Even before his first vision was ever written down, there were stories of Joseph Smith's "Gold Bible." From its earliest publication in the 1800s to today, the story of the golden plates has puzzled and intrigued millions of individuals. How did Joseph Smith get the plates? What did the newspapers say about it? And whatever happened to the golden plates anyway?
Perhaps the most overly documented part of Mormon Church History is Joseph Smith's stories of the golden plates. The golden plates show up not only in church approved sources but is constant in "anti-Mormon" literature as well. Its prevelance is greater than the first vision, the priesthood restoration or the apperance of Jesus Christ in the New World.
According to the Smith's magic worldview and the affidavit of Willard Chase, Joseph Smith had to dress in all black and leave during the "witching hour" when he supposedly obtained the golden plates.
Willard Chase was a resident of Palmyra, New York and an associate and fellow treasure digger of Joseph Smith's
In the month of June, 1827, Joseph Smith, Sen., related to me the following story: "That some years ago, a spirit had appeared to Joseph his son, in a vision, and informed him that in a certain place there was a record on plates of gold, and that he was the person that must obtain them, and this he must do in the following manner: On the 22d of September, he must repair to the place where was deposited this manuscript, dressed in black clothes, and riding a black horse with a switch tail, and demand the book in a certain name, and after obtaining it, he must go directly away, and neither lay it down nor look behind him. They accordingly fitted out Joseph with a suit of black clothes and borrowed a black horse. He repaired to the place of deposit and demanded the book, which was in a stone box, unsealed, and so near the top of the ground that he could see one end of it, and raising it up, took out the book of gold; but fearing some one might discover where he got it, he laid it down to place back the top stone, as he found it; and turning round, to his surprise there was no book in sight. He again opened the box, and in it saw the book, and attempted to take it out, but was hindered.
He saw in the box something like a toad, which soon assumed the appearance of a man, and struck him on the side of his head.--Not being discouraged at trifles, he again stooped down and strove to take the book, when the spirit struck him again, and knocked him three or four rods, and hurt him prodigiously. After recovering from his fright, he enquired why he could not obtain the plates; to which the spirit made reply, because you have not obeyed your orders. He then enquired when he could have them, and was answered thus: come one year from this day, and bring with you your oldest brother, and you shall have them. This spirit, he said was the spirit of the prophet who wrote this book, and who was sent to Joseph Smith, to make known these things to him. Before the expiration of the year, his oldest brother died; which the old man said was an accidental providence!
When the box was once safe upon deck every one then was anxious to hear what was in it, when we were told that it contained fourteen gold plates, covered with mysterious characters, together with the sword of Gideon and the spectacles of Samuel the prophet! Joe, he said, was a very illiterate man, was unable either to read or write; but when he put on his nose the prophet’s spectacles, and took the gold plates one by one, letter by letter and word by word presented themselves, and with the aid of an amanuensis the Bible that he held in his hand was a literal translation of the writing upon the gold plates.
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 kingdoms of our God and his Christ.’ I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness of these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader”
Poulson: Where are the plates now?
Whitmer: In a cave, where the angel has hidden them up till the time arrives when the plates, which are sealed, shall be translated. God will yet raise up a mighty one, who shall do his work till it is finished and Jesus comes again.
Poulson: Where is that cave?
Whitmer: In the State of New York.
Poulson: In the Hill of Cumorah?
Whitmer: No, but not far from that place.
[P. Willhelm Poulson letter of August 13, 1878 to Editor of Deseret News, August 16, 1878]
© Copyright. All rights reserved.