Kinderhook Plates – Part 2

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Following the discovery of the six Kinderhook plates in 1843 that supposedly had ancient writing on them, what ever became of those plates?

During the Civil War the plates were thought to be lost.  However, some time in the 1960’s, Wilford Poulson a professor at Brigham Young University, found one of the original plates #5 in the Chicago Historical Society Museum.  After examining the plate, Professor Poulson believed it to be a forgery. 

 

Welby Ricks, who was President of the BYU Archaeological Society, welcomed the discovery as a vindication of Joseph Smith’s work.  He wrote, “A recent rediscovery of one of the Kinderhook plates, which was examined by Joseph Smith, Jun., reaffirms his prophetic calling and reveals the false statements made by one of the finders.  The plates are now back in their original category of genuine.  Joseph Smith, Jun., stands as a true prophet and translator of ancient records by divine means and all the world is invited to investigate the truth which has sprung out of the earth not only of the Kinderhook plates, but of the Book of Mormon as well.” 

In 1980, LDS scholar Stanley P. Kimball was permitted to perform destructive tests on the #5 plate.  He described the results of the tests in the LDS Church publication, The Ensign, August 1981, pp. 66-70.  The article says, “A recent electronic and chemical analysis of a metal plate brought in 1843 to the prophet Joseph Smith appears to solve a previously unanswered question in Church history, helping to further evidence that the plate is what its producers later said it was – a nineteenth-century attempt to lure Joseph Smith into making a translation of ancient-looking characters that had been etched into the plates.  As a result of these tests, we conclude that the plate is not of ancient origin.  We conclude that the plate was made from a true brass alloy (copper and zinc) typical of the mid-nineteenth century; whereas the ‘brass’ of ancient times was actually bronze, and alloy of copper and tin.”

If Joseph Smith had not been shot and killed in June 1844, it is very possible he might have published a finished translation of all six of the counterfeit plates.  Wouldn’t that have been interesting?

What is the Church’s position on the Kinderhook plates, today?

The Church defended the authenticity of the plates and Joseph’s translations of them since their discovery in 1843 up to 1980 – 137 years!  Following the destructive testing, the Church backed off its claim that the plates were real.  Now the Church claims it was all a hoax.    

Smith made the claim that he could translate the ancient writings on the plates.  And in fact, did translate some of them.

It should be obvious that Smith’s work on these fraudulent plates casts serious doubt upon his credibility as a translator of other ancient records like, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham.  We already know from the Church’s Gospel Topica Essay found on lds.org titled: “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham” that the Book of Abraham isn’t a true translation of ancient Egyptian papyri.  The Church now admits that. 

After disproving the Kinderhook plates and the Book of Abraham translation, am I now supposed to trust Joseph Smith when he claims to have translated the Book of Mormon written in an unknown language in Reformed Egyptian from a – rock in a hat? 

 

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Kinderhook Plates – Part 1

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The Kinderhook Plates are a very important part of LDS church history.

In 1843 six brass plates – bell shaped – were found in a dug-up mound in Kinderhook, Illinois witnessed by nine individuals.

That could support the evidence for the Brass Plates of the Book of Mormon.

That is what those men thought when they saw the plates.   The plates had an ancient appearance with writing on them that looked like hieroglyphics. 

In fact, when the plates were taken and shown to Joseph Smith, he remarked that the figures or writing on them was similar to what was on the Book of Mormon brass plates. 

Smith claimed, that by the help of revelation he would be able to translate those plates.

The story of finding the Kinderhook Plates and drawings of the six plates was published in the Times and Seasons, which was the Church’s official newspaper.  Joseph was an editor and surely would not have allowed the story to be printed if it wasn’t true.

In time, Joseph Smith claimed that he actually did translated a portion of the plates.

How do we know for a fact that he translated the plates?

It comes from William Clayton’s diary, who was Joseph Smith’s private secretary. 

In the LDS History of the Church, vol. 5, page 372, Joseph Smith is documented as saying, “I insert fac-similes 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.”

Thirteen years later, on April 25, 1856, W. P. Harris, who was one of the nine witnesses to the discovery of the plates, wrote a letter in which he admits the plates were forgeries.  He states that “I was present with a number at or near Kinderhook and helped to dig at the time the plates were found.  I made an honest affidavit to the same.  Since that time, Bridge Whitten said to me that he cut and prepared the plates and he and R. Wiley engraved them themselves.  Wilbourn Fugate appeared to be the chief, with R. Wiley and B. Whitten (The Book of Mormon? by James D. Bales, pp. 95-96).

How do we know that W. P. Harris who wrote that letter was telling the truth about the plates being a forgery?

Because on June 30, 1879, Wilbourne Fugate, who was mentioned as chief of the nine witnesses, wrote a letter in which he admitted his part in the hoax.  That letter can be found in the LDS September 1962 Improvement Era magazine entitled, “Letter of W. Fugate, as cited in The Kinderhook Plates” by Welby W. Ricks. 

Mr. Fugate states, “I received your letter in regard to those plates and will say in answer that they are a humbug, gotten up by Robert Wiley, Bridge Whitten and myself.  We read in Pratt’s prophecy that ‘Truth is yet to spring out of the earth.’  We concluded to prove the prophecy by way of a joke.”

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Book of Abraham – Part 2

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What became of the papyrus scrolls – that the Book of Abraham was translated from.

Once Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, the papyri collection remained in the possession of his widow, Emma.  Remember she refused to follow the leadership of Brigham Young, and remained in Nauvoo with her children while the Saints moved west to the Utah Territory.

In October of 1880, the Book of Abraham was included in The Pearl of Great Price which was officially canonized at the Church’s semi-annual General Conference in Salt Lake City. 

The Introduction to the Book of Abraham reads, “The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”

Allow me to fill in a crucial time gap.  Nearly forty years passed from the time Joseph translated the Book of Abraham, until it was officially recognized as sacred Scripture of the LDS Church.  However, during that period something occurred which neither Joseph nor any of his contemporaries could have foreseen. 

After many years of dedicated work on the Rosetta Stone, scholars were able to decipher the ancient Egyptian language.  It was now possible for scholars to translate accurately Egyptian texts and to understand their contexts. 

Initially, it did not appear likely that this new development would impact the isolated Mormon Church in Utah. 

What happened to the papyrus scrolls that Emma had?

Those scrolls and mummies were eventually sold by Emma in 1856, making their way to the Museum of Chicago.  They were then presumed destroyed in the great Chicago fire of 1871.  But those papyri had not been destroyed.  Lost, yes – but not forever.  They were to one day reappear. 

One Spring day in 1966, a professor of Arabic Studies from the University of Utah entered one of the vault rooms of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, seeking material for a book he was writing.  Dr. Aziz Atiya came across a file that contained a forgotten collection of Egyptian papyri.  The papyri had been glued to stiff backing paper in the 19th-century in an, effort to preserve them.  The reverse sides of the paper contained such things as architectural drawings of a temple and maps of Kirtland, Ohio.

Was Dr. Atiya was nor a mormon, but he recognized the collection as having a connection with the history of the LDS Church.  Dr. Atiya arranged for the LDS Church to acquire this collection from the museum.     

On November 27, 1967 the Salt Lake Deseret Newspaper announced the discovery of the original papyri from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham. 

Questions quickly rose – Would the arguments of critics be overcome and silenced at last?  Would Joseph’s work finally be justified before the eyes of a skeptical world?  The Saints waited expectantly and held their breath.

We can only imagine the anticipation since the LDS Church had been criticized all those years for not having the Gold Plates to validate the Book of Mormon, and the ancient Egyptian papyri to validate the Book of Abraham. 

Finally there were highly educated Egyptologists who could translate the writings on the papyrus to let everyone know if it was truly what Joseph claimed it to be – the Book of Abraham.

Next time we meet, I will share with you how that turns out. 

Podcasts

Come Follow Me

Listen on Google Play Music

Talking to Mormons

1 Corinthians 1-7 ~ Come Follow Me
I Never Knew You – Part 1
– If you have a modern-day apostle telling its members in a world-wide General Conference that the Bible is wrong and the Joseph Smith Translation is inspired – in spite of contradictory statements in the Book of Mormon – as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what do you do with that information?
Romans 9-16
This is not a simple acknowledging that He is God. This is a deep personal conviction that Jesus is our Lord. It includes repenting, trusting, and submitting to Him as Lord.
Romans 7-8 – Come Follow Me
Romans 4-6 – Come Follow Me
Romans 1-3 – Come Follow Me
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Book of Abraham – Part 1

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Have you ever prayed to know if the Book of Abraham is true?

Does the promise in the Book of Mormon – to pray and ask God if it is true – doesn’t apply to the Book of Abraham?

How can you trust that the Book of Abraham is the word of God?

Latter Day Saints believe they have to have faith that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that he had the gift to translate.

From ancient Egyptian into 16th-century Kings James English, no less. 

Are you aware that – what Joseph Smith claimed to be a correct translation of the Book of Abraham – has since been proven to be a fraud?

Let me begin, by sharing with you some of your own church history.

In 1835 a traveling showman – Michael Chandler – brought an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts to the Mormon town of Kirtland, Ohio.  Those artifacts consisted of four ancient Egyptian mummies and two papyrus scrolls.  Because the Latter-day Saints believed their prophet Joseph Smith had the gift to translate the Book of Mormon gold plates that were inscribed in “reformed Egyptian”, those same Mormons believed Joseph might want to see if the papyri were of any religious value. 

Joseph examined the hieroglyphics on the scrolls and declared them to be the writings of Abraham and the writings of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. 

Despite the severe financial, problems the church was suffering at that time, the Mormons purchased the scrolls for $2,400 – a large sum of money in those days. 

Joseph immediately began the translation of the first scroll.  He stated, “I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 2:235-236)

Consequently, he never began the translation of the supposed writings of Joseph of Egypt. 

In the eyes of the church members, this translation of Abraham’s record validated Joseph as a “prophet, seer, and revelator.” 

Contained with in it were unique and distinct doctrines. 

the pre-existence of spirits

eternal progression, and

the plurality of gods. 

It also introduced the first and only scriptural basis for denying the priesthood to people with black skin.

You’ll find the “curse of Cain” referred to in Abraham 1:21-27.

The value and impact of the Book of Abraham was recognized at once by the faithful, and Joseph continued to expound upon its contents in lectures and sermons right up to the time of his death. 

When we meet again, I would like to tell you what became of the papyrus scrolls.  It’s an intriguing story that you’ll want to hear.

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