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Angelic handoff of Mormon golden plates to Joseph Smith took place 190 years ago today

SHARE Angelic handoff of Mormon golden plates to Joseph Smith took place 190 years ago today
"Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates" is a painting by Kenneth Riley. Smith said he received the golden plates from a heavenly messenger on Sept. 22, 1827 — 190 years ago.

“Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates” is a painting by Kenneth Riley. Smith said he received the golden plates from a heavenly messenger on Sept. 22, 1827 — 190 years ago.

LDS.org media library

It was on this day in 1827 — 190 years ago — that Joseph Smith received the golden plates from the angel Moroni at a hill in upstate New York.

The Mormon prophet went on to translate the plates' ancient writings and publish the Book of Mormon.

The timing of the anniversary seems appropriate given that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently purchased the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon and church historians are piecing together fragments of the original manuscript for future publication, the Deseret News has reported.

Why the date of Sept. 22? The annual visitations by Moroni appeared to be in timing with the Israelite harvest festival season, according to Book of Mormon Central, a website that specializes in Book of Mormon scholarship.

"The initial visit on September 21 in 1823 coincided with that year’s celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. In 1824, September 22 was the eve of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the beginning of the fall festivals. In 1825, September 22 was precisely Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In 1827, when Moroni finally delivered the plates to Joseph (Joseph Smith—History 1:59), his timing on September 22 coincided exactly with Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Feast of Trumpets," BookofMormonCentral.org explains.

No existing account was made of all that happened the night the Prophet Joseph retrieved the golden plates from the Hill Cumorah, but he was warned that "wicked men" would "lay every plan and scheme that is possible to get them away" from him, Andrew H. Hedges wrote in a 2001 church magazine article, "Take Heed: Continually Protecting the Gold Plates."

The evil men did not succeed. After once retrieving the plates from a secret place, Joseph was attacked by three men but fought his way out, his mother Lucy Mack Smith recorded in her book, "History of Joseph Smith."

"As he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind and gave him a heavy blow with a gun," his mother wrote. "Joseph turned around and knocked him to the ground, and then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further, he was attacked again in precisely the same way. He soon brought this one down also and ran on again, but before he got home, he was accosted the third time with a severe stroke with a gun.

"Joseph struck this third and final attacker with such force that he dislocated his own thumb. He continued running, 'being closely pursued until he came near his father’s house,' at which time his assailants, 'for fear of being detected,' broke off the chase. Reaching a fence corner, he 'threw himself down … to recover his breath,' then rose and continued running until he reached the house."

On the same day Joseph Smith received the plates, future church leader Heber C. Kimball, his wife and others in Mendon, New York, along with future church president Brigham Young and friends in Port Byron, New York, all claimed to see wonders in the heavens, including an army of men marching across the horizon, History of the Saints wrote for LDSLiving.com.

"They continued marching until they reached the western horizon. They moved in platoons, and walked so close that the rear ranks trod in the steps of their file leaders until the whole bow was literally crowded with soldiers. They were dressed in the full battle gear of 19th century soldiers—muskets; bayonets, and were so clear and distinct that Heber and the small group of neighbors could distinguish the features of their faces, and hear the jingle of their equipage as they moved," the article said.

When asked what it all meant, an older man replied, "Why, it's one of the signs of the coming of the Son of Man."

Many have wondered what became of the golden plates following the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. The plates were deposited in Cumorah's cave, Cameron J. Packer wrote in an article for Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.

Packer's article presents several accounts from church leaders and others about what happened to the plates. One account by Young in the Journal of Discourses, June 17, 1877, reports that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey walked into a cave at the hill and found themselves in a room full of other ancient records, "probably many wagon loads," the account said.

They saw sacred objects like the Sword of Laban and "tons of choice treasures and records," Wilford Wood wrote in his journal on Dec. 11, 1869.

"By looking at all the accounts and context in which they were shared, one can see that regardless of the meta-physical nature of Cumorah's cave, it has served to teach important gospel principles — principles such as God's miraculous dealings with man, his dominion over all things, consecration, and continuing revelation," Packer wrote.