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Gold Plates

"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."
— Joseph Smith (

Joseph is visited by the angel Moroni who informs him of a buried book written on gold plates
Joseph obtains the gold plates to translate them
The first 116 pages of the translation are lost.
Joseph's translation is published as the Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith claimed that three years after he received the First Vision, he had another visitation, this time by an angel named Moroni. Joseph explains what the angel told him:
Joseph Smith He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants.
Joseph Smith—History 1:64
  • The angel Moroni allegedly visited Joseph once a year for five years until 1827, when Joseph was allowed to obtain the gold plates to translation them.
  • With the help of scribes he began translating the plates.
  • The language on the plates is called reformed Egyptian: which remains unknown today.
  • Joseph Smith gave Martin Harris (a friend interested in financing the translation) a paper of characters allegedly copied from the gold plates, so that Harris could get an independent opinion of them. Harris then visited Dr. Charles Anthon.
  • Martin Harris took home the first 116 pages of Joseph's translation to show to his wife, as she was skeptical of the project and concerned that Harris was being financially gullible. The manuscript came up missing.
  • Unfortunately we are unable to view the gold plates today, as according to Joseph, the angel Moroni took them back after Joseph had completed his translation. Joseph enlisted witnesses to provide testimony that they saw the gold plates.

The Gold Plates An artists depiction of the gold plates
Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon is his translation of an ancient book written on gold plates that he found buried in a hill.
  • Language
    The language on the plates is called Reformed Egyptian: an unknown language.
  • Dimensions
    According to Joseph, the book was 6" x 8" x 6" and each plate was thinner than "common tin".
    Joseph Smith Each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed.

    Joseph Smith - Mormonism founder
    Times and Seasons, 3:707
  • The Sealed Portion
    Two witnesses said that 2/3 of the book was sealed, leaving 1/3 (2 inches) of plates translatable.
  • Weight
    The weight of plates range from 30 to 60 pounds.
    Name Weight
    Joseph Smith Sr. (Joseph's father)
    Interview, Historical Magazine, 7:307
    30 lbs
    Martin Harris, Mormon apostle and Book of Mormon witness
    Interview, Tiffany's Monthly, August 1859, p.166
    40-50 lbs
    William Smith (Joseph's brother)
    William Smith on Mormonism, p.12
    60 lbs

Running with the plates

In another of Joseph's tales, (of which again he is the only witness) he claims that he was assaulted by several men while bringing the gold plates home. Somehow he was able to outrun them carrying the 30-60 pounds, and despite lifelong complications from leg surgery. After hearing Joseph's tale a group went out to find these men but had no success.
  • Joseph's childhood surgery:
    Joseph, who was about seven years old, developed a serious infection in his left leg. Dr. Nathan Smith of Dartmouth Medical School at nearby Hanover, New Hampshire, agreed to perform a new surgical procedure to try to save the boy’s leg... Joseph bravely endured as the surgeon bored into and chipped away part of his leg bone. The surgery was successful, although Joseph walked the next several years with crutches and showed signs of a slight limp the rest of his life.
  • Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recorded Joseph's story:
    The plates were secreted about three miles from home... Joseph, on coming to them, took them from their secret place, and, wrapping them in his linen frock, placed them under his arm and started for home.

    After proceeding a short distance, he thought it would be more safe to leave the road and go through the woods. Traveling some distance after he left the road, he came to a large windfall, and as he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind it, and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him down, then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further he was attacked again in the same manner as before; he knocked this man down in like manner as the former, then ran on again; and before he reached home he was assaulted the third time...

    I will here mention that my husband, Mr. Knight, and Mr. Stoal, went in pursuit of those villains who had attempted Joseph's life, but were not able to find them.

    Lucy Mack Smith - Joseph's mother
    Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, ch.23
  • Joseph's friend, Willard Chase, recalled the story told by Joseph.
    [Joseph] went for his book, found it safe, took off his frock, wrapt it round it, put it under his arm and ran 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.

    William Chase
    Testimony, Mormonism Unvailed, p.246


We would expect the Book of Mormon to be efficient in words for these reasons:
  • The size and composition of the plates.
  • It claims to be an abridgement of abridgements.
  • The difficulty of engraving characters in ancient times.
    Book of Mormon Now behold, it came to pass that I, Jacob, having ministered much unto my people in word, (and I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates) and we know that the things which we write upon plates must remain.
    Jacob 4:1

However we find just the opposite, that the Book of Mormon is very wordy. For example:
Book of Mormon New Testament (KJV)
Verses 6,604 7,957
Words per verse 40.6 22.7
Total word count 268,163 180,552

Examples of its long-windedness:
Book of Mormon And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer; yea, and how blessed are they, for they shall sing to his praise forever.
Mosiah 18:30

And thus did the thirty and eighth year pass away, and also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea, even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and first, and the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away.
4 Nephi 1:6