A Seer Stone and a Hat - "Translating" the Book of Mormon

The founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, claimed an angel named Moroni visited him in September of 1823. This heavenly messenger is reported to have told him about gold plates that contained a record of "former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang." The plates were said to contain "the fulness of the everlasting Gospel" as it was "delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants." In order to translate the language contained on the plates (a language called "Reformed Egyptian"), two stones in silver bows, called the Urim and Thummim, were included with the plates (Joseph Smith History 1:34,35). According to Smith's testimony, four more years went by before the angel allowed him to retrieve the gold plates.

Joseph Smith said, "each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed" (History of the Church 4:537).

The question at hand, then, is whether or not Smith's translation of the Book of Mormon plates is true. If Smith truly was a prophet with the ability to decipher plates of an unknown language which were said to contain the story of Jesus' appearance in the Americas, then this man should be revered and his translation of this ancient work heralded as God's word to mankind. On the other hand, if the translation has no basis in fact, but instead is based on fraud, then it should be exposed and the man's teachings about God and faith should be debunked. This is the difference between the way Mormons and critics of the LDS Church view Mormonism's first prophet. What is the evidence?


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