Thursday, June 27, 2019

Sacred places

For thousands of members of the Church, the Hill Cumorah is a sacred place.

It is sacred not only because Joseph found the plates there, but because:

- it is the site of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites, and

- the former site of the depository of Nephite records (which are now not far from there.)

Cumorah sunset, June 2019
We feel the same reverence President Marion G. Romney did when he spoke in General Conference about Cumorah.

We agree with what other prophets and apostles have taught when they spoke about Cumorah.

We believe what President Oliver Cowdery wrote in Letter VII.

We think there is abundant physical evidence that supports the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah, including archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography.

We understand that certain intellectuals in the Church think we're wrong. They think this is just "a hill in New York" that has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon, apart from Moroni hiking 2,400 miles to put the plates here.

They're entitled to their opinions.

But even if they don't accept the teachings of the prophets and apostles about Cumorah, these intellectuals should at least acknowledge and respect our beliefs.

Sacred places are hallowed ground for believers.

At the Mission Presidents Seminar this week, the topic of sacred places came up.

President Ballard spoke about sites in early Church history. He emphasized how being on the actual spot where events took place has special significance.

Over the years President Ballard has visited Carthage Jail at least 10 times. One special occasion was the 150th anniversary of the martyrdom in 1994, when then-Elder Ballard accompanied President Howard W. Hunter and President Gordon B. Hinckley and spoke at the Church history site.

"It was overwhelming to stand on that hallowed ground pondering that most significant day of June 27, 1844," President Ballard said. "This visit stirred tender thoughts and feelings in me as we considered the traumatic events that took place there. On the day we were there, we felt a calm and peaceful assurance that they had completely fulfilled their great mission."

During other visits to Carthage Jail, President Ballard vividly recalls climbing the stairs to the upper room where the mob attacked Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards. With bullet holes in the jail walls still visible, they read the harrowing account, including Doctrine and Covenants section 135, John Taylor's tribute to Joseph.

"You can't go in there and read what actually happened without being touched because you are in the room where the brothers gave their lives," President Ballard said.

When President Joseph F. Smith — the Church's sixth president and President Ballard's great-grandfather — visited Nauvoo in 1906, he pointed out the very spot in the road where his father, Hyrum Smith, rode up on a horse, bent over in the saddle and lifted him up for a good-bye kiss before riding off with Joseph and others to Carthage, President Ballard said.

On the same trip, while President Joseph F. Smith was in Carthage Jail for the first time, a guide pointed to a spot in the upper room's floor and said, "that stain is the blood of Hyrum Smith." President Smith sat on the bed and wept like a child.

"You get a little feeling for what it was like for the son of Hyrum to experience that," President Ballard said. "As the great-great-grandson, I have the same feelings."

Likewise, for many members of the Church, we "get a little feeling for what it was like" for Mormon and Moroni to view the dead and dying of their people from the top of the Hill Cumorah.

We read what President Romney said after his visit here:

"In the western part of the state of New York near Palmyra is a prominent hill known as the “hill Cumorah.” (Morm. 6:6.) On July twenty-fifth of this year, as I stood on the crest of that hilladmiring with awe the breathtaking panorama which stretched out before me on every hand, my mind reverted to the events which occurred in that vicinity some twenty-five centuries ago—events which brought to an end the great Jaredite nation.

"You who are acquainted with the Book of Mormon will recall that during the final campaign of the fratricidal war between the armies led by Shiz and those led by Coriantumr “nearly two millions” of Coriantumr’s people had been slain by the sword; “two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children.” (Ether 15:2.)

"As the conflict intensified, all the people who had not been slain—men “with their wives and their children” (Ether 15:15)—gathered about that hill Cumorah (see Ether 15:11)....

"Thus perished at the foot of Cumorah the remnant of the once mighty Jaredite nation, of whom the Lord had said, “There shall be none greater … upon all the face of the earth.” (Ether 1:43.)

"As I contemplated this tragic scene from the crest of Cumorah and viewed the beautiful land of the Restoration as it appears today, I cried in my soul, “How could it have happened?”


We also fully agree with the point made by Elder Christofferson at the Mission Presidents Seminar, although the news report was a little misleading.

Elder Christofferson also played a video clip of President Gordon B. Hinckley testifying that the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon lies not in archaeology or anthropology — but within the covers of the book itself:

“The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable men may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it came forth by the gift and power of God ‘to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ’.” (Book of Mormon title page.)

President Hinckley's statement was a little different from how this article summarized it.

The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. 

The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable men may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it came forth by the gift and power of God “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” (Book of Mormon title page.)

It is here. It must be explained. It can be explained only as the translator himself explained its origin.

All those who believe the Book of Mormon agree that the truthfulness of its message is by far the most important.

But President Hinckley also made the point that archaeology and anthropology are helpful to some. Everyone has different spiritual gifts, as Moroni 10 explains. Faithful members of the Church have the gift of great faith. Most of the people in the world have different gifts, including the gift of knowledge. For them, archaeology and anthropology are important predicates for even considering the Book of Mormon.

Even faithful members of the Church, though, experience reverence in sacred places, including the Hill Cumorah as well as the Sacred Grove, the sites in Nauvoo, the sites in Israel, etc.

Friday, May 31, 2019

What to read

I saw this on twitter today. Excellent point!

(And if you know anyone who hasn't read Letter VII yet, share it with them ASAP.)

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. ―Haruki Murakami 📚

Monday, April 29, 2019

Cumora and the Feynman learning strategy

Great advice from Richard Feynman:

1. Continually ask "Why?"

2. When you learn something, learn it to where you can explain it to a child.

3. Instead of arbitrarily memorizing things, look for the explanation that makes it obvious.

Here are 3 "Why?" questions for Cumorah.

1. Why did Martin Harris say, in 1859, that "The plates were kept from the sight of the world, and no one, save Oliver Cowdrey, myself, Joseph Smith, jr., and David Whitmer, ever saw them.”

2. Why did witnesses give different descriptions of the plates, including size and weight?

3. Why doesn't the Title Page, which describes the contents of the Original Book of Mormon, make no reference to any original plates (i.e., the plates of Nephi we call the small plates)?

Traditional assumption; graphic from
The traditional assumption about the plates cannot answer any of these questions.

1. If there was only one set of gold plates, Martin Harris could not have made such a basic mistake as to forget there were 8 witnesses in addition to the 3 witnesses. Martin knew all of the 8 witnesses personally. The testimony of the 8 witnesses was included in every copy of the Book of Mormon.

2. If there was only one set of plates, the witnesses would have described the plates similarly. We wouldn't have Joseph's father saying they weighed 30 pounds while his brother William said they weighed 60 pounds.

3. If there was only one set of plates, then the Title Page, which was on the last leaf of the plates and listed the contents of the Original Book of Mormon, should have listed the plates of Nephi, which were not abridged. Instead, the Title Page lists only the two abridgments, plus Moroni "sealing" them with his own testimony. The absence of the plates of Nephi from the Title Page indicates that they were not included in the Original Book of Mormon.

The answers to these "why" questions is very simple. You can easily explain them to a child. (You'll have more difficulty explaining it to someone who rejects what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah, however.) The explanation is obvious once you see it.

You no longer have to avoid these questions, put them "on the shelf," or engage in elaborate sophistry to explain them away.

Here's the explanation: Joseph Smith translated two entirely separate sets of plates.

Current understanding
Joseph translated the "Original Book of Mormon," the set of plates he got from Moroni's stone box in the Hill Cumorah, in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

When he approached the end of the plates, he and Oliver considered retranslating the plates of Lehi (the 116 pages Martin Harris lost).

Instead, the Lord told him he would have to translate the plates of Nephi. (D&C 10)

But he didn't have the plates of Nephi yet.

Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the plates (the Original Book of Mormon) to a divine messenger. 

This is the same messenger that Joseph, Oliver, and David Whitmer met when they were traveling from Harmony to Fayette.

The messenger said he was going to Cumorah. David observed he had a knapsack that contained the plates. Joseph explained he was one of the Nephites.

The messenger took the plates (the Original Book of Mormon) to the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah.

While there, the messenger searched through the piles of Nephite records, located the original plates of Nephi (the small plates), and then took them to Fayette, where he gave them to Joseph to translate.


A lot of people ask why they haven't heard about this before. There's a simple answer for that, too.

The intellectuals who prepare curriculum for CES, BYU, and Church lessons don't believe what the prophets have taught about the Hill Cumorah in New York. They believe and teach that the "real" Hill Cumorah is in Mexico.

They are so attached to their theory that they would rather have members of the Church remain confused about these "Why" questions than provide the simple answer that there were two sets of plates.

These intellectuals also teach that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and others did not tell the truth about the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah. There's a good example of this here.

Summary of the answers to the "why" questions.

1. Martin Harris said only he, Joseph, David, and Oliver saw the plates because the Three Witnesses saw the Original Book of Mormon (the abridged plates Moroni put in the stone box in the hill Cumorah). They may have also seen the unabridged plates of Nephi, along with the brass plates, the original plates of Ether, etc., but the Eight Witnesses did not see the Original Book of Mormon.

2. The 8 witnesses saw the plates of Nephi. That's why Joseph's father, one of the Eight witnesses, said they weighed 30 pounds. Joseph's brother William, not one of the 8 Witnesses, presumably hefted the Original Book of Mormon a year earlier.

3. The Title Page omitted the original plates of Nephi because they were not part of the Original Book of Mormon. The Title Page listed the contents as the abridgment of the record of the Nephites and the abridgment of the record of the Jaredites, which Moroni sealed with his testimony. Had Martin Harris not lost the 116 pages, we would have the Original Book of Mormon today. Instead, we have part of the Original Book of Mormon, plus part of the original plates of Nephi. (The first verses of Words of Mormon serve as a separate Title Page for the plates of Nephi.)

This is so simple that any child can understand it.

In fact, this explanation makes it obvious.

Just as Feynman suggested.

You will undoubtedly encounter people who resist this explanation. They have been taught their entire lives that the "real" Cumorah is in Mexico, so it is impossible for the depository of Nephite records is in New York.

They think President Oliver Cowdery was wrong when he wrote Letter VII. They actually think the Assistant President of the Church, with the cooperation and endorsement of Joseph Smith, misled the Church about the New York Hill Cumorah.

You will find that, once they learn about the evidence from Church history, they will experience cognitive dissonance. They will try hard to confirm their bias because they really don't believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah.

Be patient. Eventually the right thing happens. Cognitive dissonance is a power psychological reality, but for many people, hopefully most, it will eventually yield to reality.


And, in many cases, they have never known what the prophets have taught.

This is especially true if they are under 40 years old. The rising generation has never been taught what the prophets have taught about Cumorah. Those over 40 have mostly forgotten, or have been persuaded by the intellectuals that the prophets were wrong.

Fortunately, most members of the Church, once they learn what the prophets have taught, are happy to accept their teachings.

BTW, the details of all of this are in my book, Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Oliver's Apostolic Blessing

Today's Come Follow Me lesson included a portion of Oliver Cowdery's blessing to the original Quorum of the Twelve.

A lot of people haven't read it, so I'll post it below.

It was Oliver Cowdery who ordained and blessed the original Twelve. In some cases, the minutes note that Martin Harris and David Whitmer assisted. For other cases, we can infer that all three witnesses participated in the ordination, but the record is not clear.

Traditionally, we've all been taught that the Three Witnesses ordained the original Twelve. That's why everyone's Priesthood line of authority shows the Three Witnesses. It's possible that happened, but the record for February 14, 1835, shows that the Three Witnesses ordained (blessed) Lyman Johnson, Brigham Young, and Heber C. Kimball.

The minutes say that on Feb. 15, 1835, "President Cowdery called forwarward [sic] Orson Hyde, David W. Patten and Luke Johnson and proceeded to their ordination & blessing."

After recording the blessings of these three men, the minutes record the "blessing" of William E. McLellin, John F. Boynton, and William Smith, without explaining who ordained them.

Later, on Feb. 21, Parley P. Pratt was ordained as one of the Twelve by Joseph Smith, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery. Oliver acted as voice and after the ordination, gave Elder Pratt a charge.

The same day Oliver Cowdery "blessed" Thomas B. Marsh. David Whitmer sealed that blessing. Then Orson Pratt was ordained and David Whitmer confirmed the ordination. Following that blessing, Prsident Cowdery gave the charge to the Twelve (below).


The Three Witnesses received their priesthood authority this way:

Oliver Cowdery - Peter, James and John

David Whitmer - ordained a High Priest by Oliver Cowdery on October 25, 1831

Martin Harris - ordained a High Priest by Lyman Wight on June 3, 1831. Wight had been ordained an Elder by Oliver Cowdery on Nov. 20, 1830. [Note: Wight was ordained to the "high Priesthood" by Joseph Smith in June 1831, and then Wight ordained Joseph Smith to the "high Priesthood" at the same meeting.] and


The following Charge was given to the Twelve by President .

Dear Brethren, previously to delivering the charge I shall read a part of a revelation. It is known to you that previous to the organizing of this church in 1830 The Lord gave revelations or the Church could not have been organized. The people of this Church were weak in faith compared with the ancients. Those who embarked in this cause, were desirous to know how the work was to be conducted. They read many things in the Book of Mormon, concerning their duty and the way the great work ought to be done, but the minds of men are so constructed, that they will not believe without a testimony of seeing or hearing. The Lord gave us a revelation, that in process of time there should be Twelve chosen to preach his gospel to Jew & Gentile. Our minds have been on a constant stretch to find who these Twelve were: [p. 158]

When the time should come, we could not tell, but we sought the Lord by fasting and prayer, to have our lives prolonged to see this day, to see you, and to take a retrospect of the difficulties through which we have passed. but, having seen the day, it becomes my duty to deliver to you a charge. And first, a few remarks respecting your ministry. You have many Revelations put into your hands. Revelations to make you acquainted with the nature of your Mission. You will have difficulties by reason of your visiting all the nations of the world. You will need wisdom in a tenfold proportion to what you have ever had. You will have to combat all the prejudices of all nations. 

He then read Revelation, and proceeded to say, Have you desired this ministry with all your hearts. If you have desired it, you are called of God not of man, to go into all the world. 

He read again, from the Revilation, what the Lord said to the 12 Brethren you have your duty presented in this revelation. You have been ordained to the Holy Priesthood, You have received it from those who had their power and authority from an angel.— You are to preach the gospel to every nation. should you in the least degree, come short of your duty, great will be your condemnation, for the greater the calling, the greater the transgression. I, therefore, warn you to cultivate great humility, for I know the pride of the human heart. Beware, lest the flatterers of the world lift you up. Beware lest your affections are captivated by worldly objects. Let your ministry be first. 

Remember the souls of men are committed to your charge, and if you mind your calling you shall always prosper. You have been indebted to other men in the first instance for evidence, on that you have acted. But <​it,​> is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for [p. 159] yourselves, so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon. And that you have seen the face of God: that is more than the testimony of an Angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God. This testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out. Although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will, therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from Heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face. Strengthen your faith, cast off your doubts, your sins and all your unbelief and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us. God is the same. If the Saviour in former days laid his hands on his deciples. Why not in the latter Days. 

With regard to superiority I must make a few remarks. The ancient Apostles sought to be great. but, brethren lest the seeds of discord be sown in this matter, understand particularly the voice of the spirit on this occasion. God does not love you better or more than others. You are to contend for the faith once deliverd to the saints. Jacob, you know wrestled till he obtained. It was by fervent prayer and diligent search that you have obtained the testimony you are now able to bear. You are as one, you are equal in bearing the keys of the kingdom to all nations. You are called to preach the gospel of the son of God to the nations of the earth. [p. 160]

It is the will of your Heavenly Father that you proclaim his gospel to the ends of the earth. and the Islands of the sea. Be zealous to save souls. The soul of one man is as precious as the soul of another. You are to bear this message to those who consider themselves wise. and such may persecute you, they may seek your life. The adversary has always sought the life of the servants of God. You are, therefore, to be prepared at all times to make a sacrifice of your lives, should God require them in the advancement and building up of his cause. Murmur not at God. Be always prayerful, be always watchful. 

You will bear with me while I relieve the feelings of my heart. We shall not see another day like this. The time has fully come; The voice of the spirit has come to set these men apart. You will see the time when you will desire to see such a day as this, and you will not see it. Every heart wishes you peace & prosperity. but the scene, with you, will inevitably change. Let no man take your bishopric, and beware that you lose not your crowns. It will require your whole souls. It will require courage like Enoch’s. The time is near when you will be in the midst of congregations, who will gnash their teeth upon you. This gospel must roll and will roll till it fill the whole Earth. 

Did I say congregations would gnash upon you, yea I say nations will gnash upon you. You will be considered the worst of Men. Be not discouraged at this, When God pours out his Spirit, the enemy will rage, but. God, remember is on your right hand and on your left. A man, though he may be considered the worst, has joy who is conscious that he pleases God. The lives of those who proclaim the true gospel will be in danger; this has been the case ever since the days of righteous Abel. The same opposition has been manifest whenever [p. 161] men came forward to publish the gospel. The time is coming when you will be considered the worst by many & by some the best of men. The time is coming, when you will be perfectly familiar with the things of God. This testimony will make those who do not believe your testimony, seek your lives. But their there are whole nations, who will receive your testimony. They will call you good men. Be not lifted up when you are called good men. Remember you are young men, and you shall be spared, I include the other three. Bear them in mind in your prayers carry their cases to a throne of grace. Although they are not present, yet you and they are equal. This appointment is calculated to create an affection in you, for each other, stronger than death.

You will travel to other nations, Bear each other in mind. If one or more is cast into prisons, let the others pray for him, and deliver him by their prayers. Your lives shall be in great jeopardy, but the promise of God, is that you shall be delivered. Remember you are not to go to other nations, till you receive your endowment. Tarry at  until you are endowed with power from on high. You need a fountain of wisdom, knowledge, and intelligence such as you never had. 

Relative to the endowment, I make a remark or two, that there be no mistake. The world cannot receive the things of God. He can endow you without wor[l]dly pomp or great parade. He can give you that wisdom, that intelligence and that power which characterized the ancient Saints and now characterizes the inhabitants of the upper world. The greatness of your commission, consists in this; you are to hold the keys of this ministry. You [p. 162] are to go to the nations afar off; nations that sit in darkness. The [time?] is coming when the work of God must be done. Israel shall be gathered, The seed of Jacob shall be gathered from their long dispersion. There will be a feast to Israel, the elect of God. It is a sorrowful tale but the gospel must be preached and his <​God’s​> ministers be rejected. but where can Israel be found, and receive your testimony, and not rejoice? No where. The Prophecies are full of great things that are to take place in the last days. After the Elect is gathered out, destruction shall come on the inhabitants of the Earth; All nations shall feel the wrath of God, after they have been warned by the saints of the Most High. If you will not warn them others will and you will lose your crowns. 

You must prepare your minds to bid a long farewell to . even till the great day come. You will see what you never expected to see. You will need the mind of Enoch or Elijah & the faith of the brother of Jared. You must be prepared to walk by faith, however, appalling the prospect to human view. You, and each of you should feel the force of the imperious mandate, “Son go labor in my vineyard” and cheerfully receive what comes, but in the end you will stand while others will fall. You have read in the Revelation concerning ordination. Beware how you ordain, for all nations are not like this nation. They will willingly receive the ordinances at your hand to put you out of the way. There will be times when nothing but the angels of God can deliver you out of their hand. We appeal to your intelligence, we appeal to your understanding, that we have so far discharged our duty to you. We consider it one of the greatest condescentions of our Heavenly Father in pointing you out to us. You will be steward over this ministry. [p. 163]

We have work to do, that no other man can do. You must proclaim the Gospel in its simplicity and purity. and we commend you to God and the word of his grace. You have our best wishes, you have our most fervent prayers, that you may be able to bear this testimony, that you have seen the face of God. Therefore, call upon him in faith and mighty prayer, till you prevail, for it <​is​> your duty and your privelege to bear such testimony for yourselves. We now exhort you to be faithful to fulfil your calling, there must be no lack here. You must fulfil in all things, and permit is us to repeat, all nations have a claim on you. You are bound together as the three witnesses were. You, notwithstanding can part & meet & meet and part again till your heads are silvered o[v]er with age.

He then took them separately by the hand and said, Do you with full purpose of heart take part in this ministry, to proclaim the gospel with all diligence with these your brethren, according to the tenor and intent of the charge you have received, each of which answered in the affirmative.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Letter IV - Moroni's visit

The first detailed account of Moroni's visit to Joseph Smith is included in Letter IV. You can read it in Joseph's own history in the Joseph Smith Papers here:

Recall that Oliver wrote these essays with the assistance of Joseph Smith, using documents then in their possession that we no longer have. Presumably one of these documents was the notebook Oliver kept from the time he first met Joseph Smith in April 1829. He recorded things Joseph told him, which undoubtedly included the first visit of Moroni.

After explaining how Moroni appeared in the night, Oliver recorded what Moroni said. I've highlighted important passages in bold type. Original spelling is retained.

Two key points:

1. Moroni gave "a history of the aborigines of this country." Country refers to a region or territory. This qualifies country; it refers to the region or territory in which he was visiting Joseph (i.e., western New York or the United States, circa 1823).

2. Moroni said the record was "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's house. It was not written elsewhere and transported thousands of miles to western New York.

The stature of this personage was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam.

Though fear was banished from his heart, yet his surprise was no less when he heard him declare himself to be a messenger sent by commandment of the Lord, to deliver a special message and to witness to him that his sins were forgiven, and that his prayers were heard; and that the scriptures might be fulfilled, which say— 

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are that no flesh should glory in his presence. Therefore, says the Lord, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; the wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid; for according to his covenant which he made with his ancient saints, his people, the house of Israel must come to a knowledge of the gospel, and own that Messiah whom their fathers rejected, and with them the fulness of the Gentiles be gathered in, to rejoice in one fold under one Shepherd”.

“This cannot be brought about untill first certain preparatory things are accomplished, for so has the Lord purposed in his own mind. He has therefore chosen you as an instrument in his hand to bring to light that which shall perform his act, his strange act, and bring to pass a marvelous work and a wonder. 

Wherever the sound shall go it shall cause the ears of men to tingle, and wherever it shall be proclaimed, the pure in heart shall rejoice, while those who draw near to God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, will seek its overthrow, and the destruction of those by whose hands it is carried. 

Therefore, marvle not if your name is made a derission, and had as a by-word among such, if you are the instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people.”

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. 

He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history
was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

“Yet,” said he, “the scriptures must be fulfilled before it is translated, which says that the words of a book, which were sealed, were presented to the learned; for thus has God determined to leave men without excuse, and show to the meek that his arm is <​not​> shortned that it cannot save.”

A part of the book was sealed, and was not to be opened yet. The sealed part, said he, contains the same revelation which was given to John upon the isles of Patmos, and when the people of the Lord are prepared, and found worthy, then it will be unfolded unto them.

On the subject of bringing to light the unsealed part of this record, it may be proper to say, that our brother was expressly informed, that it must be done with an eye single to the glory of God; if this consideration did not wholly characterize all his procedings in relation to it, the adversary of truth would overcome him, or at least prevent his making that proficiency in this glorious work which he otherwise would.

While describing the place where the record was deposited, he gave a minute relation of it, and the vision of his mind being opened at the same time, he was permitted to view it critically; and previously being acquainted with the place, he was able to follow the direction of the vision, afterward, according to the voice of the angel, and obtain the book.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Joseph Smith's account referring to Cumorah

Here's an interesting reference to Joseph Smith teaching about the Hill Cumorah in 1835 or 1836.

Joseph Curtis reminiscences and diary, October 1839-March 1881. This passage was recorded no later than October 1839.

In the spring of 1835 Joseph smith in Company with his father & mother & some others came to Michigan & paid us a visit-in a meeting stated the reason he preached the doctrin he did I will state a few things according to my memory-as a revival of some of the secs was going on some of this fathers family joined in with the revival himself being quite young he feeling an anxiety to be religious his mind some what troubled this scripture came to his mind which sayes if a man lack wisdom let him ask of god who giveth liberaly and upbraideth not believing it he went with a determinatio[n] to obtain to enquire of the lord himself after some struggle the Lord manifested to him that the different sects were rong also that the Lord had a great work for him to do-it worried his mind-he told his father-his father told him to do as the Lord manifested - had other manifestations saw an angel with a view of the hill cumorah & the plates of gold had certain instructions got the plates & by the assistance of the urim & Thumin translated them by the gift & power of God also stated he had done nothing except he more than he was commanded to do & for this his name was cast out as evil for this he was persecuted[.]

[Note: some think the visit was October 1834. Joseph could have made multiple visits to Michigan.]

You can see this reference in the Church History library. Search for Joseph Curtis reminiscences and go to page 12/208.

The following link may or may not work:

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Martin Harris - no on else saw the plates

Martin Harris
In January 1859, Martin Harris gave an interview to a magazine titled Tiffany's Monthly. During the interview, he made this statement.

"These plates were usually kept in a cherry box made for that purpose, in the possession of Joseph and myself. The plates were kept from the sight of the world, and no one, save Oliver Cowdrey, myself, Joseph Smith, jr., and David Whitmer, ever saw them.”

This raises a serious question about the traditional narrative regarding the golden plates.

Martin knew about the Eight Witnesses. He knew each of them personally, and he knew their testimony was included in every copy of the Book of Mormon right next to his own testimony as one of the Three Witnesses. 

Why would he say no one but the Three Witnesses (and Joseph Smith) ever saw the plates?

The traditional narrative teaches that there was only one set of golden plates. If that's true, then this statement by Martin Harris is false. 

(Some might say he was referring only to the experience of the Three Witnesses, but that's changing his unambiguous statement. His words speak for themselves.)

Here is a depiction and explanation of the traditional narrative.

In this scenario, Moroni somehow combined the abridged plates with the original plates of Nephi (commonly called the "small plates") and put them into the stone box on the "hill in New York" where Joseph found them. 

The Title Page was the last leaf of the plates. It lists the contents of the plates but doesn't mention any original plates. 

In Harmony, Oliver attempted to translate but was unable to. In D&C 9, the Lord told him:

I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him.
And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate.
"This record" refers to the one and only set of plates Joseph ever had. "Other records" refers to unknown materials, or maybe the Book of Abraham.

When Joseph and Oliver neared the end of the plates, they considered retranslating the Book of Lehi (the lost 116 pages), the Lord told them not to. Instead, they had to translated the "plates of Nephi" (D&C 10).

These plates were contained in the set of plates they already had, but apparently they didn't know it. (Lately, the historians tell us Joseph didn't even use the plates, which makes D&C 10 difficult to understand. Why would the Lord refer to the engravings on the plates of Nephi if Joseph wasn't even looking at the plates? A topic for another time.)

Joseph continued translating the abridged plates in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Before they left Harmony, Joseph and Oliver translated the Title Page--the last leaf of the plates--but somehow Joseph skipped over the plates of Nephi that were supposedly included in this set of plates.

Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the original plates to a divine messenger. On the road to Fayette, Joseph, Oliver and David encountered the messenger, who was one of the Three Nephites. David Whitmer reported that the man said he was going to Cumorah, not Fayette.

But David Whitmer lied or had a bad memory because actually, the messenger was taking the plates directly to Fayette.

Both the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses saw this same set of plates. 

And Martin Harris lied to Tiffany's Monthly.

The new scenario, which I refer to as "two sets of plates," is quite different. 

In this scenario, Moroni put only the abridged plates into the stone box on the Hill Cumorah where Joseph found them. He did not put the plates of Nephi into the stone box; instead, those plates remained with all the other original Nephite records in the repository in a separate department of the hill.

The Title Page was the last leaf of the plates. It lists the contents of the plates but doesn't mention any original plates. 

In Harmony, Oliver attempted to translate but was unable to. In D&C 9, the Lord told him:

I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him.
And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate.
"This record" refers to the original set of plates; i.e., the abridged plates that Moroni put in the stone box. "Other records" refers to the plates of Nephi, of which Joseph and Oliver knew nothing at the time.

When Joseph and Oliver neared the end of the plates, they considered retranslating the Book of Lehi (the lost 116 pages), the Lord told them not to. Instead, they had to translate the "plates of Nephi" (D&C 10).

Now they knew what "other records" referred to. Except they didn't have the plates of Nephi--yet.

Joseph continued translating the abridged plates in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Before they left Harmony, Joseph and Oliver translated the Title Page--the last leaf of the plates. They were finished with those plates. They had translated everything Moroni put in the stone box, except for the sealed portion.

Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the original plates to a divine messenger. On the road to Fayette, Joseph, Oliver and David encountered the messenger, who was one of the Three Nephites. David Whitmer reported that the man said he was going to Cumorah, not Fayette.

David told the truth.

The messenger took the original plates to the depository of Nephite records in Cumorah, picked up the small plates of Nephi, took them to Fayette, and gave them to Joseph. That's why Joseph and Oliver translated the plates of Nephi in Fayette.

The Three Witnesses saw the original plates, brought by the angel (presumably Moroni). 

The Eight Witnesses saw the plates of Nephi, brought by one of the Three Nephites (as Joseph's mother explained).

Martin Harris was not a liar. He spoke the truth to Tiffany's Monthly.

If you're not familiar with the "two sets of plates" scenario, there's a diagram on this blog. Look under "Pages" in the menu in the right column.

There are lots of other facts that lead to the "two sets of plates" scenario, as described in my book, Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates.

As always, I'm not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I'm simply presenting facts so you can make an informed decision. 

I'm offering explanations that make sense to me, but don't take my word for it or anything else. I welcome alternative explanations, if any. Just email them and I'll post them in this blog.