How Big A Book? Estimating the Total Surface Area of the Book of Mormon Plates

Abstract: We do not have the Book of Mormon metal plates available to us. We cannot heft them, examine the engravings, or handle the leaves of that ancient record as did the Three Witnesses, the Eight Witnesses, and the many other witnesses to both the existence and nature of the plates. In such a situation, what more can we learn about the physical nature of the plates without their being present for our inspection? Building on available knowledge, this article estimates the total surface area of the plates using two independent approaches and finds that the likely surface area was probably between 30 and 86 square feet, or roughly 15% of the surface area of the paper on which the English version of the Book of Mormon is now printed. Continue reading

Bare Record: The Nephite Archivist, The Record of Records, and the Book of Mormon Provenance

Abstract: This paper looks at the Book of Mormon through the lens of library science and the concept of archival provenance. The Nephites cared deeply about their records, and Mormon documented a thorough chain of custody for the plates he edited. However, ideas of archival science and provenance are recent developments in the western world, unknown to biblical authors or to anyone at Joseph Smith’s time. Understanding this aspect of Mormon’s authorship and Joseph Smith’s translation provides additional evidence to the historical validity of the Book of Mormon. Continue reading

Many Witnesses to a Marvelous Work

Review of Dennis Largey, Andrew Hedges, John Hilton III, and Kerry Hull, eds. The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in cooperation with Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 2015, pp 308.

Abstract: At the end of October each year, speakers from the Church Educational System, as well as other gospel scholars, gather at Brigham Young University to make presentations at the Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder is a compilation of the addresses given at the forty-fourth symposium, in 2015. This volume does not so much delve into the doctrine of the Book of Mormon as it studies the history behind its coming into the world. Just as the doctrine itself is inspirational, the story behind the coming forth of the Book of Mormon serves as an inspiration and a testament to its truthfulness. Continue reading

“Idle and Slothful Strange Stories”: Book of Mormon Origins and the Historical Record

Abstract: From the very beginning, Joseph’s story about the origins of the Book of Mormon seemed wild and unbelievable. Today, however, Joseph’s account enjoys a high degree of corroboration from (1) eyewitness accounts confirming Joseph’s possession of actual metal plates and other artifacts, with some even corroborating the involvement of an angel in providing access to the record; (2) eyewitness reports on the process of producing the text; and (3) evidence from the original manuscript. This evidence is reviewed here, and the implications it has for the Book of Mormon’s origin are considered. Continue reading

Another Account of Mary Whitmer’s Viewing of the Golden Plates

Carl T. Cox has graciously provided me with a new account of Moroni showing the Book of Mormon plates to Mary Whitmer (1778-1856), wife of Peter Whitmer Senior. Mary was the mother of five sons who were witnesses to the golden plates: David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses; and Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer Junior, four of the eight witnesses.

For a long time we have known that Mary Whitmer was also shown the plates. These accounts are familiar and derive from David Whitmer and John C. Whitmer (the son of John Whitmer). For comparison’s sake, I provide here two versions of their accounts (in each case, I have added some paragraphing). Continue reading