request that the three be named as the Three Witnesses referred to in the much earlier revelation directed to Harris, and also referred to in a recently-translated portion of the plates called the Book of Ether (2:2–4) Harv|Roberts|1902|p=51. In response, Smith dictated a revelation that the three of them would see the Golden Plates Harv|Smith|Cowdery|Rigdon|Williams|1835|p=171.] to the woods in Fayette, New York, where they said they saw [They "saw" with their "spiritual eyes", according to a reported statement by Harris decades later Harv|Gilbert|1892.] an angel holding the golden plates and turning the leaves. [Harvtxt|Roberts|1902|pp=54–55; Harvtxt|Smith|1830b|loc=appendix.] The four of them also said they heard "the voice of the Lord" telling them that the translation of the plates was correct, and commanding them to testify of what they saw and heard. [Harvtxt|Roberts|1902|pp=54–55; Harvtxt|Smith|1830b|loc=appendix. David Whitmer later stated that the angel showed them "the breast plates, the Ball or Directors, the Sword of Laban and other plates". (Harvtxt|Van Horn|1881; Harvtxt|Kelley|Blakeslee|1882; see also Harvtxt|Smith|1835|p=171.] A few days later, Smith selected a group of Eight Witnesses, [With Joseph Smith, the Three, and the Eight, there were a total of twelve witnesses. Just prior to selecting these twelve, Smith had dictated a revelation commanding Cowdery and Whitmer to seek out twelve "disciples", who desired to serve, and who would "go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature", and who would be ordained to baptize and to ordain priests and teachers Harv|Phelps|1833|p=37. Some commentators view this as a foreshadowing of the first Quorum of the Twelve that years later would be formed in 1835.Fact|date=March 2008] the males of the Whitmer home, including David Whitmer's father Peter, his brothers Christian, Jacob, and John, and his brother-in-law Hiram Page. Smith took this group, along with his father Joseph Smith, Sr. and his brothers Hyrum and Samuel to a location near Smith's parents' home in Palmyra [Harvtxt|Smith|1853. Because of a foreclosure on their Manchester property, the Smith family was then living in a log cabin technically in Palmyra (Harvnb|Smith|1883|p=14; Harvnb|Berge|1985) ] where they said Smith showed them the golden plates [Harvtxt|Roberts|1902|p=57. Though the Eight Witnesses did not refer, like the Three, to an angel or the voice of God, they said that they had hefted the plates and seen the engravings on them: “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" Harv|Smith|1830b|appendix.]

When the Book of Mormon was published in 1830, the book included one affidavit testifying to the experience of the Three Witnesses and another affidavit of the Eight Witnesses. There is no evidence that these two affidavits were actually signed by either group, and [Harvtxt|Smith|1830b|appendix.] these statements were apparently drafted by Joseph Smith. [This is the conclusion of Harvtxt|Palmer|2002|p=195-96, who compared "The Testimony of Three Witnesses" to part of the Doctrine and Covenants written in 1829 (first published at Harvtxt|Smith|Cowdery|Rigdon|Williams|1835|p=171), and concluding that they show "the marks of common authorship". Palmer also compares a letter from Oliver Cowdery to Hyrum Smith dated June 14 1829, quoting the language of this revelation (Joseph Smith letterbook (22 November 1835 to 4 August 1835), 5-6). Commentators generally agree that this letter refers to the revelation. See Larry C. Porter, "Dating the Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood", "Ensign" (June 1979), 5. ] There were also other witnesses who later said they had have visions of the plates, or had been shown the plates by an angel. [For instances of people testifying to having seen the Golden Plates "after" Smith returned them to the angel, see the affirmations of John Young and Harrison Burgess in Harvtxt|Palmer|2002|p=201. In 1859, Brigham Young referred to one of these "post-return" testimonies: "Some of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterwards left to doubt.... One of the Quorum of the Tweleve, a young man full of faith and good works, prayed, and the vision of his mind was opened, and the angel of God came and laid the plates before him, and he saw and handled them, and saw the angel." "Journal of Discourses", June 5, 1859, 7: 164.]

In March 1838, some church members said that Martin Harris, who had previously given specific descriptions of the plates, now publicly denied having seen them at all. [Their accounts state that Harris publicly denied that either he or the other Witnesses to the Book of Mormon had ever seen or handled the golden plates—although he had not been present when Whitmer and Cowdery first claimed to have viewed them. Harris's recantation, made during a period of crisis in early Mormonism, induced five influential members, including three Apostles, to leave the Church. (Stephen Burnett to Luke S. Johnson, 15 April 1838, in Joseph Smith's Letterbook, "Early Mormon Documents" 2: 290-92. Warren Parrish also wrote in August 11, 1838: "Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision, and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph not excepted." "EMD", 2: 289.)] Near the end of his long life, Harris also said that he had seen the plates only in "a state of entrancement". [Metcalf in "EMD", 2: 347.] Nevertheless, in 1871 Harris testified that no one had "ever heard me in any way deny the truth of the Book of Mormon [or] the administration of the angel that showed me the plates". ["No man heard me in any way deny the truth of the Book of Mormon, the administration of the angel that showed me the plates; nor the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the administration of Joseph Smith, Jr." Letter of Martin Harris, Sr., to Hanna B. Emerson, January 1871, Smithfield, Utah Territory, "Saints' Herald" 22 (15 October 1875):630, in "EMD" 2: 338. See also Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Investigating the "Book of Mormon" Witnesses" (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 118]

Format, binding, and dimensions

The plates were said to be bound at one edge by a set of rings. In 1828, Martin Harris, one of Joseph Smith, Jr.'s early scribes, is reported to have said that he understood the plates to be "fastened together in the shape of a book by wires". [Harvtxt|Anthon|1834|p=270.] In 1859 Harris said that the plates "were seven inches [18 cm] wide by eight inches [20 cm] in length, and were of the thickness of plates of tin; and when piled one above the other, they were altogether about four inches [10 cm] thick; and they were put together on the back by three silver rings, so that they would open like a book". [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=165.] David Whitmer, another 1829 witness, was quoted by an 1831 Palmyra newspaper as saying the plates were "the thickness of tin plate; the back was secured with three small rings...passing through each leaf in succession". [Harvtxt|Cole|1831.] Anomalously, Smith's father is quoted as saying the (stack of?) plates (were?) only half an inch (1.27 centimeter) thick. [Harvtxt|Lapham|1870|p=307.] Smith's mother, who said she had "seen and handled" the plates, is quoted as saying they were "eight inches [20 cm] long, and six [15 cm] wide...all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate". [Harvtxt|Smith|1842b|p=27.]

Hyrum Smith and John Whitmer, also witnesses in 1829, are reported to have stated that the rings holding the plates together were, in Hyrum's words, "in the shape of the letter D, which facilitated the opening and shutting of the book". [Statement by Hyrum Smith as reported by William E. McLellin in the "Huron Reflector", October 31, 1831. See also Harvtxt|Poulson|1878|.] Joseph Smith's wife Emma and his younger brother William said they had examined the plates while wrapped in fabric. Emma said she "felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book". [Harvtxt|Smith|1879.] William agreed that the plates could be rustled with one's thumb like the pages of a book. [Harvtxt|Smith|1884.]

Joseph Smith did not provide his own published description of the plates until 1842, when he said in a letter that "each plate was six inches [15 cm] wide and eight inches [20 cm] long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were...bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches [15 cm] in thickness". [Harvtxt|Smith|1842.]

Composition and weight

The plates were first described as "gold", and beginning about 1827, the plates were widely called the "gold bible". [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=167; Harvtxt|Smith|1853|pp=102, 109, 113, 145; Harvtxt|Grandin|1829.] When the Book of Mormon was published in 1830, the Eight Witnesses described the plates as having "the appearance of gold". [Harvtxt|Smith|1830|loc=appx.] The book itself describes the plates as being made of "ore". [Harvtxt|Smith|1830|loc=Mormon 8:5.] In 1831, a Palmyra newspaper quoted David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses, as having said that the plates were a "whitish yellow" color", with "three small rings of the same metal". [Harvtxt|Cole|1831.]

Joseph Smith, Jr.'s first published description of the plates said that the plates "had the appearance of gold" [Harvtxt|Smith|1842.] . But Smith said that Moroni had referred to the plates as "gold." Late in life, Martin Harris stated that the rings holding the plates together were made of silver, [Joseph Smith History 1:34; Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=165.] and he said the plates themselves, based on their heft of "forty or fifty pounds" (18–23 kg), [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=166] "were lead or gold". [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|p=169.] Joseph's brother William Smith, who said he felt the plates inside a pillow case in 1827, said in 1884 that he understood the plates to be "a mixture of gold and copper...much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood". [Harvtxt|Smith|1884]

Different people estimated the weight of the plates differently. According to Smith's one-time-friend Willard Chase, Smith told him in 1827 that the plates weighed between 40 and 60 pounds (18–27 kg), most likely the latter. [Harvtxt|Chase|1833|p=246.] Smith's father Joseph Smith, Sr., who was one of the Eight Witnesses, reportedly weighed them and said in 1830 that they "weighed thirty pounds" (14 kg). [Harvtxt|Lapham|1870.] Joseph Smith's brother, William, said that he lifted them in a pillowcase and thought they "weighed about sixty pounds [23 kg] according to the best of my judgment". [Harvtxt|Smith|1883.] Others who lifted the plates while they were wrapped in cloth or enclosed in a box thought that they weighed about 60 lbs [23 kg] . Martin Harris said that he had "hefted the plates many times, and should think they weighed forty or fifty pounds [18–23 kg] ". [Harvtxt|Harris|1859|pp=166, 169.] Joseph Smith's wife Emma never estimated the weight of the plates but said they were light enough for her to "move them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work". [Harvtxt|Smith|1879.] Had the plates been made of 24-karat gold (which Smith never claimed), they would have weighed about 140 pounds (64 kg). [Harvtxt|Vogel|2004|loc=p. 600, n. 65.]

"Sealed" portion

According to Joseph Smith and others, the book of Golden Plates contained a "sealed" portion [Harvtxt|Smith|1842|p=707.] containing "a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof". [Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 27:7. The "sealing" of apocalyptic revelations in a book has precedents in the Bible. See, for example, Isaiah 29:11, Daniel 12:4, and Revelation 5:1–5.] Smith never described the nature or extent of the seal, and the language of the Book of Mormon may be interpreted to describe a sealing that was spiritual, metaphorical, [i.e. that the book was "sealed" in the sense that its contents were hidden or kept from public knowledge] physical, or a combination of these elements.

The Book of Mormon refers to other documents and plates as being "sealed" by being buried in order to be revealed at some future time. For example, the Book of Mormon says the entire set of plates was "sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord", [Harv|Smith|1830|loc=title page] and that separate records of John the Apostle were "sealed up to come forth in their purity" in the end times. ["Book of Mormon", 1 Nephi 14:26] One set of plates to which the Book of Mormon refers was "sealed up" in the sense that they were written in a language that could not be read. [Book of Mormon, Ether 3:22.]

Smith may have understood the sealing as a supernatural or spiritual sealing of the plates "by the power of God" (2 Nephi 27:10). [Harvtxt|Quinn|1998|pp=195–196.] This idea is supported by a reference in the Book of Mormon to the "interpreters" (Urim and Thummim) with which Smith said they were buried or "sealed". [Book of Mormon, Ether 4:5. According to Martin Harris, anyone who looked into the "interpreters", "except by the command of God", would "perish" Harv|Harris|1859|p=166.] Oliver Cowdery also stated that when Smith visited the hill, he was stricken by a supernatural force because the plates were "sealed by the prayer of faith". [Harvtxt|Cowdery|1835b|p=198.]

Several witnesses described a physical "sealing" placed on part of the plates by Mormon or Moroni. David Whitmer said that an angel showed him the plates in 1829 and that "a large portion of the leaves were so securely bound together that it was impossible to separate them". [David Whitmer interview, Chicago Tribune, 24 January 1888, in David Whitmer Interviews, ed. Cook, 221. Near the end of his life, Whitmer said that one section of the book was "loose, in plates, the other solid". Harvtxt|Storey|1881.] He also said that the "sealed" part of the plates were held together as a solid mass that was "stationary and immovable", [Harvtxt|Cole|1831] "as solid to my view as wood", [Harvtxt|Poulson|1878.] and that there were "perceptible marks where the plates appeared to be sealed" [Harvtxt|Storey|1881] with leaves "so securely bound that it was impossible to separate them". [Harvtxt|Whitmer|1888. Orson Pratt, who said he had spoken with many witnesses of the plates,Harv|Pratt|1859|p=30, assumed that Joseph Smith could "break the seal" if only he had been "permitted" Harv|Pratt|1877|pp=211–12.] Lucy Mack Smith said in 1842 that some of the plates were "sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose". [Harvtxt|Smith|1842b|p=27.] The account of the Eight Witnesses says they saw the plates in 1829 and handled "as many of the leaves as [Joseph] Smith has translated", implying that they did not examine untranslated parts of the book such as the sealed portion. [Harvtxt|Smith|1830|loc=appx.]

In one interview, David Whitmer said that "about half" the book was sealed, [Harvtxt|Cole|1831; Harvtxt|Poulson|1878.] and in 1881, he said that "about one-third" of the book was unsealed, and the remainder sealed. [Harvtxt|Storey|1881] Whitmer's 1881 statement is consistent with an 1856 statement by Orson Pratt, an associate of Smith's who never saw the plates himself, but who said he had spoken with witnesses. [Harvtxt|Pratt|1859|p=30.] According to Pratt, "about two-thirds" of the plates were "sealed up". [Harvtxt|Pratt|1856|p=347.]

The sealed portion of the plates is said to contain "a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof". [Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 27:7.] The Book of Mormon states that this vision was originally given to the Brother of Jared, recorded by Ether on a set of 24 plates later found by Limhi, and then "sealed up". [Book of Mormon, Ether 1:2.] According to this account, Moroni copied the plates of Limhi onto the sealed portion of the Golden Plates. [Harv|Smith|1830|loc=Mormon 9:32.] Smith later described the writing as "Egyptian characters...small, and beautifully engraved", exhibiting "much skill in the art of engraving". [Harvtxt|Smith|1842.]

John Whitmer, one of the Eight Witnesses, said the plates had "fine engravings on both sides", [Harv|Roberts|1906|p=307.] and Orson Pratt, who did not see the plates himself but who had spoken with witnesses, understood that there were engravings on both sides of the plates, "stained with a black, hard stain, so as to make the letters more legible and easier to be read". [Harvtxt|Pratt|1859|pp=30-31.]

Other metal plates in Latter Day Saint tradition

Book of Mormon references

In addition to the Golden Plates, the Book of Mormon refers to several other sets of books written on metal plates:
*The brass plates originally in the custody of Laban, containing the writings of Old Testament prophets before the Babylonian Exile, as well as the otherwise unknown prophets Zenos, Zenoch, Neum, and possibly others.
*The large plates of Nephi, the source of the text abridged by Mormon and engraved on the Golden Plates.
*The small plates of Nephi, the source of the first and second books of Nephi, and the books of Jacob, Enos, Jarom and Omni, which replaced the lost 116 pages.
* A set of twenty-four plates found by the people of Limhi containing the record of the Jaredites, translated by King Mosiah, and abridged by Moroni as the Book of Ether.

Other metal plates

In 1843, Smith acquired a set of six small bell-shaped plates, known as the Kinderhook Plates, found in Kinderhook, Pike County, Illinois. Although Smith did not translate the plates, William Clayton, his secretary, wrote that Smith said they contained "the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh king of Egypt." As Richard Bushman has written, "Joseph may not have detected the fraud, but he did not swing into a full-fledged translation as he had with the Egyptian scrolls. The trap did not quite spring shut, which foiled the conspirators original plan." [Harvtxt|Bushman|2005|p=490 The original source is William Clayton's Journal, May 1, 1843 (See also, "Trials of Discipleship — The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon," 117): "I have seen 6 brass plates... 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 Pharaoh king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth." The information was deemed important enough to be republished in the first person (as if Smith had said it) in the "History of The Church": "I insert facsimiles of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook...I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth." More than six pages in Volume Five of History of the Church discuss the Kinderhook plates.] After Smith's assassination, the Kinderhook Plates were presumed lost, and for decades The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published facsimiles of them in its official "History of the Church" as evidence that ancient Americans wrote on metal plates. In 1980 the Kinderhook Plates were tested at BYU and determined to have been manufactured in the nineteenth century. Today the LDS Church acknowledges the plates as a hoax and makes no attempt to defend their authenticity. [Richard Bushman, "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling" (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 489-90.]

James J. Strang, one of many rival claimants to succeed Smith, in the Succession Crisis, said that he discovered and translated a set of plates known as the Voree Plates or "Voree Record". Like Joseph Smith, Strang produced witnesses to his plates' authenticity. [Strang, James J. [http://www.strangite.org/Plates.htm "The Record of Rajah Manchou of Vorito."] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Retrieved on 2008-03-18.] Although Strang's attempt to supplant Brigham Young proved abortive, Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, [In a letter of 11 May 1846 Lucy Mack Smith wrote: "I am satisfied that Joseph appointed J. J. Strang." The same day William Smith said, "James J. Strang has the appointment and we have evidence of it. The whole Smith family excepting Hyrum's widow uphold Strang." Palmer, 211. Earlier Lucy Mack Smith said at the October 1844 General Conference that she hoped all her children would accompany the saints to the West, and if they did she would go.] and for a time all living witnesses to the Book of Mormon, including the three Whitmers and Martin Harris (although perhaps excluding Oliver Cowdery), accepted "Strang's leadership, angelic call, metal plates, and his translation of these plates as authentic". [Palmer, 208-13. Cowdery's father converted to Strang's movement in the summer of 1846, and a year later Oliver Cowdery was living in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, 12 miles (19 km) from Strang's headquarters and may have been associated in some way with his church. Stanley R. Gunn, "Oliver Cowdery: Second Elder and Scribe" (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1962), 189. Lucy Mack Smith's acceptance of Strang's leadership was short-lived; until her death, she made her home in Nauvoo with her daughter-in-law Emma and Emma's non-Mormon husband. (Bushman, 554-55). ] Strang equally claimed to have discovered and translated the Plates of Laban spoken of in the Book of Mormon. As with the Voree Plates, Strang produced witnesses who authenticated his claim to possess them. Strang's purported translation of these plates was published in 1850 as the Book of the Law of the Lord. This book, together with the Voree Record, is still accepted as Scripture by members of Strang's diminutive church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). [ [http://www.strangite.org/Law.htm The Book of the Law of the Lord.] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Retrieved on 2008-03-18.]

Non-LDS plates and Mormon apologetics

Since Joseph Smith's announcement that he had received golden plates from an angel, non-believers have challenged their reality. Mormon scholars have argued that other ancient civilizations wrote sacred records on metal plates. [William J. Hamblin, [http://www.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=637 "Sacred Writing on Metal Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean"] , Neil A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University. Retrieved on 2008-03-18. ] Some ancient European and Mesopotamian cultures did keep short records on metal plates, but extant examples are rare, have comparatively brief texts, and are extremely thin. A six-page, 24-carat gold book, written in Etruscan, was found in Bulgaria; [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2939362.stm Unique book goes on display.] BBC News, 2003-05-23. Retrieved on 2008-03-18. "The six sheets are believed to be the oldest comprehensive work involving multiple pages", said Elka Penkova, who heads the museum's archaeological department. "There are around 30 similar pages known in the world", Ms Penkova said, "but they are not linked together in a book".] and in 2005, an eight-page golden codex, allegedly from the Achaemenid period, was recovered from smugglers by the Iranian police. The Pyrgi Tablets (now at the National Etruscan Museum, Rome) are gold plates with a bilingual Phoenician-Etruscan text. Gold Laminae funerary texts similar to Books of the Dead have also been found in Italy. In the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls had been found, archeologists later discovered the aptly-named Copper Scroll, two rolled sheets of copper that may describe locations where treasures of the Second Temple of Jerusalem may have been hidden. [A summary of information about the Copper Scroll from the [http://www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/wsrp/educational_site/dead_sea_scrolls/copperscroll.shtml Copper Scroll.] West Semitic Research Project, University of Southern California. Retrieved on 2008-03-18.] Another Israelite example is the tiny "Silver Scrolls" dated to the 7th century B.C.E. (First Temple period), containing just a few verses of scripture, perhaps the oldest extant passages of the Old Testament. [ A news article on the discovery of the [http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=17741 Silver Scroll] taken from the Baptist Press. Retrieved on 2008-03-18. The two silver scrolls were discovered in a burial cave southwest of Jerusalem and are dated to the First Temple period, around the time of Jeremiah or Josiah. The passage from Numbers 6:24-26 is translated into English, "The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace."] Nevertheless, there is no known extant example of writing on metal plates longer than the eight-page Persian codex and no extant metal plates with writing from Egypt or from any ancient civilization in the Western Hemisphere. [Mesoamerican writing systems have been preserved only on stone or paper made from bark or deerskin. "Encyclopedia of Archaeology" (Oxford: Elsevier, 2008), 2231; Ruth D. Whitehouse, ed. "Facts on File of Archaeology" (New York: Facts on File, 1983), 553. In the section of the "Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt" (Oxford, 2001), dedicated to metallurgy, the writer notes implements of all kinds in copper, bronze, and gold, including daggers, ewers, chisels, mirrors, statuettes and jewelry of all types. No plates with writing are mentioned. ]

Notes

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External links

* [http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no105.htm#Plates Utah Lighthouse Ministry] : skeptical comments about the Golden Plates and their history.
* [http://www.jefflindsay.com/bme10.shtml jefflindsay.com] : LDS apologetic discussion of other ancient metal records.
* [http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1986.htm/ensign%20december%201986%20.htm/i%20have%20a%20question.htm?fn=document-frame.htm&f=templates&2.0#LPTOC2 LDS magazine "Ensign"] : apologetics regarding the gold plates.


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  • List of plates (Latter Day Saint movement) — This article identifies the various inscribed plates (artifacts) relevant to the Latter Day Saint movement.* The Golden Plates were a set of plates that Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed to have discovered in 1823 which were later translated and… …   Wikipedia

  • Voree plates — The Voree Plates, sometimes called The Record of Rajah Manchou of Vorito, or the Voree Record, were a set of three tiny metal plates discovered by James J. Strang in 1845 in Voree, near Burlington, Wisconsin. Purportedly the long lost testament… …   Wikipedia

  • Kinderhook plates — The Kinderhook plates were a set of 6 small, bell shaped pieces of brass with strange engravings discovered in 1843 in an Indian mound near Kinderhook, Illinois.Designed to appear ancient, the plates were in fact a forgery created by three men… …   Wikipedia

  • Vehicle registration plates of Turkey — Turkish car number plates are license plates found on Turkish vehicles. Appearance The license plate is rectangular in shape and made of aluminum. On the left, there is the country code TR in a 4x10cm blue bar like in EU countries. The text is in …   Wikipedia

  • Dutch Golden Age painting — Dutch Masters redirects here. For the cigar, see Dutch Masters (cigar). Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid (1658–1660) Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century,[ …   Wikipedia