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FAIR: Joseph Smith didn't act in prophet's role during translation of Kinderhook plates

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  • Utopian_Lie Centerville, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 8:54 a.m.

    Josephs initial translation of the Kinderhook plates proves that only a bogus prophet translates bogus plates.

    Interesting that they mention the initial translation of the plates when the official lds website states:

    "The central issue in the whole question of Joseph Smiths involvement in the Kinderhook plate episode is that the expected translation did not appear. And this fact may well explain the characteristic that has made this hoax most interestingthat it was never carried to completion."

    "Joseph Smith needs no defensehe simply did not fall for the scheme."

  • Enola BOUNTIFUL, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 11:14 a.m.

    For years the church taught that Joseph translated the Kinderhook Plates and that they were authentic. The plates were used an example of Joseph's prophetic translation abilities. Then when the plates were discovered to be a fraud, apologists said that Joseph likely never translated the plates. Now the story is that he translated the plates but not as a prophet. Good grief.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 11:28 a.m.

    Utopian_Lie:

    What proof? Do you speak for God? Does God speaks with his prophets every second of their life, telling them every last thing they should do? Does God not let a prophet learn as any other man can?

    "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward."

    Analogy: Joseph Smith says 'hmm, what's this...' and investigates, as we believe (13 AoF). He tries to translate... then God says 'Joseph, this is a deception' and he moves on.

    Does your claim disprove the possibility of my analogy? Certainly not. Does the paradigm behind your claim have any support in saying that my analogy is even unlikely? No, it doesn't. Does a doctrine of ongoing revelation support my analogies possibility, even probability? Yes, it does.

    I just proved that Joseph Smith could have been doing exactly as God wanted.

    ---

    If shown logic and reason, or if shown LDS doctrines clearly in the Bible, people refuse. Why? They don't want to learn, otherwise they would kneel, desiring, then ask God, "What is right?"

  • Northern Lights Louisville, KY
    Aug. 9, 2011 1:09 p.m.

    Enola, I'm just curious: during which years did the Church teach that Joseph had translated the Kinderhook plates? I've never heard the Kinderhook plates discussed at Church in the many decades and numerous wards where I've attended - nor have I ever seen any translation or claimed translation. I understand that Joseph Smith tried to work on the first character of the Kinderhook plates, but returned them after a few days without any substantial translation. Would appreciate if you could be a little more specific.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    Aug. 9, 2011 1:22 p.m.

    However, this case is as Joseph said, a prophet is a prophet only when acting as such, Bradley said.

    For years the Church did not think this was the case regarding the Kinderhook Plates. They felt JS had exercised his prohetic powers regarding the plates. The plates did not turn out to be legit so now they do.

    Who makes the decision that in hindsight a prophet was not acting as such? What if a scholar or apologist believes it to be the case but no one with actual authority has stated as such? What if I believe it to be the case (for example regarding plural marriage or JS's statement that Missouri was the location for early OT events)? I have as much authority (none) as Bradley does. What is being said today that all consider prophetic that will later fall into this category?

    It seems that two LDS beliefs can be used as a catch-all answer for almost any question:

    1. Prophets are at times only acting as a man or stating their personal opinion.

    2. Ongoing revelation can always change or trump past statements, practices and beliefs.

  • Enola BOUNTIFUL, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 1:33 p.m.

    It was taught many places included the comprehensive history of the church, in the Ensign, and by LDS scholars. Here is the excerpt from the history of the church:

    "I have seen 6 brass plates which were found in Adams County by some persons who were digging in a mound. They found a skeleton about 6 feet from the surface of the earth which was 9 foot high. The plates were on the breast of the skeleton. This diagram shows the size of the plates being drawn on the edge of one of them. They are covered with ancient characters of language containing from 30 to 40 on each side of the plates. Prest J. [Joseph Smith] has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth. - Comprehensive History of The Church, Vol. 5, pages 374-276, B.H. Roberts, May 1, 1843, The Prophet Joseph Smith as transcribed by William Clayton, Joseph Smith's principal and unquestionably trusted scribe.

  • Enola BOUNTIFUL, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 1:44 p.m.

    Sorry, I failed to answer your question about the timeline. It appears to have been from about 1843 until the 1980s. In 1966, BYU tested one of the plates and proved it to be a 19th century creation. However, teachings from church leaders about the plates authenticity continued. In 1979, Apostle Mark Peterson argued that the plates were authentic. In 1981, the church officially stated that the plates were a hoax. Wikipedia has a good write up about the plates.

  • MarieDevine Divine-Way Kansas City, MO
    Aug. 9, 2011 2:28 p.m.

    Comment on a comment: If this is a LDS belief, it is in error.
    "2. Ongoing revelation can always change or trump past statements, practices and beliefs."

    A revelation can only cancel a previous revelation if it is God specifically saying it is not longer needed; otherwise we have no security; someone can always say such and such was changed.

    A good example is the way Christians leaders treat Apostle Paul's writings as meaning we do not keep the word of God through Moses. Jesus said to live by every word out of the mouth of God, as did Moses. (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3)

    Enola gave good comments and history she found on Wiki.

    My comment: People are always trying to discredit the prophet.
    Without the Power of God aiding Joseph Smith, Jun., he would not have been able to translate the plates. He had no reason to fabricate it. It would be extremely difficult to forge such plates. More than likely, the church decided not to give it any more publicity, since it was irrelevant to the church, and they agreed about it being a hoax. The wording of that statement would probably reveal that.

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 4:34 p.m.

    "A revelation can only..." - This not only places conditions on God's logic, it places false conditions.

    A literal example of that logic: Joseph Smith sees God, hears Him, then says, "No, you got this part wrong. What you said can't conflict with something you said yesterday, unless you say so." 1- who is anyone to say God is wrong? 2- Saying 'your conflicting unless you say so' doesn't negate ongoing revelation at all, if anything it supports it.

    If today God says 'it is okay that you drink wine' and the next day God forbids it- then there is no conflict. Contradiction is an absolute philosophical principle. If you tried arguing that A is B and A is not B at the exact same time under the exact same circumstances... then you have conflict.

    "otherwise we have no security, someone can always say such and such was changed."

    Consider this:

    What is the right thing to do in a corrupt world? God may command or reveal something different to a person living in a communist country in 1985 then in America in 1885. Constant communication with God, in my opinion, is the only way possible to have security.

  • Searching . . . . Orem, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 4:41 p.m.

    A voice of Reason,

    "Joseph Smith says 'hmm, what's this...' and investigates, as we believe (13 AoF). He tries to translate... then God says 'Joseph, this is a deception' and he moves on."

    Then why didn't he clarify that the plates were a fraud rather than saying: "they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth."?

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 5:38 p.m.

    To Searching:

    Analogies are not fact, nor did I claim my analogy was. However, I did prove that the notion that a prophet must see right through every lie is a false notion and one that include a fair representation of what 'revelation' is. It's the Straw-Man fallacy- People expecting God's answers from Joseph Smith are misrepresenting LDS beliefs regarding Doctrine. Joseph Smith isn't God. Joseph Smith isn't perfect. Joseph Smith was a man who was given a task from God and who had to learn for himself and do things for himself in this life. If God wanted a perfect man to do His work, why wouldn't God come down and run His church for Himself?

    My analogy was to show that the logic used against J.S. is a Strawman. In fact, the same logic was given to the prophets in the Bible.

    ---

    The more we learn, the more we realize how much more we have to learn. True knowledge is knowing what we know nothing.

    No logic will ever convince someone to stop attacking others beliefs. Only they can convince themselves. I offer the logic in hopes that it will help their decision.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 6:55 p.m.

    THis article and all these comments makes it feel like a jedi moment:

    There is nothing here, let these droids pass.

  • Moracle Blackshear, GA
    Aug. 9, 2011 7:05 p.m.

    Does any one know for a fact that the fake plates did not actually contain characters that said: "they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth."?

    If they did say that, why wouldn't Joseph Smith say that they did? As to their authenticity, how would he know, unless the Lord revealed it to him? And maybe the Lord chose not to do that, to test the faith of His skeptical followers.

    The testimony that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, lies not in the translation of these fake plates, but in the translation of the Book of Mormon plates. Pure and simple: If the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His Church. If the Book of Mormon is not true, neither is Joseph a prophet, nor is the Church true.

    Read it and ask God in the name of Christ, if it is true. That's how you'll know! I did!

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 7:40 p.m.

    Molracle said, Read it and ask God in the name of Christ, if it is true. That's how you'll know!
    Who was JS talking to?
    From LDS revelation, we learn that Jehovah is the English form of the actual name by which the Lord Jesus was known ANCIETLY (D&C 110:3 ,Jehovah appears to JS), Abra 2:8 ,My is name is Jehovah) 788 Mormon Doctrine.
    s/b YHWH, JS was unaware of the poor KJV and didnt know the Personal name of God(LORD)YHWH.

    the great Jehovah(YHWH )the eternal judge Moroni 10:34. Wrong,
    But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under Gods curse.(Galatians 1:8)

  • A voice of Reason Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 9, 2011 8:34 p.m.

    Thank you Moracle, great comment!

  • elchupacabras Idaho Falls, ID
    Aug. 10, 2011 12:09 p.m.

    So when does a prophet act in a prophetic role and when does he not? Brigham Young stated, "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. The people have the oracles of God continually

    I would refer everyone to the Deuteronomy challenge in the Bible. Deut. 13:1-3 and Deut. 18:21-23 tell us that if any prophecy from a supposed oracle fails to materialize, we should not "fear him." In other words, he's a false prophet. The Kinderhook debacle is just one of the many involving Smith. Analyze the data, read the Bible and come up with your own conclusion.

  • Northern Lights Louisville, KY
    Aug. 10, 2011 1:16 p.m.

    elchupacabras:

    Would you consider Jonah a false prophet? The Bible records that he preached in Nineveh that "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." The then set up camp on a hill overlooking the city and watched absolutely nothing happen. Here is a man who talked with God, but his prophesy failed to materialize. According to your argument based on Deuteronomy, Jonah had to be a false prophet since his prophesy failed to materialize. Why is he in the scriptures, then?

    By reading the Bible, I have come to the conclusion that prophets are mortal men, but that doesn't stop God from still talking through them. I also believe that when a true prophet says he is speaking in his capacity as a prophet - or for the Lord - we should listen. However, why can't we also accept that our prophets have human frailties and opinions, like Jonah, or Moses (who irritated the Lord more than once), or Joseph Smith, or Brigham Young (who you take exception with)? They're not part of the Borg collective, so to speak!

  • elchupacabras Idaho Falls, ID
    Aug. 10, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    Northern Lights-- Jonah was a rebellious prophet but not a false one. He was not a false prophet. In Jonah 3:4-10 Jonah prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed within forty days because of their wickedness. When they repented en masse, God did not bring on them the disaster He threatened. When a peoples will changes, God revealed will towards that people change.
    This prophesied destruction was due to their not repenting of their wickedness. It is implicitly conditioned on their non-repentance. When they decided to repent, God did not see the need to destroy Assyria at this time. Likewise, when God prophesies destruction, we can learn the judgment can be delayed or removed if the people repent. This principle, of allowing repentance in the face of judgment, is spelled out in Jeremiah 18:7-8. Hope that clarifies.

  • KC Mormon Edgerton, KS
    Aug. 10, 2011 2:26 p.m.

    When reading the accounts of the Saints in Nauvoo of the Kinderhook plates we must keep one thing in mind, When ever something like this show up rumor spread about what Joseph Smith said. We should first look for a first hand account from Joseph. Unfortunately one does not exist. So all the claims that Joseph said they contained the lineage of the man they were buried with is in reality nothing more than second hand at best. One thing we can tell for certain is that while Joseph went to great lengths to acquire the BOA papyri he made no such effort to get these records.

  • Terrie Bittner Warminster, PA
    Aug. 10, 2011 4:13 p.m.

    If you listened to the actual talk, which I did, it was noted that Joseph Smith asked to have brought to him some translation aids--books on the languages of the plates. He didn't do this when translating as a prophet. He asked for them this time because obviously God didn't have any eternal plans for these false plates. So Joseph translated them in the same way I have periodically tried to translate the Book of Mormon into a language I didn't know--I got a dictionary and used my brain, not inspiration. I was not acting as a prophet. I was acting as me.

    All accounts of Joseph's translation efforts are second or even third hand. Do you want people to believe everything said about you? Then we must give Joseph the same respect.

  • tweedmeister Yakima, WA
    Aug. 11, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    This is a thoughtful comment, and I do not mean it in any negative or snarky way. I do hope you will not weed this one out. But the message of the LDS Church is always to "follow the prophet." This would imply that even when the prophet is wrong, people are to believe him and do what he says. Latter-day Saints have also been admonished to follow the leaders "even when they are wrong." The fact is, whether any aspect of teachings is wrong or right, it is always "right" at least in a de facto sense. Latter-day Saints are also led to believe that "the Gospel is perfect, even if the members are not," i.e., blame the people, not the teachings or the leaders. But the Gospel IS people. When prophets speak, they speak. It is taught as truth and must be thus accepted. If Joseph Smith began translation of the sideways Chinese characters and began writing text from them, he was, by definition, acting as prophet and we must, by commandment, believe him. Who is to say that he or any leader was "speaking as a man?"

  • Mint Julip KAYSVILLE, UT
    Aug. 12, 2011 12:32 p.m.

    I have been told by many believing Mormons that they know the church is true because Joseph Smith, with only three years of schooling and wasn't capable of writing the BOM without the assistance of God.

    If we are to believe that logic, are we also to believe that someone with three years of education is capable of translating Egyptian, as a hobby?

    I have a Bachelor's degree and am not qualified to translate any foreign languages.

  • full disclosure Providence, UT
    Aug. 12, 2011 1:30 p.m.

    We are hearing this reasoning (speaking as a man as opposed to speaking as a prophet) quite often in the church these days as evidences are brought forth that simply prove statements to be untrue by Church leaders,in this case Joseph Smith. I will admit it's a brilliant defense or out. I do wonder however if Farms or Fair since not operated by the church, if this is the official stand of the First Presidency? Does the First Presidency endorse whats being said?
    If apologists are speaking for the church then I really wish when the brethren speak that they would begin by clarifying who their speaking for.

  • Mint Julip KAYSVILLE, UT
    Aug. 12, 2011 3:18 p.m.

    @full disclosure:

    I have often wondered the same thing. As you point out, Farms and Fair are not affiliated with the church. So, maybe this is just more speculation? If that is the case, it is incredibly ironic since I have been reading many articles on the DN board about misunderstandings regarding Mormonism and the need for clarification among the press and public. The abundance of misunderstandings come from speculation, justification and rationalization regarding issues difficult to understand.

    It seems that when it comes to the most troubling issues, if any of us lack wisdom, we can ask Fair and Farms, historians, members, ex-members and God if we believe in him. But, if we ask our church leaders, we will most likely get the answer that we can't know all things in this life. That's what my Stake President told me.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    Aug. 12, 2011 6:50 p.m.

    KC Mormon:

    You may just as well dismiss the vast majority of what constitutes Joseph Smith History on account that most of our information comes from scribes. You can dismiss a good amount of the Doctrine & Covenants, the JST of the Bible, and about the entire Book of Mormon on those grounds as well. It does seem that Joseph Smith was interested. Whether his interest was spiritual or merely academic is at this point only conjecture. The Kinderhook plates wouldn't be so troubling if not for two reasons:

    1) We have this precedent regarding the lost 116 pages from the Book of Mormon, where Joseph Smith was allegedly protected against just this kind of fraud. Or so the story goes. Yet, here we don't have any reason to believe but that Joseph thought the Kinderhook plates legitimate.

    2) His documented musing's go much further than historical hypotheses. He knew the lineage of the fictional man and details regarding his life. "He recieved his inheritance...". This language smack of prophecy, not educated guessing.

    We can also note the similarity between this story and another absurd corallary from much earlier, when the zions camp group discovered the remains of "Zelph".

  • KC Mormon Edgerton, KS
    Aug. 13, 2011 5:59 p.m.

    Mormoncowboy
    Something written by a scribe as Joseph spoke can be considered first hand just like a court reporter. It is Josephs own words however we do not have that for these plates what we have are people writing in their own journals what they heard someone say Joseph said about the plates. I also find it interesting that the men who made the plates did not try to sell them to the Church and did not come out with them as a hoax until many years later after trying to sell them to the government. This tells me two thing: first they were not made to show Joseph was a fraud (had that been the case they would have said it was a hoax right away) and second that Joseph likely did not show much interest in them after a day or so (had they hoax been announced while Joseph was alive he very easily could have defended himself).

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    Aug. 14, 2011 11:36 a.m.

    KC Mormon:

    You don't seem to have read the article. The anonymous "someone" whose records we are referring to is William Clayton, Joseph's chief scribe. Apologists have been working hard since the 1980's to infer that Clayton imposed his own view of things and recorded them as Joseph Smith's words. That is quite an indictment against Clayton, and much of the documentary history of the Church. On that grounds little if anything about Mormon history should be trusted. It seems very unlikely that such an thing would have happened. Let's ask a few simple questions:

    1) Did Joseph Smith ever examine the Kinderhook plates?

    Yes, briefly, but yes.

    2) Was Clayton ever in proximity to Joseph Smith around this time, to where we could have reasonable confidence that the account recorded by Clayton represents the idea's of Joseph Smith?

    Yes, as per the article they shared supper around this time and exchanged thoughts on the matter. There was even some discussion with Parley P. Pratt on the matter of the circumstances in which the plates were found.

    In short, anything is possible, but the evidence points to Joseph Smith Prophecying in such a way that legitimizes the Kinderhook plates.

  • KC Mormon Edgerton, KS
    Aug. 14, 2011 10:25 p.m.

    You clearly do not understand how the the history of the Church was written. B H Roberts took peoples personal journals and in the common literary standard of his time took items out of third person and placed them in the first person. So while Clayton did work as a scribe for Joseph only things written as a scribe are first hand accounts. That would be Joseph speaks and the scribe as directed writes them down. Now if a person who worked as a scribe later goes and writes in his person journal (as is the case here) something he believes or a rumor he has heard that is not a first hand account. That is in fact at best second hand. A close reading of Clayton's journal would not suggest that he was acting as scribe but either giving his opinion or reporting rumor. Take for example your point of Zelph if you look at the different accounts you see that while on the surface they are similar underneath they are very different, From his height number of bones how he was found. it comes down to all we can say is Joseph named him Zelph.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    Aug. 15, 2011 10:12 a.m.

    The fairwiki article now references Bradley's presentation. Bradley conjectures based on a single character contained on the Kinderhook plates that Joseph Smith was trying to translate based on non-revelatory means. He includes Clayton's unadulterated journal entry on the matter:

    "I have seen 6 brass plates which were found in Adams County by some persons who were digging in a mound. They found a skeleton about 6 feet from the surface of the earth which was 9 foot high. [At this point there is a tracing of a plate in the journal.] The plates were on the breast of the skeleton. This diagram shows the size of the plates being drawn on the edge of one of them. They are covered with ancient characters of language containing from 30 to 40 on each side of the plates. Prest J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth."

    He also notes that Clayton shared supper with Joseph that evening.

  • KC Mormon Edgerton, KS
    Aug. 15, 2011 12:00 p.m.

    Mormoncowboy
    I will again point out that it is not clear that Joseph said personally to him what he reports or was it rumor going around the area. Again look at the many stories of Zelph. Each of the men were present when Joseph gave his name yet the details very widely. The fact Joseph ate with Clayton does not tell us what Joseph told Clayton. What we do know is that Joseph needed no aids to translate after the Book of Mormon yet he asked for aids looking at these plates. It is very possible that Joseph was asked are you working on the plates Joseph said yes I will let you know what I find on them. Then Clayton reports in his journal the rumor that he had heard. This unfortunately has been common from before April 6 1830 and is still done today.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    Aug. 15, 2011 12:43 p.m.

    Of course we cannot go back in time and witness the interaction, however that position goes both ways. What we do have however is credible evidence from a person who was in close proximity to Joseph Smith in both time and space, whose job it was to record the day to day goings on of Joseph Smith's life, stating:

    "...Prest J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharoah king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth."

    Of course you want to doubt this, but you are doing so on a hope that Joseph Smith didn't prophesy. The evidence unfortunately leans to the liklihood that he did. Afterall, the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar was itself an instrument that was derived from the egyptian papyri. In any regard, for the sake of argument I am willing to acknowledge that there is some weakness in the account recorded by Clayton. That is, it is not completely "bullet-proof". Still the weight of evidence heavily favors the notion that JS did prophesy.

  • SamBaUSA Sandy, UT
    Aug. 15, 2011 5:32 p.m.

    Boy, these mental gymnastics are exhausting aren't they? This one is particularly acrobatic. Look up Occam's Razor and enjoy some well earned rest.