Joseph Smith was fooled by the Kinderhook Plates, thus proving he was a
Fooling the Prophet with the Kinderhook Plates
By Bill McKeever
On pages 374-6 of the Documentary History of the Church, (Vol. 5)
facsimiles of "brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county,
Illinois, on April 23,  by Mr. Robert Wiley and others, while
excavating a large mound" are displayed. According to the account,
Wiley and others, "found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of
the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found
on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides with
ancient characters." The plates were then given to Joseph Smith to
translate. Though Smith described Wiley as a "respectable merchant"
(p.374), he was unaware that Wiley was part of a conspiracy to expose
Smith as a fraud.
The ruse was a success. Page 372
of the History of the Church (DHC) reads: "I [Joseph Smith] 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" (DHC 5:372).
In 1879, Wilbourn Fugate, one of the conspirators working with Wiley,
admitted "that the plates were a humbug, gotten up by Robert Wiley,
Bridge Whitton, and myself. Whitton (who was a blacksmith) cut the
plates out of some pieces of copper; Wiley and I made the hieroglyphics
by making impressions on beeswax and filling them with acid, and
putting it on the plates. When they were finished, we put them together
with rust made of nitric acid, old iron and lead, and bound them with a
piece of hoop iron, covering them completely with rust." (New Witnesses
for God, Vol.3, p.63).
LDS Seventy B.H. Roberts refused to believe it. Wrote Roberts, "The
fact that Fugate's story was not told until thirty-six years after the
event, and that he alone of all those who were connected with the event
gives that version of it, is rather strong evidence that his story is
the hoax, not the discovery of the plates, nor the engravings upon
them" (New Witnesses for God 3:64). Why the nine conspirators did not
expose Smith earlier is a mystery, but the fact remains that Mr.
Roberts was clearly misled into thinking his founder had indeed
translated ancient plates.
According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (KINDERHOOK PLATES,
2:789,790), interest in the forged plates waned following Smith's death
in 1844. "Decades later two of the alleged discoverers announced that
the plates were a hoax; an attempt to discredit Smith. By then,
however, the Church was headquartered in Utah and little attention was
paid to these strange disclosures." The article continues by saying,
"Interest was kindled again in 1920 when the Chicago Historical Society
acquired what appeared to be one of the original Kinderhook plates.
Later the Chicago plate was subjected to a number of nondestructive
tests, with inconclusive results. Then in 1980, the Chicago Historical
Society gave permission for destructive tests, which were done at
Northwestern University. Examination by a scanning electron microscope,
a scanning auger microprobe, and X-ray fluorescence analysis proved
conclusively that the plate was one of the Kinderhook six; that it had
been engraved, not etched; and that it was of nineteenth-century
manufacture. There thus appears no reason to accept the Kinderhook
plates as anything but a frontier hoax."
(c) Uncommon Sense
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