LDS Lesson 2 — Rich Kelsey

LDS Lesson 2 image

The Golden Plates Were Supernatural?

The plates walk a fine line between magic and religion, between enchantment and disenchantment, between fraud and religious genius … They make the claim that the supernatural has entered into the natural world.” (Presentation given at Utah State’s Eccles Science Learning Center on March 22, 2012, by LDS author/scholar Richard Bushman) 

disenchantment "a feeling of disappointment about something ..." Oxford Dictionary
Oxford Dictionary

Notes for LDS Lesson 2:

Richard Bushman implied that the golden plates were unlike any natural objects on earth. He also used the words disenchantment, fraud, and religious genius in his presentation, suggesting that for some readers the plates are beyond belief.[I]

Taken By the Power of God:

According to Joseph Smith, after the loss of the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript, the plates were taken from him for a season by the power of God:

“… wherefore the Plates was taken from me by the power of God …” (1832 History of Joseph Smith, Volume I, The Joseph Smith papers, MS. JS Letterbook 1, p. 6)

Notes for LDS Lesson 2:

According to the story: Joseph Smith obtained the plates again about the time Oliver Cowdery took over as Joseph’s scribe. When the translation of the Book of Mormon was complete, the plates were again received into an angel’s hand; that is why when the Three Witnesses went out into the woods to pray, in June 1829 near the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, an angel brought the plates for the Three Witnesses to behold.

Shewn By the Power of God, Not Man:

“Wherefore, at that day when the book shall be delivered unto the man of whom I have spoken, the book shall be hid from the eyes of the world, that the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein.” (2 Nephi 27:12)


“… they have been shewn unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates …” (The Testimony of Three Witnesses)

Notes for LDS Lesson 2:

The Testimony of Three Witnesses makes it very clear that the power of God was involved in this viewing of the golden plates.

One of The Ancient Nephites Brought the Plates for the Eight Witnesses to View:

“… Joseph had been instructed that the plates would be carried thither by one of the ancient Nephites.” (Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, p. 140)

John Whitmer who was one of the eight witnesses later claimed,

“I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. … they were shown to me by a supernatural power.” (History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 307)

“After these [eight] witnesses returned to the house, the angel again made his appearance to Joseph, at which time Joseph delivered up the plates into the angel’s hands.” (Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches, p. 141)

Some Witnesses of the Book of Mormon:

“Some of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterwards left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel. One of the Quorum of the Twelve – a young man full of faith and good works, prayed, and the vision of his mind was opened, and the angel of God came and laid the plates before him, and he saw and handled them, and saw the angel, and conversed with him as he would with one of his friends; but after all this, he was left to doubt, and plunged into apostacy, (sic) and has continued to contend against this work. There are hundreds in a similar condition.” (Brigham Young, JOD: vol. 7 p. 164, June 5, 1859)

Joseph Smith, Jun., Have Got the Plates:



1 Behold, I say unto you, that as my servant Martin Harris has desired a witness at my hand, that you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., have got the plates of which you have testified and borne record that you have received of me;

2 And now, behold, this shall you say unto him—he who spake unto you, said unto you: I, the Lord, am God, and have given these things unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and have commanded you that you should stand as a witness of these things;

25 And then he shall say unto the people of this generation: Behold, I have seen the things which the Lord hath shown unto Joseph Smith, Jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for I have seen them, for they have been shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.

26 And I the Lord command him, my servant Martin Harris, that he shall say no more unto them concerning these things, except he shall say: I have seen them, and they have been shown unto me by the power of God; and these are the words which he shall say.

27 But if he deny this he will break the covenant which he has before covenanted with me, and behold, he is condemned.

Notes for LDS Lesson 2:

According to the revelation, God himself, speaking through Joseph Smith told Martin Harris to say:

“… I have seen them, and they have been shown unto me by the power of God …”

By Faith You Shall View the Plates:




The Prophet inquired of the Lord, and this revelation was given in answer, through the Urim and Thummim. 1 – 4, By faith the Three Witnesses shall see the plates and other sacred items …

Verse (1) Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my [God’s] word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim …

Even As Joseph Smith Has Seen Them:



5 And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith.

Notes for LDS Lesson 2:

This is the bombshell that blows the lid off of the idea that the golden plates could have been seen without God’s power and faith. Because according to D&C 17:5, even Joseph Smith saw the plates by God’s power, and because he had faith.

I Saw Them With a Spiritual Eye:

Statement from John H. Gilbert, the man who did most of the typesetting for the original 1830 Book of Mormon:

“Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses, – (Harris–Cowdery and Whitmer) I said to him, – ‘Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?’ Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, ‘No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.'”

The Historical Difficulty of the Plates:

“This, then, is the historical difficulty of the plates. Accounts of hiding the plates, wrapping the plates with cloth, showing the plates and translating from the plates become nothing more than one long attempt at fraud and make everything else Joseph Smith did doubtful. ‘Like a beggar claiming to have a diamond that he allows nobody to see.’” (Statements from Richard Bushman – Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum’s Conference, Oct. 23, 2010)

Martin Harris Never Saw the Plates with His Natural Eyes, Neither Did Oliver nor David:

Stephen Burnett’s 1838 letter to Lyman Johnson:

“… when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them [the plates] & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way …” (Letterbook 2, Page 64 (

Other Articles of Interest:

■ LDS Lesson 1 — Rich Kelsey

■ LDS Plot holes — Rich Kelsey

■ Book of Mormon Final Battles — Rich Kelsey

■ Book of Mormon Archeological Evidence? — Rich Kelsey

■ Cognitive Dissonance and the LDS Faith — Rich Kelsey

LDS Series / Full Article Index


1. “For most readers, the plates are beyond belief, a phantasm, yet the Mormon sources accept them as fact.” (Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling, Bushman Richard Lyman, 2005, p.58)