In our final segments with renowned Joseph Smith historian Dan Vogel, author of Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet, we focus our attention on the creation of the Book of Mormon.

Through his extensive research, Dan theorizes that the Book of Mormon is a tangible artifact giving insight into Joseph Smith’s state of mind, and commentary on the cultural and spiritual influences that surrounded him in his early life.  In this interview, we focus our attention on the role of the golden plates in the creation of the Book of Mormon, the 116 “lost” pages of the original Book of Mormon and how this event influenced the final product, and we discuss the different events that may have influenced the timeline in which the Book of Mormon was created.

Dan has an extensive Youtube video collection devoted to many different aspects of the life of Joseph Smith.  These highly informative and popular videos may be found here.

Part 1 – Dan discusses the role of the golden plates in the creation of the Book of Mormon:

Part 2 – Dan discusses the 116 “lost” pages of the Book of Mormon:

Part 3 – Dan discusses the different events that may have influenced the timeline in which the Book of Mormon was created:


Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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  1. Mark Blanchard January 22, 2019 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    I listened to all seven volumes of the Dan Vogel interview with great interest. They were difficult, but worthwhile. In many ways, Mr. Vogel is the opposite of Joseph Smith… not a good speaker, but a very cogent writer. His ideas, which are many and solid, are better expressed in his books. Nevertheless, I can strongly recommend the interviews. Stick with them, they get better and easier to digest.

    I was struck by one particular point made by Mr. Vogel, namely his theory that the golden plates were both a prop (made of tin) AND unseen by witnesses with their natural eyes. Most other theories I’ve encountered, including my own, posit that the plates were either one or the other: crude props eventually shown to witnesses, or unseen by anyone except in visions. Instead, Mr. Vogel has Smith snipping and binding tin plate into a ring-bound book, and letting his friends and family pick them up, but he never shows this crude tin book to anyone. I favor a slightly more elegant brass prop book, perhaps gold-leafed, with a few squiggles etched on it for good measure. This would have been more expensive and laborious for Smith to do, but still well within the technology of the day and it might have been shown… briefly… under controlled circumstances… to a few hand picked witnesses.

    Still, Vogel’s theory has strong merits. Why show a physical brass prop to eight witnesses when Smith previously gets away with “showing” nothing to 3 witnesses only in chaperoned visions?

    But then there’s the problem of the sealed 2/3rds of the book. Why seal or braze shut 2/3rds of your leaves of tin or brass if NO ONE is ever going to look at the actual prop? Why not leave them all loose and jangling? But if you are fashioning a crude brass prop which you are etching with “curious writing” that you mean to be seen, however briefly, and you happen to be a rather lazy and poor writer, perhaps you get tired of filling leaf after leaf with lines imaginary reformed egyptian scratches and so after you think you’ve done enough to satisfy your investors, you braze shut the remaining 2/3rds of blank plates lest anyone flip through them. The minute you’re done with your witnesses, you bury your props on the Whitmer Farm or you toss them in Seneca Lake, good riddance.

    I’d be curious to know does Mr. Vogel explain the sealed 2/3rds?

    • Dan Vogel January 22, 2019 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      In the biography, I explain: After Jared’s brother descends from the mount, God instructs him to make a record of his visions and revelations and to “seal them up” and allow no one to see them “until the time cometh that I shall glorify my name in the flesh” by being “lifted up upon the cross” (3:21; 4:1). The Jaredite plates are not physically sealed, as David Whitmer and Martin Harris would affirm in their visions of the plates, but they were closed in that “no one can interpret them; for ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read” (3:22). God uses the word “seal” similarly, meaning to “hide” or “preserve,” when he commands Jared’s brother to “seal up the two stones” with “the things which ye shall write” (vv. 23, 28). Moroni ends his own book by stating that he is about to “seal up these records” (Moro. 10:2). … While neither Moroni nor Smith revealed the size of the sealed portion of Mormon’s plates, Orson Pratt said it was “about two thirds” of the total gathering of plates, which Smith claimed was “something near six inches in thickness” … (The Making of a Prophet, 347, 348)

      • James January 22, 2019 at 10:44 pm - Reply

        I’d be interested in your theories regarding all of the various “latter day visions” (individual, and shared) for want of a better word e.g. not just the three witnesses or the visitation of John Baptist, PJ&J etc, but also the visions inside the Temple (JS & OC, JS & SR), and ESPECIALLY the “demonic manifestations” – the exorcism of Newel Knight, the apparitions of – and attacks by – evil spirits on the British missionaries (Hyde, Kimball etc)

  2. Frank January 23, 2019 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Went to Amazon to buy Dan’s book. Listed at $843.00.Did I miss something? Could not find on Signature Books.

    • Mormon Stories January 23, 2019 at 4:07 pm - Reply

      Our blog description contains a hyperlink to a free online version of the book since it is no longer in print

      • Frank January 23, 2019 at 4:17 pm - Reply

        Can’t find. What is the url?

  3. Frank January 23, 2019 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Duh. Found it.

  4. Timmy January 24, 2019 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Is there any evidence for Dan’s theory about the tin plates that Joseph supposedly manufactured? I’ll concede it seems plausible, and he provides a compelling story, but zero evidence to support it.

    • Dan Vogel January 24, 2019 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      There is the same evidence for tin plates as for gold plates.

      • Dave February 2, 2019 at 6:53 am - Reply

        Interesting that the tin plates caught many peoples attention, as it did mine. My issue is that you stated this as a fact, not a theory. Or at least that was my impression. A prominent anti-LDS Twitter account stated “there is solid evidence” based on your statements. But, as I suspected from your reply above, your comment confirms it ‘s just a theory you have.

        Not a very “historian”-like claim. And John, acting like the play by play announcer for the home team, why don’t you challenge this fairly extreme claim. This one is easy. Where did dirt-poor Joseph get the money to buy a bunch of tin sheets? Where does a Palmyra resident go to get these? Who cut them or paid for them to be cut? How did they acquire the tools or pay for someone to assemble these tin sheets into a bound set of plates? Holes need to be drilled or cut. The metal binding device for the plates was created how? In 2019, this would be quite the challenge for most people.

        “There is the same evidence for tin plates as for gold plates.” – By your logic (not your bias), then there is just as much chance the physical plates he possessed were real as not? I agree that there are multiple concerning issues in Joseph’s history, but when you throw in the crap with the actual ingredients, the whole recipe gets tainted.

        • Dan Vogel February 3, 2019 at 2:39 pm - Reply

          In saying that “there is the same evidence for tin plates as for gold plates,” it does not follow that “there is just as much chance the physical plates he possessed were real as not.” My point was that no one saw the plates uncovered, although there was something under the cloth that felt like metallic plates held together with three rings. That’s all anyone can say for sure. Concluding it was a golden book from ancient America is therefore just as much speculation as asserting it was made out of tin.

          However, a few things compel me to conclude the object under the cloth was most likely made of tin. The primary reason is that the Book of Mormon is not real history. If there were no Nephites, then there was no one to make the plates, bury the plates, or appear to Joseph Smith to reveal the plates. The lack of indisputable evidence for the Book of Mormon makes tin plates more probable than gold plates.

          Next, according to Martin Harris and Williams Smith, the plates weighed between 40 and 60 pounds, which is perfect for tin plates of the dimensions Joseph Smith described. Gold would be too heavy unless it was mixed with another metal like copper. Apologists have suggested Tumbaga. However, this is still too heavy, unless reduces the gold content to 3 percent. Such plates are also susceptible to corrosion.

          Making a set of tin plates was not hard at all. Remember Joseph Smith saying the plates were as thick as “common tin”? Well, tin was common. Sheets were used to make buckets, lanterns, and other kinds of tin ware, and also roofing sheds, chicken coups, etc. I don’t think Joseph Smith bought the tin; I think he pilfer it from various places, which is what I said in the interview.

          Common tin can be cut with tin snips or shears and holes can be easily made with a hole punch, awl, or nail. Metal rods of various sizes were also common. Most often they were used to make nails or handles for pails. As I mentioned in the interview, the three rods could be driven into the ground and the plates strung onto them, using one plates as a template. After a stack of about six inches of plates were made, the rods were bent by hand to form rings. This would have been difficult depending on the thickness of the rods, but not impossible.

          I discuss this at length in my YouTube video: “Joseph Smith Brings the Plates Home.”

  5. Ben January 24, 2019 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    Very interesting interviews. Dan likes to go off track a lot. I think John did a great job of trying to get answers out of him. I wasn’t always convinced by Dans theories and it sounded like he was making it up as he went along but i found it interesting and enjoyable. Well done John, I felt your frustration at times but great work on the interview.

    • Runar February 5, 2019 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      This is probably the most interesting and educational interview I have listened to, since I started to listen to MS in 2008.
      Props to Dan for sharing from his deep and throughout knowledge of early mormon history.

      I am impressed with Dans level of reasoning and with his ability to keep a red thread through this multifaceted forest of historical evidence.
      From an analytical point of view, his insights with respect to the Smith family dynamics and the BOM text are quite interesting, showing strong correlations with potential causality.

      For the apologists, there seems to be no ground left but to run for the “inspired translation” version.

  6. Dale January 24, 2019 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Except the gold version of the plates have witnesses. No tin plate witnesses exist or are documented? This is just crazy connect the dots and fill in the gaps logic. Not very fact loaded and lots and lots of supposition! Brody 2.0 with just more insinuations.

    • mark blanchard January 25, 2019 at 11:12 am - Reply

      Except that the many varied and confusing accounts of the 11 witnesses indicate that they may have seen them in visions with their “spiritual eyes”. Whereas other accounts of lifting the hidden plates in bags etc. seem to be more realistic, not invoking the supernatural.

    • Dan Vogel January 25, 2019 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Well, you can blame Joseph Smith for the lack of evidence since he kept the plates covered and the best interpretation of the evidence is that the 11 witness only saw them in visionary situations. The idea that historians are limited to explicit statements is incorrect. My theory that Joseph Smith constructed plates is supported by the fact that the Book of Mormon is not real history. There were no ancient Nephites who made the plates and buried them in the hill in New York.

  7. Dan Boyle January 26, 2019 at 9:13 am - Reply

    What a fantastic interview. Dan’s research and insight are amazing. His comment about the BoM being written in a pattern more like “speaking” than “writing” caught my attention. Years ago I bought a replica of the very first BoM to read it in its original format…when the chapter and verses are no longer numbered (to look like the bible) the entire book reads and sounds like some guy talking and creating it as he goes along. It was another a-ha moment for me. Joseph really was just telling a fantastic story, winging it as he went along.

    Thanks so much for this interview, Dan Vogel is amazing, I loved this interview

  8. Sera January 26, 2019 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    Any chance of this book being reprinted? I’d gladly buy it but can’t afford $1000

  9. CK Rogers February 2, 2019 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    “There is the same evidence for tin plates as for gold plates.” Amen Brother… great Reply !!! Fantastic interview loved every minute of it

  10. Left Behind February 4, 2019 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    John, I love your work. Thank you.

    Great interview, Dan. I’ve been watching your work for some time. Your deconstruction of myths and Mormonism is itself marvelous work and a wonder.

    Having grown up a Mormon, I wanted it to be true.

  11. James February 5, 2019 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    I am actually surprised by how spoon fed John is during these episodes. I am used to him sometimes playing devil’s advocate and challenging assertions on both sides. I have read and heard a lot of Dan Vogel. He reminds me of Grant Palmer with the many speculations and assumptions he makes. Vogel’s biography may be better (more interesting) than Bushman’s, but he lacks the scholarship of Bushman. Bushman addresses a lot of the criticism’s in Rough Stone Rolling. Basically, if the criticism isn’t addressed in RSR, it’s because the criticism lacks any substance e.g tin plates, animal sacrifices etc.

  12. Cory Jorgensen February 9, 2019 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Really enjoyed these interviews, and could take many more hours. I hope there will be future interviews with Dan Vogel.

    John, you seemed very incredulous at the idea that JS would risk being found out with tin plates. You must not be a magician. Magicians know that people believe what you tell them to believe. I can see him being confident in his ability to fool people, and worrying that they would lift the cloth or question whether the plates were real. His people believed in him.

  13. Cory Jorgensen February 9, 2019 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    I meant to say “not” worrying…

  14. T Edward Cook March 6, 2019 at 9:52 am - Reply

    I was hoping to hear Mr. Vogel’s opinion on the book, “The FirstBook of Napoleon” . Is it likely that this book, published in 1802, was influential in the creation of the Book of Mormon. There are many very similar phrases.

    • Dan Vogel March 11, 2019 at 3:49 pm - Reply

      John and I talked about the Late War in the second round of interviews. What I said there applies to Napoleon as well. There are similar phrases but nothing that is decisive. I was not impressed by the parallels because they appear to be caused by the similar subject of war and use of KJV language.

  15. Ben June 30, 2019 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Hey Dan or John or whoever reads this,
    I have wondered if it is possible that Joseph found some sort of metal plates buried somewhere in 1823 (not necessarily constructed by Nephites), but maybe by Indians or someone else. Hypothetically, he then could have backtracked the whole Book of Mormon story to fit with this discovery by having the mindset that he was more or less giving voice to the ideas common in his time in addition to what Dan talked about with solving family theological disputes, etc.
    For a long time, I really struggled with Dan’s theory of Joseph constructing tin plates. In my mind, if thats how it really happened, it would seem hard for Joseph to be a genuine believer in the Book of Mormon as a history (even though he obviously wasn’t privy to the information we are about anachronisms).
    Any thoughts on this?

    • Dan Vogel July 10, 2019 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Ben!
      I don’t think the Indians made metal plates for engraving records. I JS had such an artifact, there would have been no reason for him to restrict people seeing them.

      My version of the pious fraud theory is that JS knew there was no plates and no angel that came to him tell him where they were, but that when he dictated he felt inspired. Indeed, he must have been inspired because all good comes from God. Did JS believe the Book of Mormon was an authentic history? Probably not, but he could have.

  16. Andrei February 14, 2021 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Hello All,

    In my opinion, the religious people are not those who talk about religion. I have met many, many people talking about religion who were in fact not religious at all. Religion was their topic of interest, hobby or even sincere pursuit but not religious themselves. Religion means literally connection back to God and what people who are not religious have in common is that they exclude God from their pursuit to find out the truth. People have a good mind and a good logic and they are able to process correctly whatever physical evidence they might find but, by divine design, God does not allow to find out the truth in those religious and human existential matters in this way. Archaeological artifacts and historical facts will never be sufficient. Otherwise, why God took the golden plates and not just put them in museum? Why all this “secrecy” and why God put a veil between our world and the spirit world, and why does not He remove the veil that all of us to see and have knowledge?
    The main purpose is to develop free agency of man and to develop faith, to connect with God their father. It is a personal spiritual connection and communication is not merely processing facts. If you want to find out the truth about the Book of Mormon you need to read the book and in parallel attend the church each Sunday together with the latter day saints in the closest chapel from your home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Refrain from critics, ponder in your mind and in your heart all what you read and all what you see and hear in the church and if the Holly Ghost whispers to you that you need to change some things in your life, with whom God is not pleased, be humble and change them. Pray many times to God and explain that you know your own opinion but you want God to tell you the truth, you want to know from Him if what you read and what you hear is true or is fake and delusion and just traditions. This is a spiritual experience not a logical conclusion. You are entitled to a direct answer from the Holly Ghost, because this is one of the gifts given by God to humans after the atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the way and the path given by Jesus Christ in Bible and in The Book Of Mormon and this path was walked by each latter day saint to find out the truth for himself/herself.

    Andrei, Toronto, Canada

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