If there are two elements at the heart of Mormonism, they are Joseph Smith and the gold plates. The two are in many ways inseparable because Joseph Smith claimed he was told by an angelic visitor to retrieve this buried record at a specific time and to translate it. The result, of course, was the Book of Mormon, a record believed by Mormons to be an ancient scripture in which Joseph Smith claimed was the “most correct book on earth.” To many members of the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon validates Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet in these “latter days.” Yet it is this same book that has caused skeptics to draw the conclusion that Smith was nothing but a charlatan who merely took advantage of gullible followers.
While much of the critical emphasis is on the contents of the Book of Mormon, the lesser focus is on the plates that are allegedly the source of that book. If they actually existed, what were they made of, how heavy would they have been, and were they really seen by anyone? The problematic story as it has originally been told has led many Mormon historians and apologists to contrive explanations that are just as perplexing as the story itself. Do Mormon explanations solve the dilemma, or do they make the whole gold plates story even harder to believe?
Bill McKeever is the founder and president of Mormonism Research Ministry, a Christian ministry based in the Salt Lake City area of Utah. Bill is the author of four books, including In Their Own Words: A Collection of Mormon Quotations (Morris Publishing, 2010). His feature article, “Problems with the Gold Plates of the Book of Mormon” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 2 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription.
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