12 June 2017

Recreating the Book of Mormon plates

A big part of the Book of Mormon story depends on the plates described by Joseph Smith. We have all seen paintings or representations of them, but they aren't all necessarily accurate. While we don't have the plates for scrutiny (even if we did, it's obvious that critics would still not be satisfied), we do have contemporary descriptions of them. There is a good bit we understand, but there is still space for individual interpretation on what they looked like, how many plates there were, and how deep the collection of records was.

The Church's Museum of Church History and Art has a representation of the plates on exhibit, made from historical descriptions by those who saw or handled them. Whatever our critics and detractors might say, it seems obvious that some physical object was possessed by Joseph. Even his enemies believed the stories enough to attack him and his household several times, attempting to steal them. We may never know exactly what they looked like, but the following facsimile gives a good idea and the accounts given by those who had personal experience with them should help to weed out false ideas that may have crept up over the years. However, any modern representation of them must of necessity be based partly on conjecture and educated guesses. There are some frustrating gaps in details that modern enthusiasts would like to have, but the goals of 19th-century observers of the plates in describing them would be different than ours today.
Of course, the Church's critics have all sorts of reasons the plates could not have existed as described, but most of their complaints can be resolved by relying closely on the words of those who supposedly interacted with them, rather than Mormon traditions and imaginings that have evolved over more than a century and a half. To read more about the exhibit, how this model was made, and accurate quotes by Joseph Smith and his associates, read this article on LDS.org.