South Park Mormon: Joseph Smith and the Gold Plates
1. Joseph Smith found “another New Testament of Jesus Christ” – TRUE / FALSE
If you’ve seen a copy of the Book of Mormon, you will see that the subtitle is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Just as the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ and His divine mission as Savior of the world.
While some might see it as semantics, it’s important to note that Mormons do not consider it “another New Testament.” In no way does the Book of Mormon replace the Bible. Rather, the two books go hand in hand to strengthen the witness of Jesus Christ.
2. Joseph Smith had to dig around all morning to find the gold plates – FALSE
This is actually the exact opposite of what Joseph Smith said. The Angel Moroni had instructed him that the plates were buried in a hill nearby, known as the Hill Cumorah. Joseph Smith wrote this about his experience with finding the gold plates:
“I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there.”
There was no confusion about where he would find the gold plates, since he had been clearly directed how to find them in vision.
3. Joseph Smith found the gold plates and two stones – TRUE
When Joseph Smith found the right location, he notes that he found a stone box. He used a lever to remove the top stone so he could look inside. There he says that he saw the plates, as well as two stones–the Urim and Thummim. As the Angel Moroni had explained to him earlier, these stones were prepared to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon which were written in an ancient language.
4. Joseph Smith took the plates then – FALSE
Joseph Smith actually records that when he tried to take the plates, the angel Moroni stopped him, explaining that it wasn’t yet time for the record to be brought forth. Each year on that same day he visited the location and received instruction and preparation from the angel. Finally, 4 years later, in 1827, Joseph Smith was allowed to take the gold plates.
5. No one else ever saw the gold plates – FALSE
This is by far the most inaccurate part of this section. In every copy of the Book of Mormon that has ever been printed (150+ million copies!), you will find the “Testimony of Three Witnesses” and the “Testimony of Eight Witnesses.” These 11 men also saw the golden plates, were able to hold them, see the inscriptions of them, etc.
The South Park episode tries to make it seem as though Joseph Smith was the only one who ever saw the gold plates which certainly makes it seem fishy. These 11 other respected and reputable members of the community also saw the gold plates and were willing to give their testimonies.
What is even more interesting about this story is that not one ever denied his testimony. Even though some of these witnesses left the Mormon Church and some became disaffected from Joseph Smith, none ever denied their testimony. These witnesses had nothing to gain, and perhaps everything to lose, from giving these testimonies. There was no other reason to give it except that it was true! They had seen the plates.
CONCLUSION: As you can tell, the farther the episode gets into the story, the less and less accurate it’s becoming. Leaving out the story of the witnesses and making it seem as though Joseph Smith was the only one to ever see the plates is a gross inaccuracy. It was not by accident that it was portrayed this way–anyone spending 5 minutes with a Book of Mormon will find these testimonies–it was unfortunately a poor attempt to discredit Joseph Smith and his story.