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Excitement, Skepticism Surrounds Discovery of Gold Plates in Saudi Arabia

 

Has another compelling piece of corroborating evidence for the Book of Mormon been found? Maybe, but many believers are skeptical. 


Image Shared on Shabbat Night Live Episode 3-29-24

The Claim  


In a video posted on April 3 by The Stick of Joseph (SOJ) YouTube channel, Hayden Paul, cofounder of SOJ, and guest Dave Butler reviewed a recent episode of a Christian YouTube show called Shabbat Night Live. Paul and Butler are both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Book of Mormon evidence enthusiasts. In the episode, guests Dr. Miles Jones and his assistant Patrick Maguire tell the story of being shown gold plates by locals that were embossed with Hebrew symbols and engravings. The impromptu meeting was set up by an employee of Living Passages, an “inspirational Christian travel” company. According to the Living Passages website, this meeting occurred in March 2023. 


Jones, who has been involved with Biblical archeology for several decades, said he immediately noticed the letters “YHWH”, the Hebrew spelling of Yahweh, or God, on the plates. Jones believes the gold plates were “at least” 2,000 years old and belonged to the Banu Qurayza, an ancient priestly Hebrew tribe living in Saudi Arabia. Jones and Maguire claimed there were two sets of gold plates, of which one was found in a cave by locals. The cave contained many other gold artifacts and other writings on lead tablets. Jones and Maguire said they were not shown the cave but were shown and took pictures of the gold plates and a dozen lead plates.  


Stick of Joseph Reaction 


Paul and Butler responded excitedly to the story and pictures Maguire and Jones shared. Most of their excitement focused on the content of the plates, which they saw as validating a thesis advanced by Butler that the vision of the tree of life recorded in 1 Nephi 8 is a temple vision. Pointing to the work of non-LDS biblical scholar Margaret Barker, Bulter claims that Lehi and Nephi were part of the faction of “visionaries” that opposed the Deuteronomic reforms of King Josiah. A major aspect of these reforms was removing the menorah – a symbol of the Tree of Life and the Mother God – from the Holy of Holies. The pictures of the gold book shown by Dr. Jones are filled with menorahs and other allusions to the creation story and the Israelite temple. 


During the SOJ reaction video, Dave Butler exclaimed, “I was watching this going like, man if this is a prank, it's like the smartest prank ever and it's like a prank designed to get specifically me. Like, I don't know who this guy is. I don't think it can be a prank, there's too much of this is just exactly right and weirdly exactly right in the way that your average Mormon-baiting Evangelical whatever is not going to understand.” 


Paul and Butler also pointed to some more obvious parallels between the gold plates found by Jones and the gold plates Joseph Smith claimed contained the writings of the Book of Mormon: they were found almost exactly along the route of Lehi’s journey, they date to a similar time, they were written on gold, and they contain sacred Hebrew writings. 


Too Good to be True 


The SOJ video amassed over 54k in the 24 hours since its release and has been received favorably. However, some urge caution in accepting this as incredible Book of Mormon evidence. Josh Gehly hosts the Book of Mormon history podcast, is the author of Witnessing Miracles: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection, and has a degree in archeological science from Penn State. In a statement to Ward Radio, Gehly cautioned, “Fame, fortune, and fakes all too often go hand in hand...I want these artifacts to be real, but right now they are unverifiable. Where precisely were these artifacts found? We don't know. Who found them? Again, we don't know. Can anyone else see these artifacts? Right now, no. All we have is hobbyists on YouTube promoting artifacts shown to them after a ride in an SUV into the wilderness.” 


The Scripture Central YouTube channel posted a video that concluded the plates were likely fake. The video cited the story of their discovery, the way they appear to be made with modern tools, and possible sources the images were plagiarized from as evidence for this conclusion.

 

A Pattern


This is not the first time Dr. Miles Jones has been criticized for not properly substantiating claims of amazing biblically-related archeological finds. Gordon Franz, a Biblical Scholar who has participated in many excavations around Jerusalem has questioned a prior claim by Dr. Jones. In 2012, Franz wrote about a stone that Jones claimed dated as far back as Moses and had the inscription “YHWH.” Franz pointed out that Jones was probably incorrect in his translation of the inscription on the stone to be “YHWH.” He also called into question Jones’s belief that the stone was ancient based solely on the weathered appearance of the etchings, an effect Franz said could be accomplished by burying the stone in the sand for a year or two.


Franz also claimed no reputable scholars were consulted before the announcement of the object as the “Moses stone” and Dr. Jones has not published a peer-reviewed article about the stone in the years since his claims about it, despite his promise to do so. Jones has also promised further studies on the gold plates, including metallurgical studies, will be forthcoming. 


Does it Matter?


In a follow-up Livestream on Ward Radio, Bulter explained why he believes the authenticity of the Book of Mormon wins even if the plates are proven to be frauds, “if you were [an artifact forger], why would you tell [Jones] a story of priestly Jews fleeing in the deserts of Arabia with unique books, writing on a combination of cheap and golden metal plates?... If you are a fraudster, you are telling that story because you think it’s the one that they’ll believe. If this is a fraud, those guys told a story that sounds just like Lehi’s family, and the evangelical Bible lands tour guys believed [it]!... so 195 years in, we have reached a point where Joseph Smith’s story [still sounds believable].”



Ward Radio News is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Church) and does not officially represent the Church. The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily represent the position of Ward Radio News.

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2 Comments


Butler is the GOAT! Can't wait until his new book comes out next month.

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Yes, either way, it's a win for the Book of Mormon and the gold plates.

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