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Descriptions of the Plates and Included Items


   said he I have got the key I knew not what he meant but took the article in my hands and upon examining it that it consisted of 2 smooth stones conected with each other in the same way that old fashioned spectacles are made
External Link
The Joseph Smith Papers, Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, pgs 61-62
Lucy's description of the spectacles
Lucy Mack Smith
1844-45
   said he I have got the key I knew not what he meant but took the article in my hands and upon examining it that it consisted of 2 smooth stones conected with each other in the same way that old fashioned spectacles are made
(Note:  This quote comes from Lucy's original manuscript transcribed in 1844-1845 by Martha Jane and Howard Coray. In 1845 the Corays produced an altered copy which can be read in full here. This altered manuscript was used in the 1853 publication by Orson Pratt in England under the title "Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and his Progenitors for many Generations" which can be read in full here.)

   These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.
External Link
The Joseph Smith Papers, “Church History,” 1 March 1842, pg 2
Joseph's description in the Wentworth letter
Joseph Smith Jr.
1 Mar, 1842
   These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold, each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called "Urim and Thummim," which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.

   Accordingly he led the way to a small house, the residence of the prophet's mother.  On entering the dwelling, I was introduced to this eminent personage as a traveller from England, desirous of seeing the wonders of Nauvoo.  She welcomed me to the holy city, and told me that here I might see what great things the Lord had done for his people.  I am old, she said, and I shall soon stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; but what I say to you now, I would say on my death-bed.  My son Joseph has had revelations from God since he was a boy, and he is indeed a true prophet of Jehovah.  The angel of the Lord appeared to him fifteen years since, and shewed him the cave where the original golden plates of the book of Mormon were deposited.  He shewed him also the Urim and Thummim, by which he might understand the meaning of the inscriptions on the plates, and he shewed him the golden breastplate of the high priesthood.  My son received these precious gifts, he interpreted the holy record, and now the believers in that revelation are more than a hundred thousand in number.  I have myself seen and handled the golden plates; they are about eight inches long, and six wide; some of them are sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose.  They are all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate, and are covered with letters beautifully engraved.  I have seen and felt also the Urim and Thummim.  They resemble two large bright diamonds set in a bow like a pair of spectacles.  My son puts these over his eyes when he reads unknown languages, and they enable him to interpret them in English.  I have likewise carried in my hands the sacred breastplate.  It is composed of pure gold, and is made to fit the breast very exactly.
Full Source
External Link
The City of the Mormons; or, Three Days at Nauvoo, pgs 26-27
Lucy's description according to Henry Caswall
Rev. Henry Caswall
18 Apr, 1842
   Accordingly he led the way to a small house, the residence of the prophet's mother. On entering the dwelling, I was introduced to this eminent personage as a traveller from England, desirous of seeing the wonders of Nauvoo. She welcomed me to the holy city, and told me that here I might see what great things the Lord had done for his people. "I am old," she said, "and I shall soon stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; but what I say to you now, I would say on my death-bed. My son Joseph has had revelations from God since he was a boy, and he is indeed a true prophet of Jehovah. The angel of the Lord appeared to him fifteen years since, and shewed him the cave where the original golden plates of the book of Mormon were deposited. He shewed him also the Urim and Thummim, by which he might understand the meaning of the inscriptions on the plates, and he shewed him the golden breastplate of the high priesthood. My son received these precious gifts, he interpreted the holy record, and now the believers in that revelation are more than a hundred thousand in number. I have myself seen and handled the golden plates; they are about eight inches long, and six wide; some of them are sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose. They are all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate, and are covered with letters beautifully engraved. I have seen and felt also the Urim and Thummim. They resemble two large bright diamonds set in a bow like a pair of spectacles. My son puts these over his eyes when he reads unknown languages, and they enable him to interpret them in English. I have likewise carried in my hands the sacred breastplate. It is composed of pure gold, and is made to fit the breast very exactly."

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External Link
Naked Truths About Mormonism, Vol 1, No 1, pg 2, col 4
Sarah Anderick Statement
Sarah Fowler Anderick
24 Jun, 1887
   When Jo joined the Presbyterian Church, in Palmyra village, it caused much talk and surprise, as he claimed to receive revelations from the Lord. He also claimed he found some gold plates with characters on them, in a hill between uncle's and father's, which I often crossed. Several times I saw what he claimed were the plates, which were covered with a cloth. They appeared to be six or eight inches square. He frequently carried them with him. I heard they kept them under the brick hearth.
(Note:  No images of this source are available online. Please contact me if you have any information.)

   When I asked the person, who brought it, how he obtained the writing, he gave me, as far as I can now recollect, the following account:  A gold book, consisting of a number of plates of gold, fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of gold spectacles!  These spectacles were so large, that, if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to be turned towards one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the breadth of the human face.
Full Source
External Link
Mormonism Unvailed, E.D. Howe, pg 270
Martin Harris description according to Charles Anthon
Charles Anthon
17 Feb, 1834
   When I asked the person, who brought it, how he obtained the writing, he gave me, as far as I can now recollect, the following account: A "gold book," consisting of a number of plates of gold, fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of "gold spectacles"! These spectacles were so large, that, if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to be turned towards one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the breadth of the human face.

   Mr. Harris says... Joseph did not dig for these plates. They were placed in this way: four stones were set up and covered with a flat stone, oval on the upper side and flat on the bottom. Beneath this was a little platform upon which the plates were laid; and the two stones set in a bow of silver by means of which the plates were translated were found underneath the plates. These were seven inches wide by eight inches in length, and were of the thickness of plates of tin; and when piled one above the other, they were altogether about four inches thick; and they were put together on the back by three silver rings, so that they would open like a book. The two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre; but not so thick at the edges where they came into the bow. They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which, with the two stones, would make eight inches. The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks.
Full Source
External Link
Tiffany's Monthly, Vol 5, No 4, Mormonism - No. II, pg 164
Martin Harris description according to Joel Tiffany
Joel Tiffany
Aug, 1859
   Mr. Harris says... "Joseph did not dig for these plates. They were placed in this way: four stones were set up and covered with a flat stone, oval on the upper side and flat on the bottom. Beneath this was a little platform upon which the plates were laid; and the two stones set in a bow of silver by means of which the plates were translated were found underneath the plates. These were seven inches wide by eight inches in length, and were of the thickness of plates of tin; and when piled one above the other, they were altogether about four inches thick; and they were put together on the back by three silver rings, so that they would open like a book. The two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre; but not so thick at the edges where they came into the bow. They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which, with the two stones, would make eight inches. The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks."

   It was said that the leaves of the Bible were plates, of gold about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.
External Link
Palmyra Freeman, August 11, 1829
Palmyra Freeman Article
Palmyra Freeman
11 Aug, 1829
   It was said that the leaves of the Bible were plates, of gold about eight inches long, six wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hieroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.
(Note:  No images of the original are available online. This article was reprinted in the August 27, 1829 issue of the Niagara Courier and the August 31, 1829 issue of the Rochester Daily Advertiser and Telegraph, which can be read here.)

   DELUSION.<br>
<br>
   About a couple of weeks since, three men, calling themselves Oliver Cowdry, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, appeared in our village, laden with a new revelation, which they claim to be a codicil to the New Testament...<br>
   The account which they give is substantially as follows: -- at a recent period an angel appeared to a poor, ignorant man residing in or near Palmyra, in Ontario County, in the state of New York, directed him to open the earth at a place designated, where he would find the new revelation engraved on plates of metal. In obedience to the celestial messenger, Smith repaired to the spot, and on opening the ground discovered an oblong stone box, tightly closed with cement. He opened the sacred depository and found enclosed a bundle of plates resembling gold, carefully united at one edge with three silver wires, so that they opened like a book. The plates were about 7 inches long and 6 broad, and the whole pile was about 6 inches deep, each plate about the thickness of tin. -- They were engraved in a character unintelligible to the learned men of the United States, to many of whom it is said to have been presented.
External Link
The Geauga Gazette, November 16, 1830
Geauga Gazette Account
16 Nov, 1830
   DELUSION.

   About a couple of weeks since, three men, calling themselves Oliver Cowdry, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, appeared in our village, laden with a new revelation, which they claim to be a codicil to the New Testament...
   The account which they give is substantially as follows: -- at a recent period an angel appeared to a poor, ignorant man residing in or near Palmyra, in Ontario County, in the state of New York, directed him to open the earth at a place designated, where he would find the new revelation engraved on plates of metal. In obedience to the celestial messenger, Smith repaired to the spot, and on opening the ground discovered an oblong stone box, tightly closed with cement. He opened the sacred depository and found enclosed a bundle of plates resembling gold, carefully united at one edge with three silver wires, so that they opened like a book. The plates were about 7 inches long and 6 broad, and the whole pile was about 6 inches deep, each plate about the thickness of tin. -- They were engraved in a character unintelligible to the learned men of the United States, to many of whom it is said to have been presented.
(Note:  No image of the original is available online. Contact me if you have any information regarding it. This article was reproduced on December 7, 1830 in the New York Morning Courier, which can be read here.)

   Whitmar relates that he was led by Smith into an open field, on his father’s farm near Waterloo, when they found the book lying on the ground; Smith took it up and requested him to examine it, which he did for the space of half an hour or more...<br>
   This witness describes the book as being something like 8 inches square; (our informantdid not recollect precisely,) the leaves were plates of metal of a whitish yellow color, and of thethickness of tin plate; the back was secured with three small rings of the same metal, passing through each leaf in succession;—that the leaves were divided equi-distant, between the back & edge, by cutting the plates in two parts, and united again with solder, so that the front might be opened, as it were by a hinge, while the back part remained stationary and immoveable, and in this manner remained to him and the other witnesses a sealed book, which would not be revealed for ages to come, and that even the prophet himself was not as yet permitted to understand. On opening that portion of the book which was not secured by the seals, he discovered incribed on the aforesaid plates, divers and wonderful characters; some of them large and some small...<br>
   Harris, however, gives the lie to a very important part of Whitmar’s relation, and declares that the leaves or pages of the book are not cut, and a part of them sealed, but that it opens like any other book, from the edge to the back, the rings operating in the place of common binding.
External Link
The Palmyra Reflector, Gold Bible, No. 6, pg 126
Whitmer and Harris descriptions according to Palmyra Newspaper
Abner Cole
19 Mar, 1831
   Whitmar relates that he was led by Smith into an open field, on his father’s farm near Waterloo, when they found the book lying on the ground; Smith took it up and requested him to examine it, which he did for the space of half an hour or more...
   This witness describes the book as being something like 8 inches square; (our informantdid not recollect precisely,) the leaves were plates of metal of a whitish yellow color, and of thethickness of tin plate; the back was secured with three small rings of the same metal, passing through each leaf in succession;—that the leaves were divided equi-distant, between the back & edge, by cutting the plates in two parts, and united again with solder, so that the front might be opened, as it were by a hinge, while the back part remained stationary and immoveable, and in this manner remained to him and the other witnesses a sealed book, which would not be revealed for ages to come, and that even the prophet himself was not as yet permitted to understand. On opening that portion of the book which was not secured by the seals, he discovered incribed on the aforesaid plates, divers and wonderful characters; some of them large and some small...
   Harris, however, gives the lie to a very important part of Whitmar’s relation, and declares that the leaves or pages of the book are not cut, and a part of them sealed, but that it opens like any other book, from the edge to the back, the rings operating in the place of common binding.

   Arriving at the stone, he again lifted it, with the aid of superhuman power, as at first, and secured the first, or uppermost article, this time putting it carefully into the pillow-case, before laying it down. He now attempted to secure the remainder... Joseph ascertained that the remaining articles were a gold hilt and chain, and a gold ball with two pointers. The hilt and chain had once been part of a sword of unusual size; but the blade had rusted away and become useless. Joseph then turned the rock back, took the article in the pillow-case, and returned to the wagon;... I weighed it, said Mr. Smith, Senior, and it weighed thirty pounds.<br>
   In answer to our question, as to what it was that Joseph had thus obtained, he said it consisted of a set of gold plates, about six inches wide, and nine or ten inches long. They were in the form of a book, half an inch thick, but were not bound at the back, like our books, but were held together by several gold rings, in such a way that the plates could be opened similar to a book. Under the first plate, or lid, he found a pair of spectacles, about one and a half inches longer than those used at the present day, the eyes not of glass, but of diamond. On the next page were representations of all the masonic implements, as used by masons at the present day. The remaining pages were closely written over in characters of some unknown tongue, the last containing the alphabet of this unknown language.<br>
Full Source
External Link
Historical Magazine (second series),Vol 7, Interview with the Father of Joseph Smith, pg 307
Interview with Joseph Smith Sr.
Fayette Lapham
May, 1870
   Arriving at the stone, he again lifted it, with the aid of superhuman power, as at first, and secured the first, or uppermost article, this time putting it carefully into the pillow-case, before laying it down. He now attempted to secure the remainder... Joseph ascertained that the remaining articles were a gold hilt and chain, and a gold ball with two pointers. The hilt and chain had once been part of a sword of unusual size; but the blade had rusted away and become useless. Joseph then turned the rock back, took the article in the pillow-case, and returned to the wagon;... "I weighed it," said Mr. Smith, Senior, "and it weighed thirty pounds."
   In answer to our question, as to what it was that Joseph had thus obtained, he said it consisted of a set of gold plates, about six inches wide, and nine or ten inches long. They were in the form of a book, half an inch thick, but were not bound at the back, like our books, but were held together by several gold rings, in such a way that the plates could be opened similar to a book. Under the first plate, or lid, he found a pair of spectacles, about one and a half inches longer than those used at the present day, the eyes not of glass, but of diamond. On the next page were representations of all the masonic implements, as used by masons at the present day. The remaining pages were closely written over in characters of some unknown tongue, the last containing the alphabet of this unknown language.

   The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.
Full Source
External Link
Last Testimony of Sister Emma, The Saints' Herald, Vol 26, No 19, 1 Oct, 1879, pg 290
Emma's Last Testimony
Emma Smith
9 Feb, 1879
   The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.

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Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, Vol 5, No 23, Sep 3, 1841
William Smith Interview in 1841
James Murdock
19 Jun, 1841
   They were eight or ten inches long, less in width, about the thickness of panes of glass, and together made a pile of about five or six inches high. They were in a good state of preservation, had the appearance of gold, and bore inscriptions in strange characters on both sides.

   I was permitted to lift them as they laid in a pillow-case; but not to see them, as it was contrary to the commands he had received. They weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgment.
Full Source
External Link
William Smith on Mormonism, pg 12
William Smith's Statement
William Smith
1883
   I was permitted to lift them as they laid in a pillow-case; but not to see them, as it was contrary to the commands he had received. They weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgment.

   We handled them and could tell what they were. They were not quite as large as this Bible. Could tell whether they were round or square. Could raise the leaves this way (raising a few leaves of the Bible before him). One could easily tell that they were not a stone, hewn out to deceive, or even a block of wood. Being a mixture of gold and copper, they were much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood.
Full Source
External Link
The Old Soldier's Testimony, The Saints' Herald, Vol 31, No 40
1884 William Smith Sermon
William Smith
8 Jun, 1884
   We handled them and could tell what they were. They were not quite as large as this Bible. Could tell whether they were round or square. Could raise the leaves this way (raising a few leaves of the Bible before him). One could easily tell that they were not a stone, hewn out to deceive, or even a block of wood. Being a mixture of gold and copper, they were much heavier than stone, and very much heavier than wood.

   A hole of sufficient depth had been dug, and a flat stone laid in the bottom; then there were fore set erect, at the outer edges of the bottom stone, joined together by some kind of Cement, so as to form a Box on the Bottom stone was laid a Shield or Breastplate, from that arose three pillars formed of Cement, on the top of these pillars laid the Record, together with the Urim and Thummim The whole not extending quite even with the top of the side stones, over the whole was places a crowning stone, a small part of which was visible when he first visited the spot.  Each plate was about six by eight inches, and as thick as common tin, and in each side beautifully engraved and filled with black cement, the whole being about six inches in thickness, and put together with three rings, running through the whole a part of which was sealed.  The unsealed parts has been translated; and contains the Book of Mormon; and living witnesses who have seen the plates, and hefted them, have borne testimony to the same.
External Link
Autobiography and Journal of William I. Appleby, 1848, Church History Library, pg 33
William Appleby Recollection
William I. Appleby
1848
   A hole of sufficient depth had been dug, and a flat stone laid in the bottom; then there were fore set erect, at the outer edges of the bottom stone, joined together by some kind of Cement, so as to form a Box on the Bottom stone was laid a Shield or Breastplate, from that arose three pillars formed of Cement, on the top of these pillars laid the Record, together with the "Urim and Thummim" The whole not extending quite even with the top of the side stones, over the whole was places a crowning stone, a small part of which was visible when he first visited the spot. Each plate was about six by eight inches, and as thick as common tin, and in each side beautifully engraved and filled with black cement, the whole being about six inches in thickness, and put together with three rings, running through the whole a part of which was sealed. The unsealed parts has been translated; and contains the Book of Mormon; and living witnesses who have seen the plates, and hefted them, have borne testimony to the same.
(Note:  This quote comes from William Appleby's "Autobiography and Journal," in which he reminisced on hearing Orson Pratt speak about Joseph Smith in 1839, prior to Appleby being baptized in 1840.)

   In the Spring 1829, Harris went to Pennsylvania, and on his return to Palmyra... said he, you will see Joseph Smith, Jr. walking through the streets of Palmyra, with a Gold Bible under his arm, and having a gold breast-plate on, and a gold sword by his side. This, however, by the by, proved false.
Full Source
External Link
Mormonism Unvailed, E.D. Howe, pg 247
Willard Chase Statement
Willard Chase, witnessed by Fred'k Smith
11 Dec, 1833
   In the Spring 1829, Harris went to Pennsylvania, and on his return to Palmyra... said he, you will see Joseph Smith, Jr. walking through the streets of Palmyra, with a Gold Bible under his arm, and having a gold breast-plate on, and a gold sword by his side. This, however, by the by, proved false.

   When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did.  Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room.  He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day.  They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room.  Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls.  The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.  I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things.
External Link
Journal of Discourses, Vol 19, pg 38
Discourse from Brigham Young
Brigham Young
17 Jun, 1877
   When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: "This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ." I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things.

kimballthenom@yahoo.com