Talk:Golden plates/Archive 3

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Archive 2 | Archive 3 | Archive 4

COGDEN's December revisions

I view Cogden's revisions as a deliberate attempt to bury objections to the historicity of the Golden Plates by adding as much extraneous material at the beginning of the article as possible. No one will actually read such an article, which I'm afraid is the intent of the revision.--John Foxe 23:11, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

I have no such motive. I want balance as much as you do, but I don't see how adding more history can be a bad thing. If being at the beginning of the article is a problem, let's see if alternate arrangements might work. Also, I don't see any sourced critical objections in this article, yet, to bury (or apologetic commentary, either, for that matter). We'll always be able to stack notable commentary upon the base layer of primary source material. COGDEN 01:39, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Much of what I'm seeing, in an article that has effectively doubled in size, has little to do with the golden plates and obfuscates the former clarity of the article. Why is Moroni's speech relevant or the Urim and Thummim or the black horse? Although you've introduced things like the toad, which I should welcome, I'd gladly trade him for half as many words. "Simplicity is truth's most becoming garb."--John Foxe 02:11, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
I am happy to see the significant contributions to this page from Cogden, I have had no time to dedicate to this page of late but I am glad to see others work here. As for Mr. Foxes objections, please point out, specifically, what you object with in this article and we will see if we can work things the glove's on the other hand.Twunchy 08:04, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
Glad you like this mishmash, Twunchy. As for me, I wince when I read phrases like: "In retrospection to the time he was working as a treasure seeker."--John Foxe 13:53, 5 December 2006 (UTC)
And now for something completely different...constuctive criticism! I think the article is headed in a good direction here but a few thoughts about the layout. I think the section of the physical description should be added to the top portion of the article instead of close to the bottom as it is now, and it also seems that we have redundant descriptions of the plates in the article (in the physical description section as well as the "story of the plates" section) now as well. I think the Physical description section should be listed before the "Story of the Plates" or we run the risk of seeming to hype the story over the actual subject (like NBC and the Olympics, but i digress), this is an encyclopaedia if we are telling what the plates are (or are proported to be for those skeptical to the cause) we should list it up front. Twunchy 21:49, 5 December 2006 (UTC)

I have reorganized and clarified the "Physical description" section, lenthening the 1842 quote to include all pertinent descriptive material. I have also moved the picture of the model to that section. I reorganized the section pertaining to the weight of the plates, and moved the story of Smith's escape from assailants into the story of the plates section. I think we need to source the statement of the 60 pound weight of the plates with a few more references. Twunchy 21:08, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

One other point of criticism, could we clean up the apprearance of the article by switching the Harvard references to footnote referencing, just for visual asthetics? Twunchy 21:18, 6 December 2006 (UTC)
That's more of a challenge than you would think at first glance. Many of the references are cited multiple times, and the "notes" section would probably be unwieldy and difficult to maintain. Plus, it slows down editing by making the raw wikitext difficult to read, in heavily-cited articles such as this one. In addition, since you have to repeat the reference in every single footnote, there would be a ton of redundant information. COGDEN 09:32, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Stylistic revision

After reading through Cogden's new version, I'm more satisfied with its content than I thought I would be. Its greatest weaknesses are its unnecessary length and the woodenness of its prose. I also agree with Twunchy that internal citations are hideous.

So, as I have opportunity I'll revise for style and brevity, attempting to keep as much of the deleted content as possible in the notes. What I want to emphasize is readability. I use Wikipedia as well as write for Wikipedia, and I'm always pleased when authors know their craft well enough to help me, the reader, find the information I want to know. Our emphasis here should be on the Golden Plates themselves. Cogden has written a featured article on Joseph Smith, Jr., and much of the information in the current version can be found in that and other LDS-related articles. Links to those articles should be sufficient.--John Foxe 22:32, 6 December 2006 (UTC)

Links to those articles aren't entirely sufficient, however, because information about the golden plates is scattered throughout those articles. This article exists so that all that information can be moved to one place. Since this is a more specific article than the JS history articles, if there is any linking, it should be from there to here. Another main difference is that this article doesn't necessarily need to be chronological, as the JS history articles do. COGDEN 09:27, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

Some Changes, Input?

Just glancing through the article there's a few things I'd like to change, but I'd like your input first.

1. In the "significance of the plates" section, Smith "said that he had used them to produce the Book of Mormon." This is minor, but I think it should say "Since the 1820s, belief that the Book of Mormon is a translation from the Golden Plates has been a “keystone” of the Latter Day Movement." Not that the word "produce" is POV or anything in and of itself, but Smith never said that he "used them to produce the Book of Mormon.," as the article states now. He said that he translated the Book of Mormon from the Golden Plates with the aid of the Urim and Thummim. Whether or not this happened is irrelevant, the relevant thing is what he said.

2. However, in 1859, Martin Harris said that he had "hefted the plates many times, and should think they weighed forty or fifty pounds."

Numerous options (all better than the current) are available to replace this. The one I personally lean towards is getting rid of it altogether, given it is completely irrelevant. It is completely possible (and very likely) that something that weighs 60 pounds could be mistaken for weighing 40-50 pounds, especially decades after the fact. At the very least, this statement could be phrased so that it doesn't sound like some half-hearted attempt to discredit the fact that there was something that weighed 60 pounds in this cloth. I think if anything the fact that 11 people all judged them to weigh 60 pounds is much more notable than the fact that one person made a comment 30 years later that was 10 pounds off. Thoughts?

3. "Had the plates been made of 24 karat gold, the plates would have weighed at least 140 pounds,[6] gold being 70% more dense than lead."

This statement is misleading because it takes arbitrary data and arrives at a subjective conclusion, then states it as fact. This doesn't sound NPOV to me. Who's to say that 24 karat gold was used? Who's to say that there was 30% air space? I'd venture to say 50% is a much more reasonable estimate, especially in lieu of the recent discovery of comparable records found on golden plates. If the plates were handled, carried for 40 years and engraved individually, it is completely within the realm of possibility that they had 50% air volume. As to the actual makeup of the plates, the fact that Joseph Smith always referred to them as "having the appearance of Gold" and never "of pure gold" or "solid gold" is worth pointing out. Very likely they were made of a Mesoamerican alloy called Tumbaga. The plates could have been washed with citris acid, giving it a golden appearance but maintaining the appearance of Gold. This would have also created a more durable material than Gold but retained the malleability necessary for engraving. Also, Tumbaga has half the density of solid Gold. See p. 788 & 831 of Reed H. Putnams "Were the Golden Plates made of Tumbaga?" (The Improvement Era Sept 1966 Vol. 69, No. 9)

While the statement that "if" they were made of 24 karat gold they would have weighed at least 140 pounds is strictly true, it is incomplete at best and dishonest at worst.

The ensuing statement about the plates being made from tin should be kept if it is also complemented by the possibility that they were made of Tumbaga or another alloy of Gold. Otherwise, the section would be misleading.

While these changes are sufficient to make the first sections NPOV in my book, the rest of the article is lacking in many areas. The thing to keep in mind is that the citation of POV sources (all of the anti-mormon scholastic travesties referenced) for a NPOV article just doesn't work. <--previous unsigned statement by Gldavies

my thoughts: As to #1, yes it should be a little more detailed and language should be used similar to the people who have spoken i.e. they were "translated" not "used to produce".
I agree, thanks!Gentry Davies
As to #2, it is just a stated fact that is sourced, it doesn't detract but rather gives an idea of range. A quick search of the internet will find estimates of over even 500 pounds for the plates so I don't see it as an issue. There exists no definitive answer to the actual weight of the plates, and the eleven witnesses never mentioned the weight of the plates, collectively, so that argument is moot.
If it is "just giving an idea of range" the term however didn't seem like the best term. Maybe rewriting the sentence could say something along the lines of "those who claimed to have lifted (or hefted in their words) the plates estimate their weight to be from 50-100 pounds" or something that makes it more obvious as a range, rather than something that implies contradiction (which as I explained earlier isn't necessarily true). Estimates of over 500 pounds? 24 karat gold has a density of 1200 lbs/cubic foot, and .188 cubic feet of that would give an absolute maximum weight of 200 pounds. If I went out and made a website that said a cup of water weighed 9000 pounds, that definitely doesn't give it any credibility and absolutely should not be considered in a wikipedia article. I think that the fact that the "eleven witnesses never mentioned the weight of the plates, collectively" is a completely irrelevant statement. I think that more compelling evidence for the weight of the plates is that they all offered individual estimates of their weight, and almost all of the hinged around 60 pounds. If the statements of 11 individual people about the subject of this article is "moot" than surely the little piece that states the "fact" that "that much" tin would weigh 60 pounds is just as moot. "That much," referring to the hypothetical and unreasonable proportions and qualities mentioned above, is a completely irrelevant statement to this article.Gentry Davies
Another interesting note, On a separate occasion Martin Harris estimated the plates' weight at "weighing altogether from forty to sixty lbs." (Martin Harris interview, Iowa State Register, August 1870). I'm not sure which of the two quotes should be used, but since this latter one includes the previously quoted range, maybe an expanded range would be more useful.gdavies 21:28, 9 December 2006 (UTC)
For #3 maybe a little more clarification should be made but the statement is valid, there never was a claim that they were pure gold, hence the term "golden"--go look in your pocket for that Sacagewea "golden" dollar--it the same thing, golden refers to color and clearly the plates were not pure gold, and could not have feasably been so, nor were they ever claimed to be 24k gold. The statement stands as a measuring stick--not a debunking statement, I find it rather interesting myself. The tumbaga theory is a valid arguement and it is mentioned in the notes, but it in itself is also speculation. Although you claim other golden plates have been found you need to substantiate that claim becuase I find no references to them in any research. Your math of 50% air is just as speculative, the research that went into the weights of various metals as quoted seems to be sound. Lacking definitive proof, i.e. the plates themselves everything here is admittedly speculative the best we can do is quote from eyewitness accounts that have been written, compile them, and tell it as it is. Twunchy 06:34, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I totally agree, and for that reason I think that speculation should be marked as so (the statements current about the weight of the plates). Since what is already their is mere speculation, it should either be marked as so, adjusted to be more reasonable and marked as so, or left out. As it is, it takes a speculative number (30%) and uses it to make a arbitrary definite statement. That's irresponsible, perhaps a range of reasonable percentagges (20-50%) and then a range of possible weights for the plates. I guess what we're missing here is the fact that the weights estimated by the witnesses compared with the reported dimensions and properties of the plates are completely within the realm of possibility. As the article stands, this item is left out and even contradicted. The theory that Tumbaga was the material that the plates were made of is much more reasonable than 24 karat gold, but (though included) facts about Tumbaga are "hidden" in the notes. If the 24 karat statement is on the main body, surely a statement about Tumbaga should be included, perhaps with the tin statement toward the end. As to your last statement, yes that is really all we can do, but obviously taking the eyewitnesses estimates along with Joseph Smith's report and compare them to each other, using what we know about mesoamerican culture and metullurgy (which includes our knowledge about Tumbaga). About other Gold Plates, please see the bottom of this article under "Metal plates outside the Latter Day Saint tradition," as well as (Blacklisted link deleted) This last link is an excellent compilation and well documented, definitely should be used in the physical description section and noted.Gentry Davies

I agree with Twunchy on all three points. All this information should be included, and we just have to make sure we have citations. COGDEN 09:23, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree as well, I just did a couple more minor changes.Gentry Davies

Obtaining the Plates

What in the world is the statement of a vitriolic anti-mormon doing in the section about how Joseph Smith got the plates? I'm editing this out in favor of a more general and unbiased account. Also, I'm removing the portions of the account taken from the anti-mormon book that's being quoted up the wazoo here, if we're really going to throw this whole crazy story in, you're going to need some other sources to corroborate it as something more than some angry ex-mormon fairy tells attempting to make some money and make the Mormons look stupid.Gentry Davies

Which "vitriolic anti-mormon" are you talking about? Please be more specific. COGDEN 21:47, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry about that, I was referring to using Willard Chase's affidavit to tell the story of Joseph Smith getting the plates... that seems ridiculous to me.Gentry Davies
It's not ridiculous. Regardless of whether we agree with it, Willard Chase had a viewpoint that should be included. Chase said he got his information from Joseph Smith, Sr., and he was known to be a close associate to Joseph Smith during the relevant time period. To suppress that view is not NPOV. In addition, looking over your other deletions, you have deleted citations from Joseph Smith, Jr., Lucy Mack Smith, B.H. Roberts, Martin Harris, Joseph Knight, Sr., etc. These deletions are not appropriate. The views of these eye-witnesses and second-hand witnesses have to be included. Just as fair notice, I'm going to re-introduce these deletions after editing settles down a bit. COGDEN 22:01, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Okay, that's fine by me. The statements I deleted are the ones that I felt could not be corroborated by other sources or were flat out contradicted by them. The truth of the matter is that we're dealing with a subject and time period in which there was a lot of hard feelings, violence and distruth. The problem I see with this article is that the majority of the information, alleged quotations and viewpoints are derived from openly anti-mormon sources. The fact that Willard Chase made these statements doesn't merit their exclusive inclusion in this article (as in the first paragraph). Instead, I think we'd be better off including statements from opposing viewpoints (as we're trying to do with the tin and tumbaga). The problem with going into this much depth on both sides of the story is unrealistic and unreadable. That's why I favor a general story line noting points where there are differing opinions without going into too much detail. Also, it seems like we're leaning far to heavily on one or two sources in this section.gdavies
I don't think it's a problem. This is what we did in Early life of Joseph Smith, Jr., and that article ended up being featured on the front page for Smith's 200th birthday. Also, there are many more than two points of view here—more than just Mormon and anti-Mormon—and it's not always correct or balanced to pit them against each other. COGDEN 02:13, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree... I think we're making some great progress, my real concern was just the individual sources that were heavily relied on for this section previously (verifiable, reliable and scholarly... I don't think some of the sources had any of those qualities). But I'm very happy with the "obtaining the plates" section as it is now.gdavies

This section seems full of hearsay and questionable sourcing. In my opinion, Howe's books have no place on Wikipedia except to reference a critical speculation (which his books are full of). Although he does include some good primary sources, it's basically a collection of village gossip attained by methods of dubious credibility (led people in what to say to support his story). The inclusion of this stuff is POV in my mind... not because it doesn't agree with my POV, but because it doesn't qualify under Wikipedia's reliability standards. gdavies 08:14, 27 January 2007 (UTC)

I had the full pleasure of reading this section today. Can anyone say hearsay? How about, the quality of literature fit only for The National Enquirer. COGDEN, please explain to me why it is important to provide this opinion. Is everyone's opinion of value? Is this person's story of superior value to everyone else's so that it is given such prominence in the article. In fact, if this story is so important, I suggest renaming the artcile to "Mr. Chase's interpretation of the fasle prophet Joe Smith". That at least is honest and forthright. Somebody's got some splain'in to do. I have always supported just reporting facts, but I have also always been an advocate of reliable sources. Chase fails the last requirement badly. --Storm Rider (talk) 02:04, 1 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm glad I'm not alone here, this section is a compete mess... extrapolations, poor sources (such as Chase), generalizations and assumptions. gdavies 04:28, 1 February 2007 (UTC)


That Smith could have made the plates himself from tin is not speculation. It may not be true, but it's not speculation. He could have. "Others have suggested..." is not a phrase applicable here.--John Foxe 21:35, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

I never said that it was speculation, I did say that it was misleading to have a statement about tin without one mentioning Tumbaga. Maybe a sentence like "Some who accept Joseph Smith's account of the plates have suggested the possible use of the Mesoamerican alloy Tumbaga to create the plates. This would place the estimates made by several who encountered the plates of their weight (anywhere from 50-100) pounds well within the realm of possibility. Some suggest that Joseph Smith could have fabricated the plates from tin, which he had access to near his home." That seems fair and balanced to me, I don't believe that they were made from tin, but of course they could have been. This way we're not burying the statements about tin or tumbaga in the notes. Gentry Davies
I have worded compromise language including all points of view. Please do not revert unless discussed, Mr. Foxe because the language used is factual- some speculate tumbaga and others speculate tin i'm giving no credence to one over the other. Twunchy 21:58, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Looks good. Foxe, regarding your comment about speculation, I guess it just depends on the phrasing of it. If we say "speculated that he did" then it should be there, but if it says "speculates that he could of made them from tin" it gets more complicated. At the risk of being nitpicky, who's to say he had the skills and tools to make these out of tin, etc. I think we avoid the issue and say "speculated that he made them from tin" and "speculated he made them from tumbaga." I like Twunchy's revision.gdavies
These ideas are not in the same ballpark. There's no evidence that any plates anywhere were made of tumbaga, whereas there was plenty of tin in Palmyra, and farmers regularly used it.
A better compromise would be to leave the tumbaga in the footnotes; in return, the tin can be dropped here and introduced later in the article instead. It probably belongs later anyway.--John Foxe 22:17, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
If there was a section about the actual make up of the plates I think it would obviously belong there, but since this is a section about the weight of the plates, the information about tumbaga is not only relevant but essential. Yes they are in the same ballpark, the ball park is the possible material the plates were made out of (and thus their weight). One option is they're made of tin and one is they're made of tumbaga. There is as much or more "evidence" that the plates were made of tumbaga as opposed to tin. First, tumbaga is a known mesoamerican alloy that fits the properties described by Joseph and all the witnesses who saw the actual plates (and never denied their witness). These properties include malleability, durability, color and texture. Second, it fits the requirements for weight as estimated by those who hefted the plates. Third, William Smith specifically said the plates were "a mixture of copper and gold" in an interview (The Saints' Herald, 4 October 1884, 644). That is Tumbaga by definition, and there have been discoveries of metal plates from 400 AD (David M. Pendergast, "Tumbaga Object from the Early Classic Period, Found at Altun Ha, British Honduras (Belize)," Science 168, 3 April 1970, 117.) Very interesting reading, see
I think that is definitely enough to merit discussion on the page. If you can find any sources whatsoever that show these plates were likely made of tin, we can discuss that, but the presence and availability of tin in that area is not enough to include its mention while excluding tumbaga.gdavies
I edited the paragraph, it makes sense to me to discuss Tumbaga at this point in the article.gdavies
Please, gentlemen, let's keep the tin and the tumbaga in the footnotes. We want an article that is both as lucid and NPOV as we can make it.--John Foxe 02:00, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I see no reason to keep the tumbaga theory in the footnotes. Footnotes are for side-issues that help for context, but aren't necessarily on-point. The theoretical composition of the golden plates is very relevant here. COGDEN 02:16, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, then, I hope we can keep it short.--John Foxe 02:52, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I'm not averse to what we have (I'd like a lot more information on tumbaga, it's very relevant and its a little abrupt as written now) but I'd like to get rid of the solid gold comment, that's really irrelevant here. There's no evidence anywhere to suggest the plates were of solid gold, or that those with close experience to them thought they were. I don't see a reason at all to have it included. However, I'd like to include Williams quote on the plates being made of copper and gold. That's definitely relevant.gdavies


If Smith did not think that two translations of the plates should be absolutely identical, then what was he thinking? The point is that Smith looked at his seer stone, not at the plates, and saw English words. No translating occurred.--John Foxe 15:00, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Joseph Smith, by including this revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, makes it quite clear why he didn't retranslate

D&C 10:8-19... 8 And because you have delivered the writings into his hands, behold, wicked men have taken them from you. 9 Therefore, you have delivered them up, yea, that which was sacred, unto wickedness. 10 And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands. 11 And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written; 12 And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work; 13 For he hath put into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate. 14 Verily, I say unto you, that I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing. 15 For behold, he has put it into their hearts to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God, in asking to translate it over again. 16 And then, behold, they say and think in their hearts—We will see if God has given him power to translate; if so, he will also give him power again; 17 And if God giveth him power again, or if he translates again, or, in other words, if he bringeth forth the same words, behold, we have the same with us, and we have altered them; 18 Therefore they will not agree, and we will say that he has lied in his words, and that he has no gift, and that he has no power; 19 Therefore we will destroy him, and also the work; and we will do this that we may not be ashamed in the end, and that we may get glory of the world.

About the translation, we know from the statements of both Smith and his associates that both the Urim and Thummim (with the plates) and the Seer stone were used in the translation. We also know that he used the term "translation" and the only indication that "english words" appeared are quoted from those who never actually translated. Anything beyond this is speculation...gdavies 20:27, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
I guess what you're saying is that if Joseph Smith said it was translation, then it was. But Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Joseph Knight, Sr., and Oliver Cowdery all said that with the help of seer stones, Smith could read the reformed Egyptian in English. There's no question of Smith struggling to find equivalents in one language for words in another. The English words were clear to him. He even spelled out proper names.
As for the "cunning plans," they could have been easily exposed by the different handwriting of the forgery.--John Foxe 21:01, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
The fact is that we don't know exactly what happened during the translation, but Joseph Smith's comments do make it clear that it was an evolving process... I feel bad copying and pasting large amounts... but this sheds some light, (Stephen D. Ricks,
"In D & C 9:7-8 Oliver Cowdery, who had desired the gift of translation was told: "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." Had Oliver presumed an effortless automatic translation? These verses suggest that effort was required on the part of the translator to search for and find the appropriate expression, something which would not have been the case if the Book of Mormon had been translated by plenary dictation."
and further...
"A contemporary account provides an additional indication that the process of translation was not mere plenary dictation. The Reverend Diedrich Willers, a minister of German Reformed Church congregations in Bearytown and Fayette, New York at the time of the Church's restoration and a celebrated opponent of the Church, wrote in 1830 to two colleagues in York, Pennsylvania concerning the rise of the Church. In the letter he included the following concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: "The Angel indicated that . . . under these plates were hidden spectacles, without which he could not translate these plates, that by using these spectacles, he (Smith) would be in a position to read these ancient languages, which he had never studied and that the Holy Ghost would reveal to him the translation in the English language." On this, D. Michael Quinn comments: "Thus, the English translation with all its awkwardness and grammatical chaos, was according to contemporary reports, a product of spiritual impressions to Joseph Smith rather than an automatic appearance of the English words. This would make Joseph Smith, despite his grammatical limitations, a translator in fact rather than a mere transcriber of the handwriting of God."
Whatever actually happened, we don't have irrefutable evidence either way, because the only person who could've known didn't elaborate on it.gdavies 04:38, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
You probably don't want to give too much credit to Willers, who begins his letter, "The greatest fraud of our time in the field of religion is most certainly one Joseph Smith, the professed translator of a book which carries the title, The Book of Mormon...." (EMD 4: 271.) As for poor Cowdery, he got what we'd call a polite brush off.
My point above was that Smith thought that two translations of the plates should be absolutely identical. Any variation would indicate tampering with the text. To the contrary, no translations of the same extended text will ever be identical. I don't blame Quinn for wincing at the "awkwardness and grammatical chaos" of the Book of Mormon, but since, as you say, there is no irrefutable evidence that Smith used the word "translation" in its normal sense, the burden of proof remains with his friends—including all three of the Three Witnesses—who watched him do what he did.
I can call "translation" what I'm doing right now: transferring impressions in my mind to written words so that they can (hopefully) be understood by others. But calling it such doesn't make it so, unless we want to enter the world of Alice in Wonderland.--John Foxe 15:41, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
We've successfully created a mishmash here, and I apologize for not making it more clear what my real point was. If your original point was that it wasn't "translated," think of it this way... one of the definitions for translate is to "change the form, condition, nature, etc., of; transform; convert." Whether he himself translated it according to his knowledge (which no one claims) or he translated it through the power of God, or the Seer Stone, or the Urim and Thummim, or some other means, it's still "translation." If you can think of a better word for the meaning "changed from one language to another through the power of God," which is what he claimed to have done, we can discuss changing the word. Really, the argument is irrelevant. He said that he translated it, that's what the article should say. Secondly, with the tampering issue, we're not dealing with a normal translation, we're looking at what has been considered by LDS scholars as a semantically perfect translation aided by God. There's no indication that "Smith thought that two translations of the plates should be absolutely identical." Him changing some punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc. in the second edition is evidence that he believed he had a semantically perfect translation but that due to his own imperfection there were variations/grammatical errors/imperfections in other elements of the text. It's fairly obvious from the D&C that he was only concerned with those who sought to embarrass and discredit him by semantically (or otherwise) changing the substance of the previous translation.gdavies 01:04, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
If Smith thought that the Book of Mormon was stylistically imperfect and not verbally inspired, why didn't he have an editor go through the manuscript and smooth out the grammar and syntax before the book was first printed? Why wouldn't substantive changes made by his enemies have been made obvious by the difference in handwriting?--John Foxe 20:24, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
This discussion is fairly pointless... but one of the reasons the manuscript was imperfect is because it was not given word for word (plenary dictation) and it was written by a second person (not Joseph Smith itself). Both of these give rise to syntactical and grammatical imperfections. As to the handwriting/changes argument (which is completely pointless and irrelevant)... one thing they could've done is printed the changed version and compared it, without reference to the actual manuscript. Who knows the specifics, and why does it really matter? the point is that in D&C we find that they thought people were going to mess with the manuscript to make Joseph Smith look foolish. We later learn that this is the "wise purpose, which purpose I know not" that the small plates were made. This is all that really matters; issues dealing with handwriting, actual manuscripts, substance of alleged changes are nothing but pointless speculation.gdavies 21:20, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
Without the manuscript to back it up, I don't think a printed version of the 116 pages would have been any more convincing in the nineteenth century than a printed version by Mark Hofmann would have been in the twentieth century. But let's agree to hold that question in abeyance.
At least my first question goes to the heart of this discussion. You make an assumption, on no contemporary evidence, that Smith believed his original manuscript to have been grammatically and syntactically imperfect. If he thought so, there were plenty of schoolteachers in western New York who could have polished it up for him. If the ideas, but not the words, came from God, why would Smith have been satisfied to publish a book he knew to be imperfect? Wouldn't he have wanted to give God his best? Smith's lack of interest in correcting sloppy grammar and syntax (not to mention wordiness) in 1829, is a good indication that he thought the language itself was inspired and that any other English version of the plates would have to be identical. "Translation" was a word he used to describe the process of creating the manuscript, but he used that word as a term of art with no relationship to the dictionary meaning.--John Foxe 15:58, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

Fascinating discussion, however, we are getting into the realm of original research, assumptions and not known material. Let's stick to what is citable to be safe. We definitely all have our own opinions on the matter, and no doubt there are more out there we haven't even explored. -Visorstuff 23:44, 18 December 2006 (UTC)

Sealed Portion

"According to Joseph Smith, a portion of the golden plates were sealed.[citation needed] Accounts differ as to the nature of this sealed portion, and whether Smith had physical possession of it. In 1834, a Palmyra neighbor claimed that Smith's family told her in 1829 that Smith only had in his possession "an introduction to the Gold Bible", and that "all of them upon which the bible was written, were so heavy that it would take four stout men to load them into a cart" (Howe 1834, p. 253)." I'm not sure how this is relevant, since the comment isn't even referring to the sealed portion. It seems to me that if this quote were really made (by some unnamed source), it was probably referring to the fact that the majority of the Book of Mormon is an abridgement of the large plates (less than one hundredth of the total record that was kept) made by Mormon. It is most likely not referring to the sealed portion of the record. Regardless, this is a quote out of context, the source isn't named and it probably is not referring to the sealed portion of the record. It really shouldn't be included in the article.gdavies 02:34, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

Edits to this section are in progress, and will include a fuller explanation. Meanwhile, the section, whatever its content, is needed. COGDEN 08:39, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
I agree, I know there's a multitude of quotes out there about the sealed portion, much better than the one currently included...gdavies 09:29, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
I don't understand why an additional section on the sealed portion of the plates should be needed. Speculation about it is just that. Such matters can be treated fully in the notes, but let's keep the article itself tight and clean.--John Foxe 11:55, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
One thing Mormon history is not is "tight and clean". We need the section. The "sealed" portion is a major element of the Golden Plates. And it's no more speculation than anything else here. Besides, speculation is good and welcome if it is notable, verifiable, and not original research. COGDEN 18:34, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
I disagree. There's nothing in the paragraph that can't be covered in the notes. I apologize for the wholesale reversion.--John Foxe 18:52, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
As you should. It's entirely inappropriate to do so. See Wikipedia:Ownership of articles. COGDEN 19:09, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
You're right. I'm taking this way too seriously. I'll come back tomorrow and see how things look. Still, the idea that you wouldn't want an article tight and clean.....--John Foxe 19:45, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

This sentence is thoroughly confusing: The Book of Mormon itself refers to a vision of a prophet referred to as the brother of Jared that was written and "sealed", but the term "sealed" is also applied to the interpreters Smith said were buried with the plates and protected by the angel (Ether 4:5). Sounds like the brother of Jared was "written and sealed," whatever that means. :-) Bochica 15:27, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

I've tried to condense the "sealing" section. To my mind, if part of the book was sealed, that speaks to its appearance and the "sealing" paragraph should be included under that heading.
If Mormonism isn't "tight and clean"--a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree--then it therefore behooves us to make articles about Mormonism as lucid as possible for readers who arrive here with little previous knowledge of the subject.--John Foxe 22:44, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
I've left this section alone for a while, but I think I'm just going to go ahead and change it. Orson Pratt and David Whitmer both described the sealed portion of the plates (no worries sources will be in the article). See FARMS compilation of descriptions. gdavies 00:21, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

This section needs some work... here's the way I understand it. Moroni "sealed up" the records for them to come forth in the future. The plates were spiritually sealed in that unauthorized persons would not be able to attain them (protection by God). Finally, there was a specific portion of the record that was physically sealed (both physically and spiritually, we know it was physically sealed from Pratt and Whitmer, spiritually sealed similarly to the plates as a whole, "consecrated for a future purpose, not to be touched by those unauthorized"). The paragraph portrays these three seals as mutually exclusive or contradictory, but they just aren't. Seal merely means "consecrated for a purpose" or "bound up for the future." The word "seal" can imply both physical or spiritual safe-keeping. Does anyone else see this the same way? gdavies 08:24, 27 January 2007 (UTC)


What is the significance of having the phrase "a day listed in local almanacs as the autumnal equinox" mentioned when discussing the day the Joseph learned of the plates? Bochica 15:12, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

"In this light, the visit of the angel Moroni took on unusual aspects. The angel had appeared on the night of the Autumnal equinox, between midnight and dawn--hours auspicious for a magical invocation. On the day of the equinox Joseph had subsequently made his four annual visits to the hill. When finally he retrieved the plates, it was the eve of the equinox, in the first hour after midnight. Accounts suggested he had been required to take with him that night a consort (his wife), to ride a black horse, and to dress in black--all lending a further magical tenor to the operation." Lance S. Owens, "Joseph Smith: America's Hermetic Prophet," Gnosis: A Journal of Western Inner Traditions, (Spring 1995).--John Foxe 22:52, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
I'd love to see any corroborating primary evidence from a dependable, contemporary source about the whole issues Owen's lists as facts later in the quote. Typical of Owen's vague "accounts suggest"s, his "wealth of unquestionably genuine historical evidence" and embarrassingly obvious agenda, he loves to "quote" primary evidence, usually garnered from sources contemporary to Joseph Smith that also argued that Mormons have horns. Any information taken from Lance Owen's much hailed "research" should be viewed with serious skepticism until it can be corroborated with more neutral evidence. Regardless, mentioning the equinox is not necessary or relevant here.gdavies 05:24, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
Evidence is what we're about here. When we believe someone's research is faulty, we question it by citing the research of others.--John Foxe 19:25, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
It is significant for a number of reasons in Mormonism that are simply lost in the phrase "restoration of all things." Mormons belive that Abraham was a great atronomer and that certain signs and events happend in accordance with the stars - sounds a lot like astrology to some, although it is not practiced in the church today (nor is it authorized for those keys to be exercised today), it was part of restoring items. If you look at Smith's life you find two patterns to major religous events - astrological events and the pregnancies of emma (and pregnancies are supposedly lunar events, interestingly enough). He was born Dec 23 - winter solstice. He was killed June 27 - a few days after the summer solstice. Plates? Sept 23. Org of church? April 6 - both near the equinoxes. The other is the birth and death of his children - first son alvin died in the mist of the 116 pages debacle, the twins during the polygamy revelation, and more was going on at the time. The list goes on and on, and you can read aobut this in many articles in Mormondom, but is it merely coincidence or not? Don't care. It was written about by hulburt and howe and every major antimormon who said he was a devil worshipper since. Too many coincidences so they pointed to it as an evil thing, rather than "signs from the heavens." Agree with John, research stays until cited out by others. -Visorstuff 09:58, 25 December 2006 (UTC)
Thank you, John Foxe, for adding the reference. I simply didn't know where the information came from as I was reading the text. I agree with you on your position regarding research that is considered questionable: We should not remove any references that someone has already taken the time to add, simply because we consider them questionable. Instead, we should add the appropriate references describing the points-of-view we wish to support. If research is questionable, then we should be able to produce citations to support that position. Bochica 02:10, 26 December 2006 (UTC)

Natural Variants...

Sounds like someone is presenting a supposition as a fact. This sentence sounds like its being forced in here. Things like this ought to be placed in the Notes section. "In other words, Smith assumed that a second transcription of the missing 116 pages should be identical to the first rather than be filled with the natural variants that would occur if one was translating, and not merely transcribing, a text from one language into another." Bochica 15:36, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

If it's not a fact, what's the alternative?--John Foxe 15:51, 22 December 2006 (UTC)
That is not at all Smith's assumption, and that is very obvious from all of the quotes previously mentioned. This sentence is totally out of place, and should be replaced with the fact, what Smith actually said. He said (basically) bad people who took the script were going to change the words in hopes that he would retranslated the same portion and thus look like a fraud when the changes were made pointed out. Natural variants, however, were never mentioned in connection with this process and the idea that this is what he was talking about or making assumptions about is nothing but mere (and unreasonable) speculationgdavies 05:06, 24 December 2006 (UTC)
If Smith believed the 1829 version of the Book of Mormon to be stylistically imperfect and not verbally inspired, why then didn't he have an editor go through the manuscript and smooth out the grammar and syntax before the book was first printed? Why would he reflect on God by publishing a book filled with ignorant errors?
Furthermore, I don't understand how alterations made by "bad people" could go undetected once the handwriting of the documents was compared. In this case at least,"what Smith actually said" makes no sense.--John Foxe 19:14, 24 December 2006 (UTC)

Not up to us to intepret - lets just state the facts as we have them. No more no less. -Visorstuff 09:59, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

The speculation is introduced with the words "Smith assumed." Statements containing words like this are not facts. We are not mind readers - we don't know what he assumed. We only know what he said in the statement that he made about the 116 pages in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. Speculation should be stated as such and included in the Notes section. Bochica 02:17, 26 December 2006 (UTC)
Completely agree. -Visorstuff 16:51, 26 December 2006 (UTC)
I concede.--John Foxe 17:00, 26 December 2006 (UTC)

Possible typo in citation?

Perhaps someone else with a copy of Rough Stone Rolling could recheck this. I can find the citation for the sentence before the ellipsis on the pages indicated, but I cannot locate the sentence after the ellipsis on pages 54-55. Could it be a typo in the page number? The citation I am referring to is the following: "Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 50-51, 54-55: "The Smiths were as susceptible as their neighbors to treasure-seeking folklore.…Joseph, Jr. never repudiated the stones or denied their power to find treasure. Remnants of the magical culture stayed with him to the end." I'm searching for the source of the second phrase. Bochica 19:20, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

It's at the beginning of the second full paragraph on page 51.--John Foxe 20:25, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

Khor Rori plates

These bronze plates are more of a mystery than they should be. I don't blame you as much as the folks who wrote the Nephi Project piece. Could you find a non-LDS source for the existence of these plates? Phillips was a millionaire and self-promoter, hardly a typical archaeologist.--John Foxe 21:17, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

As you can find them in the local museum, I don't think a stronger reference is needed, but I'll see what I can find - I've read about them in other places, but was reminded of them today. Nor do I think these are that significant of a find. What do you mean by "mystery?" -Visorstuff 21:30, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
I only meant that if they exist, they should be written up in the academic literature.--John Foxe 21:44, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Gotcha - they do. Khor Rori is best known for its pottery and ropes, though. These types of plates are not unusual, but they are rarely perserved due to the value of the metal. They exist in nearly all cultures around the globe, which is why I'm questioning whether or not the biggest sample of bound plates is eight plates.

As far as Non-LDSL referenes for the Khor Rori plates, a simple google search of Khor Rorhi and Bronze yeilded a number of hits that are relevant - I think i originally read about it in a journal of archeaology article about the bronze age.

In any case, here are some links showing or discussing the plates [1], [2], [3], and teh world heritage site all discuss the plates and other bronze artifacts. I beleve the first link acutally has a picture of the said plates. Other sites dicuss the more elaborate bronze finds including the city gates and snakes [4], [5], [6], [7].

Hope this helps. -Visorstuff 22:18, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

I truly enjoyed reading about Khor Rori, a place completely unfamiliar to me. But I couldn't find any reference to, or pictures of, bronze plates with writing on them--or to Wendell Phillips, for that matter. The Omani site notes the finding of "the base of a bronze candelabrum, bronze bells, coins, bronze incense burners, a complete stone vessel, an offering table, several dozen seashells which were used as oil lamps and personal ornaments including a bronze bracelet, a finger ring and a pendant in the form of a camel. The most important object was a bronze bowl with a votive inscription running along the rim." No bronze plates with writting on them are mentioned, and they should be if they exist. There's also the problem of Nephi arriving in the 6th century B.C. and the earliest dates for Khor Rori being the 5th century B.C.
I used the word "extant" in the sentence to which you refer. If plates were melted down sometime in the past, they're obviously no longer extant. (As a side note, if all the metal plates with writing were melted down for their metal, why not the bronze bells, bowls, coins, and incense burners?)--John Foxe 15:59, 4 January 2007 (UTC)
I've moved the Khor Rori material to a footnote. It's something of a red herring unless we can link to a photo or a good description of the material Wendell Phillips is supposed to have discovered.--John Foxe 16:48, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Incidentally, you must have missed the photo in the article - I've isolated it for you here. -Visorstuff 00:41, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

No, I was looking for the bronze plates with writing on them, the ones supposedly found by Wendell Phillips.
I don't understand what's misleading about saying that the longest extant set of metallic plates is the Persian example. It's true. If archaeologists find a larger codex tomorrow, the sentence can be changed.
As for "owning" an article, I do own a few--but that's because they're ones that no one else cares about. No non-Mormon could possibly own an article related to Mormonism.--John Foxe 00:56, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

It is misleading to have it followed by a citation about something compeletly unrelated. In this case the reference appeared to be supporting the sentence about number of plates, but instead the reader saw information about Khor Rhori.

It is not wise to Own an article. From WP:OWN:

"Some contributors feel very possessive about material (be it categories, templates, articles, images or portals) they have donated to this project. Some go so far as to defend them against all intruders. It's one thing to take an interest in an article that you maintain on your watchlist. Maybe you really are an expert or you just care about the topic a lot. But when this watchfulness crosses a certain line, then you're overdoing it. Believing that an article has an owner of this sort is a common mistake people make on Wikipedia.
You can't stop everyone in the world from editing "your" stuff, once you've posted it to Wikipedia. As each edit page clearly states:
If you don't want your material to be edited mercilessly or redistributed by others, do not submit it.

People will change and edit and add to articles, and they should. If citations are provided - even if you consider them poor, they should be respected, and included appropriately. Moving all of the information about Khor Rori into a footnote that is supposedly supporting how many bound plates are together instead of referencing a sentence about Khor Rori is appropriate inclusion. No offense meant, and I know we disagree on this, but it is wikipedia policy, and frankly experience.

I personally don't care if Khor Rori is in the article or not, I do think it would make a nice addition as it is referenceable (I'm still looking for my other source on it), however, it doesn't make or break the article. Other editors, however, would care more about the inclusion of their information and citations, and would take offense with how you treat their work. Again, I've been here for four-five years so its not a big deal to me, I've seen it all, but others don't always have the patience of a long-time wikipedia editor. Just trying to help, please don't be upset by my honesty. It appears you are going though similar isses at Three Witnesses and other aritlces. We all watch them, but often don't spend detailed time on them as we trust folks like you will make changes - but we do care and watch them closely. I find that most edits don't need me to fix them, rather I wait to see what the author is doing to make it better and then see how it turns out. Patience is what is needed for you to become an better editor, or even eventually an admin. You are gifted, just not patient. -Visorstuff 01:17, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

I moved the Khor Rori material to a footnote, rather than delete it, in the belief that you might find a reference to those pesky plates. I thought that would be less offensive. Sorry if I failed there.
As for "owning" articles, my point was that it's easy to own an article if it's factual and no one else cares about it. I found a short one that I wrote months ago—modified only by bots and vandals in the meantime—plagiarized in my local newspaper and then in a number of other sources when I googled the phrases in question. It has definitely been "redistributed by others," but I take a kind of smug satification in that.--John Foxe 15:24, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

No worries - I'm not offended at all - please don't think I am. I'm just saying, be careful, this type of protectiveness of articles is what Mormon editors get complained about in forums like the village pump, IRC, etc. As one LDS editor to another, I'm asking you to step back evaluate your edits and watch yourself as you are building a reputation that affects the rest of us and our work here. Whether or not you are right makes little difference in a community such as this, it is perception that wins - and there are better ways to accomplish what you are doing. I know you've encountered this advice from others in the past.

I'm also suggesting that one reference is as good as another and you should accept them. In that I did provide an easy to find reference, however, you didn't agree with it (or that it was nuetral or that it was reliable or whatever your concern was). At this point I'm not sure its worth my time to look for other references on this (which do exist), as I'm afraid it will meet the same fate, based on a pattern of your past edits - it will meet the same burying. I'm undecided at this point what to do, so it will likely wait until it comes up naturally in my other research again, rather than me taking effort for it. Please be careful. -Visorstuff 16:37, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

In the paragraph that we've been editing there are a number of good citations to archaeological finds. Yours was not in the same ballpark. Maybe Wendell Phillips or the authors of the LDS piece exercised some undue creativity. In my files, I have a story from the 1990s about how the Russians drilled a hole to Hell and even heard screaming via a special microphone. The story's nicely cited to a Finnish newspaper.--John Foxe 19:02, 5 January 2007 (UTC)
Incidentally, I do find the sentence above highly condescending. I think your POV and reliance on a few same-style authors, rather than primary sources and a wider-range of sources has led to your mistrust of other's research. My saying "I've read about this elsewhere in literature," and providing at least some third-party and web-available detail and offering to find a citation at a later point should be a bit more credible than someone claiming that russians dug a hole to hell. I do hope you have a bit more faith in my research than that, but it appears not, as instead of adding a {fact} tag, you decided to remove and bury it altogether. Not professional, not courteous, but it is how you work. Again, I'm not offended, but I am growing highly frustrated with how you treat some of these articles and information already in them. You are a gifted writer, it is unfortunate that you have already made up your mind about the conclusions of many of these historical events, rather than stating what is known, suggested and unknown. There is too much we just simply don't know, yet your writing appears that we do. I do feel (which is one of the reasons I've given up on even looking for this source) that no matter what I provided as far as documentation, it wouldn't meet your world view and then be deleted. We'll need to come to some sort of compromise on how to work together, as just watching your edits right now frustrates me, and has caused me to wikiholiday most of the articles you are working on (many of which I originally/significantly authored). We need to make our research more historian-like, which I feel many of these article have moved away from. You discount and censor too much. That said, you've done a great job at cleaning up a lot of messy articles and added in much-needed citations, and I thank you for it. -Visorstuff 20:16, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the concluding compliment. My goal is to write truthfully and accurately in a way that is easy for the casual reader to understand. I'm all for primary sources, but some of those given in Vogel would curl your ears if I started quoting from them here. The way to resolve differences of opinion about matters of substance is to take them one at a time and compare primary sources to see what can be accurately said in a clear and concise manner. Obfuscation is only for those who have something to hide.--John Foxe 17:18, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

Misleading so removing

I'm removing the following: from the article:

There is no known extant example of writing on metal plates longer than the eight-page Persian codex. <ref>According to an LDS publication, in the early 1950s, American archaeologist and oil promoter Wendell Phillips is said to have discovered several engraved bronze plates at Khor Rori on the Arabian peninsula where most LDS scholars believe that [[Nephi]] built his ship to sail to the Americas. See the [ Nephi Project] paper on the topic. A votive image engraved on a plate (with no writing) bears a striking resemblence to sacred rites performed in Mormon temples as well as to rites in ancient Mesopotamian paganism [ (a non-LDS image may be found here)]. Nephi and his family likely taught the gospel to people on their journey through the peninsula in neighboring areas during their eight year migration (see D&C 33:7-8) and may have in turn learned plate-making metalugy from these neighboring peoples.</ref>

How this appears makes the sentence misleading. As it currently reads, the citation seems to support the phrase "There is no known extant example of writing on metal plates longer than the eight-page Persian codex," which it does not. There is no need to include the citation if there is not a sentence about it, so I've removed it.

Not every relic needs a detailed description by a museum curator. Heck, not even the Smithsonian museum has a written description of the sunstone available (the american history encyclopedia published by them does, however). A photo of the stated plate was provided from a Non-LDS source. If that's not good enough, along with a Mormon description, because they found it interesting, then lets remove the other plates references as well. The only one that should belong in this case is the gold book, and its only referenced this much because its solid gold. Who cares about common metalic bronze writing that was common 2500 years ago? Its not that big of deal, but how it was written before my removal was misleading. Just because its a mormon author writing a description, doesn't mean it's not accurate or even apologetic. That it exists is indisputable. If we applied the same standard, half of these articles would be gone.

As a side note John Foxe, as others have said, you get awfully attached to articles you work on. Not meant to be a criticism or to offend, just be careful because it creates a persona and reputation about you and others of us who edit Latter Day Saint articles. -Visorstuff 00:40, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Another incidentally, the point is not to show "books" it is to show that people used metal plates/plaques to preserve things anciently. -Visorstuff 00:44, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Contradictory descriptions

I removed this statement from the Physical description of the plates section. "Their descriptions differ and are sometimes contradictory." Interpreting the estimates of the weight by several different people as contradictory is not appropriate in this context. A much better option is to state what some people guessed them to weigh and let people reach their own conclusions. If I guess something weighs 5 pounds and you guess it weighs 7, our estimates are not contradictory (though they may vary). If a statement needs to be made at this point, it needs to be unbiased and avoid value judgments. gdavies 04:34, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

The plates were first described as "gold." Everybody in Palmyra knew what "gold" was, and some of them wanted a piece of the action. Later it was said that the plates had the "appearance of gold." Not so interesting but a better explanation for why they weighed so little. Did the plates weigh 30 pounds or 40 pounds or 60 pounds? Were a portion of them physically sealed or not physically sealed? These descriptions are contradictory.--John Foxe 16:56, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
No, this is your interpretation. People describing the plates as "golden" and people describing the plates as having the appearance of gold are not contradictory descriptions, but corroborating. To state otherwise is is POV and completely illogical. Find me a statement of an eye witness that states there was no sealed portion. Because martin Harris estimated the weights from 40-60 pounds does not mean he contradicted someone who said it was slightly heavier or lighter. Making the statement that these are contradictory is POV, they may be stated as varying, but "contradictory" is a value statement from an obvious POV. State the facts. gdavies 00:19, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

This statement was replaced with "Their descriptions differ, sometimes markedly, and they sometimes contradict each other." This general statement is obviously POV, and assumes that the descriptions contradict each other. That word should be avoided here (as it is a general introduction to the physical description of the plates section). As explained above, the descriptions may vary somewhat, but it is not our place to determine what is "markedly" or "contradictory. State the facts and let people come to their own conclusions. gdavies 22:01, 13 January 2007 (UTC)

The statements are markedly different. "Gold" is not "the appearance of gold," nor "silver" for that matter. Thirty pounds is not sixty pounds. Plates can't be both sealed and unsealed. These are marked differences from contradictory testimony. Embarrassed?--John Foxe 22:28, 13 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure I understand your logic... Looking at a sacagawea "gold dollar," remarking that it has the appearance of Gold, and the fact that it is not 24 karat... these aren't contradictory statements. Quantitative estimates cannot be contradictory, but varying... also, (just for thought, I definitely don't support this theory) who's to say that the sealed portion wasn't "delivered up" or hidden separately at some point while Joseph Smith had the plates? Were this to be true, it's entirely possible that the weight of the plates differed from time to time. Now, I don't think this happened, but since the estimates were taken at widely different times, it's impossible to decisively say that the witnesses contradicted each other. gdavies 00:19, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
I've avoided the word "contradictory" by, as you suggested, allowing the reader to make his own judgment. I'm just sorry to have to add more words to what I consider an already long article.--John Foxe 22:22, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
I appreciate your efforts in making this section more NPOV, but we both know that this is supposed to be an introduction, and needs to be much shorter. Although I'd love to see sources for most of the statements included (which is necessary if they are to remain), I think there's a much better option. In the intro at least, just state that various people gave varying descriptions of the plates (with out insinuating that this means they're all lying or they never existed or they did in fact exist, etc.). Then, in the sections to which statements belong, describe the plates as eyewitnesses described them. The point of this is to describe the plates, not to point out that eyewitnesses' descriptions were not all identically uniform. gdavies 23:04, 14 January 2007 (UTC)
Grant Palmer's statement is relevant where it stands. Otherwise, the reader may not understand that the Witnesses were nineteenth-century men with a magical world view. It's dishonest not to warn the reader about the nature of what follows.--John Foxe 22:25, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
"warn?" "Magical worldview?" "dishonest?" Where did the lucidness you fight for throw in the towel for "warning" people about something you don't think existed. Let's at least pretend to be NPOV here, introducing an insinuation of contradiction here is completely inappropriate. We're talking about the golden plates, and this is an introduction for heaven's sake. If I got a disaffected Mormon to publish a poorly written "expose" about the origins of Mormonism and include a statement about me seeing the plates, it still wouldn't have a place anywhere on wikipedia, and certainly not in the introduction to an article on the Golden Plates. Besides, Grant Palmer's book certainly is not worthy for citation on wikipedia (almost as bad as Fawn Brodie...). gdavies 22:34, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
It's only POV to remove such a statement. We have three sections filled with testimony to the physicality of the golden plates. Readers need to be told up front that these nineteenth-century folks don't think like moderns.--John Foxe 22:46, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
Don't think like moderns? What are Mormons? I happen to think that the Golden Plates did exist and that the Book of Mormon is a translation of it. This is about the physical description of the plates, not the "backwards thinking of these nineteenth-century folks" or anyone else for that matter. If this source (which I haven't looked into) is reliable, I still think it does not deserve attention, especially when you take into account the overwhelming amount of evidence of Martin Harris' corroborating testimony. The reason I'm so skeptical of this source is the fact that Martin Harris never renounced his testimony of the plates anywhere else, even when faced with fierce pressure from the churches enemies. gdavies 23:00, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

Incidentally, while I am following this conversation, I don't want to comment yet on the current dispute (aside from I'm inclined to agree with Gdavies as to the neutrality of the wording), however, it is normal to use footnotes as a way to add in additional detail that would otherwise break up the flow, not just references. Typically they have to do with the preceding statement and include a reference. -Visorstuff 22:49, 16 January 2007 (UTC)

The way I see it this is an introduction and a statement like "their descriptions vary somewhat" doesn't need a footnote as witness' accounts are described in the section itself. Also, the statement about Martin Harris retracting his testimony has nothing to do with a physical description of the plates and should be placed elsewhere (if it must be included). gdavies 22:54, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
I disagree. Why should the opinions of only those who accept the physical reality of the Golden Plates be privileged in this article? Harris's renunciation of his vision is material to the belief that the Golden Plates viewed by the Witnesses were not literal but as visionary as disappearing treasures sinking in the ground ahead of treasure hunters. Likewise, the Grant Palmer quote should be right before the descriptions for the same reason.--John Foxe 19:39, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Because this article is about the Golden Plates, not criticisms of Mormonism. If you're hearts completely set on having some anti-lds POV quotations in this article (which particularly bothers me) maybe we should create a new section for questions of their existence. That said, these quotes have nothing to do with a physical description of the plates. Nothing. We don't have a clear picture of the circumstances regarding the 3 witnesses, but we do regarding the 8 witnesses. Their testimony was a physical one which involved them holding, "hefting," and leafing through. Martin Harris being a member of the 3 witnesses and receiving a spiritual testimony is not relevant to this section.
By the way... Martin Harris did in fact accept the physical reality of the Golden Plates, hundreds of times! Why should a questionably sourced comment regarding a recantation be favored in this article over these several others (which are much well documented), especially in this section? gdavies 21:34, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
Why shouldn't an article about the Golden Plates express a skeptical as well as a believing point of view?--John Foxe 22:02, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
That's not the issue, I'm asking why you are including this specific quotation as opposed to the multitude of others that are better sourced, corroborated by multiple sources and show a completely opposite conclusion. That's POV. gdavies 23:57, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
There's nothing sacred about this particular quotation so long as its replacement reflects equally the nineteenth-century magical mindset of the witnesses.--John Foxe 13:53, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
I appreciate your willingness to compromise, I just don't see why we need a quote reflecting that POV, which is basically just speculation (no way to prove someone had a "magical mindset," and obviously is an effort to introduce a feeling of skepticism into the article...) This is the way I see it, the article on Hitler doesn't start out "Hitler was a really bad guy..." neither does the one on Pol Pot or Hugo Chavez. The article on Jesus Christ doesn't begin with "Jesus was a really good guy." Since the witnesses having a "magical mindset" is completely unprovable and subject to your own interpretation, why not leave the article as it is and let people come to their own conclusions? That's what these articles are for. Picking this lone quote which contradicts hundreds of other quotes from the same source is obviously POV and misleading. gdavies 17:46, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
Saying that the witnesses had a nineteenth-century magical mindset is not making a moral judgment about them. Their method of thinking (especially that of the Three) has considerable primary source backing which can be provided in the notes. Left to their own conclusions the average reader coming to this article will assume that the Witnesses are like their own contemporaries and are describing literal plates, not folks who believed in seer stones, divining rods, and treasures that sunk deeper into the ground as you dug for them. Sure, that's a point of view--as is your denial of it. Both positions need to be represented in this article to achieve NPOV.--John Foxe 22:07, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
Neither position needs to be represented in this article. We state the facts and let people come to their own moral judgments (which is exactly what we're talking about). This statement, "the witnesses had a magical mindset" does not belong in this article for a variety of reasons. The first is that it is a value judgment, nonfactual and based purely on speculation (you don't have any idea what their mindset was, and claiming to is dishonest). The second is the wording; magical is an extremely loaded word which is very difficult to use in an NPOV manner (especially in articles such as this). This is not an article about "the purported authenticity of the Book of Mormon" or "How dumb people were in the 19th century, especially Mormons." There are plenty of forums to discuss the truth or fiction of the Book of Mormon, but this is not one of them. gdavies 22:17, 18 January 2007 (UTC)


It's POV to not include it in the hoax category. The religion that sprang up from the hoax isn't a hoax, but the number of people believing a hoax doesn't somehow determine whether or not it is a hoax. Gigs 23:52, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

Could you be a little more specific? Which religion/hoax are you referring to? So I guess if someone put a category "mass delusion" for the Christianity page, that wouldn't be POV somehow... you're really going to have to make a good case for this to not be POV. I'm kind of embarrassed that we're even discussing this. gdavies 00:00, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
Read the article. Tell me a reasonable person wouldn't call this a hoax. Forget it's turned into a religion for a minute and look at the facts. The facts were that a guy who believed in folk magic and was famous for "treasure hunting" claims to have found a book made of metal written in some foreign language. He then translates said book, not by reading the book, but putting his face in a hat and making up stuff as he goes along. If they had Snopes back then, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Keep in mind I am not calling the religion a hoax. The religion exists and people believe it, it's on the same footing as any other religion in my eyes. I only think it is unreasonable to present these fanciful tales as if they are somehow true or credible, rather than presenting them as the hoax they were. Gigs 00:28, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
Gigs, I'm glad that you've begun your journey through Mormon history, and I encourage you to continue. However, I think you could benefit from widening your horizons a little. Perhaps a start would be to read a history from an LDS perspective, maybe even (heaven forbid) the Book of Mormon itself. That might help eliminate at least one misconception "making up stuff as he goes along." If you still believe that after 10 minutes, you have a wilder imagination than anyone Mormon I know. But I digress... gdavies 03:28, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
That the plates were a hoax is one theory among many, but the article absolutely should not be tagged with the Category:hoaxes category, because doing so would endorse that theory. COGDEN 03:06, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
The hoax category is for possible hoaxes too, not just confirmed ones. It says so right in your link. This article is not about a religion or religious figure, so it's not excluded. That a religion formed as a result of the hoax isn't relevant. "Hoaxes are attempts to make people believe unlikely things".. If you think the story of the Golden Plates is "likely" then I'm not sure what you are doing editing an encyclopedia. Gigs
You know gigs, there are people out there who actually believe in revelation/God/angels/creation/faith/atonement/prophecy/the Bible/Moses/miracles and other such "hoax-like" and "unreasonable" things. Something not fitting into your personal belief system doesn't merit slapping a "hoax" label on it.
The "possible" qualification is not supported widely (look at the category's talk page) since just about everything is a "possible" hoax. gdavies 02:28, 23 January 2007 (UTC)


I've cut the Gordian knot here by putting "The Story of the Plates" first. That way it's easier to discuss the mindset of the Witnesses just once instead of twice. The untutored reader will also get a better feel for the magic mindset of time and place before reading the overlong (sorry, Cogden, I'm sure you're a great lawyer) description of what they said they saw.--John Foxe 22:25, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

I'm not sure I see the benefits of this rearrangement... since the article is about the Golden Plates, shouldn't information directly about them (the physical description) be the primary focus? Why is discussing their "magical mindset" (ie speculating) even a priority? gdavies 22:32, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
The story of the plates is what most readers will be looking for on arrival here. After all, if they conclude that the plates existed only in imagination, then their physical description is of considerably less interest.--John Foxe 22:45, 18 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm going to wait for other editors to comment, but I'd like to revert to the previous arrangement. Still, I'm more concerned about some of the actual material that you've introduced (palmer, the alleged Harris recantation). I hope that you can see your POV/bias quite clearly in your last statement. That's fine, we all have POV's, the problem is that yours has led you to a large scale revamp of the article in an attempt to advance your POV. That's completely inappropriate. gdavies 22:59, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

We had this "story first" arrangement back a while ago, and I personally (weakly) preferred it, because answering what they are and where they came from seems to provide context that comes more naturally before answering what they looked like. But if we go in that direction, the intro should have a fairly-good summary of their physical description.

The question of which section goes first should not have anything to do with whether or not the first section leans toward a particular POV. It's all about making the article as clear and straightforward as possible. Regardless of the order, all POVs in either section will eventually be neutralized. COGDEN 03:48, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

Okay, I've been lurking this whole time (don't think I'm not here even if I may not be contributing) but I have to object once again to hyping the story over the object. If I'm coming to wikipedia to look up the automobile, I don't want the story of the evolution of transportation, I want to know what an automobile is. If I come to an article about the Golden Plates, I want to know what the golden plates are! An article should be primarily about it's subject, not speculations about it or rumors about the guy who might have found them. I don't need all this POV information (speculations on magic, mindsets, metaphysics etc.) presented as an ad hominem attack against Joseph Smith in attempt to discredit the ACTUAL subject of the article before you get to the information on the plates themselves.

There is motivation in switching up this article in order to skew these so called "facts" in the favor of Mr. Foxe. If one man's opinion is that they are false and never existed, then be that as it may. But when you try to cover up statements that may contradict your beliefs you are asserting your POV over another. I have objected to many sources used in this article, but that was when less people were taking an interest in this piece and I was just shouting to the wind against Mr Foxe's constant reversions. For once let's just be logical here, not emotional. The article is about the plates. As the overused cliche goes, "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" I don't want to talk about how, who, or hearsay, (alliterate, no?) I want an article about the plates. There were witnesses to them, quote them, leave your personal garbage out and give us "just the facts, ma'am." Twunchy 22:35, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

Removal of detail

I think this comment is directed mostly to John Foxe, but I don't like how much of the information in this article repeatedly gets removed or demoted to the footnotes, and how primary sources get replaced with secondary and tertiary sources such as Bushman (though I admit he's a great secondary source), or especially Palmer (who is basically a seminary teacher with a Master's degree who wrote one book). There is no space limitation in Wikipedia, and there is rarely any reason to delete relevant content or primary sources. This is an en-cyclopedia, not a de-cyclopedia. If there's a problem with readability or style, the solution is to add text to fill in the gaps and rough edges, or rearrange the text, not to delete content. If the article gets too big, the solution is to bud-off a sub-article. If there are excessive quotations, the relevant parts of the quotation should be summarized. (I make this last comment because I think the article presently has too many long quotes, and I don't want to be accused of being a hypocrite because I deleted parts of a quote, or replaced a quote with a paraphrase.) COGDEN 04:20, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

I have to say I may be at fault here, I've tried to cut down on redundancy and make the article more readable. I'm more concerned with the accuracy and reliability of some of the sources. This article has come a long way in the last couple of months, we're making a lot of progress. I agree that we need to focus more on primary quotations. The reference for Harris' recantation is to a letter from Stephen Burnett to Luke S. Johnson, found in early mormon documents 2 (by vogel if I'm not mistaken). Surely something of this nature could be corroborated by a primary source... We have several sources (including statements by Martin Harris himself, Brigham Young, and several other secondary sources) that show the complete opposite. I've attempted to remove, but the quote has been replaced (as has the Palmer bit). gdavies 09:14, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
I have no problem with replacing secondary sources with primary sources, but I dislike the notion of deliberately making articles long simply because there's no space limitation in Wikipedia. When I use paper encyclopedias, I rarely pick up the Britannica because its articles are usually too long for my needs. I might as well spend the time looking for an authoritative book or article that's at least quotable. When I use an encyclopedia, I want brief information that suggests additional avenues of thought or research. I privilege accuracy, simplicity, and clarity. Bring on all the primary source quotations that you desire--and keep them in the notes.--John Foxe 13:55, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
I think all these issues have already been debated ad nauseum by the general Wikipedia community, and the main policies I'd like to point out are w:Wiki is not paper, w:Editing policy, and w:Ownership of articles. Accuracy, simplicity, and clarity are very good goals that I share, but not at the expense of encyclopedic (read: comprehensive) content and neutrality. If someone wants the World Book version of a subject, they can read the introduction, or they can stick with the summary articles such as Joseph Smith, Jr. or Latter Day Saint movement. COGDEN 17:47, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't believe it's necessary to sacrifice clarity for comprehensiveness. The comprehensiveness of an article can exist just as well in the notes as the text. It's just harder to prune the excess verbiage of others than to add more words of your own and let the articles luxuriate in every direction. But, as you said, this topic has been debated here by others, and I'm afraid we will have to agree to disagree.--John Foxe 22:46, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm fine with disagreeing, as long as we agree to follow Wikipedia policies and guidelines, and that we agree not to use footnotes as a repository for content simply because it's "messy". COGDEN 01:05, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
I think that using footnotes for notes can be appropriate and should almost always have a reference in them. My fear is that the current article is not in the spirit of wikipedia with its use of footnotes. As pointed out below, as space is not an issue, we should find better ways to include content rather then burying it in footnotes. We can still be succinct, and include stuff so its not "messy." -Visorstuff 01:22, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

Transcription of the Plates

This paragraph needs some work. The references to secondary resources, such as Palmer, seem unnecessary as we have access to the primary materials he quotes. I'm very averse to having anything referencing Howe. Although he was contemporary, he was also very biased against the Mormons and his "research" is questionable on a number of fronts... I personally don't think he meets most of Wikipedia's reference standards... gdavies 00:02, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree that primary sources should replace secondary sources except where the reference is to a matter of someone's opinion. I'd be glad to have your help.
Howe is a different problem. Although he is certainly biased against Mormons, the LDS scriptures, including the Joseph Smith History, could be challenged on the same grounds: that it is (obviously) pro-Mormon, that its accuracy is questionable, and that it does not meet Wikipedia's reference standards.--John Foxe 12:33, 20 January 2007 (UTC)
NPOV is not a requirement in regards to references, my problem is with the quality of some of these sources. Howe is not scholarly, he's gone farther than bias, he's misleading, his sources are misrepresented, and his bias has led him to create a book with the sole intention of defaming the Mormons (often deceitfully). The LDS scriptures are primary sources and as such should be used frequently (they're not held to the same standard as secondary sources such as Howe). One quick question, "except where the reference is to a matter of someone's opinion." Are you referring to contemporary commentary? I don't think that contemporary commentary is really something that needs to be relied on in these articles. Usually they go beyond the scope of primary sources and should therefore be held to the Wikipedia's standards for references (scholarly, expert in field, etc.). I appreciate your willingness to help clean up this article... we're headed in the right direction here. gdavies 07:45, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
For all its deficiencies, Howe contains some excellent primary sources, including all sorts of nasty reports about JS's youth—much of it true. Again, Richard Bushman, both noted historian and faithful member of the Church, says of Mormonism Unveiled, that it's "a book that despite its negative tone, was filled with much good reporting." (145) Reportage by its nature is primary. So for Wikipedia purposes, Howe and the LDS scriptures stand on equal footing.--John Foxe 19:37, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, Howe does have a large amount of primary documents, including newspaper articles, but we both know that their claims were rarely accurate, always demeaning and often downright libelous. A quick scan of some of these headlines makes it rather clear the intentions and the bias of the editors. One of Howe's major deficiencies is his selectivity in sourcing (always picking those that support his priorly conceived conclusions and never those that contradict them) and his willingness to accept much of what these "primary sources" say as fact. Because these sources are basically contemporary critical commentary, I don't think they should be given equal weight with other primary sources. gdavies 23:37, 21 January 2007 (UTC)
The History of the Church and the LDS Scriptures chose only those parts of the story that support their "priorly conceived conclusions and never those that contradict them." It's my opinion that stories arising from people who see angels and clamber after disappearing treasure in the hills of upstate New York should not be given equal weight to others provided by those who have a less superstitious world view.--John Foxe 14:19, 22 January 2007 (UTC)
Who are you to judge the "superstitious world view" or lack thereof from people who lived in the 19th century? Also... please explain which sources the LDS scriptures "chose" to include... as well as the Joseph Smith History. gdavies 17:13, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

The History of the Church and the LDS Scriptures chose only those parts of the story that support their "priorly conceived conclusions and never those that contradict them

On the contrary - the LDS published history of the church under the editorship of BH Roberts has many footnotes, many of which provide "damaging" or non-flattering views. Not many people read all six volumes, so for you to make a claim like that is easy. However I've read them, and say that claim is bunk. For example, at least one alternative first vision account is found in the footnotes, as is detail about smith's money digging, and Roberts accounts about discrepancies between the Times and Seasons printings and the Willard Richards Salt Lake printings, which roberts then edited and placed footnotes in, resulting in the current version. AND, if you've ever been to the church archives, they are most open for nearly any document - as long as its been catalogued. Those that aren't or are too fragile or deal with living persons are not handed to just anyone, rather they are placed on a list to get on microfilm. I've seen claims that the church censors its history from very ill-informed people - I've seen this claim by Anti-Mormons, especially by those who don't read the books they criticize. I understand they get this from the camelot article, where a historian criticsed a new restriction policy during the cataloguing and microfilming process (before then historians could just dig through uncatalogued boxes at the historical office). However, a serious student of Mormon history would not make such a claim - they know better, as they've tried it out first hand. Let alone that the biggest searchable repository of anti-Mormon literature is housed by the church. You probably wouldn't be able to quote hurlburt and howe if it werent for the church preserving copies of it (in accordacne with the Doctrine and Covenants. The church is well-known in historical circles for being its biggest critic in these items - and FARMS, (believe it or not) moreso than others is quick to debunk things it can't validate or that floats as rumor (for example, see their discounting of Stella 5 - the tree of life stone - long before any non-Mormon thought it meant something other than what the non-Mormon founder thought it did. Simply, that claim is not sustainable in any form. -Visorstuff 20:26, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

As to citation of Howe, certainly he was biased and Philastus Hurlbut (who obtained the affidavits) probably influenced the testimony of several poor, illiterate, unsophisticated neighbors of the Smiths (disregard, for example, all the statements that the Smith family was dishonest and never worked a day in their life, and all the stuff about the Spaulding manuscript), but there are several affidavits that are relatively credible, independent of Howe, and corroborated, including the statements by Isaac Hale, Willard Chase, Nathaniel Lewis, and even W.W. Phelps. It really doesn't matter, for purposes of Wikipedia, whether Howe had an agenda; what's important is that the affidavits he compiled are primary sources of information. Same goes for History of the Church, and I agree with Visorstuff that B.H. Roberts did an excellent job in annotating the information. COGDEN 02:47, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

New super-articles regarding engraved metallic plates?

The material about other engraved plates, particularly the non-LDS-related plates, seems out of place in this article. Maybe we should split-off an article called Engraved metallic plates that covers these kinds of plates. There might also be good reason to make yet another article called something like Engraved metallic plates and the Latter Day Saint movement. COGDEN 03:26, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Not sure, perhaps we could make a list of all the known "engraved metallic plates" extant... that could help; I know it's an "established" method of ancient record keeping, but it also seems like most discoveries have been fairly recent. As long as we can avoid the appearance of OR I think we could do it.
In regards to "engraved metallic plates and the LDS movement," we don't have any extant plates in this category (except for the hoax ones), and there are... 5-ish sets mentioned in the book of Mormon. I can see an article "Engraved metalic plates" with some general info, extant sets of plates and a section on the LDS movement. gdavies 04:55, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
I think the LDS-specific article could talk about both the hoax plates and the ones mentioned in the Book of Mormon. It would also talk about the history of apologetic efforts to use non-LDS-related plates to prove the existence of the Golden Plates. I'm sure there's enough material, eventually, for a full article, though I don't have much particular interest myself in filling it out. As a start, though, we could just do the general article, and then bud-off an LDS-specific one later. COGDEN 18:14, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree, the challenge is going to be making a general and not LDS-centric article on engraved metallic plates outside of the LDS. Another comment, how would this article tie in? The large majority of attention that goes to metallic plates is directed at the Golden Plates... without rehashing everything in this article... We need to expect an amount of overlap, but not loose focus for either article. gdavies
It would just use summary style under a heading for the Golden Plates. COGDEN 19:10, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

change by User talk:Scarletsmith

I reverted this change based on the fact that the edit summary was misleading. That was my bad - I should have noticed that there was another intervening edit. After reviewing the edit, I'm going to leave it though, to see if another editor agrees with the change, which adds some context for the source of the copper scroll and places it at the top of the section. --Trödel 15:20, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

It needs a citation.--John Foxe 16:54, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
The link to Ketef Hinnom has citations referencing the first part of the edit... is linking to that page adequate or do we need to copy the references onto this page as well? gdavies 20:25, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

POV wording

I have an problem with the way things are worded in the "obtaining the plates" section. There are two general "theories" or interpretations of how Joseph Smith did what he did. The first one is magical, that Joseph Smith used some form of occult or folk magic, using the seer stone to conjure up visitations, etc. The second religious, that he was led by God. The tone of the whole section is invariably tainted with a "folk magical" taste, embracing the first POV. Also, it seems to take elements of Smith's story (Urim and Thummim, and seer stone) and pin loaded, POV and connotated phrases such as "crystal gazing," "esoteric," "divination" etc. to them. In my mind, this embraces a non-religious POV. I know there's a way to just cite the primary relevant sources without embracing either side as fact. gdavies 05:24, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

One of the problems, I think, is that there really isn't 20th Century Christian terminology to describe what Smith was doing. I think the word they used in the 1820s-30s was "seeing" (as in, being a "seer" or a "treasure seer"), but that term is now a bit obsolete. Do you have any suggestions? Do you really think that saying Smith practiced "crystal gazing" in his early years is not neutral? I think it would be worse to call it something like "revelation". I can't imagine that God was very much involved with helping the Smith family find silver deposits buried by Spanish pirates. COGDEN 18:57, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
I'm not so concerned with the terminology used for whatever happened before the Golden Plates (I haven't done much reading regarding the treasure seeking stories... perhaps I'm wrong here), but the placement is what concerns me. I don't believe that, according to Smith's story, the "crystal gazing" and treasure seeking is completely relevant to the actual Plates. The finding of the plates was a religious/spiritual experience, while before than he did participate in treasure seeking using some form of "folk magic" (if it really occurred the way it is portrayed). Connecting the two implicitly is the problem I see. There isn't a distinction between the two and the folk magical type tone carries over to the more sacred (in my view) episode of receiving the plates. Of course like anything there are two sides (or more) to this story, I think we need to avoid embracing one or the other, overtly or implicitly. I know I'm not offering a solution here, I'm just trying to convey a problem I see with the section that I'm not sure how to solve (or else I probably would've tried by now! :) ).
About the wording for whatever he was doing before hand, since there isn't a modern equivalent (and I couldn't find a good word from 1820 either, after a quick scan of CBT ministries 1820 dictionary.) Perhaps the best route would be to stick to primary source descriptions and avoid the issue. Lucy explained that "he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." Keys referring to the seer stones... I'm not sure what verb would be attached... gdavies 21:01, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
I don't think there's any other choice but to at least mention Smith's use of a seer stone prior to translating the Book of Mormon, since he used the same stone and the same method in translation. Maybe the best we can do is include something citing various secondary-source theories linking or distinguishing the two. Quinn's view would be that translating the plates and "seeing" the location of buried treasure both have magic and religious elements that can't easily be separated based on the standards of the time. Bushman's view, as best I can tell, is that Smith practiced folk magic but sort of re-purposed that magic as a link to the mind of God. Then, of course, there's the skeptical view that they were both purely magic or fraud. COGDEN 22:26, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
I agree that we need to mention it (although we don't know the exact method of translation, except that there were a few different means). As long as we can steer clear of OR and keep it NPOV... I'm fine with mentioning theories, but I'd like to keep it general in areas with a lot of varying theories. gdavies 23:01, 25 January 2007 (UTC)
Although I have a high degree of respect for Cogden's expertise, this is one area where he and I have difficulty. Cogden takes a much stronger position about Joseph's use of the seer stone than I would. Joseph's employment as a treasure hunter seems well documented, but it is also well documented that other men strongly encouraged Joseph through payment to continue when he was no longer interested. I am not sure that there is a direct relationship between this subject and the topic at hand. Joseph stated he used the U&T. The other comments are the perception of other people. I don't recall ever hearing a satisfactory reason why Joseph, having been given the U&T, would conciously choose later to use a seer stone. It does not make a lot of sense. I just don't see Joeseph saying, "Yeah, God gave me this tool, but you know I am just more comfortable with this stone I foudn out back". Joseph talked very little about the process and everyone else's comments are conjecture and opinion tainted by their own perceptions. --Storm Rider (talk) 18:41, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Citation of Howe

Regarding comment added by gdavies:

We need to get rid of this stuff from Howe... his stuff just isn't verifiable, if he needed to follow these alleged requirements, why aren't there primary references (Smith, etc.) referring to them? The source is contemporary, but it's not verifiable or scholarly...

Response: The citations you refer to in Howe are from the affidavit of Willard Chase, who said he heard the story in 1827 from Joseph Smith, Sr.. Thus, it would be a third-hand account, but that does not make it unverifiable, because it's a published primary source. verifiability just means that it can be found in a published source; it doesn't mean that we make judgments about the value or credibility of that source. COGDEN 03:21, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

You're right, I'm more concerned about Wikipedia:Reliable Sources
"A primary source is a document or person providing direct evidence of a certain state of affairs"
I don't think that the sources match up to the claims made, especially in this situation. The fact that Willard Chase said he heard something from Smith Sr. about Smith Junior (published in an attempt to defame him) is certainly verifiable, but the claims he makes are absolutely not verified by this source. Chase's affidavit is not a primary source regarding the story of obtaining the plates, etc. merely because it's contemporary (it's not based off of first-hand experience, nor is it "direct evidence of a certain state of affairs"). Since we're using this source for content in the article, the "facts" established by the source need to be verifiable, not merely the fact that he made these claims. Willard Chase basically skewed facts, made unsupported assumptions and then portrayed them as fact. His affidavit shouldn't be considered a primary source unless we're talking about Willard Chase, Willard Chase's feelings, or events at which Chase was present. Most of the claims he makes certainly don't fall within these categories, and in my view are inappropriate. Using his affidavit to cite contemporary speculation is probably the only thing it's useful for, as other facts should be established by primary sources closer to the events described. gdavies 03:49, 28 January 2007 (UTC)
This is not what Wikipedia:Reliable Sources is about. "Reliable" in this sense does not refer to the reliability of the witness, but the reliability of the reporting of the witness. Almost by definition, any primary source is "reliable" in the sense used by Wikipedia. A primary source is simply a source that has some plausible historical connection to the facts. Willard Chase is a primary source because he knew Joseph Smith and he claimed to have heard the story from someone who heard it from Joseph Smith in 1827, and therefore he has a plausible historical connection to the facts. It's hearsay, of course, but still direct evidence, which is fine, because without hearsay, the Jesus article couldn't exist: everything we know about Jesus was written long after he died, and mostly by people who never met him. But we have the Gospels and the brief mention of Jesus in Josephus, so those are "reliable" enough sources for Wikipedia. These are published sources that are reliable in the sense that they are primary sources. COGDEN 06:29, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
I can see where you're coming from, but I still disagree in this specific case... I agree that the primary source is certainly reliable, but (as you understand) I don't believe that the person who made the statement was qualified to make a statement. Chase didn't even try to explain how he knew all the details he told about Joseph's receiving the plates, did not claim to be present and didn't explain how he knew. Basically it's contemporary speculation. At least with the Jesus article most of those involved claimed to be present and (at least some of them) weren't making statements purely for the purpose of defamation and embarrassment. If Chase was actually present (which he wasn't) or did talk to someone else who was there (which he didn't) I think there would be a better case for inclusion. On the contrary, he states that it's hearsay and the statements he makes don't add up to statements from the only person we know that was actually present (Joseph Smith himself). Choosing one's story over the other, especially in circumstances where the chosen source is clearly hearsay and completely contradictory to the other... that seems POV in my mind. Wikipedia:Reliable Sources says "['primary source'] mainly refers to a document produced by a participant in an event or an observer of that event." Since Chase wasn't an observer of this event or a participant, I don't think his writing counts as a primary source, and therefore should be held to more strict regulations for inclusion... it's contemporary commentary rather than sourcable evidence in this specific case (the story of Smith obtaining the plates). gdavies 07:13, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
If the testimony of Isaac Hale, Smith's father-in-law, is "gossip" then so is Joseph Smith's. Or do you disagree with the use of his words only "in this specific case"?--John Foxe 11:40, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
Chase did explain how he knew. He said he heard it from Joseph Smith, Sr., who presumably heard it from Joseph Smith, Jr., who was there. And yes, he had a beef against Joseph Smith: although he believed Smith was a seer, he was sore because he thought Joseph Smith's seer stone rightfully belonged to him, and that certainly damages his credibility. And his account is certainly hearsay, but hearsay sources are still primary sources. It would only be a secondary source if, instead of relating the story he said he heard from Smith, Sr., he commented on what he thought about that story, or what he thought really happened. As it stands, however, he claims to be relating the story as he heard it, which makes him a primary source. And to say that Chase fabricated the story may be a valid POV, but it's still a POV, just as is the opinion that Joseph Smith himself fabricated the story, or that he changed the details he chose to emphasize about the story after 1827 when Chase heard it. Both Joseph's and Chase's accounts are primary sources.COGDEN 17:48, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
Foxe, I realize that Chase's affidavit has worth as a primary source in some cases, but yes, I'm discussing his specific recounting of Joseph obtaining the plates. Even if he said he heard it from Smith Sr. (who wasn't even there), it's difficult to verify that (why couldn't we just cite Joseph Smith Sr. instead of Chase claiming to repeat him). The affidavit doesn't make sense, and although he does site Smith Sr. as a source for some of his comments the rest are left lacking... since it's obvious he's out to embarass him and it's less obvious whether he was correctly recounting what Smith Sr. might have said, and at the same time impossible to tell what Smith Sr. would have actually known... this is way to fuzzy to count as a primary source in all cases in my mind (must be "produced by a participant in an event or an observer of that event"). My problem is with citing him while telling the story (as opposed to citing him while talking about critical explanations). It almost seems like we need two alternate sections, one for the story endorsed by the Church and Smith in his writings (which is much more general) and one for critics explanation (which is unfortunately made up of a lot of contemporary speculation/hearsay). I'm not convinced... gdavies 19:11, 29 January 2007 (UTC)
Foxe isn't in on this chase. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)--John Foxe 23:21, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Seer stone and U&T

John, I deleted earlier today the following phrase:

as well as with a seer stone of the sort that he had previously used in treasure hunting

The reason I provided is that the reference provided for this entire sentence by Joseph Smith supports the statement of using a Urim & Thummim, but it does not support the statement of a seer stone. You later reverted the phrase by stating that, "the fact that JS called the stone U&T doesn't contradict the fact that it was a seer stone". Why use both when the statement by Joseph is U&T. Doing so seems to add a spin that is not warranted. I see no reason to spin anything, just state what is so. If you want to embellish, then do so with another reference, but to stated that Joseph said he used a seer stone is playing a little lose with the facts. --Storm Rider (talk) 01:52, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

I concede. I think the point I was trying to make—that Smith used the same stone-in-the-hat method of translating as he had for treasure hunting—is adequately made elsewhere.--John Foxe 11:13, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
That may be the case... but it certainly is an ambiguous area, since the witnesses really didn't see what was happening most of the time. Oliver used the breastplate and "interpreters" while translating, and the interchangeability of the terms (seer stone and U&T) kind of confuses the whole bit. gdavies 18:48, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Call it a seer stone, call it Urim and Thummim, call it the "interpreters," it's still just a stone in a hat.--John Foxe 14:21, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
An analogy might be helpful you and your obvious POV. If we used your perspective we would only talk about the Eurcharist in terms of cannibalism, after all it is nothing more than eating drinking blood and eating flesh. Crosses worn around the neck are nothing more than voodoo trinckets to offer protection to believers. More importantly, believers rejoice in the fact that they killed their God.
Writing in this manner is accurate, the information is true, but it is the incorrect focus and the tone of the article is decidely negative. It does not tell the whole story. I question that Joseph ever used a hat as a dark room to see more clearly, but there is one story about it so it should be reported. But what is definite is that Joseph did not explain in detail the manner in which he translated. Every one else that spoke of it was necessarily affected by their own perspectives and none of them talked of it at the time it was happening leaving time to affect their memory and the perspective further. Religion, just the opiate of the people may be your inclination, but it is your POV, which you need to hold in check. --Storm Rider (talk) 17:57, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
On using a hat in the process of translating the Book of Mormon, do you have a notable and reliable citation proposing that he never did? I haven't seen one, personally, and yet there are so many eye-witnesses, both Mormon and non-Mormon, saying he did, the Mormon ones including Emma Smith, Joseph Knight, Sr., David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery's wife. COGDEN 19:07, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
No, I am not aware of any citations from anyone to say that Joseph never used this method. Do you have any that say this is the only method he used? Or do you have any references that state the exact method Joseph used to translate or receive revelation in every occaision? What I see happening is the attempt to outline in what is to be a factual representation of exactly what you can not prove. The best you can say is that at times Joseph was said by others to use this method. What should also be said is what Joseph said about the matter, which is sadly lacking.
None of the individuals cited above was with Joseph on every occaision; why write the article as if it is the truth, ipso facto. You know better than most that is not the case. What I am seeking is a neutral article and unfortunately what is evolving is something different in this article and related articles. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Storm Rider (talkcontribs) 22:59, 2 February 2007 (UTC).
No, I absolutely agree we can't say that it was the only method he used, because some sources clearly say he used other methods, at least early-on. Martin Harris is quoted by several people as saying in 1827 that Smith looked through the Interpreters at the plates (actually, he looked through one side of the Interpreters because they were made for a giant, as confirmed by Lucy Mack). Later, Martin Harris said that Smith put the Interpreters (the "two stones set in silver bows") into a hat and looked "into them". William Smith said Joseph put the breastplate on his chest and wore the Interpreters like glasses (though that's debatable, because Lucy Mack and others said the breastplate was made for a giant too). COGDEN 02:49, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

(I will start the line anew to facilitate discussion). This is where you are at your absolute best, Cogden. Let's just make sure that this article and the article on Seer stones reflects the conflicts and various methods. I hope you understand that I am objecting to the portrayal that anyone knows the exact method for the entire process. The Seer article is particularly lacking in neutral perspective. The only time we ever come to any type of conflict is when I perceive that you are becoming too focused on a single issue. In this situation, it would be interesting to point out the conflicts and how they differ from Joseph's statements regarding the matter. It is not a question of truth, but of perspective.

The early history of Mormonism should be handled in a complete manner, but without taking a position. That does not mean that all sources are "Wiki" acceptable, those that aren't should be cited as such, though I suspect if one is not careful that could cause some problems; I digress. Please remember to use that vast expertise to provide much needed explanation and clarification. Cheers. --Storm Rider (talk) 00:47, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

"It is not a question of truth, but of perspective." An interesting admission. Truth, not perspective, is what we're about here.--John Foxe 19:12, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
You might want to read that statement (and the preceding sentence) a few more times and think about it. It's not an admission... I think what he meant was that "truth" isn't derived from these varying statements, but "perspective." Of course we want to portray the truth, the problem is that statements (from equally "reliable" sources) contradict each other. The evidence or facts are matters of perspective (what a certain person believed or thought to be true) rather than actual truth (how things are/were). We portray facts here, not truth. "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth."gdavies 03:52, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Copy editing

Now that controversy over this article seems to have died down, I've taken the opportunity to do some copy editing. Any substantive changes were made inadvertently. My intent was to make the article as clear as possible and to straighten out grammar and syntax.--John Foxe 21:21, 31 January 2007 (UTC)


Comment inserted into flow of text by gdavies: "This method has been described in reference to translation, but (other than chase's affidavit) I don't know of a reference that this was his 'technique'".

In responding to your comment, instead of "technique", would you favor something like "practice" or "method"? COGDEN 00:11, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Well I just didn't see evidence that this was the way that he looked for Gold specifically. I believe I recall seeing a quote that that's he did the hat thing while translating parts of the plates, but I don't know of a reference that says that he used the same method or technique or whatever (yes, I guess I do prefer "method"...) while working for Stowell. Perhaps Chase's affidavit says something to that effect (if I remember right Chase says that's what he did as soon as he/they found the stone), but certainly that doesn't merit it's acceptance as fact in this article ("Joe's favorite way of divining was..."). gdavies 06:33, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
Look at the citations on that point in the article. There are at least Martin Harris (1859), Isaac Hale (1834), Clark (1842), and Mather (1880), who said he did this prior to finding the plates. But there's also a few others that aren't cited in the article (maybe they should be), including Lapham (1870), Lewis (1879), Turner (1851, p. 216), Tucker (1867), etc. As far as I know, nobody ever described any different "pre-plates" method of using the seer stone than putting the stone in his hat and putting his face into the hat. COGDEN 23:48, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

Other metallic plates

"The Golden Plates represent just one of a number of metallic plates significant to Latter Day Saint history and theology." What other plates do Mormons find significant? Bytebear 07:24, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

There are at least four other sets of plates mentioned in the Book of Mormon, which are important to LDS theology, and then there are the Kinderhook and Voree Plates that are important to LDS history.--John Foxe 11:30, 2 February 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but compared to the Golden Plates, these other plates are a footnote in LDS history, or are mentioned in the golden plates themselves. The sentence implies many plates that are equal in importance. I find this incorrect. Bytebear 08:55, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
Nothing in the sentence implies "equal in importance." Although the Voree Plates are a footnote today, they were not in the 1840s when Lucy Mack Smith and every one of the Witnesses still living (except perhaps Oliver Cowdery) followed Strang and endorsed their authenticity.--John Foxe 11:07, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
I've altered the wording to mention that these were the "most significant". I don't believe that anyone would argue that, and it removes any suggestion of equal importance (something that I noticed as well). Tijuana Brass 22:44, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
Good call.--John Foxe 23:10, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Reference placement

I'd like to suggest moving most of the references in this article to the end of the sentences which they apply to. I'm impressed by the hard work that editors have put into documenting what's here — something that is noticeably absent from most articles — but there are so many of them placed into the middle of sentences that it's causing a readability problem. This shouldn't cause any confusion over what part of the sentence the reference is supporting, so long as the reference is clear (in other words, if a sentence consists of Fact A, Fact B, and Fact C, with all references placed at the sentence's end, there shouldn't be any problem finding those facts in the references — unless the reference itself is problematic). I'd go ahead and start the change, but I thought I'd see if anyone cared to comment on the idea first. Tijuana Brass 22:42, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Something I left out: The references I'm suggesting that we move are those that only list a source with no parenthetical (footnote style) information. In some cases, like this one, the footnote is an explanation of a specific part of the sentence and should be left. Tijuana Brass 22:47, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
I think that's fine, but if the footnote relates to a specific word, phrase, or clause, and not to the rest of the sentence, I think it should be left as is, unless there is some explanation put into the footnotes to make clear what part is being referred to. COGDEN 23:37, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

Another readability suggestion

Apologies for starting a second thread on topic that's similar to the previous one — I wanted to separate the discussions.

Another thing that strikes me when reading through this article is the frequent use of conditional phrases such as "Smith reported", "purportedly", and "Smith said" with the intent of demonstrating that the history of the Golden Plates is largely based upon the unverifiable account of one man. I understand the reasoning and agree that the article should make that fact clear, but I see the point becoming belabored. In articles such as these, it's not really necessary to constantly mention that things were "asserted" to have happened if the source of the story isn't changing. To give two examples:

A. "As described by Peter, an angel descended upon the sanctuary and light filled the room. The angel moved towards the statue, and as it did, tears appeared to flow from the statue's eyes." In this case, assuming that Peter was the only person present and is the sole source of the story, we've introduced a conditional statement at the beginning. With the "element of doubt" established, it's not necessary to do so as the story continues — using a term such as "Purportedly, the angel moved..." would be superfluous.
B. "As described by Peter, an angel descended upon the sanctuary and light filled the room. James, who was also present but sat in the rear of the room, claimed that there was a light present, but did not see an angel or any third person." Here, we have two different accounts/sources, so reintroducing the "element of doubt" in James' account isn't out of order.

That's not to say that all such terms should be removed, just cut down some. I'll probably go ahead and do this a bit; if there are any removals that other editors feel are essential and were not implied, then we can go back and review things.

By the way, this issue may very well have come up before — if not here, then in other LDS related articles. If anybody remembers where and when (and if), please link to it here. Same goes if anybody recalls a policy page explaining this; if there's not one, there should be. Tijuana Brass 23:09, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

I agree.--John Foxe 23:13, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree also. COGDEN 23:39, 5 February 2007 (UTC)