Kinderhook Plates and Don Bradley

The upper-crust forum for scholarly, polite, and respectful discussions only. Heavily moderated. Rated G.
Marcus
God
Posts: 1715
Joined: Mon Oct 25, 2021 10:44 pm

Re: Sylvester Emmons

Post by Marcus »

Shulem wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 5:59 pm
Don Bradley observations (blue emphasis mine):

Don Bradley wrote:
  • “Then, given that we have Emmons and Pratt both describing character comparisons being made”
  • “Nor does Emmons' conclusion that ‘they are evidently the same characters’ require multiple matching characters.”
  • “Even if the wording of Emmons' statement did overtly indicate that there were multiple matching characters the idea that he would have been precise on this point contradicts a mass of evidence that historical sources don't tend to be very accurate on things like this. Our informants in the historical sources just aren't as precise as you're requiring them to be here.”
  • “Fourth, while you appear to raise questions about me saying that Emmons identifies Joseph Smith using character-matching, this is exactly what happens in his own account. He says ‘he compared them in my presence’ and ‘they are evidently the same characters.’”
  • “So, even if you object to me observing that Emmons proves that Smith compared the characters and found a match that would enable him to translate them, this in the eye-witness source.”
  • “What was the result of Smith's comparison of characters? Sylvester Emmons tells us. In his letter under that date, he reports of Smith comparing characters at the event, ‘He compared them in my presence with his Egyptian alphabet’ (the nature of which you and I trying to determine) and that ‘they are evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them.’”
  • “Emmons' statement that Smith compared characters between these two documents and they are ‘evidently the same characters’ indicates that Smith found matching characters between the documents, and that on this basis—‘therefore’--he would be able to translate them.”
  • “Your observations that Smith identified the Kinderhook plates as Jaredite doesn't fit with the interpretation that the document Emmons saw Joseph Smith compare with and match to the Kinderhook plates was the gold plates character transcript.”

Don,

I emphasized that plurality vs. singularity is a vital clue in describing character comparisons and it’s always done in the plural. The “A Gentile” letter submitted to the New York Herald by Sylvester Emmons may have been said with “tongue in cheek” with regard to being called a Gentile, but certainly NOT the accuracy of the contents of the reporting itself. Was not the anonymous author for the letter published in the New York Herald an ATTORNEY? And if he was an attorney then can we not expect an accurate reporting? I would tend to think that an attorney is going to weigh the facts accurately and be precise in doing so. What do think, RFM? Emmons used the PLURAL to report character comparisons and that makes for a broad interpretation to what may have happened than simply identifying a single character from the GAEL. It suggests that more than one match was identified within the materials at hand in which the hieroglyphs on the plates were accessed. Bear in mind that the hieroglyphs from the reformed Egyptian (gold plates) were considered to be kin to the conventional Egyptian (Abraham papyrus) and would have been given every consideration in looking for matches!

PS. Marcus, does this observation help my case for the plurality of character translations?

Marcus wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 12:57 pm
just taking a quick and dirty look at the probabilities, you have a point here, Shulem. if a model relies specifically on eyewitness statement, it's hard to then justify that another part of the same statement (plural not singular) can't be relied upon to mean what it says. on the other hand, if the eyewitness is unreliable then the plural may not mean anything, but parsimony would also require that the rest of the statement not be relied upon so specifically as well. Typically, you can't have it both ways.
i'm about to get on a plane for my kid's wedding (!) so this will have to be quick, and i'll take a longer look later but yes, i definitely think so! you're looking at the likelihood of similar behaviors in a consistent way. wish me luck... i'll be back!
User avatar
Shulem
God
Posts: 4939
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2020 1:40 am
Location: Facsimile No. 3

My Model

Post by Shulem »

Don Bradley wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:19 am
Really--how does your model that Smith compared the Kinderhook plates to Nephite script and found they were the same characters and translated from them by revelation predict or account for him identifying them as Jaredite? Under your model, that's anomalous.

Stage One:

Paul Osborne wrote:The twenty-four gold plates discovered by the people of Limhi from graves of the Jaredites in the northern land during Nephite times reminds me of the discovery of six brass plates found buried in the Kinderhook grave during Smith’s time. Both graves were accompanied with bones and plates. The first thing a translator will want to do is determine their origin and who was buried with them. The ORIGIN is the key. The plates were buried in a grave with bones of those who perished long ago. WHO were those people and WHERE did they originate? Those are the questions in which a translator must determine. A similar circumstance occurred during the Zion’s Camp march of 1834 when Smith uncovered a grave under a mound and identified the bones of a Nephite general named ZELPH. Smith always seemed to have an answer to everything wherever he went. With regard to the Kinderhook plates, Smith opted for an earlier epic than that of the Nephites and Zelph; even more ancient! He decided to date and associate the origins of the Kinderhook plates to the Jaredites who are described thoroughly in the Book of Ether. Mahonri Moriancumer and the Jaredites originated from ancient Mesopotamia during the great tower which was long before Abraham’s time. It was said they left when languages were confounded but they were privileged to maintain their own language with the vision that they would be taken to a promised land by the power of God. Interestingly enough, the Book of Ether says absolutely nothing about anyone or anything being of Egyptian heritage. We are led to believe in the Book of Ether that the Jaredites were a pure people of one language and one race. But were there?

With that, it could be said that Joseph Smith later imagined Jared and his brother bringing an Egyptian couple along with them as friends of the family and converts to their religion. It’s possible that Joseph Smith was ready to invent and add new stories to the Jaredite account in America, compliments of the Kinderhook plates.

And so it begins.
Last edited by Shulem on Thu Jun 16, 2022 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Doctor CamNC4Me
God
Posts: 4901
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2020 2:04 am

Re: Sylvester Emmons

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

Marcus wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 6:13 pm
i'm about to get on a plane for my kid's wedding (!) so this will have to be quick, and i'll take a longer look later but yes, i definitely think so! you're looking at the likelihood of similar behaviors in a consistent way. wish me luck... i'll be back!
What a happy day. And what a happy time. Very happy for you and your family - I hope your kid has the best day, and a great marriage.

- Doc
1. Speech is aggression.
2. Every utterance has a winner or a loser.
3. Curiosity is feigned.
4. Lying is performative.
5. Stupidity is power.
Marcus
God
Posts: 1715
Joined: Mon Oct 25, 2021 10:44 pm

Re: Sylvester Emmons

Post by Marcus »

Doctor CamNC4Me wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 9:33 pm
Marcus wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 6:13 pm
i'm about to get on a plane for my kid's wedding (!) so this will have to be quick, and i'll take a longer look later but yes, i definitely think so! you're looking at the likelihood of similar behaviors in a consistent way. wish me luck... i'll be back!
What a happy day. And what a happy time. Very happy for you and your family - I hope your kid has the best day, and a great marriage.

- Doc
Thank you so much!!
Don Bradley
Star A
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2020 2:41 am

Re: Kinderhook Plates and Don Bradley

Post by Don Bradley »

Marcus,

What a huge life event! None of my children have married yet, but I can imagine just what a proud day this will be and what a happy time! Have a wonderful trip. :D

Don
"People can find meaninglessness in just about anything if they convince themselves that there is no meaning in that thing." - The Rev. Dr. Lumen Kishkumen
Don Bradley
Star A
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2020 2:41 am

Re: Kinderhook Plates and Don Bradley

Post by Don Bradley »

....

<It's not letting me delete this redundant message>
Last edited by Don Bradley on Wed Jun 15, 2022 1:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
Don Bradley
Star A
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2020 2:41 am

Re: Character vs. characters

Post by Don Bradley »

Marcus wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 12:57 pm
just taking a quick and dirty look at the probabilities, you have a point here, Shulem. if a model relies specifically on eyewitness statement, it's hard to then justify that another part of the same statement (plural not singular) can't be relied upon to mean what it says. on the other hand, if the eyewitness is unreliable then the plural may not mean anything, but parsimony would also require that the rest of the statement not be relied upon so specifically as well. Typically, you can't have it both ways.
Hey again Marcus,

Oh, wow!, I wasn't aware you had read the chapter. I appreciate that you did! I had just assumed otherwise since your comment seemed not to reflect that. Apologies--my mistake! You may (depending on your level of interest in the topic) want to go back and look at it again. It might also be useful to have RFM come on the thread and offer his thoughts, since, based on his Mormonism Live comments, I felt that he understood what I said in the paper as I and Mark had intended it. Also, since Chris Smith is a practicing historian, and a very competent one specializing in early Mormonism at that, he would be able to confirm what I've said here about historical method, which is so vital to understanding what Mark and I were doing with this topic and how the evidence is to be sifted.

Since you and I agree that Joseph Smith translated from the Kinderhook plates, I'd like to take a small step back and look with you from the beginning at the evidence that Joseph Smith translated from these plates? Where do we get the idea that he Joseph Smith translated from these plates? While a few sources speculated that Smith might be able to translate from those plates, the source that says explicitly that he did, and says it contemporaneously, is, of course, the journal of Joseph's private clerk William Clayton:
William Clayton, Journal, May 1, 1843 wrote:I have seen six brass plates which were found in Adams County by some persons who were digging in a mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth which was nine feet high. … President J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found, and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth.
Clayton's statement "President J. has translated a portion" is the key evidence that Joseph Smith did translate from the Kinderhook plates, countering apologetic arguments by some that he did not. So the credibility of William Clayton as a source is crucial to the case that Joseph did translate from them.

Note that in addition to saying that Smith translated a portion of these plates, Clayton says where they were found: in Adams County.

They were actually found in a mound by Kinderhook, Illinois, placing them in Pike County.

Clayton also says they were found with a skeleton.

However, one of the forgers, Wilburn Fugate, who confessed to the forgery said the following about the unearthing of the plates he and the other forgers had buried:
Wilburn Fugate,1879
There was NO SKELETON found.
Fugate's emphatic statement as one of the forgers thus shows that Clayton's account is mistaken about there having been a skeleton buried with the plates.

Clayton didn't merely say there was a skeleton buried with the plates; he said there was a spectacular skeleton buried with the plates--one nine feet tall. Even had there been a skeleton buried with the plates, this would have been an extraordinary find to say the least. Clayton cannot have been accurate about this. Nor was he accurate about there having been a skeleton at all, or about where the plates were found.

From my vantage point, this is not a problem, since as a historian I've seen over and over how historical sources also have variability and "noise." I treat historical sources, per Robin Collingwood, as evidence, rather than as authorities. So if a particular historical source demonstrates itself to not be to be a clear "authority" on what happened, that's fine, since I don't regard any of them as authorities in the first place. Rather, I search the sources for evidence.

However, on the rule that you've suggested, that one can't rely crucially on one part of a source while rejecting another part, we would have to reject Clayton as reliable in the first place, so we would have no strong evidence that Smith translated from the Kinderhook plates at all.

Thankfully, this is not how historical research works. Because historical sources have noise, we need to take into account fudge factors in assessing all sources.

_____________________

Laying that aside, let's return to what I said to Paul. I didn't say that Emmons was inaccurate on whether Smith compared characters or a character. I said even if Emmons had been inaccurate on this, that (per what I've laid out above) wouldn't mean what Paul thinks it would mean.

Since the question of the nature of the Egyptian alphabet Emmons saw Smith use is a separate one from any character/characters distinction, and one I've addressed both in the chapter and in other posts on this thread, I'll set that one aside here and focus on what Emmons said vis-a-vis character or characters.

Here is Emmons:
Another set of plates have been found in Pike county.... There were six in number, about three inches in length, and two and a half broad at one end, and one inch broad at the other, being something of the form of a bell, about the sixteenth of an inch thick, with a hole in the small end of each, fastened together with a ring, apparantly of iron or steel, but which was so oxidised as to crumble to pieces when handled. The plates are evidently brass, and are covered on both sides with hyerogliphics. They were brought up and shown to Joseph Smith. He compared them in my presence with his Egyptian alphabet...and they are evidently the same characters. He therefore will be able to decipher them.
What does Emmons say was compared with what? He says the plates were found in Pike County and brought up and shown to Joseph Smith and that Smith compared these plates with his Egyptian alphabet. He does not say that multiple characters from one set were compared and matched to multiple characters in the other. Rather, he says the plates themselves are compared to the Egyptian alphabet, implying character comparison but without saying how many characters were compared, much less matched. He then concludes that the two sets of characters are "evidently" the same characters. This implies that that a match was made, but does not tell us between how many characters. Indeed, the fact that Emmons must infer that they are "evidently" the same characters suggests that the matching was not extensive, or a stronger statement might have been made.

The number of characters matched here is a non-issue, since a match between multiple characters cannot be found in the source itself. Paul's objection that Emmons identifies the Egyptian alphabet, in the ellipsis above, as having been taken from the Book of Mormon, and therefore theoretically could have been the gold plates transcript, was better. But Emmons' non-insider status within Mormon discourse and Paul's observation that Smith identified the plates as Jaredite, precluding them from being in Nephite script, deep sixes that objection instead.

And Smith comparing the KPs to the gold plates transcript would still not account for the data Smith translated from the KPs anyway, whereas Smith comparing them to the GAEL, or "Egyptian Alphabet" as its spine declares, would.

Don
User avatar
Moksha
God
Posts: 3318
Joined: Wed Oct 28, 2020 3:13 am
Location: Koloburbia

Re: Sylvester Emmons

Post by Moksha »

Marcus wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 6:13 pm
i'm about to get on a plane for my kid's wedding (!) so this will have to be quick, and i'll take a longer look later but yes, i definitely think so! you're looking at the likelihood of similar behaviors in a consistent way. wish me luck... i'll be back!
Got to love when this happens. I enjoy being a grandfather.
Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace
Don Bradley
Star A
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2020 2:41 am

Re: Character vs. characters

Post by Don Bradley »

Shulem wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 2:18 pm
This thread is the only time I’ve publicly discussed the Kinderhook plates at length and depth so all this is rather groundbreaking for me. I think it has been a wonderful thread so far and the back and forth has been quite pleasant. NOW, Don is going to take a little break and work on other things. For all intents and purposes, he’s rested his case and now the ball is really, really, in my court. I have ball to play with and playing ball can be both challenging and FUN.

:D

I will reassess points Don has made in challenging my points and see how things can be stretched/expanded and categorized in different ways to allow for other options. It’s always those other options that bring about new discovery. That is the fun part!

Also, I will work on a model. I have one in mind and would like to tie it into the events that took place in Nauvoo and consider the principles of the moment while Smith was having these discussions with persons of interest.

We will get to the bottom of it, I can assure that. We will uncover the mystery of the Kinderhook translation. Although I remain skeptical/unconvinced of the character in which Don has identified as the winning number of this game, I have not however, completely ruled it out. It’s not an impossibility. For me, it needs to be further fleshed out because it doesn’t ring true for me. I need more!
I am obviously being a little slower about making my exit from the discussion than I had planned. ;) I'll exit soon, with the ball in your court. I love your enthusiasm here. Generating and exploring ideas is a blast, isn't it?! :D

I appreciate that you're open to the possibility of the model I've laid out, and I'm glad that for you it needs to be further fleshed out, and that you need more. You are right that the anomalies in a model are a key to making progress. I may comment on that further in another post.

Don
Don Bradley
Star A
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2020 2:41 am

Re: Kinderhook Plates and Don Bradley

Post by Don Bradley »

Don Bradley wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:19 am
Really--how does your model that Smith compared the Kinderhook plates to Nephite script and found they were the same characters and translated from them by revelation predict or account for him identifying them as Jaredite? Under your model, that's anomalous.
Stage One:
Paul Osborne wrote:The twenty-four gold plates discovered by the people of Limhi from graves of the Jaredites in the northern land during Nephite times reminds me of the discovery of six brass plates found buried in the Kinderhook grave during Smith’s time. Both graves were accompanied with bones and plates. The first thing a translator will want to do is determine their origin and who was buried with them. The ORIGIN is the key. The plates were buried in a grave with bones of those who perished long ago. WHO were those people and WHERE did they originate? Those are the questions in which a translator must determine. A similar circumstance occurred during the Zion’s Camp march of 1834 when Smith uncovered a grave under a mound and identified the bones of a Nephite general named ZELPH. Smith always seemed to have an answer to everything wherever he went. With regard to the Kinderhook plates, Smith opted for an earlier epic than that of the Nephites and Zelph; even more ancient! He decided to date and associate the origins of the Kinderhook plates to the Jaredites who are described thoroughly in the Book of Ether. Mahonri Moriancumer and the Jaredites originated from ancient Mesopotamia during the great tower which was long before Abraham’s time. It was said they left when languages were confounded but they were privileged to maintain their own language with the vision that they would be taken to a promised land by the power of God. Interestingly enough, the Book of Ether says absolutely nothing about anyone or anything being of Egyptian heritage. We are led to believe in the Book of Ether that the Jaredites were a pure people of one language and one race. But were there?

With that, it could be said that Joseph Smith later imagined Jared and his brother bringing an Egyptian couple along with them as friends of the family and converts to their religion. It’s possible that Joseph Smith was ready to invent and add new stories to the Jaredite account in America, compliments of the Kinderhook plates.

And so it begins.
Paul,

The idea that Joseph was thinking about possible other Jaredite groups is fascinating. Early on in my thinking on the Kinderhook plates (before I saw them connected with the GAEL), the idea occurred to me that maybe the descendants of Ham came to Joseph's mind in 1843 because he was thinking about the lineage of Ham, and particularly the biblical "curse" on that lineage in relation to the question of American slavery. After all, it was less than a year later that he began running for president and proposed a solution to the slave crisis.

If conjecture that Joseph Smith was thinking of new Egyptian lineages of the Jaredites is part of what you're thinking could raise this other model to the explanatory level of the GAEL translation model, let's first be sure we're on the same page. To do that, allow me to say what I said earlier more clearly and fully, and then restate the challenge for an alternative model.

First, we agree that what Joseph Smith reportedly translated from the KPs per Clayton overlaps what the GAEL says in the definition it assigns to the character it calls "ho-e-oop-hah."

So, If--for the sake of assessing the GAEL translation model's viability, we grant, that Smith identified the boat-shaped "ho-e-oop-hah" as a match with the big boat-shaped character from the Kinderhook plates, this would have identified those plates as pertaining to a king who was a descendant of Pharaoh, etc.

In light of this, how would Smith have or have not related the Kinderhook plates with the Book of Mormon? A Book of Mormon-based anthropology of the ancient Americas provides precisely three groups to whom those plates could have been related. In the abstract, Smith could have connected to the Kinderhook plates to any of these three groups: 1) the Lehites, 2) the Mulekites, and 3) the Jaredites. Yet, although with no prior point of reference Smith could have connected the KPs with any of these three groups, once he matched the boat-shaped character with "ho-e-oop-hah," this would have provided new, limiting data. Since the ho-e-oop-hah connection would relate the plates to a descendant of Pharaoh, and therefore, in biblical and Mormon anthropology, not to an Israelite but to a "Hamite," this would have ruled out the Lehites and the Mulekites, who, as Israelites, were not descendants of Pharaoh or "Hamites." The only group it would not have ruled out from the Book of Mormon is the Jaredites.

So, the GAEL-translation model accounts directly for the identification of Kinderhook plates with the Jaredites from the very modus operandi of the translation. That is, given the translation MO of connecting this GAEL character with a character on the KPs, there is no other conclusion Smith could reasonably draw. This is the one it leads directly to. Hence, no additional assumptions are needed, nor any additional steps needed. Translating from the Kinderhook plates via matching to ho-e-oop-hah just means the translation content would imply that those plates were about Jaredites. The Kinderhook plates being Jaredite in nature follows from this mode of translation not merely as one possible outcome among others but, rather, as a necessary outcome since the translation content derived in this way rules out the Lehites and the Mulekites. Since this model for Smith's translation from the Kinderhook plates accounts both for why those plates were identified with the Jaredites rather than with the Lehites or Mulekites, and for why Smith said they were about a kingly descendant of Pharaoh and possessor of heaven and earth, it leaves no explanatory remainder. Since it requires no further assumptions or steps, nor explanatory remainder on either of those matters, this a textbook case of a parsimonious explanation.

So, take this as a measure of the challenge I'm laying out for your two hypotheses that Smith compared the KPs to the gold plates transcript and translated from them by revelation. To meet such a challenge, it wouldn't do to speculatively pile stage upon stage, or step upon step, assumption upon assumption to get from Joseph Smith matching the KPs to the Nephite characters and translating them by revelation to them being a Jaredite record about a king descended from Pharaoh and possessor of heaven and earth.

That's too complicated an explanation beside the GAEL translation model. This model--that Joseph Smith compared the KP character with ho-e-oop-hah--disposes of all those data points in one fell swoop, making Smith's character comparison reported by Emmons the same thing as his translation of them--a simpler explanation for what on your theory are distinct processes, accounts for the reported translation content, accounting for the plates being Jaredite, and even for Smith's otherwise incongruous connection of Jaredites with Egyptians. And it accounts for all this from Smith taking the action of comparing the Kinderhook plates with the GAEL's ho-e-oop-hah.

That's a very economical explanation. So, since history is inference to the best explanation, the challenge I'm posing is to show that the alternative hypothesis can do the same explanatory work as economically. Alternatively, you could abandon that hypothesis in favor of the better one that actually does this explanatory work. If you're aiming for that level of explanation, then I'd propose that positing a complicated series of maybes with all sorts of steps and assumptions, and that doesn't explain why Smith got this exact Jaredite, descendant of Pharaoh, heaven and earth content won't get you there.

I can see from your other post, and from a lot of your posts over time, that this Mormon studies stuff is a really fun creative outlet for you. You seem to enjoy it quite a bit--good for you! When it comes to the Kinderhook plates, I'm going to suggest--and obviously you don't have to listen to me at all--I'm going to suggest that you channel that creativity into additional areas that require such creativity: first, to, as you've already started to do, explore what the forgers were up to and where they got their ideas; and, second, instead of trying to refute, trying to help refine and expand the GAEL-translation model. Just because Mark and I came up with a good model doesn't make it perfect. Given our limitations, it obviously can't be. A good model can be made better.

Pointing in this direction, toward the end of our discussions on the subject before he passed away Johnny suggested to me that Joseph Smith may have compared the KPs to both the GAEL and the gold plates transcript. If so, this could account for the text he translated from it, via the GAEL, and could further account for Emmons confusing the GAEL with the gold plates transcript. Obviously the idea's fit with the Jaredite identity of the plates would have to be explored, etc. But it may hold promise as an expansion on what the GAEL model can explain.

You mentioned above the value of looking for new options. You obviously have a lot of experience with that already, but, for the heck of it, I'll give some of my thoughts on weighing models and generating new possibilities.

For me, often a good early step in assessing a model is to look at what it does account for, and then seeing how much more it can account for than has yet been recognized. If the model has wide explanatory power, particularly coupled with an economy of explanation (parsimony), then it usually points in the right direction.

If the model lacks explanatory power or parsimony, it may be a good idea to just junk the whole thing. But if it couples explanatory power with explanatory economy, then a best step is often to look for anomalies in a model. What does it still not account for? What makes for an uncomfortable fit with the model, or makes it overly complicated? These kinds of considerations can, of course, lead to just junking a model. But for a model that has good explanatory power and economy, for me this usually, instead, suggests mutations on the model. At this point, as I know you recognize, you generate a lot of "what ifs" to potentially account for the anomaly and start throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.

Along these lines, the discussion has actually resulted in new insights for me that expand my model by suggesting that it can explain things I had not previously considered--such as how you helped me see how parsimoniously it accounts for the Jaredite nature of the plates.

Have fun!

Don
Post Reply