Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Follow-Up Note on the Necessity of the Gold Plates

By the Gift and Power of God (2014) by Anthony Sweat

Not long ago I posted a note from Michael McKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat on why the gold plates were necessary despite Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon by revelatory means. Here is a follow-up by McKay and Dirkmaat published just this month.
With Joseph looking into the hat at the seer stones, what need was there for Joseph to even have the plates in his possession? While most of the Book of Mormon translation accounts say little in this regard, the plates may well have served several purposes. Their mere existence may have instilled in Joseph with confidence that the words that appeared on the stones were from an ancient record. In the face of persistent pestering, carrying and possessing the plates would have sustained his confidence that the translation process was authentic. His mission was to "translate the engravings which are on the plates" (D&C 10:41), and he spent some time scrutinizing and transcribing some of the characters on them. Yet the translation usually occurred while the plates lay covered on the table (although some accounts suggest that the plates were sometimes kept in a nearby box under the bed or even hidden in the Whitmers' barn during translation). In addition, the plates encouraged belief in the minds of needed supporters, such as Emma, the Whitmer family, and the Three and the Eight Witnesses, each of whom spoke of having various experiences touching, hefting, feeling, and seeing the plates. The text of the Book of Mormon is abnormally self-aware of the plates; it focuses again and again on the provenance of and the sources by which Mormon and Moroni compiled the gold plates. It essentially tracks the gold plates and their source material from person to person until the plates end up in the hands of Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon even prophecies of Joseph's possession and translation of the record. Therefore, the physical plates fulfill thousands of years of preparation, and the witnesses provide authentication of the historicity of the plates. The plates were therefore indispensable for validating the ancient nature of the Book of Mormon.
(Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, "Firsthand Witness Accounts of the Translation Process," in The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, ed. Dennis L. Largey et al. [Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2015], 71–72, internal citations removed.)

So I ask again: what's the big deal? Seems pretty straightforward to me.

While we're at it, here's a nice thought from Steven C. Harper:
When it comes to the Book of Mormon witnesses, the question is which historical documents is one willing to trust? Those whose faith has been deeply shaken sometimes find it easier to trust lesser evidence rather than the best sources or the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence. But that choice is not a foregone conclusion. It is neither inevitable nor irreversible. . . . Why not opt to believe in the direct statements of the witnesses and their demonstrably lifelong commitments to the Book of Mormon? This choice asks us to have faith in the marvelous, the possibility of angels, spiritual eyes, miraculous translation, and gold plates, but it does not require us to discount the historical record or create hypothetical ways to reconcile the compelling Book of Mormon witnesses with our own skepticism.
(Steven C. Harper, "The Eleven Witnesses," in The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon, 128–129.)

3 comments:

  1. Translation happened. The case for the Book of Mormon is exceptionally strong. I'm not concerned exactly how it happened.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For me it is not a question of how, but why do we have the Book of Mormon? The Bible teaches us that "Gods way are not our way" and Gods way have never been man’s way (Heb. 3:10, Isa. 55:8). The Lord uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). And the story of Joseph Smith has done just that.

    I find it surprising that people are perplexed that Joseph used a stone (seer stone) to translate the Book of Mormon when the ancient prophets used them as well. To use an analogy, "everyone eats sausage, but no one wants to know how it is made." Knowing how something is made (translated) takes away from the fact that it exist. For example, it is a clear cut fact that the earth is here and God created it. However, everyone is so concerned with how it was made that they forget the one most single important fact. That the earth exist despite all the pronouncement of those who call themselves wise. Just like the Book of Mormon is here everyone tries to explain it away or tries to minimize its existence.

    For Joseph to have "peeped or uploaded" the translation of the BofM while looking into a hat is no stranger to me than someone looking down at an IPhone or IPad and seeing the glare in their face. Different day and different time. Joseph just didn't have the luxury of using a device powered by electricity on the world wide heavenly net. And lest we forget, it is a pretty amazing thing that Joseph was using an instrument or device before there was modern electricity. That in and of itself should be enough to prove that it was a miracle given to us by the gift and power of God.

    Lastly, God tells us that the earth will become a great Urim and Thummim. How will people react to that when it happens? Probably the same way they react to the existence of the Book of Mormon. Ungrateful!


    ReplyDelete
  3. For me it is not a question of how, but why do we have the Book of Mormon? The Bible teaches us that "Gods way are not our way" and Gods way have never been man’s way (Heb. 3:10, Isa. 55:8). The Lord uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). And the story of Joseph Smith has done just that.

    I find it surprising that people are perplexed that Joseph used a stone (seer stone) to translate the Book of Mormon when the ancient prophets used them as well. To use an analogy, "everyone eats sausage, but no one wants to know how it is made." Knowing how something is made (translated) takes away from the fact that it exist. For example, it is a clear cut fact that the earth is here and God created it. However, everyone is so concerned with how it was made that they forget the one most single important fact. That the earth exist despite all the pronouncement of those who call themselves wise. Just like the Book of Mormon is here everyone tries to explain it away or tries to minimize its existence.

    For Joseph to have "peeped or uploaded" the translation of the BofM while looking into a hat is no stranger to me than someone looking down at an IPhone or IPad and seeing the glare in their face. Different day and different time. Joseph just didn't have the luxury of using a device powered by electricity on the world wide heavenly net. And lest we forget, it is a pretty amazing thing that Joseph was using an instrument or device before there was modern electricity. That in and of itself should be enough to prove that it was a miracle given to us by the gift and power of God.

    Lastly, God tells us that the earth will become a great Urim and Thummim. How will people react to that when it happens? Probably the same way they react to the existence of the Book of Mormon. Ungrateful!

    ReplyDelete