Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Golden Plates

After Joseph Smith's first vision, there followed a number of years wherein he didn't have any more communication from God by way of vision. He began to wonder if his weaknesses of character had somehow made him unworthy of further communication from God. One night he prayed to God and hoped to know his standing with Him.

While he was praying, a light appeared in his room which continued to grow in brightness until, as Joseph described, it was above the brightness of the sun at noon day. A personage appeared and called him by name. He said that he was a messenger of God, and that his name was Moroni. He then told Joseph of a book, written on gold plates, that was deposited in the ground, that contained the ancient record of the people of the Americas. He said that it contained the fulness of the gospel, as preached by the Savior to the people of the Americas, after His resurrection.

While Moroni spoke to him, Joseph had a vision, and was able to see clearly the place where the plates were hidden. He was told that in due time he would be able to get the plates, and would be the instrument in translating them and bringing them forth to the world. Later he was given the chance to see the plates. In his own words, he said, "“Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood. On the west side of this hill, not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box. This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all around was covered with earth.
“Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement. In the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them. " (Testimony of Joseph Smith) Some years later he was allowed to remove the plates and translate them by the gift and power of God in to what we now know as the Book of Mormon.

This story might seem incredible to some people at first glance. Some of the people of Joseph Smith's time did not believe that God would bring forth more scripture. Some of the people believed he had the gold plates, and endeavored to steal them from him. God had warned Joseph that he should do all he could to preserve and protect the plates, and that if he did his best, they would be protected so that he could translate them. But is it incredible to believe that the ancient people of America would have kept their records on plates of gold? We know that gold was in abundance when the Spaniards first came to the Americas. Some time back I posted a link to an article about some gold plates that were found in Bulgaria.

Some years ago, my husband bought me a 24 carat gold ring from Taiwan. It is so soft that it was made to be expandable. Gold would have been a perfect metal to write upon because of it's softness, but lasting durability. It is possible that not all of the records that were kept were written on gold plates. Some may have been kept on other metals. But this particular record was an abridgement of many records kept by ancient american prophets. It contained the more "precious parts" of those other records. It's compiler was a prophet named Mormon. Because this record was compiled by Mormon, it is known as the Book of Mormon.

Joseph Smith gave this further description of the plates: "These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold; 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. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called ‘Urim and Thummim,’ which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God." (Chapter 38: The Wentworth Letter,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, (2007),435–47)

The main purpose of the Book of Mormon is to act as a second witness of the Savior Jesus Christ. It tells of His visit to the Americas, to His "other sheep" after his death and resurrection. It helps to restore some truths lost from the Bible during translation. It contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After Joseph Smith was finished translating the gold plates, the Angel Moroni returned and took the plates back. I have talked to some people who had said that if they could only see the plates for themselves, then they would believe. But God knows that miracles do not convert, nor does proof. Even if we had the gold plates on display in the church museum, people would just say that they were made by a modern man. In addition, people would do all they could to steal them. A true testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon comes only after careful study and prayer to God.

As I read and study the Book of Mormon, I find great power in the testimonies about Jesus Christ that are contained therein. Regular, prayerful study of the Book of Mormon can bring great spirit and power in to our lives. I encourage all to take the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon. I have included some links on the side of this blog for how to obtain a free copy, or to read the Book of Mormon online. I encourage all to study the Book of Mormon along side the Bible, and feel the power of these dual witnesses.

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