Kinderhook Plates & Translator Claims

In the 19th century, a farmer in Kinderhook, Illinois manufactured some brass plates with engravings on them and told Joseph Smith that he found them in the ground near his house. Joseph Smith deemed them to be ancient records and proceeded to “translate” them. These were ultimately proven not to be ancient plates, but a 19th century creation. Just as with the Book of Abraham, Joseph was proven wrong.

His track record is not great. He claimed to have translated three ancient records:

  1. The Book of Abraham – proven false (see the section on this above)
  2. The Kinderhook Plates – proven to be a hoax
  3. The Gold Plates – supposedly taken back up to heaven, so it is not possible to prove or disprove their existence or directly compare them to the Book of Mormon

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Testimony & Spiritual Witnesses

We are taught in the LDS church that we can receive confirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, of the Gospel, that the Church is true, etc. by praying and asking for a confirmation through the Holy Ghost. But feelings and emotions are not a reliable method for discerning truth – particularly when it doesn’t line up with facts. We can feel strong emotions about lots of things – I have had what I consider to be spiritual experiences myself, in and out of the church. I don’t discount those. And I don’t discount experiences that others have with things that resonate with them, make them feel good, etc. The danger is when you use feelings as a substitute for evidence and as a way of determining or proving actual external truth.

I have read and seen videos of people expressing how they know their church is true via the spirit. They are all adamant their church and/or leader is true, and they all feel the spirit so strongly. The problem is that these people were all in different churches. They can’t all be part of the one true church. Using feelings and emotions in this way is simply not appropriate because feelings and emotions can be manipulated, they are based on our individual experiences and beliefs, and any number of factors go into them.

Another troubling aspect in this section are quotes from church leaders advising church members to bear their testimony even if they don’t believe yet because then their testimony will get stronger the more they say it. This strikes me as dishonest and manipulative.

I think it’s important to be in tune with our own feelings and emotions and the voice that is within all of us (we can absolutely call that the Spirit!). We can listen to our inner voice through prayer or meditation. It is appropriate to use that method for determining things that resonate with us, determining how we personally feel about something, helping us know what is right for our own lives. But it is not appropriate to use it as a determining factor for whether something is factually true. That is what critical thinking and actual evidence is for.

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Priesthood Restoration

The church teaches that the Priesthood was restored in 1829 but no claims of it can be found until at least 1832. The accounts of how it came about seem to have been retrofitted and backdated later on. Joseph Smith said he was ordained by Peter, James and John in 1829, but then gets ordained to it in June 1831 by Lyman Wight. Why was he ordained if he had already been ordained?

Mom’s additional thoughts on the priesthood: Why is it only for men? Only men can act for God? That is sexist. Why is the priesthood required for holding most church leadership positions? This automatically disqualifies women. Again, very sexist. Women are severely underrepresented in Church leadership as a result and always ultimately answer to a man while men rarely if ever answer to a woman.  Only 8% of the speakers at General Conference are women. The church tries to justify all of this is all kinds of ways, but at the end of the day it’s simply not okay. Patriarchy in general is not okay. Simply being told that women are valued equally in the Church does not make it so. Actions speak much louder than words.

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There are 11 people who claim to have been witnesses to the Golden Plates. Many Mormons find it compelling that 11 people said they saw the plates and feel that gives evidence of their existence. However, when you look a little more closely, the evidence becomes a bit thin.

All 11 people were close friends and relatives of Joseph Smith. Except Martin Harris (discussed below), all were part of just two families – the Smiths and the Whitmers. Also, none of them actually signed anything. The only document with their names attached to it is a document pre-written by Joseph Smith and signed only by Oliver Cowdery, who wrote the other 10 names on the bottom as additional “witnesses.”

Some of them count as their “witness” that they saw the plates underneath a cloth (so, they didn’t see the plates themselves, just an unknown item underneath a cloth). Others said that saw the plates with their “spiritual eyes,” not with their physical eyes.

Martin Harris, one of the witness, had a huge financial incentive in the Book of Mormon since he mortgaged his farm to get it published. He would have wanted people to believe the plates were real so they would buy the book. Many of the witnesses were very superstitious, said lots of weird stuff, had a lot of various visions and joined several churches both before and after Mormonism. They were not very credible people.

Mom’s additional thought: If 11 witnesses are compelling enough to believe that something is true then one would also have to believe in the Mormon off-shoot sect of James Strang. He took over his own sect after Joseph Smith died, also claimed to have found and translated plates, and had 11 witnesses to these plate that never recanted. Yet, I don’t know of any mainstream Mormons who believe that the Strang plates were real. This is just one example of things that people bear testimony of that aren’t real. It happens all the time, in and out of religion.

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Temples & Freemasonry

The temple ceremony and the symbols/signs/handshakes used in it have striking similarities to those found in the Freemasons, which is a fraternal organization that Joseph Smith was a part of. It’s curious that so many similarities exist, considering the temple ceremony was supposedly revealed to Joseph Smith by God. (Mom Note: when I was starting to research all this stuff, I saw a documentary on the Freemasons, and I was shocked by how many similarities there were between the Masons and the Mormon temple ceremony).

The temple ceremony has changed throughout the years – it has even undergone changes since I last attended. While these changes are positive in my opinion (i.e., removing creepy blood oath penalties and making it a little less sexist), it does call into question the claim that the ceremony was revealed by God. Why didn’t God get it right when he originally revealed it, especially since the church teaches that it’s necessary for salvation?

Why is the temple ceremony necessary for salvation in the first place? Will God really keep people out of heaven and away from their families after they die if they don’t participate in the temple ordinances or get married in the temple? That doesn’t seem right to me. It’s also a big bummer for anyone who lived on the earth before Mormonism came around in the 1800s. There is just no way that doing temple work for the dead now can possibly make up for all the billions of people who lived on the earth prior to the temple ceremony’s existence (not to mention all the currently living people, more than 99.8% of whom are not Mormon). That seems like a very inefficient system if God is really going to require it for exaltation and for being together with your families in heaven.

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Lots of stuff in the scriptures and things that prophets have said in talks (which I was taught in the church to consider as scripture) are not supported by science. This is not a Mormon-specific problem, but it’s still definitely a problem in the LDS church. For instance, Noah’s flood in the Bible just does not make sense as a literal event. Also, the D&C states that the Fall of Adam occurred 7,000 years ago and that there was no death prior to that event. That also makes no sense scientifically.

“To cling to faith in these areas, where the overwhelming evidence is against it, is willful ignorance, not spiritual dedication.”

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This section touches on a myriad of additional issues with the Mormon church. Issues such as:

  • Dishonestly of the church leaders with regard to whitewashing and hiding its problematic history
  • Censorship and excommunication of people who speak out about problems in the church
  • Church finances (i.e., the church built a $1.5 billion shopping mall rather than giving that money to charity; not being open about how it spends its tithing; insisting on tithing from even the very poor when they are clearly extremely wealthy, etc.)
  • Racism (i.e., the Priesthood and Temple Ban)
  • Anti-intellectualism and criticizing people for wanting to learn about issues; telling people they can only look at church-approved sources, etc.

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The CES letter concludes by discussing how he just can no longer believe that Mormonism is the one true church after learning about so many foundation issues. It simply does not add up and there is overwhelming evidence against so many of its truth claims. The author states, “I’m sorry, but faith is believing and hoping when there is little evidence for or against something. Delusion is believing when there is an abundance of evidence against something.”

I agree with the author. There are just way too many problems.

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Additional Concerns (Bonus List from Mom!)

LGBTQ issues

  • Offensive language used to describe homosexuals (getting better, but still a long way to go!)
  • Involvement in Prop 8 in California (2008)
  • “Conversion therapy” at BYU
  • Past direction to marry person of opposite sex regardless, and current direction to remain unmarried and celibate if gay
  • Extremely high rates of LGBTQ suicides throughout the years, including today
  • November 2015 church policy announcing that members in a same-sex marriage are considered apostates and their children would have to denounce their marriage if they want to be baptized
  • Reversal of that awful 2015 policy just over 3 years later in April 2019 (which is great, but why did it occur in the first place? Do we not have prophets for this kind of thing? Also, the reversal still was not accompanied by an apology or an admission that it was wrong, even though so many people were harmed by it)
  • See (specifically on that website, you can download “On the Record,” which is a chronology of LGBTQ messaging in the church)
  • Watch Imagine Dragon’s amazing documentary called “Believer”
  • Also watch David Archeletta’s (davidarchie) heart-breaking Instagram video from January 15


Patriarchy and sexism

The idea of anybody being able to speak for God

The idea of anybody being able to deem another person to be “worthy” (we are all inherently worthy!)

Excommunication of people for speaking out on things (i.e. problematic history, harmful policies, etc)

Temples, need for ordinances

Families being together only if they are all Mormon, pay tithing, etc


Tithing and church finances (no transparency, Ensign Peak)

Manipulative policies (i.e. temple recommend only if you pay, etc)

Basic character and goodness of early prophets

Gold plates (why were they even there?)

Problematic BOM stories (i.e. Laban getting his head chopped off, Ammon chopping off arms and piling them up, God cursing the wicked with black skin!!, etc)

Church deception and hypocrisy

Harmful tactics – shaming, guilt, fear, control