There was a bit of a kerfuffle this week as Michael Ash, an LDS apologist, published a brochure named “Bamboozled by the CES Letter”. There was nothing new here as it contained the same old apologetics I’ve read before. Maybe it makes some members feel better about the attacks on the historicity of the Book of Mormon by the extremely potent CES Letter, but for non-members and any others who don’t believe the Book of Mormon is historically accurate, the arguments are very unconvincing. One thing I found a little amusing was this statement about the gold plates:
The Book of Mormon plates are the fly in the critics’ potato salad. You can’t just eat around it, you have to get rid of it in a way that still makes the salad palatable to the dinner guests. If there were no golden plates, then Joseph Smith simply made up the whole story of the Lehites and the Jaredites. It all came from his imagination—call it lies, call it delusional.
A fly in the critics’ potato salad? Hardly. More like evidence many would say makes the whole truth claims of the Book of Mormon sound pretty fishy.
So riddle me this, LDS true-believers. Why did God choose to have the Book of Mormon written on gold plates that almost no one was allowed to see? Why were the writings of the Nephite prophets more important than the ten commandments? The tablets of the ten commandments were supposedly written by the finger of God, and yet Moses was able to show those to everyone. Also, the scriptures of the Old Testament were written and passed down for centuries. The scriptures of the New Testament are said to have been written by either actual witnesses to Jesus Christ, or by followers who knew witnesses of Jesus. Never at any time did we hear these writings were too sacred to show other people.
And then we have the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith said the Egyptian papyri that he used as the source of the Book of Abraham was written by the actual hand of Abraham. Wouldn’t that have been more amazing to have than the records of the Nephites? The Nephites were cool and all, but Father Abraham! And yet Joseph Smith was more than happy to show off the papyri to members of the church and to visitors. Why didn’t the Lord see fit to keep these hidden from the world like he did the gold plates? Joseph Smith thought the papyri were so great that he made copies of the drawings included in the record so that the pictures could be published. Why not also make a copy of a gold plate to preserve for posterity? God apparently needed to take back the gold plates (I’m not sure why he needs gold, but we’re told the angel took the gold plates back), but wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy of a Nephite gold plate so we could see some of the original engravings?
Why did Joseph Smith only choose witnesses of the gold plates who were either in his family, or were bank rolling the operation (Martin Harris), or were all related to the Whitmers? As Mark Twain sarcastically said in his review of the Book of Mormon:
And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too; and not only seen those plates but “hefted” them, I am convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.
Why not get some impartial witnesses? Surely they could have found a reporter or two who could be trusted, or other people who had no vested interests in the success of the church or the Book of Mormon. They could then even get affidavits from these impartial witnesses.
Why were the plates buried in a hill for 1,400 years for Joseph Smith to dig up, only for an angel to take them away when the 116 pages were lost? After a year or so, the angel conveniently just brought them back. Why didn’t the angel just give them to Joseph Smith in the first place? Why all the intrigue with going back to the hill every year for four years when it turns out the angel could carry them back and forth at will? The fact that Joseph Smith was a treasure hunter, and then scored the greatest treasure find of all time, in the very hill where he previously failed to find treasure, doesn’t set off any alarm bells?
To me the only explanation is the plates didn’t exist. All of these witnesses believed in “second sight”, where they could “see” things with their spiritual eyes. There are enough witnesses beyond the three and the eight who were allowed to lift the “plates” in a box that I believe Joseph Smith had something that represented the plates. Emma said she felt the plates through a cloth but was never allowed to see them. Maybe even Joseph Smith got to the point where he believed what he had in the box represented actual gold plates…somewhere. But if he had had actual gold plates, he would have been thrilled to show them off, and not to just people closely tied to him.
So are the gold plates a fly in my potato salad like Michael Ash suggests? If by “potato salad” he means my former testimony of Joseph Smith being a true prophet, then yes. The plates are one of many flies that tell me Joseph Smith was not what the LDS church claims he was.