Fascinating article about how Harvard’s Peobody Museum has a number of plates of gold with extensive images and Mayan hieroglyphics found by archeologist Edward Herbert Thompson in Chichén Itzá about a hundred years ago: Ancient gold plates in Mesoamerica.
To put this in context, one of the most intriguing aspects of The Book of Mormon is Joseph Smith’s story of the Golden Plates and the Angel Moroni. In Joseph’s day, the idea of an Angel was considered almost less heretical than the idea that the writings of prophets could be found on plates made out of gold. Not to mention plates of gold buried in upstate New York.
Joseph was widely ridiculed for spreading the story of the golden plates (called by detractors “the Gold Bible”), so it’s worthwhile to ask a simple question: if Smith was such a brilliant con man, why would he make up such an elaborate and unbelievable story? Don’t con men specialize in creating believable falsehoods? He could have just as easily have said he found scrolls or a codex – after all, Nephi and Lehi were from Jerusalem, and scrolls or papyri were the standard for prophetic writings.
Nowadays, it’s forgotten that nobody had heard of writings on plates of gold when Joseph Smith told his story in 1830, almost a century before Thompson’s discovery. The existence of similar plates is fact, and the ignorant and uninformed continue to trumpet the provably false idea that there is no archaeological evidence to support The Book of Mormon. What is missing, I’ll admit, is archaeological proof – but its absence proves nothing. In fact, I believe God obviously doesn’t want to give his children “signs” and “proof” for a simple reason: he honors their freedom to choose what they will believe and what they won’t. So he offers up evidence for the believers while withholding proof that might convince the unbeliever – against their will.
Which is, no doubt, the reason that the angel asked for the plates back after the translation was finished. If the plates existed, the attention of unbelievers would be turned towards nit-picking proof that Joseph’s translation was wrong, or something with just as much of a “missing the forest for the trees” aspect.
By leaving the whereabouts of the Golden Plates a mystery, the Lord by so doing invites us to focus on the words of the book itself if we want to know for ourselves whether it is truth or not.
I would invite you to do exactly that. Don’t take someone else’s word for it – read it for yourself and simply ask yourself: could any unschooled young man not yet 25 years old have written this book and then conned thousands (during his lifetime – over 15 million after his death) into believing it to be scripture – the word of God revealed to prophets? And even you generously conclude he could have, you should ask yourself why would he expose himself to the ridicule he suffered for telling the wild story of the plates of gold…