Kinderhook Plates – Part 2


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 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? 



Kinderhook Plates – Part 1


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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