Juvenile Instructor » “The Cultural History of the Gold Plates”: Notes from the 2011 Bushman/Givens Seminar, Part II
 


“The Cultural History of the Gold Plates”: Notes from the 2011 Bushman/Givens Seminar, Part II

By: Ben P - August 22, 2011

Continued from Part I.

Sarah Reed, “Fantasy, Fraud, and Freud: The Uncanny Gold Plates in 19th Century Newspaper Accounts.” Sarah, a graduate student in German studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, had the honor of bringing Freud to the party. Specifically, she explored the debates surrounding the Gold Plates through the lens of Freud’s “uncanny,” the idea that a thing or concept can be both familiar and foreign at the same time. Sarah examined how newspaper accounts presented Joseph Smith’s narrative—which in itself possessed many home-grown or native elements—in a way that repressed the familiar and emphasized the exotic. Attackers often contrasted JS’s message with Enlightenment ideals, thereby creating a safe distance between the Mormons and the audience. Fun stuff.

Elizabeth Mott, “The Forbidden Gaze: The Veiling of the Gold Plates and Joseph Smith’s Redefinition of Sacred Space.” Mott is a graduate student in Women’s Studies at Claremont, and framed her paper around Martin Harris’s famous statement on seeing the Gold Plates through his “spiritual eyes.” Be exploring the metaphorical nature of 19th century religious rhetoric, Liz claimed that the use of “spiritual eyes”—in contrast to “temporal eyes”—sacralized the event that kept the encounter spiritual in nature. This persistent contrast between divine and profane seems to be at odds with Mormonism’s collapse of the sacred, yet is common in Mormon scriptures; for instance, Moses’s vision in the Book of Moses is described as being received with “spiritual eyes.” The language also provided a framework in which Martin Harris, someone fully conscious of his unworthiness and sins, still able to take part in sacred discourse.

Michael Reed, “The Notion of Ancient Metal Records in Joseph Smith’s Day.” The thesis of this paper was simple: that the idea of “metal records” was uncontroversial in antebellum America. Mike began his presentation with a Parley Pratt quote saying that if Joseph Smith claimed finding a buried record in the field, lacking angelic and divine intervention, his message would have been universally accepted by the world. He then presented a number of newspapers, pamphlets, school books, and novels that took the belief in ancient metal records for granted. While Mike didn’t necessarily explore what these sources really mean to Mormon historians–moving past the “what” to “why” question–it did persuasively demonstrate that ancient metal records were not the radical part of Joseph Smith’s story. Predictably, several FARMS associates in the audience offered challenges in the Q&A session, and a combination of ambiguity (and in one case, hostility) on the part of the questioners and Mike’s inability to comprehend what the questions were really asking led to tremendous awkwardness for all those present—perhaps the most tension felt at a Bushman/Givens Seminar to date. Oh, well.

Caroline Sorensen, “Operation Tumbaga: The Metallurgic Plausibility of the Gold Plates.” Caroline is an engineering student at BYU, and examined whether the Gold Plates, as described by those who experienced them, were plausible. She got into lots of detailed and specialized concepts about gold alloy, copper, and other metal-related topics and decided that while not a “home run,” it was possible for the Book of Mormon civilizations to create plates made from a copper-rich gold alloy that would weigh around 60 pounds. Perhaps the most fascinating part of her discussion—and likely a first in Summer Seminar history—was Caroline describing her own attempt to recreate one plate following the process she previously explained. The resulting two tiny examples were then passed around for everyone to “heft.”

Christopher Smith, “Rediscovering Joseph Smith’s ‘Discovery Narrative’ in Southern Utah.” Chris’s presentation was both fun and fascinating. He narrated the story of two amateur LDS archeologists—Jose Davila and John Brewer—and their quest to verify the Gold Plates story through their own expeditions. Drawing on the Paul R Cheesman Papers at BYU (Cheesman was a BYU Religion Professor who became involved with both characters), Chris showed how Book of Mormon archeology went through several growing stages before it finally became as scholarly and professional as it is today. While primarily descriptive rather than analytic—I’m sure we’ll see more brilliant analysis as he expands the project—it was exciting to catch a glimpse of how some Mormons attempted to verify Joseph Smith’s gold plates in the mid-20th century.

Rachel Gostenhoffer, “In Consequence of Their Wickedness:The Decline and Fall of Mormon Seership, 1838-1900.” Rachel is a graduate student at Brown University, and her presentation was brilliantly sophisticated and interesting. She opened the paper by narrating a late 19th-century Mormon examining a neighbor’s seerstone through a microscope—a beautiful example of how fields like “science” and “religion” have merged over time: the supernatural seerstones merged with modernity’s positivism. While there are many facets of the paper I could describe, I was mostly fascinated by her take on the possibility of different trajectories Mormonism could have taken with regard to seership, challenging the Quinnean (and traditional) trajectory of mysticism giving way to modernity. The first trajectory was the de-literalization and aestheticism of seership, where the “seer” became much more important in Mormon spirituality than the “seerstone.” The second trajectory was the growing emphasis on patriarchy, where supernatural experiences were increasingly understood to be under the direction of the priesthood rather than spirituality found in the person or an object. I can’t wait to see where Rachel goes with this project.

All in all, it was a fantastic conference and lived up to the seminar’s hyped tradition. I’ve heard Bushman wants to continue the same theme next year, so let’s hope more brilliant young scholars take part!



36 Comments

  1. Thanks for the write up, Ben. As for the one question that I was confused by, I was asked by John Gee whether I “unknowingly” cited “Hoffman forgeries” in my presentation. How could I answer that question? I responded, “So you are asking me if I *know* whether I *unknowingly* cited Hoffmann forgeries? If I were to say no, then this would therefore mean in your mind that I may have indeed cited some ‘unknowingly’ after all, right?” Seemed to be a cheap rhetorical trap.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 22, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  2. I will also mention that Gee asserted that Jared’s presentation (from the afternoon session) disproved my thesis. Gee, however, was unwilling (or unable) to support this claim. Incidentally, Jared later said to me with a grin, “My presentation contradicted yours, eh? News to me!”

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 22, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

  3. Great writeup, Ben. Thanks!

    Comment by Christopher Smith — August 22, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

  4. Did Gee ever state what the Hoffman forgery was?

    Comment by Steve Fleming — August 22, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  5. @Steve–No. As a friend put it, he seemed to be just shooting in the dark.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 22, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

  6. Mike’s paper was great. The questions were strange and, in my estimation, silly.

    Comment by SC Taysom — August 22, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

  7. I’m surprised at the tension in Mike Reed’s paper. Wasn’t this established fairly beyond doubt more than 20 years ago by Vogel? I’m curious as to what Reed actually adds beyond Vogel’s old Indian Origins book. (Presumably more sources – but were they really needed?)

    Comment by Clark — August 22, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  8. BTW – that’s not intended as a knock down on Mike. I’m honestly curious as to what new has been brought to the topic.

    Also I think a lot of apologists recognize this basic thesis is relatively uncontroversial.

    Comment by Clark — August 22, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  9. @Clark–No offense taken. I was actually *asked* to write this paper after a disagreement I had with Jack Welch in previous weeks of the seminar. He implied that certain details about ancient metal records were almost certainly unknown to Joseph Smith and his associates. Bushman thought the information I brought up in my rebuttal was “fascinating,” so I agreed to change my paper topic. My own observation while studying the controversy has been this: Various FARMS-folk (in response to Vogell and Metcalfe’s work)concede that the notion of metal records was “available” in Smith’s day… but they question whether it was *commonly accepted* in his day. Or as Bill Hamblin put it, was the idea actually limited to “highly educated specialists”? Frankly, I’d rather not beat a dead horse, but they keep resurrecting the dang thing. Hopefully, once my paper is published, betsie will finally be able to rest in peace. ;)

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 22, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  10. Good stuff. As I never get tired of saying, let’s not base our testimonies on what we think JS didn’t know.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — August 22, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

  11. I’m really interested in Gostenhoffer’s piece. I’ve been keeping a file related to utah era seership, and I look forward to seeing how she works with this stuff. I think that priesthood responses to female seership over time is really interesting.

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 22, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

  12. Thanks for the report, Ben. While the apparent controversy and silly polemics surrounding the reaction to Mike’s paper are disappointing, there’s a lot of seemingly fascinating material outlined in your report of the several participants papers. I look forward to seeing these expanded and hopefully published in the future.

    Comment by Christopher — August 22, 2011 @ 11:39 pm

  13. Thanks for the reports, Ben. I wish I could have been there.

    Comment by Jared T — August 23, 2011 @ 12:19 am

  14. John Gee harassing presenters and making a fool of himself at an academic conference — sounds familiar… Anyone remember the AAR meeting where he behaved similarly?

    Comment by Michael — August 23, 2011 @ 2:32 am

  15. Why the bashing and trashing Michael? I happen to believe that Mike has not been adequately critical with his sources and his suggestions. If the folks at FARMS made similar strained and unlikely connections with ancient sources, I have no doubt that it would be soundly questioned — and ought to be. Is Mike merely suggesting that metal (not gold) plates was not entirely foreign to the United States, or that the notion is the source of Joseph Smith’s fantasy (as he quite clearly believes)? Why shouldn’t such tenuous assertions and associations be critically examined?

    Comment by Blake — August 23, 2011 @ 9:10 am

  16. I happen to believe that Mike has not been adequately critical with his sources and his suggestions.

    Have you read his paper, Blake? Surely you wouldn’t be so dismissive of a paper you only know about through a two sentence summary.

    Comment by Ben Park — August 23, 2011 @ 9:28 am

  17. What do you have, Blake? What makes you believe that I have not been adequately critical with my sources and suggestions?

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 23, 2011 @ 10:37 am

  18. Ben: I obtained a recording of Mike’s presentation — so no I haven’t read his paper other than the very extensive notes made available from others at the conference.

    What makes me believe that you haven’t been adequately critical is precisely that the fact that the notion of metal plates is available somewhere in America (or Europe or Africa) doesn’t mean that it would be uncontroversial or accepted by others in Joseph Smith’s melieu. What we need is an explanation for the common derision of the notion of Joseph’s having gold (not metal) plates if your thesis were to prove to be sound.

    Comment by Blake — August 23, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  19. From my paper:

    sources published prior to 1828 (some more obscure than others) not only mention metal records, but also records
    • engraved on softer metals (***gold***, silver, brass, copper, lead)
    • with paper thin pages
    • closely written characters
    • engraved on both sides of plates
    • Egyptian Gnostic figures and unintelligible writing
    • sealed
    • bound together by rings
    • rod passed through the rings to carry them by
    • records containing inscriptions that were filled with dark substance to make characters more legible
    • buried
    • in stone boxes
    • deposited in sacred hills/mountains/caves
    • guarded by spiritual beings.
    • Signed by witnesses.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 23, 2011 @ 11:08 am

  20. Also from my paper:

    Joseph’s contemporaries had available many of these sorts of details, but it is interesting to note that they also misread sources in ways that would better correlate with Joseph Smith’s plates. WW Phelps writes in the Morning Star, January of 1833:

    It may be well to state, that the prophet of God, in ancient days, according to the accounts of men, kept their sacred records on plates of gold, and those of less consequence on plates of brass, copper, wood, &c., see Jahn’s biblical archeology, Josephus, and others.”

    It is true that gold plates were indeed inscribed in antiquity, however, WW Phelps erroneously cites Jahn’s Biblical Archeology to support this fact. This volume reports that records were at times written “in gold,” but with this phrase Jahn actually means “in gold ink,” not “on gold plates.” This misreading was thereafter perpetuated, appearing in the Western Standard and Millennial Star in May 1857, the Millennial Star in 1858, and the Journal of Discourses in 1859.

    Misreading of “in gold” as “on gold” would have been an easy mistake to make, especially for those who had been entrenched in Masonic lore where a gold plate is described, being deposited in “the bowels of the earth,” and “upon which were some characters which [Enoch] received a strict injunction never to pronounce.” W.W. Phelps, who first published the misreading of the phrase “in Gold” as “on gold,” was an ex-mason.

    Many of Joseph Smith’s friends, and a few of his family members, were masons. And not only masons… but as treasure seekers, one could even call the Smith’s and some of their associates amateur archeologists. Being a masonic and treasure digging family, the Smith’s would have had great interest in ancient history and archeological discoveries, and would have additionally associated with others who shared these interests. The Smith’s and their associates lived in an environment more privileged to historical and archeological information that other poor under-educated farm-folk might have otherwise been ignorant of. In closing I remind you of the reports that some of Joseph’s treasure seeking partners desperately tried to get a share of the gold plates. Would they have done so if they believe the notion of ancient metal records was preposterous? Of course not.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 23, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  21. I also explained in my paper:

    According to Pratt’s quote, he seems to suggest that there was no real controversy in the plates being metal. Granted, we know that some skeptics rejected Joseph Smith’s “Golden Bible” reports, partly because they associated the claim with his previous treasure seeking activities. Moreover, critics were all the more skeptical since Joseph Smith refused to publically display the plates. But rejecting Smith’s claim for having gold plates is not the same as denying the ancient practice. Few skeptics actually contended against the Gold Plates report on ancient metallurgical and archeological grounds, and those who did did so for fairly specific reasons.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 23, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  22. I also went through each of the sources most commonly cited by FARMS-folk to support their claim that metal records were preposterous in Joseph’s day.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 23, 2011 @ 11:27 am

  23. Now this information may not be enough to convince you the persuasiveness of my position, Blake, but please keep in mind that I only had 25 minutes to speak. When my paper is out, you see the amount of documentation I have to support my claim. As I explained in my presentation, what I had shared was just a tip of the iceberg.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 23, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

  24. Mike, I hope you’ll choose a venue and an approach that will move beyond the polemics to understanding a bit more about what your findings might mean other than deflating certain pro-Mormon rhetorical positions. Though there is an apparent pleasure in the fights for participants, my sense as an observer is that the pleasure is not worth the interpretive disorientation. I, for one, will be interested in your findings for my translation project as I and others try to puzzle through what ancient metal records meant for participants. For those of us interested in academic publishing, polemicized tone and framing make it harder to treat the articles as secondary rather than primary literature. If I might summarize crudely, I would love for you to publish for the 2010s rather than the 1990s.

    (I freely admit that I am a believing LDS and do not believe that the Church or broader tradition are dangerous and/or in desperate need of correction; this almost certainly colors my lack of interest in the polemics. I do love learning about people and culture and the meaning of ideas historically, and I find that pursuit muddled by polemical framing on either side.)

    Comment by smb — August 23, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  25. Am I the only one fascinated by Caroline’s attempt to explore the production of the gold plates? Can we get photos? Also, I think there ought to be some sort of display in which people recreate objects from Mormon history. Wasn’t there a recipe for a seer stone a while back? Part of this is just the nerdy part of me that really wants to go to Colonial Williamsburg coming out.

    Comment by Amanda HK — August 23, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  26. Amanda: Caroline’s presentation was indeed fascinating, and she did share pictures of the whole process. Maybe we’ll try and convince her to do a guest post…

    Comment by Ben Park — August 23, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  27. @smb, I just finished reading Mike’s paper for the first time literally about 15 minutes ago, and it’s not nearly as polemical as you envision. It is corrective—that’s the nature of the issue Mike addresses. Mike’s documentation is extensive (and my version doesn’t include all final sources). I suspect you’ll enjoy reading it, Sam.

    Mike offers a valuable glimpse into JS’s ideational culture on the question of ancient metallic epigraphy.

    Kind regards,

    Brent

    Comment by Brent Metcalfe — August 23, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  28. Thanks Brent. I found the Parley P. Pratt quote extremely useful in helping me to write the paper in a non-polemical tone. With this quote I was able to avoid setting up my argument as a response to current apologetics. I instead framed my argument in a way that actually supported an implication made by Pratt. Thankfully feedback from my fellow seminar participants, most of whom are believing Mormons, was also helpful.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 23, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  29. Mike: I didn’t mean to call into question your basic thesis beyond asking for critical assessment of your sources and the conclusions your draw from such evidence. But give me some help on the “non-polemical” nature of your observations here. If you were truly merely supporting Phelp’s statement, then the fact (which you emphasize) that all of these sources predate 1828 would be irrelevant. Moreover, it would focus on the use Mormons made of the various disparate traditions or — as you say — misused them. However, that isn’t how it appears to me. On your website you set it up as following up on and confirming Ron Huggins’ paper and thesis that Joseph Smith got the idea for the plates from the Captain Kidd mythology — insisting based upon a late and fairly questionable source that he even memorized a poem about Kidd (albeit leaving out the key phrase that could relate the entire issue to gold plates).

    Certainly it is not lost on you that your project appears to be to argue that Joseph Smith made the whole think up from the get-go as Huggins argued. That there was a money-digging lore hardly justifies pulling in sources from all over Europe and antebellum America to argue that it is somehow relevant to Joseph Smith’s claims. Many of the claimed associations seem like a real stretch to me. I trust that you don’t object to critical assessment of those sources and what you claim those sources mean for Joseph Smith and his claims?

    Further, the notion of gold plates is often cited as an obvious sign of credulity and superstitious belief in the literature by Joseph Smith’s contemporaries. Why was it so difficult for them if everyone just accepted it as given as you appear to say (maybe you said things that in a written presentation you would say more carefully).

    Comment by Blake — August 23, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  30. Sorry for the repost—the board doesn’t seem to like Germanic double angle brackets as quotation marks (probably thinks it’s HTML).

    @Blake, my friend, you’re jumping to far too many conclusions. Surely finding evidence that legitimately counters an apologetic argument by shedding more light on JS’s ideational milieu doesn’t constitute a polemic against Mormonism itself.

    Ron Huggins isn’t mentioned anywhere in Mike’s paper (though if relevant, I’d assume that Mike would reference him, as he would Richard Bushman, Blake Ostler, and so on).

    @Blake:

    “Further, the notion of gold plates is often cited as an obvious sign of credulity and superstitious belief in the literature by Joseph Smith’s contemporaries.”

    Can you provide, say, five such sources during JS’s lifetime of this “often cited” notion? I’m doubtful that you can provide even four.

    Mike was far more rigorous and measured in his presentation than you give him credit.

    All the best,

    Brent

    Comment by Brent Metcalfe — August 23, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

  31. Blake: If you were truly merely supporting Phelp’s statement

    Me: Not Phelps. Parley P. Pratt.

    Blake: then the fact (which you emphasize) that all of these sources predate 1828 would be irrelevant.

    Me: I don’t agree. Like I explained, my thesis pertained how Joseph Smith’s claim (specifically to have discovered an ancient metal record) fit with the expectations and understandings of Joseph Smith’s contemporaries.

    Blake: Moreover, it would focus on the use Mormons made of the various disparate traditions or — as you say — misused them.

    Me: My focus wasn’t limited to how metal records fit the imagination of Mormons. The scope of my thesis also included the imaginations of non-Mormons.

    Blake: On your website you set it up as following up on and confirming Ron Huggins’ paper and thesis that Joseph Smith got the idea for the plates from the Captain Kidd mythology — insisting based upon a late and fairly questionable source that he even memorized a poem about Kidd (albeit leaving out the key phrase that could relate the entire issue to gold plates).

    Me: I explained in my Captain Kidd blog post, “I reserve judgement over the persuasiveness of [Huggins’] argument (***I have my own thesis that I am working on***).”

    Blake: Certainly it is not lost on you that your project appears to be to argue that Joseph Smith made the whole think up from the get-go as Huggins argued. That there was a money-digging lore hardly justifies pulling in sources from all over Europe and antebellum America to argue that it is somehow relevant to Joseph Smith’s claims. Many of the claimed associations seem like a real stretch to me.

    Me: My thesis presented at the Bushman seminar has nothing to Huggins’ argument. Like I said, I have a theory of my own that I am working on–a theory different from Huggins’. And no… I did not present or cite that theory at the Bushman Seminar.

    Blake: I trust that you don’t object to critical assessment of those sources and what you claim those sources mean for Joseph Smith and his claims?

    Me: My sources did not include information from Captain Kidd lore, so I am affraid you are just jousting windmills.

    Blake: Further, the notion of gold plates is often cited as an obvious sign of credulity and superstitious belief in the literature by Joseph Smith’s contemporaries. Why was it so difficult for them if everyone just accepted it as given as you appear to say (maybe you said things that in a written presentation you would say more carefully).

    Me: Why is it so difficult for you to know my answer to that question, if you have a recording of my presentation, as you claim? Did you even bother listening to it?

    From my presentation:
    “According to Pratt’s quote, he seems to suggest that there was no real controversy in the plates being metal. Granted, we know that some skeptics rejected Joseph Smith’s ‘Golden Bible’ reports, partly because they associated the claim with his previous treasure seeking activities. Moreover, critics were all the more skeptical since Joseph Smith refused to publically display the plates. But rejecting Smith’s claim for having gold plates is not the same as denying the ancient practice of inscribing metal records. Few skeptics actually contended against the Gold Plates report on ancient metallurgical and archeological grounds, and those who did did so for fairly specific reasons.”

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 24, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  32. Mike – I confess as I said I had just assumed this was not controversial. I just did a quick search of old FARMS stuff and I found several writings conceding the plate issue. Certainly there were older writers like Cheesman who did make the claim of ignorance. But I’m not sure Cheesman is relevant on much frankly. (Sorry to be curmudgeonly to those who like Cheesman – but I tend to think for whatever claim he makes it has a better than 50% chance of being wrong) Bill Hamblin even found an interesting Nibley quote on the matter.

    [Edit: – I was about to post and then found in that same paper the quote from Hamblin in your comments. My apologies I had read Hamblin as claiming something much more open than he apparently was. Everyone I’ve discussed it with didn’t limit it to just “essentially limited to highly educated specialists” but merely took it as an uncommon belief – otherwise why the attacks?]

    Now if we could establish that not only was the claims about metal plates a part of Joseph’s culture but a claim that most people would have been familiar with then that would be an important point. I’ve not read your paper Mike, so I’m wondering if you are making that stronger claim that belief in Indian metal plates was common place or simply the (to me) uncontroversial claim that it was in the culture.

    Comment by Clark — August 24, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  33. @ Clark. I argue in my paper that in **Joseph Smith’s** day “knowledge about the ancient practice was widely dispersed, being mentioned in various sources including newspapers, magazines, novels, encyclopedias, dictionaries, religious periodicals, biblical commentaries, school textbooks, etc.”

    You ask the question, “otherwise why the attacks?” Which specific attacks are you referring to?

    Consider the following exmaples that have been cited by Matthew Roper, Bill Hamblin, et al.

    [quoting from my paper]

    Few skeptics actually contended against the Gold Plates report on ancient metallurgical and archeological grounds, and those who did did so for fairly specific reasons.

    • LaRoy Sunderland (in 1838) denied that Jews engraved their records on plates of brass.
    • John Hyde Jr. (in 1857) contended that after the reign of Zedekiah Jews mainly wrote on rolls of parchment or papyrus (rather than plates of gold or brass). Incidentally, Hyde conceded that metal records were inscribed elsewhere in antiquity, and even cites Hesiod’s leaden tablets.
    • Reverend M.T. Lamb (in 1887) merely claimed that “No such records” as are found in the Book of Mormon was ever “engraved on gold plates or any other plates, in the early ages.”
    • Stuart Martin (in 1920) claimed that, unbeknownst to young Joseph, gold records would have most likely corroded after being buried for so long.

    Of these sources, and others I have read, none sweepingly denied the existence of ancient metal records, and only one source was even contemporaneous with Joseph Smith: LaRoy Sunderland, 1838. Does this apparent scarcity suggest that the notion of metal records in Joseph’s day was not so preposterous after all, and that Parley P. Pratt’s insinuation to this effect was therefore correct? I think it does. Fortunately, however, my conclusion does not merely follow from negative premises. There is much more positive evidence that I (and others) have gathered to settle the matter.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 24, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

  34. Hi @Blake,

    I had assumed that when you wrote (@29)…

    “Further, the notion of gold plates is often cited as an obvious sign of credulity and superstitious belief in the literature by Joseph Smith’s contemporaries.”

    … you were actually disagreeing with Mike’s core thesis (i.e., Mike is mistaken in suggesting that if writing on metallic plates were discovered in the early-19thC, virtually all scholars and many laity would have considered the discovery consistent with their understanding of antiquity).

    But if as Mike notes, you were merely saying that most folks objected to a gold book being found through supra-, supernatural means, then you’ve entirely lost me since that was one of the explicit points Mike explicates and concedes. You say you have a recording of the presentation. Did you listen to it? (And out of professional courtesy, have you shared it with Mike yet?)

    Best regards,

    Brent

    Comment by Brent Metcalfe — August 25, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

  35. Thanks Mike. Sounds like you really did add something to the discussion. Are you going to make your paper available online anywhere or are you preparing it for submission to one of the journals? I’d love to be able to read through it and try to separate out the claims about American plates versus the claims about ancient plates in general. As you mentioned the masonic notions of writings were widely dispersed but I think we have to separate out those along with general claims from claims about indian writing. (Although as I mentioned I think Vogel had already established those were discussed in at least elite circles)

    Sounds like a great paper.

    Comment by Clark — August 26, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

  36. Bump for Blake:

    Brent writes: But if as Mike notes, you were merely saying that most folks objected to a gold book being found through supra-, supernatural means, then you’ve entirely lost me since that was one of the explicit points Mike explicates and concedes. You say you have a recording of the presentation. Did you listen to it? (And out of professional courtesy, have you shared it with Mike yet?)

    ————

    @Clark–Thanks. Yes. The paper (along with the 11 others that were presented at the seminar) will at some point in time be posted online somewhere. Unfortunately, I don’t know when or where that will be, but I imagine a couple blogs/message boards will announce their availability. There is also a Mormon studies journal interested in publishing my paper, on the condition that I add other material and make a few changes.

    Comment by Mike Reed — August 28, 2011 @ 10:55 am