MG-28 – Did Joseph Smith Translate Fraudulent Plates?

In History of the Church, volume 5, page 372, we read about six small bell-shaped plates, unearthed in Kinderhook, Illinois with inscriptions on them. When these plates were presented to Joseph Smith in 1843, he said, “I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom 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.”

Later, two individuals, W.P. Harris and Wilbur Fugate, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy of forging these bogus plates to test Joseph Smith’s translation abilities. Then, in the August 1981 edition of the LDS magazine titled the Ensign, the Mormon Church admitted that recent metallurgy performed on one of the plates shows that the “Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax.”

While Joseph Smith did not translate more than this, no one can deny that he was impressed with them and thought they were authentic. Although this fact should raise doubt as to Joseph Smith’s translation abilities, even more troubling is the Book of Abraham that Joseph Smith translated from fragments of an Egyptian burial text.

Regarding this Mormon Scripture from the Pearl of Great Price, the LDS Church now admits, “Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham.” So how can we trust Joseph Smith when the evidence proves he was a charlatan and not a prophet of God?

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ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

Mormons often try to excuse the evidence against the Book of Abraham by claiming that we do not possess the portions of the papyrus scrolls which Joseph Smith translated into his Book of Abraham.   Yet, as pointed out in our discussion of the Mormon Church essay in chapter one of this book, this argument fails on the fact that Joseph Smith copied the image of the papyrus fragments into his translation of the Book of Abraham, and this is the very same image identified on the fragments of the papyrus scrolls discovered.

The Church now admits that Joseph Smith’s translation of this image does not match the translation given by Egyptologists. Likewise, the date these manuscripts were written proves that they were not in existence during Abraham’s lifetime. So, even if we could find the missing fragments, these couldn’t contain Abraham’s words as translated by Joseph Smith.

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