What Happened to the Gold Plates?

I knew that Mormon accounts of the plates used to translate the Book of Mormon say that the angel Moroni took the plates back at some point, but I had a hard time finding the source texts for how or when this might have happened. So far, I have three sources:

[1] Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations by Lucy Smith, Lamoni, Iowa, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, p. 167-168. Lucy Smith writes:

In a few days we were followed by Joseph, Oliver and the Whitmers, who came to make us a visit, and make some arrangements about getting the book printed. Soon after they came, all the male part of the company, with my husband, Samuel, and Hyrum, retired to a place where the family were in the habit of offering up their secret devotions to God. They went to this place, because it had been revealed to Joseph that the plates would be carried thither by one of the ancient Nephites….(here follows the testimony of the eight witnesses)
After these witnesses returned to the house, the angel again made his appearance to Joseph, at which time Joseph delivered up the plates into the angel’s hands.

I find it strange that the Nephite carried the plates. Did Smith not have them and was he not able to carry them?

[2] Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1.60 – Smith writes:

But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight.

[3] Journal of Discourses, Vol.19, p.40, Brigham Young, June 17,  1877. Young’s relates an account from Oliver Cowdery that seems incredibly fantastic and unbelievable.

I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which  the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things  pertaining to that country.  I believe I will take the liberty to tell  you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can  be.  This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not  take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take.  I tell  these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so.  I want to  carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children  also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem  to be entirely hidden from the human family.  Oliver Cowdery went with  the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates.  Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which  you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph  got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the  hill Cumorah, which he did.  Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver  went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which  there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the  time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but  that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it  was a large table that stood in the room.  Under this table there was  a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether  in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were  piled up in the corners and along the walls.  The first time they went  there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again  it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates;  it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words:  “This sword  will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become  the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”

If you are aware of other accounts of this event, please let me know.

5 thoughts on “What Happened to the Gold Plates?”

  1. Joel, I don’t think you say you doubt this story, just that you find it fantastic. I tend not to doubt it. I believe that Satan and his demons have power to do fantastic things. The Bible says Satan masquerades as an angel of light, so I think this is entirely possible. The sad thing is that people attribute all things supernatural to God when, in fact, I do not believe they are ALL attributable to Him.

  2. Visitations are possible, sure, but not this. I think he used automatic writing. If he had any plates, they were fakes that he discarded.

  3. Just as no serious scholars have ever given the Book of Mormon or other Latter Day Saint scriptures any attention as they have to the Bible or other scriptures, it seems to me that we should leave their other stories alone as well. Why? Because they’re just stories. We know they are. Anyone who is a Christian familiar with the Bible on a daily basis, not just reading “strength for today” mini-portions, but actually reading and praying the Word of God every day, can easily tell that all the Mormon sacred writings and histories are entirely fictional. They are a 19th century religious “romance” that has gotten out of hand and taken on a life of its own. How can I tell that they are entirely fictional? Because I know from experience, from my life in Christ, that God simply does not work “that way,” as He is portrayed in the Mormon writings. They are fiction pure and simple. You can read the New Testament era pseudepigrapha (the so called “lost books of the bible” as they have once been gathered and published) and find the same sort of stuff, only written many centuries ago.

    Whether or not individual Mormons can be Christians, God knows. He doesn’t judge us by our adherence to doctrinal statements, but on how well we have followed Christ, everything from confessing Him before men all the way to helping an enemy in distress, and everything in between.

    Historically and doctrinally, the Latter Day Saints, whatever else they are, are not Christians in the sense of the Church of the councils, and they don’t want to be, apparently. They are absolutely no threat to me, nor to anyone who follows Jesus Christ and knows the Bible. As for the others, well, if we don’t evangelize them and the Mormons do, we’ll have to answer for it.

    God plates, yes, a poorly executed hoax, something an illiterate would come up with, like so many of the shamanistic religions founded by Japanese peasant women or Bengali mystics. There will always be an audience and following for these, because people are easily lured by fantasy and especially those which make little people feel important. That’s why small town America jumped on the band wagon of Mormonism, Masonic orders, and various other kinds of home-made spiritual remedies. Farmer Joe, who would never be recognized for his great talents and prodigious philanthropy in the remote village of Fingerbone could finally be appreciated, could wear medals and ribbons, be called “brother” or even “master” in some of these groups.

    So anyone can become an elder, a bishop, or even one of the twelve apostles, as long as he goes along with the game. It’s just a story. It’s just a dream. And until the sleepers want to wake up, all our nudging and shaking them won’t help them a bit.

    That’s all, folks!

  4. Correction, but maybe a good slip of the tongue in the previous comment: “God plates” should read “Gold plates,” but maybe, what’s the difference from a Mormon point of view?

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