Renowned historian Richard Lyman Bushman presents a vibrant history of the objects that gave birth to a new religion.
According to Joseph Smith, in September of 1823 an angel appeared to him and directed him to a hill near his home. Buried there Smith found a box containing a stack of thin metal sheets, gold in color, about six inches wide, eight inches long, piled six or so inches high, bound together by large rings, and covered with what appeared to be ancient engravings. Exactly four years later, the angel allowed Smith to take the plates and instructed him to translate them into English. When the text was published, a new religion was born.
The plates have had a long and active life, and the question of their reality has hovered over them from the beginning. Months before the Book of Mormon was published, newspapers began reporting on the discovery of a “Golden Bible.” Within a few years over a hundred articles had appeared. Critics denounced Smith as a charlatan for claiming to have a wondrous object that he refused to show, while believers countered by pointing to witnesses who said they saw the plates. Two hundred years later the mystery of the gold plates remains.
In this book renowned historian of Mormonism Richard Lyman Bushman offers a cultural history of the gold plates. Bushman examines how the plates have been imagined by both believers and critics–and by treasure-seekers, novelists, artists, scholars, and others–from Smith’s first encounter with them to the present. Why have they been remembered, and how have they been used? And why do they remain objects of fascination to this day? By examining these questions, Bushman sheds new light on Mormon history and on the role of enchantment in the modern world.
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