LDS Lesson 1 — Rich Kelsey

LDS Lesson 1, Painting of Native American Indian
Painting of American Indian by Rich Kelsey

“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground … the doctrines of an impostor cannot be made to harmonize in all particulars with divine truth. If his claims and declarations were built upon fraud and deceit, there would appear many errors and contradictions, which would be easy to detect.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Joseph Fielding Smith, 1954, vol. 1, p. 188)

Early Accounts of Obtaining the Golden Plates:

In this study we look into LDS sources: The Joseph Smith Papers, Ensign Magazine, and LDS.org, as well as trusted history concerning Joseph Smith obtaining the golden plates, documented by BYU Studies.[1]

The Plates Went Back into the Stone Box:

“From thence he went to the hill where he was informed the Record
was and found no trouble for it appeard plain as tho he was acquainted with the place it was so plain in the vision that he had of the place. He went and found the place and opened it and found a plane Box. He oncovered it and found the Book and took it out and laid [it] Down By his side and thot he would Cover the place over again thinking there might be something else here. But he was told to take the Book and go right away. And after he had Covered the place he turned round to take the Book and it was not there and he was astonished that the Book was gone. He thot he would look in the place again and see if it had not got Back again. He had heard people tell of such things. And he opened the Box and Behold the Book was there. He took hold of it to take it out again and Behold he Could not stur the Book any more then he Could the mountin.” (Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History Copyright BYU Studies 1976, p. 3)

Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches Account:

Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, contains this account of
Joseph Smith’s first attempt to obtain the golden plates:
“… having arrived at the place, he put forth his hand and took them up, but, as he was taking them hence, the unhappy thought darted through his mind that probably there was something else in the box, besides the plates, which would be of some pecuniary advantage to him. So, in the moment of excitement, he laid them down very carefully, for the purpose of covering the box, lest some one might happen to pass that way and get whatever there might be remaining in it. After covering it, he turned round to take the Record again, but behold it was gone, and where he knew not, neither did he know the means by which it had been taken from him.
At this, as a natural consequence, he was much alarmed. He kneeled down and asked the Lord why the Record had been taken from him; upon which the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and told him that he had not done as he had been commanded, for in a former revelation he had been commanded not to lay the plates down, or put them for a moment out of his hands, until he got into the house and deposited them in a chest or trunk, having a good lock and key, and, contrary to this, he had laid them down with the view of securing some fancied or imaginary treasure that remained.” (Lucy Mack Smith History 1845, p.p. 86-88)

Joseph Smith Was Hurled Upon the Ground with Great Violence:

“In the moment of excitement, Joseph was overcome by the powers of darkness, and forgot the injunction that was laid upon him. Having some further conversation with the angel on this occasion, Joseph was permitted to raise the stone again, when he beheld the plates as he had done before. He immediately reached forth his hand to take them, but instead of getting them, as he anticipated, he was hurled back upon the ground with great violence. When he recovered, the angel was gone, and he arose and returned to the house weeping for grief and disappointment.” (Lucy Mack Smith History 1845, p. 88)

Willard Chase Substantiated Lucy’s Account:

“… he [Joseph Smith] again stooped down and strove to take the book, when the spirit struck him again, and knocked him three or four rods, and hurt him prodigiously. After recovering from his fright, he enquired why he could not obtain the plates; to which the spirit made reply, because you have not obeyed your orders. He then enquired when he could have them, and was answered thus: come one year from this day, and bring with you your oldest brother, and you shall have them.” (MORMONISM, p. 242)

Notes for LDS Lesson 1:

“… three or four rods …”

is 49.5 to 66 feet; perhaps this is why Lucy Smith claimed her son was,

“… hurled back upon the ground with great violence.”(Lucy Mack Smith History 1845, p. 88)

Money Digging, Bring the Right Person:

William Stafford, an early acquaintance of the Smiths who lived about a mile and a half south on Stafford Road, was invited by Joseph Sr. to participate in a treasure dig on Smith property: [2]

“Joseph Smith, Sen., came to me one night, and told me, that Joseph Jr. had been looking in his glass, and had seen, not many rods from his house, two or three kegs of gold and silver, some feet under the surface of the earth; and that none others but the elder Joseph and myself could get them.” (MORMONISM pdf, p. 238)

Golden Plates Account Plot Holes:

Not only was bringing the right person a requirement to fulfill for money diggers to get buried treasure, bringing the right person was a requirement Joseph Smith needed to fulfill to obtain the golden plates:

“And he opened the Box and Behold the Book was there. He took hold of it to take it out again and Behold he Could not stur the Book any more then he Could the mountin. He exclaimed “why Cant I stur this Book?” And he was answered, “you cant have it now.” Joseph says ‘when can I have it?” The answer was the 22nt Day of September next if you Bring the right person with you. Joseph says,‘ who is the right Person?” The answer was ‘your oldest Brother.’”

But before September Came his oldest Brother Died. Then he was Disapinted and did not [k]now what to do. But when the 22nt Day of September Came he went to the place and the personage appeard and told him he Could not have it now. But the 22nt Day of September nex he mite have the Book if he Brot with him the right person.

“Joseph says, ‘who is the right Person?‘ The answer was you will know. Then he looked in his glass and found it was Emma Hale, Daughter of old Mr Hail of Pensylvany, a girl that he had seen Before, for he had Bin Down there Before with me.” (Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History Copyright BYU Studies 1976, p. 4)

Notes for LDS Lesson 1:

The problem: according to LDS Church history, Joseph Smith left Emma Hale in the wagon while he went to obtain the golden plates:

LDS Lesson 1 Church History, image from LDS.org: January 2001, Ensign Magazine
January 2001, Ensign Magazine

After receiving the plates at the hill, the Prophet hid them nearby in a hollow birch log whose tough bark had resisted the forces of decay better than the wood itself. Cutting a hole in the bark and peeling it back, he placed the plates in the cavity of the log thus exposed, then replaced the bark and ‘laid across the log in several places some old stuff that happened to lie near, in order to conceal, as much as possible, the place in which they were deposited.’ All this was apparently done in the absence of Emma, who presumably was waiting in the wagon nearby.”

Notes for LDS Lesson 1:

Perhaps the biggest plot hole in the golden plates accounts is when Joseph Smith,

“… hid [the golden plates] nearby in a hollow birch log… “

Because, in a former revelation, Joseph Smith had been commanded:

“… not to lay the plates down, or put them for a moment out of his hands, until he got into the house and deposited them in a chest or trunk, having a good lock and key” (Lucy Mack Smith History 1845, p.p. 87)

According to the story, Joseph Smith had three or four years to obtain a chest or trunk with a good lock and key, but history records that he only tried to obtain a chest with a lock and key two days before he supposedly obtained the plates. And because the person he asked, Josiah Stowell, did not have a chest with a lock and key while he was visiting the Smith family home, Joseph Smith still did not have a chest with a lock and key until after he had hidden the golden plates in a hollow log:

“On the night of the 21st, I [Josiah Stowell] sat up very late as my work rather pressed upon my hands— I did not retire until after 12. o’clock at night. About 12. Joseph came to me, and inquired, if I had a chest with a lock and key. I knew in an instant what he wanted it for; and not having one I was greatly alarmed; as I thought it might be a matter of considerable moment. But Joseph, discovering my anxiety, said: ‘never mind, I can do very well for the present without it— be calm, all is right.’” (Lucy Mack Smith History, Joseph Smith Papers, chapter 23)

Other Articles of Interest:

■ LDS Lesson 2 — Rich Kelsey

■ The Mortgage Of The Earth To Satan — Rich Kelsey

■ Through the Door of Christ — Rich Kelsey

LDS Series / Full Article Index

Endnotes:

BYU studies p. 479

I. That the Chase account appears in a collection of testimonials
published by an anti-Mormon while the knight narrative comes from
a faithful latter-day saint whose statement was not published until very recently suggests that the anti-Mormon material cannot be
lightly dismissed because of its origin the anti-Mormon statements have to be checked against what is admitted by the Mormons themselves. Willard chase very likely heard his story from Joseph Smith sr. as he reported this is further evidenced by an independent account published by Fayette Lapham in 1870 of an earlier
interview with Joseph Smith sr. as to the origin of the golden
plates this report corresponds closely in some respects to what
Knight and Chase recounted; it is lengthy but deserves full treatment:

“… he then told his father that in his dream a very large and tall man
appeared to him dressed in an ancient suit of clothes and the clothes
were bloody and the man said to him that there was a valuable
treasure buried many years since and not far from that place and that he had now arrived for it to be brought to light for the benefit of the world at large and if he would strictly follow his directions he would direct him to the place where it was deposited in such a manner that he could obtain it …” (Money-Digging Folklore and the Beginnings of Mormonism: An Interpretive Suggestion, Marvin S. Hill, BYU Studies)

2. “William Stafford, an early acquaintance of the Smiths who lived about a mile and a half south on Stafford Road, was invited by Joseph Sr. to participate in a treasure dig on Smith property. According to Stafford’s 8 December 1833 statement, Joseph Jr. had seen in his stone “two or three kegs of gold and silver” located “not many rods from his [Smith’s] house.” Despite Joseph Sr.’s leading the diggers through various folk magic exercises, they failed to unearth any treasure. Joseph Jr., whom Stafford said remained in the Smiths’ house during the operation, later explained that the treasure’s guardian spirit had caused the money to sink, and Joseph Sr. declared that they had made a mistake in performing the exercises.

While Stafford did not describe the exact location of the dig, he intended the hill east of the Smiths’ home since he introduced his account by stating that the Smiths believed that nearly all the hills in this part of New York, were thrown up by human hands, and in them were large caves, which Joseph Jr., could see, by placing a stone of singular appearance in his hat. . . that he could see within the above mentioned caves, large gold bars and silver plates—that he could also discover the spirits in whose charge these treasures were, clothed in ancient dress.” (The Locations of Joseph Smith’s Early Treasure Quests Dan Vogel p. 202)

Also:

“After this, on the 22d of September, 1827, before day, Joseph took the horse and wagon of old Mr. Stowel, and taking his wife, he went to the place where the plates were concealed, and while he was obtaining them, she kneeled down and prayed. He then took the plates and hid them in an old black oak tree top which was hollow. Mr. Stowel was at this time at old Mr. Smith’s, digging for money.” (Interview with Martin Harris in Tiffany’s Monthly, 1859 New York: Published by Joel Tiffany, No. 6, 4th Ave.)