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JOSEPH SMITH AND THE KINDERHOOK HOAX

    
Joseph Smith was fooled by the Kinderhook Plates, thus proving he was a false prophet.

 
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, [1843] 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."



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