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Finding the Plates

“One day he [Joseph] came, and greeted me with a joyful countenance. Upon asking the cause of his unusual happiness, he replied in the following language: ‘As I was passing, yesterday, across the woods, after a heavy shower of rain, I found, in a hollow, some beautiful white sand, that had washed up by the water. I took off my frock, and tied up several quarts of it, and then went home. On my entering the house, I found the family at the table eating dinner. They were all anxious to know the contents of my frock. At that moment, I happened to think of what I had heard about a history found in Canada, called the golden Bible; so I very gravely told them it was the golden Bible. To my surprise, they were credulous enough to believe what I said. Accordingly I told them that I had received a commandment to let no one see it, for, says I, no man can see it with the naked eye and live....'

“ ‘Now,' said Jo, ‘I have got the damned fools fixed, and will carry out the fun.' Notwithstanding, he told me he had no such book, and believed there never was any such book, yet, he told me that he actually went to Willard Chase, to get him to make a chest, in which he might deposit his golden Bible. But, as Chase would not do it, he made a box himself, of clap-boards, and put it into a pillow case, and allowed people only to lift it, and feel of it through the case.”

- Peter Ingersoll, affidavit, quoted in Mormonism Unveiled, by E.D. Howe, pp. 235-236, 1834

“When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large a spacious room... They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room mor plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went in again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed and on it was written these words: ‘This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ.' I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it... Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was their leader.”

- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 19, p. 38

“At length, Joseph pretended to find the God plates. This scheme, he believed, would relieve the family from all pecuniary embarrassment. His [Joseph's] father told me, that when the book was published, they would be enabled, from the profits of the work, to carry into successful operation the money digging business. He gave me no intimation, at that time that the book was to be of a religious character, or that it had any thing to do with revelation. He declared it to be a speculation, and said he, ‘when it is completed, my family will be placed on a level above the generosity of mankind!”

- Joseph Capron, affidavit, Mormonism Unveiled, by E.D. Howe, 1834

“I heard Joe tell my Mother and Sister how he procured the plates. He said he was directed by an angel where it was. He went in the night to get the plates. When he took the plates there was something down near the box that looked some like a toad that rose up into a man which forbid him to take the plates.... He told his story just as earnestly as any one could. He seemed to believe all he said.”

- Benjamin Saunders, 1884, pp. 22-23, also quoted in Anderson, “Alvin Smith Story,” p. 64

“Joseph says, ‘when can I have it [the plates]?' The answer [from the angel Moroni] was the 22nt Day of September next if you Bring the right person with you. Joseph says, ‘who is the right Person?' The answer was ‘your oldest Brother.' But before September [1824] Came his oldest Brother Died. Then he was Disapointed and did not [k]now what to do.”

- Jessee, “Joseph Knight's Recollection,” p. 31, also William G. Hartley, “They Are My Friends”: A History of the Joseph Knight Family, 1825-1850, 1986, p. 20

“[Joseph] then enquired when he could have them, and was answered thus: come one year from this day, and bring with you your oldest brother, and you shall have them. This spirit, he said was the spirit of the prophet who wrote this book, and who was sent to Joseph Smith, to make known these things to him. Before the expiration of the year, [Smith's] oldest brother died.”

- Willard Chase affidavit, 1833

“Joseph asked when he could have them; and the answer was, ‘Come in one year from this time, and bring your oldest brother with you; then you may have them.' During that year, it so happened that his oldest brother died.”

- Lapham, “Interview with the Father of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet,” p. 307, also Kirkham, New Witness, v. 2, p. 386

“Did you ever hear Joe give an account of finding the plates?
“Yes. He gave the account in my father's house. He said he was in the woods at prayer and the angle touched him on the shoulders and he arose, and the angel told him where the plates were and he could take his oldest Brother with him in a year from that time and go and get them. But his oldest Brother died before the year was out.”

- Lorenzo Saunders interview, September 17, 1884, p. 9-10; also see Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, v. 2

“ ‘Mormon Hill' had been long designated ‘as the place in which countless treasures were buried;' Joseph the elder, had ‘spaded' up many a foot of the hill side to find them, and Joseph, Jr. had on more than one occasion accompanied him.”

- “Mormonism in its Infancy,” Newark Daily Advertiser, clipping of letter from Manchester, New York, August 8, 1856

“President [Brigham] Young exhibited the Seer's stone with which The Prophet Joseph discovered the plates of the Book of Mormon, to the Regents [of the University of Deseret (Utah)] this evening. It is said to be a silecious granite dark color almost black with light colored stripes.”

- Hosea Stout diary, 25 Feb. 1856, in Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Diaries of Hosea Stout, 1844-1861, v. 2, p. 593

“At the end of the time he went to the place to get the plates [and] the angel asked where his Brother was. [Joseph said:] I told him he was dead.”

- Lorenzo Saunders interview, September 17, 1884, p. 10

“Joseph repaired to the place again, and was told by the man who still guarded the treasure, that, inasmuch as he could not bring his oldest brother, he could not have the treasure yet.”

- Fayette Lapham, “Interview with the father of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet,” p. 307, also Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in American, v. 2, p. 386

“Apparently, word had circulated of Joseph's instructions [from the angel], and the false rumor was being spread that the Smiths had dug up – or would dig up – the corpse to fulfill the instructions.”

- Anderson, “Alvin Smith Story,” p. 63

“[The] personage appeard and told him he Could not have it now. But the 22nt Day of September nex[t] he mite have the Book if he Brot with him the right person. Joseph says, ‘who is the right Person?' The answer was you will know.”

- Jessee, “Joseph Knight's Recollection,” p. 31

“Joseph believed that one Samuel T. Lawrence was the man alluded to by the spirit, and went with him to a singular looking hill, in Manchester, and shewed him where the treasure was. Lawrence asked him if he had ever discovered any thing with the plates of gold; he said no: he then asked him to look in his stone, to see if there was any thing with them. He looked, and said there was nothing; he told him to look again, and see if there was not a large pair of specks with the plates; he looked and soon saw a pair of spectacles, the same with which Joseph says he translated the Book of Mormon.... Lawrence told him it would not be prudent to let these plates be seen for about two years, as it would make a big disturbance in the neighborhood [which occurred in September 1827]. Not long after this, Joseph altered his mind, and said L. was not the right man, nor had he told him the right place.”

- Willard Chase affidavit, 1833

“... an angel appeared, and told him he could not get the plates until he was married, and that when he saw the woman that was to be his wife, he should know her, and she would know him.”

- Henry Harris affidavit, 1833; Lorenzo Saunders interview, September 17, 1884, pp. 10-11

“Until he obtained one [a wife] there was no use in trying to get certain buried treasures at Palmyra.”

- Frederic G. Mather, “The Early Days of Mormonism,” Lippincott's Magazine, v. 26, August 1880, p. 200n

“... thou [Joseph] art greater than all the ‘money-digging rabble,' and art chosen to interpret the book, which Mormon has written...”

- Joseph Smith's conversation with the angel Moroni, “Book of Pukei. – Ch. 2,” The Reflector (Palmyra, N.Y.), July 7, 1830, also see Kirkham, New Witness for Christ in America, v. 2, p. 54

“I had conversations with several young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates, and that before he attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so, and they were very much incensed with him.”

- David Whitmer statement, June 5, 1881, in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness, 1991, p. 60

“[T]he elder Smith declared that his son Jo had seen the spirit, (which he then described as a little old man with a long beard,) and was informed that he (Jo) under certain circumstances, eventually should obtain great treasures, and that in due time he (the spirit) would furnish him (Jo) with a book, which would give an account of the Ancient inhabitants (antideluvians,) of this country, and where they had deposited their substance, consisting of costly furniture, &c…. which had ever since that time remained secure in his (the spirit's) charge, in large and spacious chambers, in sundry places in this vicinity.”

- Abner Cole, “Gold Bible, No. 4,” Palmyra Reflector, February 14, 1831; reprinted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1998, v. 2, p. 245

“Brother Harris then turned himself as though he had no more to say and we made ready to go. He then spoke again and said. ‘I will tell you a wonderful thing that happened after Joseph had found the plates: three of us took a notion to take some of tools and go to the hill and hunt for some more boxes or gold or something, and Indeed we found a stone box; we got quite excited about it; and dug quite carefully around it; we were ready to take it up: but behold [by] some unseen power it slipped and back into the hill; we stood there and looked at it; One of us took a crowbar and tried to [drive] it through the lid to hold it; but it glanced and only broke one corner off of the box.'”

- Ole A. Jensen, statement of July 1875, Clarkson, Utah, LDS archives; see One Nation Under Gods, p. 497

“I did not see them [the plates] uncovered, but I handled them and hefted them while wrapped in a tow frock and judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds.... Father and my brother Samuel saw them as I did while in the frock. So did Hyrum and others of the family.' When the interviewer asked if he didn't want to remove the cloth and see the bare plates, William replied, ‘No, for father had just asked if he might not be permitted to do so, and Joseph, putting ghis hand on them said; ‘No, I am instructed not to show them to any one. If I do, I will transgress and lose them again.' Besides, we did not care to have him break the commandment and suffer as he did before.”

- William Smith, Joseph's brother, Zion's Ensign, January 13, 1894, p. 6; online at

“[I] had conversations with several young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates, and that before he attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so, and they were very much incensed with him.”

- David Whitmer, Kansas City Journal, June 5, 1881, reprinted in Millennial Star, July 4, 1881, v. 43, no. 27, pp. 421-423

“And after having obtained those sacred things, while proceeding home through the wilderness and fields, he was waylaid by two ruffians, who had secreted themselves for the purpose of robbing him of the records. One of them struck him with a club before he perceived them; but being a strong man, and large in stature, with great exertion he cleared himself from them, and ran towards home, being closely pursued until he came near his father's house.”

- Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, 1989, v. 1, p. 400

“The reader will notice, that on a preceeding page I spoke of a confidential friend to whom Mr. Smith [Joseph, Sr.] mentioned the existence of the record 2 or 3 years before it came forth. This was no other than Martin Harris.”

- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary manuscript for Biographical Sketches, preliminary – p. 76, Biographical Sketches, 1853, p. 109

“His [Joseph's] earlier story of the mobile plates which vanished and reappeared so mysteriously was not mentioned because of its simplicity to the elusive treasure he was accused of hunting; the spirit's command to bring Alvin to the hill and after Alvin's death, Emma, was deleted because it smacked more of ritualistic magic than religion ‘pure and undefiled'; and Joseph Knight's recollection that Smith had ‘looked in his glass' to find the right person was discarded because of its resemblance to the glass looking charge he had been convicted of it 1826. Smith had learned from bitter experience that not all regarded such activities as divine.”

- Rodger I. Anderson, “Joseph Smith's Early Reputation Revisited,” Journal of Pastoral Practice, v. 4, p. 98; also Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith's New York Reputation Reexamined, 1990, p. 47

[I was told] "that some years ago, a spirit had appeared to Joseph his son, in a vision, and informed him that in a certain place there was a record on plates of gold, and that he was the person that must obtain them, and this he must do in the following manner: On the 22d of September, he must repair to the place where was deposited this manuscript, dressed in black clothes, and riding a black horse with a switch tail, and demand the book in a certain name, and after obtaining it, he must go directly away, and neither lay it down nor look behind him. They accordingly fitted out Joseph with a suit of black clothes and borrowed a black horse.... but fearing some one might discover where he got it [the plates], he laid it down to place back the top stone, as he found it; and turning round, to his surprise there was no book in sight. He again opened the box, and in it saw the book, and attempted to take it out, but was hindered. He saw in the box something like a toad, which soon assumed the appearance of a man, and struck him on the side of his head."

- Willard Chase, affidavit, Manchester, Ontario County, New York, December 11, 1833, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, pp. 240, 242-243

"He [Joseph] then told his father that, in his dream, a very large and tall man appeared to him, dressed in an ancient suit of clothes, and the clothes were bloody. And the man said to him that there was a valuable treasure, buried many years since, and not far from that place; and that he had now arrived for it to be brought to light, for the benefit of the world at large; and, if he would strictly follow his directions, he would direct him to the place where it was deposited, in such manner that he could obtain it. He then said to him, that he would have to get a certain coverlid, which he described, and an old-fashioned suit of clothes, of the same color, and a napkin to put the treasure in.... when he had obtained it, he must not lay it down until he placed it in the napkin.... Joseph mounted his horse.... Taking up the first article, he saw the others below: laying down the first, he endeavored to secure the others; but before he could get hold of them, the one he had taken up slid back to the place he had taken it from."

- Fayette Lapham statement, in Historical Magazine, v. 7, May 1870, pp. 306-307

"He [Joseph] vis[i]ted the place where the plates were laid and thinking he could keep every commandment given him supposed that it would be possible for him to take them from their place and carry them home. But said the divine messenger you must take them into your hands and go straight to the house without delay and put them [in] immediately and lock them up.
"Accordingly when the time arrived he went to the place appointed and removed the moss and grass from the surface of the rock and then pryed up the first stone according tot he directions which he had received. He then discovered the plates laying on 4 pillars in the inside of the box. He put forth his hand and took them up but when he lifted them from their place the thought flashed across his mind that there might be something more in the box that would be a benefit to him in a pecuniary point of view. In teh excitement of the moment he laid the record down in order to cover up the box least some one should come along and take away whatever else might be depositied there. When he turned again to take up the record it was gone but where he knew not nor did he know by what means it was taken away. He was much alarmed at this. He kneeled down & asked teh Lord why it was that the record was taken from him. The angel appeared to him and told him that he had not done as he was commanded in that he laid down the record in order to secure some imaginary treasure that remained.
"After some further conversation Joseph was then permit[t]ed to raise the stone again and there he beheld the plates the same as before. He reached forth his hand to take them but was thrown to the ground. When he recovered the angel was gone and he arose and went to the house."

- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary manuscript of "History of Lucy Smith," pp. 50-51, LDS archives; see Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism, pp. 94-95

"... he [Joseph] took the plates from their [hiding] place and wrapping them in his linen frock put them under his arm and started for the house. After walking a short distance in the road, he concluded it would be safer to go across through the woods. In a moment he struck through the timber where there was a large windfall to cross. He had not proceeded far in this direction till, as he was jumping over a log, a man spran[g] up and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph leveled him to the ground."

- Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary manuscript of Biographical Sketches, p. 72; in Biographical Sketches, 1853, pp. 104-105

[I was told] "that on the 22d of September, he [Joseph] arose early in the morning, and took a one horse wagon, of some one that had stayed over night at their house, without leave or license; and, together with his wife, repaired to the hill which contained the book. He left his wife in the wagon, by the road, and went alone to the hill, a distance of thirty or forty rods from teh road; he said he then took the book out of the ground and hit it in a tree top, and returned home. He then went to the town of Macedon to work. After about ten days, it having been suggested that some one got his book, his wife went after him; he hired a horse, and went home in the afternoon, staid long enough to drink one cup of tea, and then went for his book, found it safe, took off his frock, wrapt it round it, put it under his arm and run all the way home, a distance of about two miles. He said he should think it would weigh sixty pounds, and was sure it would weigh forty. On his return home, he said he was attacked by two men in the woods, and knocked them both down and made his escape, arrived safe and secured his treasure. - He then observed that if it had not been for that stone, (which he acknowledged belonged to me,) he would not have obtained the book."

- Willard Chase, affidavit, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, pp. 245-246

Translating the Plates

“[I} had seasons of skepticism, in which I seriously wonder whether the prophet and I were men in our sober senses when we would be translating from the plates through the ‘Urim and Thummim' and the plates would not be in sight at all.”

- Oliver Cowdery, Latter-day Saint Messenger and Advocate, October 1834

“Joseph [Smith] Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat, in such a manner as to exclude all light; at which time they pretended he could see all things within and under the earth – that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates – that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress.”

- William Stafford, neighbor of the Smith family, quoted in Mormonism Unveiled, by E.D. Howe, 1834

“A blanket flung across a rope divided the room where they worked. On one side sat Joseph staring into his stones, and on the other was Harris writing at a table. Joseph warned his scribe that God's wrath would strike him down should he dare to examine the plates or look at him while he was translating. Harris never betrayed his trust, though he once admitted that he tried to trick Joseph by substituting an ordinary stone for the seer stone.”

- No Man Knows My History, by Fawn M. Brodie, p. 53

“A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principle scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”

- David Whitmer, An Address to all Believers in Christ, p. 12

“So, in order to convince Harris that he could read from the plates, Jo deposits them [the seer stones] in his hat, applies the spectacles, and refers Harris to a chapter in the Bible which he had learned by rote; and which he read from the plates, with surprising accuracy; and what astonished Harris most, was, that Jo should omit all the words in the Bible that were printed in Italic. And, if Harris attempted to correct Jo, he persisted that the plates were right, and the Bible was wrong.... Harris commenced transcribing, as Jo dictated; and to avoid mistakes, Jo required his amanuensis to read what he had written; and nothing was allowed to pass, until Jo pronounced it correct.”

- “Mormonites,” The Sun (Philadelphia), August 18, 1831, original in Library of Congress

“Now the first that my husband translated, was translated by use of the Urim and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he [my husband] used a small stone, not exactly black, but was rather a dark color.”

- Emma Smith Bidamon to Emma S. Pilgrim, March 27, 1876, RLDS library archives, see also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, v. 1, p. 532

“He would place the director in his hat, and then place his face in his hat, so as to exclude the light.”

- Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery affidavit, February 15, 1870, in William E. McLellin to “My Dear Friends,” February 1870, RLDS library archives

“[Joseph] translated the Book of Mormon by means of the same peep stone, and under the same inspiration that directed his enchantments...”

- Hiel Lewis, “Review of Mormonism: Rejoinder to Elder Cadwell,” Amboy Journal (Amboy, IL), June 4, 1879

“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, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating, word after word, while the scribe – Emma, John Whitmer, O[liver]. Cowdery, or some other, wrote it down.”

- William W. Blair letter to “Editors, Herald,” May 22, 1879, in Saints' Herald, v. 26, June 15, 1879, pp. 190-191

“One of Joseph's aids in searching out the truths of the [Book of Mormon] was a peculiar pebble or rock which he called a seer stone, and which was sometimes used by him in lieu of the Urim and Thummim.”

- Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, p. 56

“Thus it should pose no religious difficulty that Joseph's seer stone of his youth was later applied to the higher use of inspired translation of the Book of Mormon.”

- Richard L. Anderson, “The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching,” p. 537

“The plates could not have been used directly in the translation process. The Prophet, his face in a hat to exclude exterior light, would have been unable to view the plates directly even if they had been present during transcription. A mental picture of the young Joseph, face buried in a hat, gazing into a seer stone, plates out of sight, has not been a generally held view since the early days of the Church. The view raises some difficult questions. Why, for example, was such great care taken to preserve the plates for thousands of years if they were not to be used directly in the translation process?”

- Richard Van Wagoner and Steven Walker, “Joseph Smith: ‘The Gift of Seeing,'” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, v. 15, Summer 1982, p. 53

The Importance of the Book of Mormon

"The historicity of the Book of Mormon record is crucial. We cannot exercise faith in that which is untrue, nor can ‘doctrinal fiction' have normative value in our lives...Only scripture-writings and events and descriptions from real people at a real point in time, people who were moved upon and directed by divine powers-can serve as a revelatory channel, enabling us to hear and feel the word of God"

- Dr. Robert Millet, professor at B.Y.U., "The Book of Mormon, Historicity, and Faith," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies v. 2, no. 2, p. 1

“The historicity – historical authenticity – of the Book of Mormon is an issue so fundamental that it rests first upon faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the first principle in this, as in all other matters.”

- Dallin H. Oaks, Apostle, “The Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Speech given at Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies,” Oct. 29, 1993

The 19th Century and the Book of Mormon

“Many Book of Mormon doctrines are best explained by the nineteenth-century theological milieu.... it is likely that Joseph Smith expanded the Book of Mormon... some doctrines in the book's pre-Christian sections are simply too developed and too characteristic of the nineteenth-century to explain as pre-existic ideas. The presence of the KJV [King James Version of the Bible] in the book is, it seems to me, indisputable....”

- Black Ostler, Mormon scholar, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1987, p. 80

“This prophet Smith, through his stone spectacles, wrote on the plates of Nephi, in his Book of Mormon, every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years. He decides all the great controversies [of the early 19th century]; - infant baptism, ordination, the trinity, regeneration, repentance, justification, the fall of man, the atonement, transubstantiation, fasting, penance, church government, religious experience, the call to the ministry, the general resurrection, eternal punishment, who may baptize, and even the question of free masonry, republican government, and the rights of man.”

- Alexander Campbell, Millennial Harbinger, Feb. 1831, p. 93

“[The Book of Mormon] is best explained as a nineteenth-century work of scripture rather than a translation of a document from ancient America around 600 B.C. – 400 A.D.... while some Mormon scholars, mainly at BYU, argue for its antiquity, more and more Mormon scholars are recognizing that if the book does not entirely derive from a nineteenth century provenance, it has been largely colored by concerns of that era.”

- David P. Wright, Mormon professor, “Statement,” Sunstone, 12:3, no. 65, May 1988, p. 44 “Perhaps what Stanley Kimball [LDS apologist] calls ‘an exciting, readable adventure story' can come much more alive for us if we read it as a writing of Joseph Smith, from which we can grow spiritually... the objective of the Christian faith is not assent to propositions but Christian discipleship. If that be the case, then the Book of Mormon is important for us not in giving up events to affirm as historically accurate but rather in helping us become better disciples of the One for whom the book claims to be a ‘second witness.'”

- William D. Russell, RLDS member and president of the Mormon History Association, “A Further Inquiry into the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone, 7, no. 5, September-October 1982, pp. 20-27

“To reduce the Book of Mormon to mere myth weakens, if not destroys, the possibility of it witnessing to the truth about divine things. A fictional Book of Mormon fabricated by Joseph Smith, even when his inventiveness, genius, or ‘inspiration' is celebrated, does not witness to Jesus Christ but to human folly. A true Book of Mormon is a powerful witness; a fictional one is hardly worth reading and pondering.”

- Louis Midgley, BYU professor, “The Acids of Modernity,” in Smith, Faithful History, p. 214

“Book of Mormon as an ancient text mediated through the mind of Joseph Smith.... The prophet is an active participant in revelation, conceptualizing and verbalizing God's message in a framework of thought meaningful to the people...' [Smith's] revelatory experiences naturally assumed the world view arising from his culture.”

- Blake Ostler, “The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 20, no. 1, Spring 1987, see pp. 66, 79, 100, 107-114

“The opinion that the American Indians are descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes is now a popular one and generally believed.”

- Josiah Priest, American Antiquities, 1833

“Those who are most conversant with the public and private economy of the Indians, are strongly of the opinion that they are the lineal descendants of the Israelites.”

- Palmyra's Wayne Sentinel, October 11, 1825; reprinted in Jonas, Mormon Claims Examined, p. 45

“What could possibly bring greater declarative glory to God,... than a full discovery, that these wandering nations of Indians are the long lost tribes of Israel.”

- Elias Boudinot, A Star in the West, 1816, pp. 279-280; quoted in Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?, 1987, p. 82

“[T]here is continual use of the ‘thee', ‘thou' and ‘ye', as well as the archaic verb endings ‘est' (second person singular) and ‘eth' (third person singular). Since the Elizabethan syle was not Joseph's natural idiom, he continually slipped out of this King James pattern and repeatedly confused the norms as well. Thus he lapsed from ‘ye' (subject) to ‘you' (object) as the subject of sentences (e.g. Mos. 2:19, 3:34; 4:24), jumped from plural (‘ye) to singular (‘thou') in the same sentence (Mos. 4:22) and moved from verbs without endings to ones with endings (e.g. ‘yields… putteth,' 3:19).”

- Wesley P. Walters, The Use of the Old Testament in the Book of Mormon, 1990, p. 30; see also the strange use of words like “methought” (1 Nephi 8:4)

Professor Charles Anthon

“The whole story about my having pronouncd [sic] the Mormonite inscription to be ‘reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics' is perfectly false.... Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax.... This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained anything else but ‘Egyptian Hieroglypics.'”

- Charles Anthon, the only person to ever actually view the B. of M. plates, Mormonism Unveiled, by E.D. Howe, pp. 270-272, 1834

Lehi's "Tree of Life" Vision

The Vision of Lehi from the Book of Mormon:
“... me thought I saw a dark and dreary wilderness.... I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable, to make one happy... most sweet, above all that I had ever before tasted... I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also.... And I beheld a rod of iron; and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree.... a great a spacious building... filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceeding fine, and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those which had come at, and were partaking of the fruit.”

- Book of Mormon, pp. 18-20, 1830

Dream of Joseph Smith, Sr.:
“I thought I was thus traveling in an open and desolate field, which appeared very barren.... a tree, such as I had never seen before.... I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, ‘I cannot eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children....' I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west.... I could see a rope running along the bank of it.... I beheld a spacious building.... filled with people, who were finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us.”

- Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, pp. 58-59

*A reverse borrowing of this story is unlikely as this was only one of six dreams that Lucy remembered in detail and had told and retold throughout the years.*

View of the Hebrews

“Israel brought into this new continent a considerable degree of civilization; and the better part of them long laboured to maintain it. But others fell into the hunting and consequently savage state; whose barbarous hordes invaded their more civilized brethren, and eventually annihilated most of them, and all in these northern regions.”

- Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, 1825, p. 184

“[Indians] had not long since a book which they had for a long time preserved. But having lost the knowledge of reading it, they concluded it would be of no further use to them; and they buried it with an Indian chief.”

- Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, 1825, p. 223

Similarities Between View of Hebrews and Book of Mormon:

1. Both begin with many references to the downfall of Jerusalem
2. Both tell of prophets in ancient America
3. Both heavily quote almost exclusively from Isaiah
4. Both present ancient Americans as very civilized people
5. Both maintain that the purpose of America in the last days is to gather up the remnants of Israel, bringing them into Christianity, and bringing forth the millennium.
6. Ethan Smith described copper breastplates, with two white buckhorn buttons attached to the outside of each plate. These plates were removed from mounds.

Some of the Errors in the Book of Mormon

“Moroni was a coming against them.” (p. 403 )
“As I was a journeying to see a very near kindred.... And as I was a going thither.” (p. 249)
“[T]hey did not fight against God no more.” (p. 290)
“[I] have not sought gold nor silver, nor no manner of riches of you.” (pp. 156-157)
“[N]o man can look in them... lest he should look for that he had not ought.” (p. 173)
“[T]his they done throughout all the land.” (p. 220)
“[T]his he done that he might subject them.” (p. 225)
“[A]nd they had began to possess the land of Amulon, and had began to till the ground.” (p. 204)
“[B]oth Alma and Helam was buried in the water.” (p. 192)
“[T]hey was angry with me.” (p. 248)
“And thus ended the record of Alma, which was wrote upon the plates of Nephi.” (p. 347)
“[W]hen they had arriven in the borders of the land.” (p. 270)
“[T]he Lamanites did gather themselves together for to sing.” (p. 196)
“[T]hey did cast up mighty heaps of earth for to get ore.” (p. 560)
“[W]e depend upon them for to teach us the word.” (p. 451)
“[A]nd also of Adam and Eve, which was our first parents.” (p. 15)
Also, see 1 Nephi 2:5, 17 for the name “Sam,” an Americanized word and Jacob 7:27 for the French word “adieu.”

Some of the Changes Made to the Book of Mormon
I Nephi 11:18 said, "Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God." Now it says, "...Mother of the Son of God."

I Nephi 11:21 said, "Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!" Now it says, "...even the Son of the Eternal Father."

I Nephi 11:32 said, "And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the everlasting God was judged of the world." Now it says, "yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world."

I Nephi 13:40 said, "...and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the World." Now it says, "...that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father."

The Lost 116 Pages

“If this be a divine communication, the same being who revealed it to you can easily replace it.”

- Lucy Harris, after destroying the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, see Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, p. 121ff

As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I translated, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again – and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and behold ye shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words. I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the Devil. Wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, I have, through his grace and mercy, accomplished that which he hath commanded me respecting this thing. I would also inform you that the plates of which hath been spoken, were found in the township of Manchester, Ontario county, New-York.”
THE AUTHOR [Joseph Smith, Jr.]

- Preface to the Book of Mormon, only printed in 1830 edition

Early Book of Mormon Critics

“I conscientiously believe that the whole ‘Book of Mormon' (so called) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with design to dupe the credulous and unwary – and in order that its fabricators may live upon the spoils of those who swallow deception.”

- Issac Hale, Joseph Smith, Jr.'s father-in-law, Mormonism Unveiled, pp. 265-266

“[The Book of Mormon is] a grotesque monstrosity, born of deceit and bred in falsehood... a mélange of plagiarisms from the Old and New Testaments.”

- Perry Benjamin Pierce, anthropologist, “The Origin of the ‘Book of Mormon'” American Anthropologist, v. 1, 1899, p. 694


“If, after a rigid examination, it [the Book of Mormon] be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced...”

- Orson Pratt, Apostle, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon

“During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.”

- Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, p. 85

“The point at issue is not that Father Lehi, the Jew, could read and understand Egyptian, though this is surprising enough... No, the big question is how the scripture of the Jews (official or otherwise) came to be written in Egyptian... If I were to suggest what I think to be the most insistent problem for the Book-of-Mormon scholarship, I should unquestionably name this one: account for the Egyptian language on the Plates of Brass, and the Brass Plates themselves.”

- J.N. Washburn, Mormon scholar, The Contents, Structure and Authorship of the Book of Mormon, p. 81

“Alvin manifested, if such could be the case, greater zeal and anxiety in regard to the Record [Book of Mormon] that had been shown to Joseph, than any of the rest of the family.”

- Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, pp. 89-90

“... it does seem probable that [young Joseph] Smith by 1820 had been, like countless others, well exposed to the KJV, that his language and thought patterns had been colored by it, and that he was prepared to find God through scriptural wisdom even though he did not expect the Bible by itself to resolve fully the theological conflicts of the day. When Deity did come, Smith heard him speak in both biblical and Bible-like language.”

- Phillip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion, 1991, p. 15

“LEHI, Lehigh, Or Lecha, in Geography, [is] a river of America, which rises in Northampton county, Pennsylvania, about 21 miles E. of Wyoming Falls, in the Susquehannah river.”

- Rees, Cyclopaedia, s.v. “Lehi”; also “NEW BOOKS,” Ontario Repository (Canandaigua, NY) June 3, 1817, [3], for the Rees encyclopedia

“I have heard my grandmother (Mary M. Whitmer) [mother of five Book of Mormon witnesses] say on several occasions that she was shown the plates of the Book of Mormon by an holy angel, whom she always called Brother Nephi.”

- John C. Whitmer statement in “The Eight Witnesses,” The Historical Record, v. 7, p. 621, October 1888

“Many of us Mormonites today, whether pious believers or critically objective students of history, are closer in mental outlook to the position of [1834 anti-Mormon writer Eber D.] Howe than to that of the Prophet Joseph and his early followers... Would we rant and rave, walk penniless to Missouri, witch a trove with a hazel rod, or join a communistic society? Do we really want to know what was in and around that stone-box/hole on 22 September 1823?”

- Benson Whittle, Mormon scholar, Whittle untitled review, 1987, p. 119, see Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, by D. Michael Quinn, p. 319-320

“… it was not intended to tell all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; and also [Joseph Smith, Jr.] said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things.”

- Hyrum Smith, relating a conversation with Joseph, History of the Church, v. 1, p. 220n

“Now in the Spring of 1830 I went with my Team and took Joseph out to Manchester to his Father. When we was on our way he told me that there must be a Church formed But did not tell when. Now when we got near to his fathers we saw a man some Eighty Rods Before us run across[s] the street with a Bundle in his hand. ‘There,' says Joseph, ‘there is Martin going a Cros[s] the road with some thing in this hand.' Says I, ‘how Could you know him so far off?' Says he, ‘I Believe it is him,' and when we Came up it was Martin with a Bunch of morman Books. He Came to us and after Compliments he says, ‘The Books will not sell for no Body wants them.' Joseph says, ‘I think they will sell well.' Says he [Martin], ‘I want a Commandment.' ‘Why,' says Joseph, ‘fulfill what you have got.' ‘But,' says he, ‘I must have a Commandment.' Joseph put him off. But he insisted three or four times he must have a Commandment…. In the morning he got up and said he must have a Commandment to Joseph and went home. And along in the after part of the Day Joseph and Oliver Received a Commandment.”

- Joseph Knight, in Dean C. Jessee, ed., “Joseph Knight's Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU Studies, v. 17, Autumn 1976, pp. 36-37