Need for the Gold Plates

CES Letter Core Question

Why were the gold plates necessary if Joseph didn't rely on them?

That the gold plates that ancient prophets went through all that time and effort of making, engraving, compiling, abridging, preserving, hiding, and transporting were useless? Moroni’s 5,000 mile journey lugging the gold plates from Mesoamerica (if you believe the unofficial apologists) all the way to New York to bury the plates, then come back as a resurrected angel, and instruct Joseph for 4 years only for Joseph to translate instead using just a...rock in a hat?

CES Letter, Page 72

An unwritten book cannot be translated.

Martin Harris copied characters for comparison indicating that there was an undeniable connection between the characters on the plates and the process of translating. If the translation was limited to the rock and the hat, with not association with the plates, then why did Martin ask for characters to be examined by Charles Anthon?

Joseph described that the Book of Mormon was translated by "the gift and power of God," so the exact process through which the words were presented to the Prophet's mind are unknown. That Joseph wasn't looking through the stone towards the plates is apparently unimportant.

Oliver Cowdery, the primary scribe, left this description: "These were days never to be forgotten--to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, `Interpreters,' the history or record called `The Book of Mormon'" (Messenger and Advocate 1 (Oct. 1834):14).

None of the historical sources mentioning a hat were readily available to Church members or artists. David Whitmer's late pamphlet describing the translation with a stone in a hat was not widely distributed.

More recently, the Ensign  published two accounts mentioning the stone and the hat, one by Richard Lloyd Anderson in 1977 and a second more recently by Elder Russell M. Nelson in 1993.  The publication of these articles apparently did not influence artists' renditions of the translation process but if using a seer stone in a hat was problematic or embarrassing, printing these articles in the Ensign would not have occurred.

Contradictory statements are among the descriptions currently available. Joseph may have started translating with Martin Harris as scribe, only to alter the process later. The exact details are unknown. 

Robert J. Matthews recalled that when he was on the Correlation Committee of the Church, project managers never sent them artwork to be assessed for historical accuracy. It wasn’t because they wanted to deceive, but because the managers already assumed the drawings they used were accurate.

The use of a seer stone in a hat is not intrinsically less plausible than the use of two seer stones mounted in a set of "spectacles" attached to a breastplate. Accusations of cover up or deception seem extreme.


Additional Resources:

"Translation of the Book of Mormon: Interpreting the Evidence," by Stephen Ricks,  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 201–206

A Black Hole That's Not So Black Reviewed by Matthew Roper 

Book of Mormon Translation By Joseph Smith by Tim Rathbone and  John W. Welch.

“By the Gift and Power of God” By Elder Neal A. Maxwell

The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon” (2011) by Brant Gardner

“‘Git Them Translated’: Joseph Smith, Ancient Characters, and Translating the Plates” by Michael H. MacKay (25min)

Book of Mormon Critical Text Project” by Royal Skousen

FAIRMORMON: Book of Mormon Translation

Chiasmus Resources

Book of Mormon Answer Page by Jeff Lindsay

Book of Mormon Plagiarism Theories and The Late War: Smoking Gun or Smoke and Mirrors? by Jeff Lindsay

“Book of Mormon Translation” LDS.org Essay

Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?” (2009 FAIR Conference) by Brant Gardner

The Divine Source of the Book of Mormon in the Face of Alternative Theories Advocated by The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon” (2011 FAIR Conference) by Brant Gardner

Piercing the Veil: Temple Worship in the Lost 116 Pages” (2012 FAIR Conference) by Don Bradley

“Joseph Smith as Revelator and Translator” JosephSmithPapers.org Essay

‘Out of Weakness He Shall Be Made Strong’ by Elder Marcus Nash

Scriptural Style in Early Nineteenth Century American Literature (including The Late War by Gilbert J. Hunt) by Matt Roper and Paul Fields

Restoring the Original Text of the Book of Mormon” (2010 FAIR Conference) by Royal Skousen

Forty-five Years of Chiasmus Conversations, Criteria, and Creativity: What Chiasmus Proves and Does Not Prove (2012 FAIR Conference) by Jack Welch

Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon (PDF) by John A. Tvedtnes

Negative Questions in the Book of Mormon by Ben Spackman

Origin of Book of Mormon Names (PDF) (2010 FAIR Conference) by Stephen Ricks

LDS Critics” (2001 FAIR Conference) by Daniel C. Peterson

Changes in the Book of Mormon” (2002 FAIR Conference) by Royal Skousen

Did B.H. Roberts Abandon His Faith in the Book of Mormon?” by McKay V. Jones

Do We Need to Make Changes to the Book of Mormon Text?” (2012 FAIR Conference) by Royal Skousen

Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message” (2008 FAIR Conference) by Brant Gardner

Reading Mormon’s Codex” (2012 FAIR Conference) by John Sorenson

Seerhood, Pure Language, and Sacred Translation” (2011 FAIR Conference) by Samuel Brown

“Book of Mormon–Transmission from Translator to Printed Text,” by George A. Horton, Jr.

Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28″ (2001 FAIR Conference) by L. Ara Norwood

Restoring the Original Text of the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

The Implications of Past-Tense Syntax in the Book of Mormon” by Stanford Carmack

Reflections of Urim: Hebrew Poetry Sheds Light on the Directors-Interpreters “Mystery” by Stan Spencer

What Command Syntax Tells Us About Book of Mormon Authorship” by Stanford Carmack

Changes in the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

A Look at Some “Nonstandard” Book of Mormon Grammar” by Stanford Carmack

Literacy and Orality in the Book of Mormon” by Brant A. Gardner

A Nickname and a Slam Dunk: Notes on the Book of Mormon Names Zeezrom and Jershon” by Stephen D. Ricks,

A Brief History of Critical Text Work on the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

I Do Not Think That WORD Means What You Think It Means” by Brant A. Gardner,  

The Original Text of the Book of Mormon and its Publication by Yale University Press” by Royal Skousen,  

The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat, and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer’s View of the Book of Mormon Translation” by Roger Nicholson

Some Notes on Book of Mormon Names” by Stephen D. Ricks,  

Why was one sixth of the 1830 Book of Mormon set from the original manuscript?” by Royal Skousen

 “All My Endeavors to Preserve Them”: Protecting the Plates in Palmyra, 22 September–December 1827 –  byAndrew H. Hedges

“For the Sum of Three Thousand Dollars” –  by Susan Easton Black, Larry C. Porter

“Rest Assured, Martin Harris Will Be Here in Time” –  by Susan Easton Black, Larry C. Porter

”The Witchcraft Paradigm: On Claims to “Second Sight” by People Who Say It Doesn’t Exist –  by Daniel C. Peterson

A Response: “What the Manuscripts and the Eyewitnesses Tell Us about the Translation of the Book of Mormon” –  by Daniel C. Peterson

A Third Jaredite Record: The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates –  by Valentin Arts

Assessing the Broad Impact of Jack Welch’s Discovery of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon –  by Robert F. Smith

Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look –  by L. Ara Norwood

Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions –  by John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, Matthew Roper

Chiasmus in Helaman 6:7-13 by John W. Welch

Chiasmus in Mesoamerican Texts by Allen J. Christenson

Colophons in the Book of Mormon by John A. Tvedtnes

Comparative Power of Three Author-Attribution Techniques for Differentiating Authors –  by G. Bruce Schaalje, John L. Hilton, John B. Archer

Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus –  by John W. Welch

Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book of Mormon –  by Royal Skousen

Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Nephite Language by William J. Hamblin

Examining a Misapplication of Nearest Shrunken Centroid Classification to Investigate Book of Mormon Authorship –  by Paul J. Fields, G. Bruce Schaalje, Matthew Roper

Examining the Environmental Explanation of the Book of Mormon –  by Gary F. Novak

Findings about the Printer’s Manuscript –  by Royal Skousen

Fragments of the Original Manuscript –  by Robert J. Espinosa

Hebraisms and Other Ancient Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon by Donald W. Parry

Hebrew Idioms in the Book of Mormon –  by Sidney B. Sperry

History of the Critical Text Project of the Book of Mormon –  by Royal Skousen

How Joseph Smith Translated the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript –  by Royal Skousen

How Long Did It Take to Translate the Book of Mormon? by John W. Welch, Tim Rathbone

How Much Was Known about Chiasmus in 1829 When the Book of Mormon Was Translated?–  by John W. Welch

Insights Available as We Approach the Original Text –  by Kerry Muhlestein

Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon –  by L. Ara Norwood

Joseph Smith and the Text of the Book of Mormon –  by Robert J. Matthews

Joseph Smith: “Author and Proprietor “ by Miriam Smith, John W. Welch

Moroni as Angel and as Treasure Guardian –  by Mark Ashurst-McGee

Moroni the Lonely: The Story of the Writing of the Title Page to the Book of Mormon –  by Sidney B. Sperry

Myth, Memory, and “Manuscript Found” –  by Matthew Roper

New Light: The Book of Mormon as a Literary (Written) Artifact –  by Grant R. Hardy

Not Your Everyday Wordprint Study: Variations on a Theme –  by John A. Tvedtnes

Notes and Communications: The Book of Lehi and the Plates of Lehi –  by David E. Sloan

Notes and Communications: Translation of the Book of Mormon: Interpreting the Evidence –  by Stephen D. Ricks

Notes and Communications: Word Groups in the Book of Mormon –  by John A. Tvedtnes

On Verifying Wordprint Studies: Book of Mormon Authorship by John L. Hilton

Part 1: The Nineteenth-Century Origin of the Book of Mormon by Noel B. Reynolds

Part Two: The Logical Structure of the Authorship by Noel B. Reynolds

Reformed Egyptian –  by William J. Hamblin

Seeking Agreement on the Meaning of Book of Mormon Names – 

Some Notes on the Anthon Transcript –  by John Gee

Text and Context –  by Daniel C. Peterson

Textual Consistency by John W. Welch

Textual Criticism of the Book of Mormon by Robert F. Smith

The “Golden” Plates by Robert F. Smith

The Anthon Transcripts and the Translation of the Book of Mormon: Studying It Out in the Mind of Joseph Smith –  by David E. Sloan

The Book of Mormon and Textual Criticism –  by Sidney B. Sperry

The Book of Mormon as Automatic Writing: Beware the Virtus Dormitiva –  by Richard N. Williams

The Book of Mormon as Translation English –  by Sidney B. Sperry

The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project – 

The Book of Mormon Critical Text Project –  by Terryl L. Givens

The Book of Mormon Plates –  by Janne M. Sjodahl

The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted according to Parallelistic Patterns –  by Jo Ann H. Seely

The Discovery of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: Forty Years Later –  by John W. Welch

The God-Inspired Language of the Book of Mormon: Structuring and Commentary –  by Donald W. Parry

The God-Inspired Language of the Book of Mormon: Structuring and Commentary –  by David P. Wright

The Historical Case against Sidney Rigdon’s Authorship of the Book of Mormon –  by Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields

The Modern-Text Theory –  by Richard Lloyd Anderson

The Names Lehi and Sariah—Language and Meaning –  by Jeffrey R. Chadwick

The Original Book of Mormon Transcript by Royal Skousen

The Original Language of the Book of Mormon: Upstate New York Dialect, King James English, or Hebrew? –  byRoyal Skousen

The Printer’s Manuscript –  by Ronald E. Romig

The Systematic Text of the Book of Mormon –  by Royal Skousen

Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript by Royal Skousen

View of the Hebrews –  by Andrew H. Hedges

View of the Hebrews: “An Unparallel” by John W. Welch

Was Joseph Smith Guilty of Plagiarism? –  by John A. Tvedtnes

What Did Charles Anthon Really Say? by Robert F. Smith, Gordon C. Thomasson, John W. Welch

What Does Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon Prove? by John W. Welch

What’s in a Name? A Look at the Book of Mormon Onomasticon –  by John A. Tvedtnes

What’s in a Name? Alma as a Hebrew Name –  by Paul Y. Hoskisson

What’s in a Name? Book of Mormon Language, Names, and [Metonymic] Naming –  by Gordon C. Thomasson

What’s in a Name? Irreantum –  by Paul Y. Hoskisson, Brian M. Hauglid, John Gee

What’s in a Name? The Name Cumorah –  by Paul Y. Hoskisson

Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?: The Critics and Their Theories by Louis Midgley

Wordprints and the Book of Mormon by John L. Hilton

“One Day in the Life of Joseph Smith, Amazing ‘Translator ‘ of the Book of Mormon,” by Jeff Lindsay

Articles of Faith 2: Royal Skousen on Book of Mormon Critical Text Project and Mary Whitmer Witness to the Gold Plates, Royal Skousen, 0:38:05

Articles of Faith 15: Loren Spendlove – Understanding Nephi with the Help of Noah Webster, Loren Spendlove, 0:33:51

FAIR Issues 23: “Reformed Egyptian” an evidence for Book of Mormon, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:25

FAIR Issues 25: What exactly were the Nephite interpreters?, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:02

FAIR Issues 26: Seer stone, Nephite interpreters are religion, not magic, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:10

FAIR Issues 28: How a seer stone helped in the Book of Mormon translation, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:14

FAIR Issues 29: Some Mormons may not understand Joseph’s translation process, Michael R. Ash, 0:05:48

FAIR Issues 30: Joseph’s translation shows remarkable consistency, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:22

FAIR Issues 31: Translation of the Book of Mormon, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:12

FAIR Issues 33: The tight control theory, Michael R. Ash, 0:07:22

FAIR Issues 34: Four evidences for tight control, Michael R. Ash, 0:08:04

FAIR Issues 35: Loose-control translation, Michael R. Ash, 0:07:40

FAIR Issues 37: Ambiguity in Book of Mormon translation, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:42

FAIR Issues 38: The meaning of “true” and “correct”, Michael R. Ash, 0:07:37

FairMormon Frameworks 8: Seer Stones and Treasure Digging, Bill Reel, 0:48:45

FairMormon Frameworks 11: Brant Gardner Gift and Power, Brant Gardner, 0:48:19

Faith and Reason 6: Artifacts Retrieved from Moroni’s Stone Box, Michael R. Ash, 0:13:59

Faith and Reason 8: Translation Time of the Book of Mormon, Michael R. Ash, 0:13:04

Faith and Reason 9: Textual Consistency of The Book of Mormon, Michael R. Ash, 0:16:17

Faith and Reason 10: Evidence That The Book of Mormon Was Dictated, Michael R. Ash, 0:17:20

Faith and Reason 12: Stylometry and The Book of Mormon, Michael R. Ash, 0:07:43

Faith and Reason 13: If/And Conditional Sentences, Michael R. Ash, 0:04:29

Faith and Reason 14: Chiasmus in The Book of Mormon, Michael R. Ash, 0:10:57

Faith and Reason 15: The “Rent” Garment, Part 1, Michael R. Ash, 0:04:55

Faith and Reason 16: “It Came to Pass,” Part One, Michael R. Ash, 0:03:56

Faith and Reason 17: “Reformed Egyptian”, Michael R. Ash, 0:06:29

Faith and Reason 18: Names in The Book of Mormon, Michael R. Ash, 0:16:22

Mormon FAIR-Cast 70: The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, Brant Gardner, 0:40:53

Mormon FAIR-Cast 98: John Welch on Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, John Welch, 0:19:13

Mormon FAIR-Cast 137: The Anthon Transcript, Martin Tanner, 0:19:14

Mormon FAIR-Cast 147: Using Objects to Receive Revelation, Martin Tanner, 0:19:57

Angels and Books

Origin of Book of Mormon Names — Stephen Ricks

Mormon FAIR-Cast 70: The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon,

Translation of the Book of Mormon — Fair Mormon Podcast

Some Mormons may not Understand Joseph’s Translation Process — Fair Mormon Podcast,

How a seer stone helped in the Book of Mormon translation — Fair Mormon Podcast

Seer stone, Nephite Interpreters are Religion, not Magic — Fair Mormon Podcast

What exactly were the Nephite Interpreters? Fair Mormon Podcast,

“Reformed Egyptian” an evidence for Book of Mormon, ,

Faith and Reason 39: Hidden Records, Michael R. Ash, 0:07:59

Restoring the Original Text of The Book of Mormon” (2010) by Royal Skousen

pt 1 “Divine Source of the Book of Mormon in the Face of Alternative Theories” by Dan Peterson

pt 2 “Divine Source of the Book of Mormon in the Face of Alternative Theories” by Dan Peterson

pt 3 “Divine Source of the Book of Mormon in the Face of Alternative Theories” by LDS Critics by Dan Peterson

pt 4 “The Divine Source of the Book of Mormon in the Face of Alternative Theories” by Dan Peterson

pt 1, “Changes in the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

pt 2, “Changes in the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

pt 3, “Changes in the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

pt 4, “Changes in the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

pt 5, “Changes in the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

pt 6, “Changes in the Book of Mormon” by Royal Skousen

pt 1, “Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28” by L. Ara Norwoods

pt 2, “Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28” by L. Ara Norwoods

pt 3, “Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28” by L. Ara Norwoods

pt 4, “Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28” by L. Ara Norwoods

American Frontier Politics in the Book of Mormon?” by The Backyard Professor

Book of Mormon Translated with Peep Stone, Seer Stone” by Michael R. Ash

Didn’t Joseph Smith Get the Book of Mormon Story From Other Existing Books” by Michael R. Ash

Doesn’t the Book of Mormon Blatently Plagiarize the King James Bible” by Michael R. Ash