Reason #5: Today’s Prophet, Seer, Revelator?

One of the great joys I felt when I became a Mormon was with the prospect of living my life under the guidance of a prophet who could settle doctrinal issues and even set standards as specific as how long my skirts should be. (Okay, so I was weird, but I welcomed that kind of guidance, and I know many parents did — and do– welcome it as well.)

But that wasn’t the only function of a prophet, the head of the LDS Church. In Doctrine and Covenants 107:91-92, the man who heads that church must be not only a “seer, revelator, and a prophet,” but also a “translator.”

When is the last time anyone verified that any prophet of the LDS Church could translate documents? The Book of Mormon? — no, nobody has the gold plates for verification. The Book of Abraham? No, the papyri and illustrations do not say what Joseph Smith said they did. The Kinderhook Plates?

Here’s an excerpt from the revised version of my book, The Mormon Mirage, regarding those plates:

In the spring of 1843 Smith was so confident of himself and his powers that when six inscribed metal plates were brought to him by men who had dug them out of the ground, he was reported to have said””

“Monday, May 1 insert facsimiles of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook . . . I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with which they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth.”

Unfortunately for Joseph”‘s future reputation as a translator, one of the men who claimed to have “found” the plates also confessed to having helped “engrave” them with acid, using as a model for the hieroglyphics the characters on the lid of a Chinese tea box. He and some friends then “aged” the plates with rust, concocted the story of a dream revealing their whereabouts, and pretended to discover them in the presence of a Mormon elder.

The Mormon community was overjoyed in the prospects of a sequel to the Book of Mormon that would verify Apostle Pratt”‘s prophecy that more revelation would come from the ground as did the golden plates. When Joseph let it be published that he was working on a translation, the conspirators, too, were overjoyed at the prospects of a new “scripture” from their forged plates. But Joseph died before the translation apparently was finished, and the forgers spent a long 40 years waiting for the Mormon Church to publish the part that Joseph translated. Some Mormons have interpreted this waiting as a sign that the plates were genuine; the only hoax being the story that they claim the forgers made up.

Since one of the plates is still in existence, though, modern scientists have inspected it and agreed that its composition and construction are compatible with the theory that they were forged in a blacksmith”‘s shop of the Midwest in the 1840s, and that the inscriptions could indeed have been made with acid, and finally that the inscription is in the Lo language of China””all of which fits the men”‘s story of forging, aging, and inscribing the plates with symbols copied from a Chinese box.
So what do the “Kinderhook Plates” (which I never heard of while a Mormon) prove about Joseph Smith? No one said it better than Charles Shook, who put it succinctly: “Only a bogus prophet translates bogus plates.”

And, according to the Doctrine and Covenants, a prophet who doesn’t translate would be disqualified as leader of that church. No LDS prophet has translated anything, ever.

For more information, see The Mormon Mirage 3rd Edition:  A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today (Zondervan, 2009). Also available as an audiobook and as an expanded-text E-book for Nook, Kindle and other reading devices.

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