Like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library, The Book of Mormon was stored away for over a millennia. To make sure the record would not deteriorate over time, the record keepers used gold or an alloy of gold to engrave their writings upon.
Though the word “plates” was often used to describe the record back in 1830, a better word was used by Joseph’s wife Emma to correctly describe the nature of the record – thick paper:
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 metalic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumbs the edges of a book. (Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:541)
The size of the plates was described by Book of Mormon witness Martin Harris:
The plates were seven inches wide by eight inches in length…they were altogether about four inches thick.
I hefted those plates many times, and should think they weighed forty or fifty pounds. (Tiffany’s Monthly, August 1859, 4:163)
Joseph’s neighbor (Mr. Beman) who made a box for them said he heard them “jink” when they were placed in the box. (Ibid.)
Dead Sea Scrolls
The outcome of the Dead Sea Scrolls provides a warning of what could happen when additional Book of Mormon records come forth. How will they be interpreted? Will there be a consensus? Who will have access to them? These have been the challenges with the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Genizah means “a hiding place” which was and is used by Jews as a storeroom or depository for important records, particularly those containing the names of God, also called shemot. The most famous Genizah (so far) is the Cairo Genizah which has a collection of over 280,000 manuscript fragments.
In the collection was found the first ever Hebrew copy of the book of Ecclesiastics. Many of the documents were written in the Aramaic language using the Hebrew alphabet. This discovery is of equal importance to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Every so many years, burials of “shemot” take place in which the records are buried in the ground and covered with a stone.
The Book of Mormon followed that pattern:
a. Record keeping.
b. Record storing.
c. Record burial.
d. Records covered with a stone.
And now there are many records kept of the proceedings of this people by many of this people which are particular and very large concerning them…but behold there are many books and many records of every kind and…they have been handed down from one generation to another by the Nephites (Helaman 3:13-16)
And I was about to write more but I am forbidden but great and marvellous were the prophecies of Ether but they esteemed him as nought and cast him out and he hid himself in the cavity of a rock [i.e. the Genizah] by day and by night he went forth viewing the things which should come upon the people (Ether 13:13)
When Joe Smith retrieved the plates from the Hill Cumorah in Palmyra, NY, he reported that they were buried under a rock. Later, Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer described a second Genizah in the same area that contained many more records. The promise that additonal records would come forth IF the receivers of the first part were faithful, has not materialized. Until the “believers” in the holy record follow its contents, no archaeological or scriptural support can come forth.
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6 And now there cannot be written in this book (The Book of Mormon) even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;
7 But behold the Plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.
8 And these things have I written (The Book of Mormon) which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
9 And when they shall have received this (The Book of Mormon) which is expedient that they should have FIRST to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall BELIEVE these things THEN SHALL THE GREATER THINGS BE MADE MANIFEST UNTO THEM.
10 And IF it so be that THEY WILL NOT BELIEVE THESE THINGS (The Book of Mormon) THEN SHALL THE GREATER THINGS BE WITHHELD from them, unto their condemnation. (3 Nephi 26)