Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A "D" for Plausibility of the Gold Plates: The Book of Mormon in an Interesting Bind

After evaluating evidence for the plausibility and authenticity of the mysterious golden plates, I must report that the Book of Mormon gets a "D" for being in an interesting bind, or shall I say binder? I cite the "D" not as a grade, but as one more subtle bit of evidence that merits attention. The "D" I refer to is the D-shape of the rings holding together the golden plates, a minor detail mentioned by only a few of the roughly twenty witnesses of the gold plates. Warren P. Aston has provided information on this topic in the article, "The Rings That Bound the Gold Plates Together" in the latest issue of Insights, a newsletter of FARMS and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU (Insights Update No. 178, Vol. 26, 2006). It's not yet available online, so I'll share some details from the printed version.

There appear to be three references to the D-shape of the rings from eye-witnesses. In 1831, William E. McLellin said that Hyrum had told him that "The plates were . . . connected with rings in the shape of the letter D, which facilitated the opening and shutting of the book." (Reported in the Huron Reflector of Norwalk, Ohio, Oct. 31, 1831.) John Whitmer in an 1878 interview stated that the plates were held together with "three rings, each one in the shape of a D with the straight line towards the center." (Interview with P. Wilhelm Poulson, Deseret News, Aug. 6, 1878.) A third possible confirmation of this comes through David Whitmer, who in 1877, while 72 years old, discussed a remarkable vision of his mother, Mary Musselman Whitmer, who said a she had also seen the plates shown to her by an apparently angelic visitor. In discussing this, he said that she observed that the plates were "fastened with rings thus" followed by a drawing of a D-shaped ring. (David Whitmer interview by Edward Stevenson, Dec. 22-23, 1877, Family and Church History Department Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Since David had seen and handled the plates, if his mother's description had been wrong, he presumably would have corrected it.

These comments have not been widely noticed in the LDS community, and some have naturally assumed that "rings" were circular (although others have depicted them as being essentially rectangular with a rounded upper end, as shown in the replica displayed on a BBC page and in art by Arnold Friberg and others. However, a ring with a straight side is more efficient for holding stacked plated or sheets than a purely circular ring. In retrospect, it makes sense that experienced users of metal plates would use an efficient binder system. Warren Aston reports that the D-shaped ring "offers a full 50 percent more storage capacity than a circular ring" and "20 to 25% percent more storage capacity than a slanted semicircular shape," though details of the calculations are not given (but it sounds reasonable).

The article got really interesting to me when it mentioned patents - my field of focus professionally (I augmented my approach to R&D by becoming a US patent agent ten years ago, and now work as Corporate Patent Strategist in a fascinating large company where I have loads of fun working with intellectual property, especially as a tool for dealing with disruptive innovations, an area of recent focus). Here is how the Insights article invokes patents:
The same principle [efficient ring shape for storage efficiency] governs the loose-leaf binders used today. Their history is instructive. The first loose-leaf binder patent was not filed until 1854, with the first two-ring binders advertised for sale in 1899. The two improvements to the basic design followed. Within a few decades the use of three rings rather than two proved to be a more stable design and became standard. These early designs, however, used circular or oval-shaped rings. Only in the last few decades has the improved capacity of D-shaped rings been recognized and made available for loose-leaf binders.

Joseph Smith displayed plates that were securely bound by three rings (not two or four) constructed in what we now know is the most efficient shape. He could not have known either of these facts in 1829 from the materials in his environment of from people who may have had greater familiarity with libraries or materials storage. Nor could he have been informed by the finds of other ancient records, as none were then known to be bound by rings. Perhaps it is not coincidence that the only other ancient record bound by rings so far known also has D-shaped rings and dates to about 600 B.C.
The 600 B.C. find refers to six small gold plates found over 60 years ago in Bulgaria. See "Etruscan Gold Book from 600 B.C. Discovered" by John Tvedtnes, Insights, 23(5), 2003. As you can see from the photograph, though, that book has two rings.

The D-shape of the rings is a minor and subtle detail that may have been overlooked by most people. After all, it was the gold plates themselves that were of real interest. But like so many other details in and involving the Book of Mormon, there is a whisper of authenticity in this matter. Like the very existence of ancient writing on gold plates, there was nothing in Joseph's environment or background that would have guided him or alleged co-conspirators in fabricating this detail. In fact, there is no evidence that Joseph ever mentioned the shape of the rings. This came from eye-witnesses - eye-witnesses, mind you, who remained true to their testimony of the plates throughout their lives. D-shaped rings are known to be more efficient than circular rings, but were not a common part of anyone's experience in 1830, as far as we can tell. The shape of the rings and their observation by eye-witnesses can best be explained by the hypothesis that there were actual gold plates made by actual experts in plate-based writing systems that were seen by actual witnesses.

I do have a couple of minor corrections and additions to the information given by Brother Aston, largely based on information obtained from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from their online patent searching service. According to The Early Office Museum's page on Small Antique Files and Filing Devices, the earliest binder patent is US Patent No. 23,506, awarded to Henry T. Sisson in 1854. Brother Aston has corresponded with the Early Office Museum and this is where he obtained the 1854 date. However, the patent was actually issued April 5, 1859, but the handwritten date on the front page of the patent has the "9" in 1859 looking like a "4". But as one can see on the second page in the USPTO's entry for this patent, it's 1859 (to view the images of the patents, you may need to do a quick and painless installation of the small and efficient AlternaTiff image viewer). First, Sisson actually does describe a binder that has two "or more" rings, and his 1859 patent (not 1854) shows an example with three rings:


However, early marketed versions of ring binders do show two rings and perhaps that was the dominant or only commercialized form, as suggested to Warren Aston by M. Frankena. See, for example, the ad from the late 1800s for Russell's Common Sense Binder, which is based on US Patent No. 192,791, issued July 3, 1877 to W.H. Russell. While the figures show two rings, his text refers to "two or more fastening points," so three rings were also contemplated.

An 1899 advertisement for a two-ring binder with circular rings is shown at OfficeMuseum.org. This was based on US Patent No. 267,890, "Letter File," issued to M. Herzberg, November 21, 1882. An image from this patent is shown below:



Also see US Patent No. 331,259, "Index for Paper Files," issued to J.S. Shannon, Nov. 24, 1885. An image from that is shown below:


See also US Patent No. 371,547, "Paper File," issued to C.A. Campbell, October 18, 1887. Also of interest may be US Patent No. 379,846, issued to L.A. Banks, March 20, 1888.

A wide variety of early binder systems can be found by looking through US patents for the following classification codes: 402/17 and 402/25, though there are other classifications one could consider.

The earliest binder-related US patent that I have found, one of the first three patents in the general classification code of 402, is US Pat. No. 1,673, "Movable Binder" (also titled "Construction of Screw Nuts to Be Applied to Files for Filing Papers, Accounts, Etc.") issued to William Mann, July 3, 1840. Still 10 years after the Book of Mormon, this early binder patent shows a relatively primitive system with binding in two places, not three (the text is specific: it's "two," not "two or more"), as shown in the figure below:



A variation of this theme occurred the following year in US Patent No. 2,105, issued to Isaac Deterree, May 22, 1841. This patent mentioned "two or more" screws for binding paper, but still unlike a ring binder. Prior to Sisson's 1859 patent, J. Shaw also patented a couple versions of portfolio binders that had rings, but they did not to pass through the sheets, but were anchors for thread that was passed through the sheets. See US Patent Nos. 15,150, issued June 17, 1856, and 6,860, issued Dec. 24, 1850.

H.T. Sisson also had a slightly earlier patent on a binder system in which cords passed through sheets at three places. See US Patent No. 18,994, "Temporary Binder," issued Dec. 29, 1857.

D-ring innovations continue in our day. Consider, for example, US Patent No. 5,332,327, "D Ring Binder," issued to Steve Gillum, July 26, 1994. It describes a "ring binder having D-shaped rings wherein the rings, when opened, position a generally straight leg of the D-shape in a vertical orientation with respect to a horizontal bottom cover panel of the binder." An image is shown below:


Circular or oval rings persist to this day, and are fine for many applications, especially when efficiency is not critical.

Given all this, I would say that three-ring binders were known by 1859 and that binder systems somewhat similar to D-shaped rings were known in the late nineteenth century, but again, all that was long after Joseph Smith's day. It's a minor point, and only minor evidence in favor of plausibility (the basic testimonies of the many witnesses being much more important), but it's part of the body of evidence that is difficult to account for if Joseph just made up the story of the gold plates.

As a final tangential observation, the inventor of the three-ring binder, Henry T. Sisson, has been honored with a bronze statue in the Union Cemetery in Little Compton Common in the town of Little Compton, Newport County, Rhode Island. According to The Political Graveyard, Sisson was a Rhode Island Colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War; Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, 1875-77. You can also view the Henry Tillinghast Sisson Monument online. It was made in 1917. You may also wish to see a scrapbook on RootsWeb.com about H.T. Sisson.

Interestingly, a 2005 Christian Science Monitor quiz mistakenly places his status in Boston Commons rather than Rhode Island's Little Compton Common, and also repeats the incorrect 1854 date for his patent.

50 comments:

BrianJ said...

Excellent post! (I personally refuse to use anything but a D-ring binder.)

Anonymous said...

Very insightful Mormanity.

john f. said...

Great post.

Warren Aston reports that the D-shaped ring "offers a full 50 percent more storage capacity than a circular ring" and "20 to 25% percent more storage capacity than a slanted semicircular shape," though details of the calculations are not given (but it sounds reasonable).

This is why I wonder why anyone produces the circle ring binders anymore.

Daniel Peterson said...

The consistent testimonies about this detail reported from, it would seem, 3-4 people in scattered places at scattered times make it more difficult than it already was to explain the plates away as being merely subjective and imaginary.

Certainly the notion that it all goes back to Joseph Smith and to purely subjective notions in his head is virtually impossible to sustain.

Mormanity said...

For those of you who are into intellectual property issues, I think it's useful to realize that the Book of Mormon is not just precious scripture, it's also potential "prior art" with a very early priority date. But the Patent Office probably missed it when it examined those early ring binder patents. There may yet be future patent applications that should consider Book of Mormon issues as part of the prior art - one more reason why we need to flood the earth (Washington, DC included) with the Book of Mormon.

Bishop Rick said...

I'm still not convinced there were any actual "eye" witnesses. I still think the evidence points to seeing and handling under cloth or in a vision. If this is not so, there are too many inconsistencies in the stories.

Shawn said...

Hi Bishop Rick!

Are you questioning whether or not the Plates are real or only if eye witnesses saw them directly? The latter seem inconsequential. The existence (or non-existence) seems to be the critical question to ask as the answer encapsulates our faith as real or a hoax.

This is why scripture study and prayer are so critical. You can know the answer.

And then, more importantly, one can move on to more important questions such as; "what can I do with my life today to be a better servant of Christ?"

In regards to sorting out evidences, I've seen interesting circular theological debates between "Christians" and "Muslims" in regards to the crucifixion of Christ. Apparently, outside of the NT (and America’s roots as a Christian centered culture), there is little or no historical evidence that Christ was crucified. Sure, He was a prophet, but Saviour of the World?

At some point, we all have to stand up and say, "As for me and my house…" (Josh 24:15)…

Sincerely,
Shawn

Bishop Rick said...

Shawn,

I agree that the bigger question is whether the plates were real or fabricated, but my comment was about whether they were actually seen first hand, or thru a cloth.

Jeff added extra emphasis on the "eye witness" part of his post, which caught my attention.

I haven't found any definitive evidence (other the interpretation of statements) that proves the plates were ever seen and handled first hand.

To me, a consistent story of no one actually saw them (outside a vision or thru cloth) supports their existence much more than - these witnesses were allowed to see them, but these were told that JS would die on the spot if they were to see them.

Mike Parker said...

Bishop Rick:

The claim that the witnesses only saw the plates covered in the cloth or in a vision is a fabrication based on selective use of a few statements.

Richard Lloyd Anderson — the foremost scholar on the BofM witnesses — examined and refuted this claim in the recent article "Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses," published in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/1. I recommend it to you.

Dan Peterson's address earlier this month at the FAIR Conference also effectively deals with this issue. His paper is not publicly available yet, but I recommend that you keep an eye out for it.

Raymond said...

Bishop Rick:

Suggest you read Chapter 6 of "Insider's View" by Palmer.

The volume, variety, and bizarreness of their accounts of seeing hobgoblins, ghosts, subterranean chambers, mountains of treasures, spirits, mystical dogs, Nephites hiding under the neighbor's shed, even Captain Kidd sailing on the Susquehanna river...puts this issue into perspective.

He also points out references to brass books connected by rings at the back which were common beliefs of how the Indians and Jews documented their histories in the burial mounds. (ref Dan Vogel, Indian origins and the Book of Mormon...)

Mike Parker said...

Raymond,

I was thinking of Grant Palmer specifically when I mentioned people who make "selective use of a few statements" to distort the record of the Witnesses.

Grant Palmer's book is, very simply, bad history.

I recommend Mark Ashurst-McGee's review "A One-sided View of Mormon Origins" from FARMS Review 15/2, especially pages 340–48, where he deals with the "magical world view" issue. He ably demonstrates that "Palmer consistently relies on Joseph Smith's early critics to overplay the treasure-seeking interpretation of the recovery of the golden plates." He calls into serious question "Palmer's reckless use of sources in his treatment of the golden plates witnesses." (p. 348)

Ashurst-McGee summarizes: "As a historian, I find that [Palmer's] book fails to follow the basic standards of historical methodology. As a believing Latter-day Saint scholar, I perceive alternative interpretations of the founding events that Palmer neglects to consider or even acknowledge. (p. 312)

The same goes for Dan Vogel, BTW.

Bishop Rick said...

Mike Parker,

The part I don't understand is why the 8 witnesses would be allowed so see the plates, but the 3 witnesses would not.

Stacey Pokorney, the "Party Crasher" said...

I don't understand how the "golden plates" can be considered beloved scripture when they are not around to examine anymore. The Bible is inspired, ordained scripture, as I am sure most Mormons would agree. There are still historically validated texts from ancient manuscripts of the Bible in museums and universities, available for study. Why would God choose to "reinstate" His church with a form of scripture that would no longer be around for review and study?

JM said...

Bishop Rick--Just for fun, perhaps you'd like to try reading The Testimony of Three Witnesses at the beginning of BofM?

JM

Mike Parker said...

Bishop Rick:

The part I don't understand is why the 8 witnesses would be allowed so see the plates, but the 3 witnesses would not.

By "see" do you mean "touch"? The Three Witnesses were adamant about seeing the plates (along with the angel), but they did not touch the plates as the Eight did.

Dan Peterson talked about the differences in the experiences of the 3 and the 8 in his FAIR conference presentation. Perhaps he'll drop by and share his thoughts.


Stacey Pokorney:

There are still historically validated texts from ancient manuscripts of the Bible in museums and universities, available for study. Why would God choose to "reinstate" His church with a form of scripture that would no longer be around for review and study?

Stacey — the original manuscripts of the Bible aren't available for study, only the later copies of copies of copies of copies that we have. And these manuscripts vary widely in their readings. (On this topic I recommend reading some Bart Ehrman.)

So we're actually in a much better position, textually, with the Book of Mormon in that we have most of a first generation translation from the source (the Original Manuscript) and all of a second generation copy of the first (the Printers Manuscript). Not one Biblical manuscript even comes close.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the breadth and depth of the fabricated stories you people rely on to insure that your fragile world-view is maintained is nothing short of amazing. There should be whole university sociology departments working around the clock to measure just how convoluted and web-weaving we human beings can be when forced to confront anything that threatens to show us truths we don't want to believe. Such as the fact that JS was a huckster who had every excuse in the book as to why nobody could actually witness any of the absurd tales he told.

Further evidence of your willing ignorance must be beheld when one realizes that one of the biggest stories to come out of Mormonism in 20 years is all over the news and nobody here is saying a word about it. Regardless of how much you try to distance the "mainstream" Mormon church from the radical "splinter" sects that still hold true to the original teachings of Joseph Smith, you must at some point address these issues or whatever remnant of believability your arguments had will be completely lost. WARREN JEFFS FOLLOWS THE ORIGINAL MORMON CHURCH'S TEACHINGS MORE CLOSELY THAN YOU DO. Tell me I'm wrong.

~The Interloper

Bishop Rick said...

JM,

I have read the testimony of the 3 witnesses. It is written in a way that leaves it open to different interpretations.

Mike P,

Here is a quote from Martin Harris stating that he never saw the plates except in a vision:

"I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state. I wrote a great deal of the Book of Mormon myself, as Joseph Smith translated or spelled the words out in English. Sometimes the plates would be on a table in the room in which Smith did the translating, covered over with a cloth. I was told by Smith that God would strike him dead if he attempted to look at them, and I believed it. When the time came for the three witnesses to see the plates, Joseph Smith, myself, David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, went into the woods to pray. When they had engaged in prayer, they failed at the time to see the plates or the angel who should have been on hand to exhibit them. They all believed it was because I was not good enough, or in other words, not sufficiently sanctified. I withdrew. As soon as I had gone away, the three others saw the angel and the plates. In about three days I went into the woods to pray that I might see the plates. While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates."
(Ten Years Before the Mast, n.d., microfilm copy, p. 70-71.)

John said...

bishop rick,

"As soon as I had gone away, the three others saw the angel and the plates. In about three days I went into the woods to pray that I might see the plates. While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates."

That also, I might add, "is written in a way that leaves it open to different interpretations." This says nothing of the other three's experience. Further, what does "state of entrancement" actually mean?

Walker said...

Bishop Rick,

I'm back for the party--just taking a minute or two out of between semester break.

It appears that we're letting what we don't know about the experience (why set saw and felt the plates and the other saw them without feeling) get in the way of what we DO know (that one set of witnesses
did indeed see and touch in broad daylight, no smokescreens, no shows).

I know that you're aware of other statements made by both the 3 and 8 witnesses--if for no other reason than that I posted them on this blog. If you think the statements in the BOM are ambigious, that's one thing; the statement "I saw the engravings" (said by one of the witnesses) hardly leaves room for the interp. that they simply felt them through the cloth.

Why one set touched them and the other didn't, I don't know. But the 8 witnesses accounts are unequivocal in their insistence that they both saw and touched. If you want to see more of these witnesses accounts, see Anderson's classic "Investigating the BOM witnesses."

Bishop Rick said...

John,

Agreed, DW's quote can also be interpreted in more than one way.

The thing that strikes me is the opening sentence, "I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state."

Since his experience was similar to the other 2 witnesses, it is not a stretch to assume they had the same "visionary" experience when they saw the plates. Afterall, they did not take the plates with them into the woods.

Not sure what "entranced state" means. I can suppose it means that he left consciousness and had a dream or vision.

Bishop Rick said...

Walker,

Welcome back. I guess for me, the statement that "we saw the engravings" can still be explained by being in a visionary state.

I'm just trying to piece together what makes sense, and what is consistent.

This stuff is all subjective. We can each come to our own conclusions.

To me, it makes more sense that none of the witnesses were allowed to view the plates in person, than some could and some couldn't. This could still be accomplished thru a visionary state, and one could still claim having seen the engravings, etc.

Iconsistency simply does not make sense.

Roy W. Wright said...

Anonymous at 1:53, among all your unsupported rantings there is one worth addressing. Practicing one correct principle (polygamy) without authority does not make Warren Jeffs more "true to the original teachings of Joseph Smith." Especially if some of the reports about his sect are true.

You are correct, however, in the fact that those who reject the teachings of the early prophets have little ground to stand on in defending Joseph Smith.

ujlapana said...

1, 3, 8--at the end of the day, getting a small group of friends and family members to lie is not that hard. Not easy for someone like me, but some people are very charismatic and persuasive. (What's a little "lying for the Lord" among friends?)

Getting human bodies to survive infernos is impossible.

So, 11 story-tellers (confused, exaggerating, lying...does it matter?) is infinitely more likely than 3 Nephites who regularly violate the Laws of Thermodynamics.

I think people often fail to grasp the full implications of some of their magical beliefs.

(Even the Patent Office, who Jeff joked should do a better job of checking prior art, does not entertain submissions that claim to violate these laws. So magically teleporting books would be a problem as prior art, no?)

Walker said...

Let's face it. The motives for all these folks to lie are scant. If the motive was monetary, then Joseph Sr. ended up messed over in the end (he even would be a financial failure). Yet he maintained the faith.

Ujlapana:

Joseph's role ought not be overestimated. To beat a beaten-to-a-pulp horse, all three witnesses, who later thought Joseph was out of the celestial loop, maintained their belief long after Joseph's death.

Bishop Rick:

I respect any attempt to place the evidence together. HOwever, I'll be frank--I really don't see how the evidence could come together in favor of the 8 witnesses having a visionary experience (and or even the 3 witnesses, really). I refer back to the post on the "Composition vs. Transcription" thread.

To imply that they both hefted the plates yet saw them in heavenly vision is inconsistent with their testimony. The experience alluded to in the 8 witnesses' main testimony was clearly ONE experience, not two. We must therefore conclude that they saw and hefted at the same time. Furthermore, if they saw a vision, why did they not tell us so? Hyrum himself had no aversion to visions (see Solomon Chamberlain's account where Hyrum refers to the Smith home as a "visionary home" without any hesitance).

I challenge anyone to find one scrap of the evidence that the account of the 8 witnesses in the BOM refers to a visionary experience (and be careful not to cite Hiram Page's vision in the farm field--that was a separate experience altogether and did not involve the plates).

In this case, the explanation which requires the least projection on our parts is that they handled the plates as they handled anything else.

Bishop Rick said...

Mark P.

I think the point Stacy was trying to make is that the original documents, that make up the books of the bible, were not required to be given to an angel and taken from the earth.

So her question is, why was this necessary in the case of the BOM.

Bishop Rick said...

Walker,

You know I can't resist a challenge. It seems there is abundant evidence supporting the fact that not only the 3 witnesses, but the 8 witnesses as well, indeed never saw the plates with the naked eye.

Keep in mind that the testimonies of the 3 and 8 were written by Joseph Smith and that the witnesses merely signed it. This is a critical point as it is not in their own words.

First let's set up how the 8 were shown the plates:

"according to the testimony of John Whitmer who was one of the eight witnesses, Joseph showed them to four people at one time in his house, and then later to four other people"
)Deseret Evening News, 6 August 1878)

So they were no altogether as one might have supposed.

"I have reflected long and deliberately upon the history of this church & weighed the evidence for & against it loth (sic) to give it up - but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver [Cowdery] nor David [Whitmer] & that the eight witnesses never saw them..."
(Typed transcript from Joseph Smith Papers, Letter book, April 20, 1837 - February 9, 1843, microfilm reel 2, pp. 64-66, LDS archives)

William Smith (JS's Brother) goes on to state that no one had seen them with the naked eye, nor could they:

"I did not see them uncovered, but I handled them and hefted them while wrapped in a tow frock and judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds. ... Father and my brother Samuel saw them as I did while in the frock. So did Hyrum and others of the family...No, for father had just asked if he might not be permitted to do so, and Joseph, putting his hand on them said; 'No, I am instructed not to show them to any one. If I do, I will transgress and lose them again."
(Zion's Ensign, p. 6, January 13, 1894)

Yet there is still more. John Whitmer, (1 of the 8) states:

"I now say, I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides. ... they were shown to me by a supernatural power" (History of the Church, Vol. 3, p. 307)

It is one thing to sign something that someone else wrote, and to state something yourself. Seems when these folks spoke for themselves, they did NOT see the plate with the naked eye.

Thanks for challenging me to research this. Now I have evidence to back up what I originally thought to be so.

Mike Parker said...

Bishop Rick:

If you'll read the links I posted above, plus Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (a must before you come to any conclusions on this matter), I think you'll find that the statements you reproduced above are third-hand or removed from proper context.

The Witnesses were all unequivocable in their testimonies of the reality of the plates. David Whitmer even had his testimony enscribed as the epigraph on his gravestone.

Walker said...

Ah, Bishop Rick--now we're talking. This is what I like to see--good ole fashioned sources and scholarship.

Re: your comment on William Smith's testimony that he only felt it through the cloth. William was not one of the 8 witnesses; therefore, he is outside the realm of this discussion. If anything, he serves as supplementary evidence to the 8 witnesses testimony.

Gotta run. Take care.

Pops said...

I just had a thought (ouch!). All of you out there who are wondering whether the Book of Mormon is true? Why not just read it? Seriously. Spend at least as much time within the pages of the book as you do reading and talking about it.

There was a woman in our neighborhood whose husband died unexpectedly. She was feeling somewhat discouraged and unhappy about things, as one might expect. She had heard her neighbors talk about the Book of Mormon and about prayer, so she thought she would give it a try. After all, what harm could it do?

She was pleasantly surprised at the change it brought into her life. The influence of the Holy Spirit was very real, and the change was evident in her countenance. She was soon baptized, and is very happy at the peace and joy it has brought into her life.

My story is similar, although not as dramatic. Since I embarked on a course of regular study of the Book of Mormon, my life has been gradually transformed over the years. Give it a try.

Raymond said...

Pops

Once you try some GOOD fiction, like Melville or Hawthorne or Cervantes or Tolstoy or Dickens or Faulkner....you'd be AMAZED at how your life can change!

Bishop Rick said...

Mike P.

I will read your links.

Pops,

I agree that one should read the BOM before coming to any conclusions regarding its authenticity. I have read the BOM at least 12 times (not sure of the exact number). Last time thru was last year along with everyone else.

My discussion here isn't about the authenticity of the BOM, it is just about the witness experience.

Walker,

I knew you would catch that William was not one the 8 witnesses. I confess, I didn't clarify that on purpose to see if you would catch it and you did not disappoint. He does however mention others that were witnesses, which is why I included it. So, to your point, as supplemental material.

Mormanity said...

The letter from Stephen Burnett misrepresents Martin Harris, and he contested Burnett's allegations. The quote, among other things, is discussed at http://www.lightplanet.com/response/witness2.htm.

Pops said...

Raymond,

Yes, good fiction can have a positive effect. It generally doesn't invite the Spirit in the same way as scripture, however, and thus doesn't have the same transforming effect.

ltbugaf said...

A couple of days ago, Stacey Pokorney asked why we believe in the Book of Mormon without having the original plates in our possession. But the original texts of the Bible are all missing, too. The very earliest extant copies of any biblical text are derived from earlier works that have disappeared. Is that a reason to dismiss the Bible as scripture? No. A real testimony of the Bible and the Book of Mormon are both available in the same, divine way, from the same, divine Source.

Anonymous said...

I'm still thinking about "disruptive innovations".

BRoz said...

I love the symmetry between the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you look close, you will see that the Book of Mormon is a type of Christ. First that the book contains the word of God just as Christ. Second, that it was sealed in a stone box and came forth out of the Earth just like Christ rose from the dead from the Garden Tomb. Third, that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was accompanied by angelic beings. You will remember that angels who attended the tomb at Christ's resurrection. Fourth, that both the body of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon were in the custody of a Joseph: Joseph of Arimathea and Joseph Smith respectively, and Fifth, that Both the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ had 12 special witnesses of their divinity. 3 of which were given a more powerful spiritual manifestation while the others a more physical witness (idea from CRAIG R. FROGLEY, CES).

Anonymous said...

The main part of an article is the matter of it. So keeping this in mind, we have included as much about amy gold here as possible.

Anonymous said...

To the Interloper:

You're wrong.

To everyone else:

The original thread was about D-rings, and one asked why make round rings at all anymore. I sing in choirs, and the music is often punched and put in binders. I'm thinking that it be more difficult to deftly turn pages (in either direction) if the rings were not circular....

mauge@tri-lakes.net said...

Pardon me if I don't follow protocol - this is my first time commenting on a "blog" - I had to ask the younger folks at work what is a "blog". All this discussion about "D" rings, witnesses of the BoM, etc. is pointless, unless you just want to pontificate! If Jesus were to appear to any of us, in a vision or in person, you would know beyond a doubt, what truth is and what isn't. Then there would be no faith. It's all about faith. Period. You get your witness of the truthfulness of the Gospel by The Holy Ghost. Search the scriptures for the word "faith" and see what you find. After I joined the Church a scant 6 years ago, I knew nothing about the Church, Mormons, nothing. It was the Holy Ghost that testified to me it was true. Then I spent a couple of years reading dozens of books trying to substantiate my belief on facts and evidence. That nearly cost me my membership in the Church. It’s got to be based on faith.

Anonymous said...

When you look for evidences to prove something wrong, you have a good chance of finding false evidences because you bypass on the evidences that contradict what you set out to prove wrong.


I believe the Book of Mormon to be true.

Anonymous said...

The correct URL for the Early Office Museum web site, which is referenced in the original posting, is http://www.officemuseum.com.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry - but am I the only one who thinks this is about the lamest argument for the Book of Mormon ever? I can't believe that FARMS spent the time and manpower to research this. Is Book of Mormon evidence truly that sparse?

SteSmo said...

Here is what Celsus, and early anti-Christian and author of the book "On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians", had to say about the witnesses of Christ's resurrection and miracles:

That they were all close associates, friends and family of Christ, therfore, they cannot be trusted

That they were all visionary men, therefore, we should not be surprised that they saw angels and deities in visions.

That they possibly were liars or in cahoots with this Jesus fellow

They all had poor reputations, therefore, they cannot be trusted

That they only claimed to see these miracles with "spiritual eyes" and not physically.

And, like good old Fawn Brodie, Celsus claimed that the apostles no doubt were hypnotized by Jesus to believe these visions.

Sound familiar?

Celsus also claimed, as modern anti-Mormons do with the gold plates, that it is very convienent that Jesus went up to heaven (or, in the case of the gold plates, how Moroni took back the plates) after he rose from the dead and didn't show himself to more people to "prove" the claims of the apostles.

I would suggest that the people here read Celsus' book. It shows perfectly well how Christ's Church, both in the days of the Apostles and in the Latter Days, has been able to endure the same trash that it's enemies and critics put forth in desperation to stop the truth from advancing.

Steve Smoot

Anonymous said...

It is sad to see a scientific man believe in such tripe.

Anonymous said...

The one thing I love about religion is that people always ignore anything that is contradictory to their beliefs but revel in anything that looks like evidence to them no matter how scant it be. Good job believing in such a thing. D rings, are you serious? Book of Abraham -Ha Ha Ha.

Jay said...

stupid stupid stupid

J. Brian said...

I don't know that the plausibility for the gold plates ideas in this blog really prove or disprove anything. What I do know is that I found out the Book of Mormon is true because as I read it I felt the spirit of God testify to my soul that it is true, that Jesus is the Christ and Joseph Smith was his prophet. I don’t mean I had a strange subjective emotional experience, I mean I experienced the spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the presence of God (or whatever proper name your faith tradition calls revelation/communication from God). Now if you disagree with me, go ahead, this is the USA. As a soldier in the Armed Forces I'm glad we live in a land where we can disagree. Glad enough to be willing to put my life in harms way if needed. My hope is, however, that those who disagree with me will join those of us who are waking up to better talks that are taking place between evangelicals and Mormons. The book, “Bridging the Divide”, for example, gives a healthy example of two men (one a Mormon and one an ex-Mormon evangelical preacher) who thoughtfully and respectfully share their views and disagreements. Given what John 13:35 and 1 Corinthians chapter 13 tells us about the importance of showing love to others—can anyone of us doubt we should show respect and courtesy to those we disagree with? I’ve seen some sites out there critical of LDS faith that are quite demeaning and insulting and seem to do nothing to promote love in the world we live in (which is too bad given how much the world is in need of more kindness not less of it). I am currently in the Army Reserves and am studying to become an active duty chaplain in the Army. I welcome discussing my beliefs with anyone willing to do so in a truly respectful manner regardless if you agree with me or not.
Your Friend in Christ
2LT Brian Marriott

J said...

I swing by often to read Jeff Lindsay's blog and I'm always impressed by what I read.

However, I can't resist commenting on this article since it just blew me away. Such an odd topic of "D ring binders" could come up as evidence the Book of Mormon was just jaw dropping for me.

I know that a testimony comes from receiving a witness from the Spirit but little facts and evidences are helpful in bringing a intellectual & tangible witness of the what I spiritually know to be true.


This is just additional evidence that there is a Divine Hand in bringing forth the Book of Mormon.

Dennis West said...

Hmm, very interesting. At first I kind of had the attitude of "what does it matter what shape the ring was?" But as I read further I became more and more interested. It definitely adds something to be able to envision what it actually might have looked like.

Anonymous said...

The "D Ring" has historically been used for many other purposes than for binders. Many early war era artifacts contain "D Rings" as fasteners, connectors, and cinches. Joseph Smith was a treasure hunter and as thus, probably found many "D Rings". Other brass items could have been found and smelted down to make his infamous "Golden Plates". Since he was in the treasure business, he no doubt privy to plating methods, which would explain the reason why he forbid anyone close inspection. My guess is the "D Rings" were lucky improvised items used to mount and hold the plates in place on his makeshift platform.