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Joseph Smith as Translator Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
August 26, 2021 9:33 pm

Joseph Smith as Translator Part 5

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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August 26, 2021 9:33 pm

This week Bill and Eric interview Sandra Tanner (Mormonism: Shadow or Reality) as we consider Joseph Smith’s track record as a translator, including: The Book of Mormon The Bible The Book of Abraham The Book of Moses The Kinderhook Plates Should Joseph Smith be trusted? Or were his translation abilities suspect? Tune in this week!

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism.

Thanks for having a very pleasant Friday. Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. We also have with us this week Sandra Tanner.

She's with the Utah Lighthouse Ministry. Their website is, and we've been talking about Joseph Smith as a translator. Yesterday we began looking at the topic of the kinderhook plates, and we gave a look at that. And we gave a little bit of background that the kinderhook plates were a set of bell-shaped brass plates with characters on them that Joseph Smith claimed he could translate. But yet, as we read yesterday, they were actually the product of some men who wanted to, I guess you could say, prove that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet.

And they manufactured these plates with these characters on them in order to fool the prophet. Now, in yesterday's show, Sandra, we were talking about the fact that Joseph Smith did look at the plates and came up with this idea that, as it says, according to this chapter in the book Producing Ancient Scripture, this is a chapter titled President Joseph Has Translated a Portion, and it was written by Don Bradley and Mark Ashhurst McGee. On page 452, it says, according to William Clayton, who was Joseph Smith's secretary, very trusted man, a man of what we understand to be pretty credible. I mean, he's a faithful follower of Joseph Smith. He was Joseph Smith's private clerk, the book says. Smith had, quote, translated a portion, end quote, of the plates and said that they contained, quote, the history of the person with whom they were found, a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Now, that's all we get from Joseph Smith.

He doesn't end up translating the rest of these characters. But does that really help or hurt Joseph Smith? If the plates are not authentic, which we know now they are not, then Joseph Smith could not retrieve any information from the plates. There would be nothing that could tell him that this was a descendant of Ham and a descendant of Pharaoh. So this has to all come from his own personal imagination.

For whatever reason he has, he's spinning a story that can't be produced from the object in front of him. And so this raises the question, what is Joseph Smith doing at the different times when he claims to be receiving revelation or doing a translation? We know the others that he's done have no historic foundation. When he does the Book of Abraham, we know that the translation of the papyri don't match what he said they were supposed to say.

With the Book of Mormon, we don't have any place to even look at because he gave him back to the angel. When he does the Book of Moses, it's just strictly him looking at the Book of Genesis and getting a revelation of how it should have been written. So this is typical of how he does his other writings. He just pontificates of what something is really about.

But we have the chance to check on this one because the plates are not authentic. So where does he get the information? Obviously, he is a spinner of yarns, easily comes up with stories.

Anything that crosses his path, he can make it be important and spin a story from it. Now in this chapter, as I mentioned in yesterday's show, I was pretty impressed with the research that Don Bradley and Mark Asher Smigee put into this. A lot of the background information was just amazing. But I was certainly disappointed with their conclusion. As I said, it was kind of anticlimactic. I would think that what you have just said would be enough information to hopefully convince an honest individual that we have a serious problem here with Joseph Smith's credibility or claim or his ability to translate ancient texts.

This seems to be in that area alone enough to just slam the lid on this subject. But yet, they give a conclusion that I thought was very disappointing. What they had said on the early part of the chapter, page 453, showed that they agreed that Joseph Smith did translate a portion of the Kinderhook plates, which again were a fraud. It was a joke being played on Joseph Smith, and then he dies before he has a chance to actually lay out his translation.

But this is what they write. Sources strongly indicate that Smith did indeed attempt to translate a portion of their fraudulent inscriptions. At the same time, these sources indicate that Smith attempted to translate the plates by ordinary methods of traditional translation, not by Revelation.

Now, that makes us different than what we have been talking about this past week. I mean, he translates the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses. All of those come through Revelation, even the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible. But this one, supposedly, he is going to take the characters that these men have inscribed on these brass plates, and he is going to say exactly what was said that would help prove the Book of Mormon. I think, as you've both been saying, if I'm a Latter-day Saint, these Kinderhook plates are the final nail in the coffin. Would you agree with that, Sander?

Because the reason why I ask that is because I admit we're outsiders. We don't have any loyalty to Joseph Smith. But if you are a faithful member in the Church, should this be the convincing evidence when you add up everything else? You add up the Book of Mormon, you add up the Joseph Smith translation, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, and now we get to the Kinderhook plates? This guy doesn't have the ability to translate, yet many Latter-day Saints have been led to believe he does. Would this be enough to finally say, okay, I've had it with this guy?

Well, I would think so. I would have thought that one would have arrived at that conclusion, studying all of his works of translation even before this. But at least at this point, we see a clear case of Joseph presenting his understanding of these plates in a way that is authenticating the plates. If he had prophetic ability, why wasn't he able to just immediately declare, oh, wait a minute, you guys, you just made these up to fool me. I can see these are forgeries.

Now, that would have been impressive. But no, instead, he starts giving a series of statements, giving information that he's supposedly retrieving off of these plates. There's no information to retrieve, so it has to come from his imagination. So where is the prophetic ability in any of this? He just spends stories. So let's take all this into account.

I just went through a number of things that we have covered just in the past few days. Smith is giving the impression that he can do things that he cannot do. Right there, wouldn't it seem to be enough that the man is lying to us? He's lying to his people. He's lying to those who are close to him, those who trust in him, William Clayton being one of them. He's there with a group of men.

I think this was on May 7, 1843. He's speaking to not only members of his own church, but also some gentlemen, as they are described, who do not belong to the church. And he's making this comment. He makes that comment.

So we know he has the actual plates at that time, and as you mentioned, we only have one in existence now. But he's making these statements that, now looking back, seems to show very clearly that he's not an honest man, and yet Joseph Smith is often portrayed as being this pillar of virtue. I don't know, I just get frustrated with why is it that so many Latter-day Saints continue to want to defend this man when all the evidence seems to point against him.

What are your thoughts on that? Well, I would like a Mormon to explain to me what does it mean to be a true prophet of God, and how would you know if he wasn't? How would you determine if Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God?

Wouldn't it be by looking at such things as this? Because obviously, just testimony isn't sufficient. Mormons had a testimony for decades that the Kinderhook plates were authentic. The Mormon Church published articles defending the Kinderhook plates as authentic. Well, let me stop you there, because wouldn't it be the reason that they thought they were authentic is because Joseph Smith gave a rendering of a portion of them?

I would think that would all be connected. Yes, they saw the issue. If he said they were authentic, they have to be authentic. And yet they find out in 1980, absolutely, these are not authentic.

This was clearly a joke, even admitted to being a joke by the people who perpetrated the fraud. And now in 1980, it's like, oh well, it's not real, and we just move along, there's nothing to see here. It's just mind-boggling to me. Mormon scholars today want to dismiss this and say that there is no reason to expect Joseph Smith to be right on everything, and that this was just a personal opinion. It's not like when he's doing his scriptures by revelation, and they want to dismiss it as just a sideline issue of his life. But if we can't trust him when he's daily talking about doing translation, then how do we build the case for a man that's reliable? They want me to trust my salvation to this man and to his word, but where we can check him, he fails.

So why would I continue to trust him? Bill, do you see the irony of the entire situation? A fraudulent translator is fooled by a fraud himself.

I think that's just desserts. It does seem very ironic, there's no doubt about that. Joseph Smith got caught. He just flat out got caught. And the way that a lot of members of the church make excuses for him, like I said, it just boggles my mind that all this evidence seems to be set aside because they have a feeling and they want to trust in this guy.

And I can understand their whole life is built around this belief system. But when you have your own scholars admitting that he did in fact translate a portion of them, the them becomes a question because the them is a fraud. He translated a portion of a fraud.

And as you stated, how do you do that? You can't translate a bunch of gibberish. It means nothing whatsoever. Any final thoughts regarding Joseph Smith as a translator? Well, the church today is trying very hard to move people away from using the word translation or translator literally because they realize they are on the horns of a dilemma.

Nothing he touched, nothing he claimed to translate can be seen as a true rendering in any normal sense of the word of translation. So the only way they can save Joseph Smith's reputation is to switch to seeing it as inspiration. And then you can believe anything once you move it to that realm because it's non-verifiable.

There's not any way to test it. If you want to learn more about the Kinderhook plates, Utah Lighthouse Ministry has put together a track called Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook plates. And there's also a wonderful section in Mormonism Shout a Reality. I would recommend you look at that because there are several pages talking more about this issue.

It's a fascinating issue and not one that I knew much about before I did a little bit of study these past couple of weeks. We've been talking with Sandra Tanner. She's the founder of Utah Lighthouse Ministry. As I mentioned earlier, check out their website, And Sandra, I want to thank you again for coming on because you always have a lot of good things to add to this discussion. All right, thanks. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-13 01:21:43 / 2023-09-13 01:27:00 / 5

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