Why did Joseph Smith have to return the plates?

by Rusty Lindquist on March 3, 2011 · 11 comments

Visitor Sunde asked a question on the post “Why do Mormons believe in works?“, that I think deserves broader attention.  It’s a very good question that many looking at the Mormon faith might ask.  I thought I’d make a dedicated post out of it, allowing us to carry on the conversation in it’s own area.

Question:  “Why did Joseph Smith have to return the
gold plates to MORONi? If the Book of
Mormon is true, wouldn’t the continued
availability of the gold plates help the cause
of “truth.”

My original answer:

Thanks for asking!

Joseph Smith had to return the plates because God asked him to.

I assume he was asked to return them because God’s approach is seldom one of providing irrefutable proof for “sign seekers”. He has nothing to prove, so proof is not his goal. Instead, his goal is to try our faith, to distinguish the believers.

Consequently, he continues to architect means whereby man is given the opportunity to encounter truth and choose to believe or not.

So, throughout time, he has sent prophets to teach his word (Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing save he reveal his secrets unto his servants the prophets”).

The same is true in our day, from Joseph Smith down to the current prophet. Whether men choose to believe them, is what he wants to see.

And so, with His goal being to try our faith, it seems to make sense that he would ask for the plates return. They’d served their purpose, bringing to our knowledge the scriptural record of the ancient inhabitants of America (the “Other sheep” who “must hear my voice”).

Having served their purpose, it fits within the template of precedence to leave the rest to faith.

It would likely convince many if the tablet containing the ten commandments were on display in some Museum, having been verified of their authenticity. But that too would destroy the purpose – to try our faith.

Reply from Sunde:

Thanks for the reply. I must say that a thoughtful,
inquiring skeptic can better understand the missing
Ten Commandments from thousands of years
ago. Rational thinkers do, and ought to, have a harder
time accepting the “missing” gold plates right after the
publication of their supposed contents to the world in 1830.
Especially, since so much of what Mr. Smith claimed the gold
plates revealed would seem to fly in the face of Scripture.
Is my thinking somehow logically flawed on this point?

See my answer in the comments below…

Rusty

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rusty Lindquist March 3, 2011 at 10:27 AM

Just in the way I’ve already described. Logic (if you accept the Bible to be the word of God), would still suggest God choosing a path to try our faith, rather than one of irrefutable proof.

The recency of the record has little bearing on what God is capable of doing. Should he desire a path of proof, it’s quite reasonable to expect he could have found a way to preserve any record, regardless it’s age.

It seems there’s a deeper issue here though. What is it about the Book of Mormon that flies in the face of scripture (I’m presuming you mean the Bible, but correct me if I’m wrong)?

Thanks for carrying this important conversation. It’s valuable for many readers.

Reply

2 Sunde March 4, 2011 at 4:01 PM

Because Joseph Smith declared himself a prophet, it is fair to test the veracity of his claims. Joseph Fielding Smith, who became the tenth ‘prophet’ of the LDS church, agrees with me. He is on record as having said, “If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfuly attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false.” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol 1, p. 188).

Mormon scripture proclaims that every church on the face of the earth is “wrong”; all their creeds are an “abomination” in the sight of God; and all their teachers are “corrupt.” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:19).

However, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ very much refutes that notion with the following bold and unambiguous declaration: ” . . . and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). The church is not a denomination or organization but rather an organism made up of believers of all ages. Those who have placed their trust in Christ and the finished work of the Cross belong to the true church, which is the Body of Christ. Therefore, since the very foundation of the Mormon church is in error, it must be considered a man made religion and not from God.

Joseph Smith further established erroneous foundational doctrine for the Mormon church when he made these statements recorded in a popular LDS doctrinal book entitled “The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”:
“God himself was once as we are not, and is an exalted man,
and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!…for I am going to tell
you how God came to be God. We have imagined and
supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute
that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see…
He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the father
of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself
did.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-46).

Smith further taught that there were many gods and that men may become gods:
“Here, then is eternal life—to know the only wise and true
God; and you have got to learn to be Gods yourselves, and to
be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done
before you…To inherit the same power, the same glory and the
same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God.”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 346-47).

Smith’s idea that God the Father was once a mortal man who progressed to become a God as did the gods before Him, and that men and women may also become gods and goddesses, is referred to as “eternal progression” and is summed up in the well-known LDS phrase “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.” (Articles of Faith, p. 430).

BIG PROBLEM FOLKS!

It is non-biblical! “The LORD himself said, “I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Isaiah 43:10).

Truly, the Mormon doctrine has violated the very first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3). The notion of plurality of gods is put to shame when God Himself asks the question, “Is there a God beside me?” He then answers, “yea, there is no God; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:8). If God’s understanding is infinite, as Psalm 147:5 teaches, then how could an “all knowing” God not be aware of other gods in existence? He has infinite knowledge. He knows everything. So if God knows of no other god, then there is no other god! Period! End of story!

The only honest conclusion here is that Joseph Smith was indeed a false prophet and those who follow his teachings (although mostly well-meaning) are being unwittingly led away from the one true God.
I urge all Mormon individuals reading this to honestly consider the
discrepancies that I have pointed out and to pray for divine guidance.

Research publications of the arguments. Pray some more! Your eternal salvation depends upon your fully trusting in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not in yourselves. “The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Reply

3 Rusty Lindquist March 6, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Thanks so much for your comment. There are a lot of elements there that are taken out of context in the attempt to seem shocking in their aggregate, but when the light is shone on them individually, not only lose all their shock-appeal but become logical.

I’m not saying I blame you. Because so often people who speak out against Mormons have simply swallowed all that their pastors have told them, and have then failed to really investigate it for themselves. That’s the purpose of this blog. To let people vent the strange and curious things they’ve been told about Mormons, and how crazy it is, and then to open to them the scriptures in the light of truth, and let them see for themselves how true it actually is.

So, let’s look at each of the various elements you bring up individually (My comments will appear beneath their appropriate paragraphs from your comment).

Because Joseph Smith declared himself a prophet, it is fair to test the veracity of his claims. Joseph Fielding Smith, who became the tenth ‘prophet’ of the LDS church, agrees with me. He is on record as having said, “If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who willfuly attempted to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false.” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol 1, p. 188).

Please do. To test the veracity of his claims is the hope of every member of this church, and the challenge of every missionary discussion, as echoed so forcefully in this quote. In fact, the beginning of that quote is this: “Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith.” He goes on to explain that he was either a true prophet of God, in the which case we must accept all that flowed from him (the restoration of the fullness of the gospel, restoration of authority of the priesthood, the translation of the Book of Mormon, revelation on the nature of God, and etc.), or he wasn’t, and it was all false. It’s why reading the Joseph Smith story for yourself (here) is so important, to find out for yourself.

Mormon scripture proclaims that every church on the face of the earth is “wrong”; all their creeds are an “abomination” in the sight of God; and all their teachers are “corrupt.” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2:19).

Yes, for out of logic, they can’t all be right, since they disagree so sharply. The question is “which one is right”, and it’s a question upon which your salvation lies in the balance. It was this very question that had so troubled Joseph Smith and brought him to the grove of trees one spring morning. The experience that followed changed everything. He said “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me [ … ] When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”. More here.

As for the corruption of their teachers, it’s important to understand the commercialization of religion, and it’s impact on truth and teaching. My post about it here explains it all quite clearly (be sure to read the follow up conversations with some pastors who took issue with it).

However, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ very much refutes that notion with the following bold and unambiguous declaration: ” . . . and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). The church is not a denomination or organization but rather an organism made up of believers of all ages. Those who have placed their trust in Christ and the finished work of the Cross belong to the true church, which is the Body of Christ. Therefore, since the very foundation of the Mormon church is in error, it must be considered a man made religion and not from God.

Thanks for bringing up this scripture, it’s vital to this conversation. Let’s spend some time on it and see if it’s saying what you suggest it does, for it seems to me, that it’s saying something entirely different. Let’s look more closely.

First, from the beginning of the chapter, the Pharisees and Sadducees had come asking for a sign. They were not of sound faith or understanding, and as such, required some physical manifestation to know that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus chastises them for seeking signs, and departing, warns his disciples against this behavior, and the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then he asked his disciples “Whom do men say that I am?” and finally “Whom do YE say that I am?” (verse 13-15)

Then Simon Peter answered and said “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”. To which Christ answered with a crucial lesson, saying “Blessed ar thou, Simon, Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father whish is in heaven.” (verse 17).

In short, Simon’s testimony was born of revelation. The great lesson taught in this chapter, from the very first verse, is that we should not seek testimony by signs, but by revelation.

Then, in the very next verse (verse 18) he says, speaking of revelation “I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.

He wasn’t saying he’d build the church on Peter, it’s not Peter’s church, but Christ’s. Peter is just a man. He’s saying that upon this rock, the rock of revelation, shall he build his church. Peter would die, but revelation does not, and that is the foundation upon which his church is built.

So this scripture doesn’t appear to be saying that the foundation of Christ’s church should not be prevailed on by Satan, as you suggest, for indeed Paul (and others) fought against the apostasy that eventually did break the church apart and created so many denominations. And of course they can’t all be correct. The “one living body of believers” is a fine notion, but when their beliefs so sharply disagree it becomes apparent that they can’t all be right. So which one is?

Which leads us back to what Christ teaches here, is that the only way to know, is through testimony by revelation. Thus the challenge of Joseph Fielding Smith you so fortunately began with… to learn about Joseph Smith, and find out for yourself.

Joseph Smith further established erroneous foundational doctrine for the Mormon church when he made these statements recorded in a popular LDS doctrinal book entitled “The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”:
“God himself was once as we are not, and is an exalted man,
and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!…for I am going to tell
you how God came to be God. We have imagined and
supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute
that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see…
He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the father
of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself
did.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-46).

Smith further taught that there were many gods and that men may become gods:
“Here, then is eternal life—to know the only wise and true
God; and you have got to learn to be Gods yourselves, and to
be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done
before you…To inherit the same power, the same glory and the
same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God.”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 346-47).

Smith’s idea that God the Father was once a mortal man who progressed to become a God as did the gods before Him, and that men and women may also become gods and goddesses, is referred to as “eternal progression” and is summed up in the well-known LDS phrase “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.” (Articles of Faith, p. 430).

BIG PROBLEM FOLKS!

It is non-biblical! “The LORD himself said, “I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Isaiah 43:10).

Truly, the Mormon doctrine has violated the very first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3). The notion of plurality of gods is put to shame when God Himself asks the question, “Is there a God beside me?” He then answers, “yea, there is no God; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:8). If God’s understanding is infinite, as Psalm 147:5 teaches, then how could an “all knowing” God not be aware of other gods in existence? He has infinite knowledge. He knows everything. So if God knows of no other god, then there is no other god! Period! End of story!

Unfortunately, and again, there’s a problem with your understanding of this particular scripture. It’s the belief of many that this scripture is referring to monotheism (the belief in one god), while accusing Mormons of polytheism (the belief in many gods), which is not the case. In fact, in Isaiah’s time they were not monotheistic.

Further study of Isaiah reveals that this scripture is a comparison of Isaiah between the God of Israel (YHWH) and Ba’al, a deity worshiped by the Canaanites. Ba’al had defeated Yaam, his preceding deity, to become chief of the Canaanite pantheon. And as such, it was assumed he too could be superseded. But Isaiah wanted to make it clear that YHWH did not replace his god, nor could he be replaced (hence – there was no god before me, nor will there be after me). For he didn’t oust some prior diety to become God, and nobody else can remove him to take his place. (A whole post, and subsequent conversation on that here).

Regardless, what you’re actually talking about here with these quotes by Joseph Smith, is not polytheism, for Mormons only worship one god, but the doctrine of theosis (the belief that man can become like God). This belief is not unique to Mormons, but is shared among many early Christians, and much of modern Christianity (Eastern Orthodox).

So theosis, or the belief that we too can become like God.

And in fact, it is biblical. Peter taught it when he said “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life AND godliness… Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

Paul also taught that we can become joint heirs with Christ, inheriting all the Father hath (Romans 8:17).

It becomes clearer when you dig deeper into understanding the scriptures and the context in which they are given.

The only honest conclusion here is that Joseph Smith was indeed a false prophet and those who follow his teachings (although mostly well-meaning) are being unwittingly led away from the one true God.
I urge all Mormon individuals reading this to honestly consider the
discrepancies that I have pointed out and to pray for divine guidance.

The strength of the evidence seems to have diminished, but I support your challenge to everyone regardless. Learn, study, and pray, it’s the foundation of testimony, upon which Christ will build his church.

Research publications of the arguments. Pray some more! Your eternal salvation depends upon your fully trusting in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not in yourselves. “The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

And thanks for taking so much time to engage on this topic. It’s so valuable.

-Rusty

Reply

4 Rusty Lindquist March 28, 2011 at 11:35 AM

Charles Moore… your comment was removed because it violated my principle rule. You will be respectful.

You don’t have to agree, and I welcome specific disagreements for discussion. But simply casting dispersions and making sweeping generalizations and calling people liars just says “delete me”.

If you’d like to talk rationally about anything specific, I’d be happy to. Just remember the rule. It must be done with respect. Certainly you can’t say that’s too much to ask.

If you have several things to discuss, they’re best done one by one. This isn’t a forum for anti-mormons to just come spew garbage and hope it distracts someone. It’s a forum for religious discussion about Mormonism.

If you’re unwilling to discuss (or unprepared for it), you’re best focusing your ill-spent time elsewhere. Otherwise, choose something and lets discuss it. Pick something you feel is most important, and we can work our way down your list and see if the things that anger you so, are truly what you believe them to be.

Reply

5 BRIAN MALDONADO April 4, 2011 at 5:40 PM

I was raised the son of a mormon bishop. We were read the scriptures every morning and my parents would explain them to us in their point of view. I was like Nephi and always told the truth. I told them they were acting like laman and lemul when they tried to gang up on me to try to push me out. My parents believed their lies. My dad, the second, then the first counselor to the stake and then the Bishop, severely neglected his family and made a lot of people feel like crap because of the way he made them feel for what they were doing. It was really F’ed up. One day they kicked me out. I was on the streets but I found my way to get me right back on my feet. Anyway long story short, I try to talk about what they did to me on facebook after giving them 13 years to come clean, I started telling my story. They sent police to my house to try to take me away. Then the hospital hit me with the bill cause my parents lied their teeth away. I know how the mormon church is really led by the government now and all of you are supporting What they’re doing to the world. People smoke plants to relieve their stress and you cheer on the ones that chase them through the streets to lock them in a cage. Mormons have become everything the book of mormon, and the Bible tells them not to be. They hold their book into the air to show everyone it really made no difference you’ve turned back into the Jews

Reply

6 Rocket May 26, 2011 at 7:37 PM

The question is “which one is right”,

The Catholic Faith is the right one. Always was, Always will be. Thanks for asking Rusty.

Rocket

Reply

7 Rocket May 26, 2011 at 9:28 PM

“He’s saying that upon this rock, the rock of revelation, shall he build his church.”

Sorry Rusty, Jesus did not call the revelation the rock.

So let’s dissect the text one at a time.

1) “Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah.” – Who is the “you” being referred to here? Any literate person will say Simon bar Jonah

2) For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. –Who is the “you” here again? Did Jesus suddenly switch conversation partner? No. He is still referring to Simon bar Jonah.

3) And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, – Again who is the “you”? This is one continuous discourse so it cannot be anyone or anything else but Simon.

He is not merely calling Him Kepha, He is MAKING HIM Kepha, the Kepha that will be the foundation of His Church.

God said “ Let there be light” and there was light.
Jesus said: Talitha Kum. And the girl rose.
Jesus said: “I say to you, you are Rock.” And so Peter IS.
What God decrees IS SO.

Reply

8 Rocket May 26, 2011 at 10:15 PM

ORIGEN: “Peter, upon whom is built the Church of Christ, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, left only one epistle of acknowledged genuinity. Let us concede also a second, which however is doubtful.” (Commentaries on John 5,3)

JOHN CHRYSOSTOM: “Peter himself the chief of the Apostles, the first in the Church, the friend of Christ, who received a revelation not from man, but from the Father, as the Lord bears witness to him, saying, ‘Blessed are thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and bone hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven’; this very Peter, – and when I name Peter, the great Apostles, I name that unbroken rock, that firm foundation, the great Apostle, the first of the disciples, the first called and the first who obeyed.” (Homily 3 de Poenit. 4)

HILARY OF POTIERS: Blessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” (On the Trinity, 20, NPNF2, 9:105)

EPIPHANIUS: “At Rome. the first Apostles and bishops were Peter and Paul; then Linus, then Cletus, then Clement, the contemporary of Peter and Paul, whom Paul remembers in his Epistle to the Romans …. The succession of the bishops of Rome is as follows: Peter and Paul, Linus and Cletus, Clement, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telephorus, Hyginus, Pius, Anicetus, whom I have already mentioned above in my enumerating of the bishops. (The Panacea against All Heresies 27,6)

AUGUSTINE: “[In] the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should…. With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me…. No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion…. For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church.” (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus [Contra Epistolam Manichaei Quam Vacant Fundamenti.)

More…?

Reply

9 What? July 1, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Jesus said: “I say to you, you are Rock.” And so Peter IS.

First of all, Jesus never said “you are Rock”. Just like you quoted, Jesus said “upon THIS rock.” This could obviously refer to the phrase, “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.”

Sorry Rocket, the Scriptures are sometimes ambiguous with pronouns, but it’s Christ’s church, not Peter’s.

Reply

10 Patrick Ashiedu July 20, 2012 at 9:17 AM

j Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Upon this rock i will build my church, the church was built upon revelation and apostles. Peter being the chief apostls. The gate of hell did not prevail against the church because the church was restored in 1829 by the same Peter to Joseph Smith

Reply

11 Kelvin Landon August 17, 2012 at 10:02 AM

In The Book of Mormon, it gives a warning to those “Sign Seekers”. If they ask for a sign, they’re going to get one, alright.

Reply

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