Cummings argues that the plates were no more than 50 pounds.

Jul 18, 1908
B. F. Cummings

B. F. Cummings, "Weight of the Plates," Liahona: The Elders' Journal 6, no. 5 (July 18, 1908): 108–110

Liahona: The Elders' Journal
Joseph Smith, Jr., B. F. Cummings
Reading Public

Why must some element of downright falsehood, or at least of misrepresentation, be injected into every argument advanced by opposers of the Book of Mormon ? Why do they never base their arguments on pure facts or truths? Because one truth can never be made to clash with another. An apostate "Mormon" named Hyde published, about fifty years ago, more or less, a book in opposition to the religious religious faith of the Latter-day Saints, of which he had formerly been a zealous advocate and defender. In this book he used a pretended scientific argument going to show that the volume of plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated was so heavy that a man could not carry them a distance of two miles and repel assailants on the way, as the Prophet Joseph Smith states that he did. One F. M. McHale, in the Christian Standard, plagiarizes Hyde's argument thus:

In Cannon's "Life of Joseph Smith," page 49, we find a description of the golden plates. They were of gold, in sheets slightly less in thickness than sheets of tin, the book being eight inches long, six inches thick and six inches wide, bound together by three rings running through the edges of the plates; about on-third of the volume was sealed. Now let us examine this wonderful book as a commodity. Multiply the thickness, length and width of the book, and you have 288 cubic inches of solid gold, or one-sixth of a cubic foot. A cubic foot of water weighs sixty-two and one-half pounds. The specific gravity of gold is 19.3; that is to say, gold weighs nineteen and three-tenths times its bulk of water. This would mean that a cubic foot of gold weighs 1,206.25 pounds. One-sixth of a cubic foot, or the dimensions of the Mormon plates, would weigh the neat little sum of 201.04 pounds. Three pounds more than a barrel of beef. Five pounds more than a barrel of flour! Yet, we are asked to believe that Joseph Smith "clapsed this treasure to his bosom" after lifting it out of its hiding place. It would appeal to any candid man that this would stamp the whole story with its proper name—falsehood.

This argument is old and has been revamped we don't know how many times. Few of those who use it are honest enough to credit it to the first man who published it, Hyde. It is so dishonest that an honest man would not use it; hence Hyde don't get the credit (?) he deserves. Stale, flat and dishonest as it is, this argument bears as close a resemblance to a scientific objection to the Book of Mormon as the present writer remembers ever to have seen.

And as a scientific objection let us examine it. The reader will please remember that we are now in the domain of physical science, and are dealing with its demonstrated truths and laws, with which our opinions and conclusions must square or be cast aside. While we believe God to be a God of miracles we are to say nothing about them. We will not question the figures and process by which Mr. McHale reaches the conclusion that a solid block of gold having the dimensions of the volume of plates, as given by him would weigh 201.04 pounds. Up to this point we do not care to raise any issue with him. Yes, a solid block of gold of that size would weigh more than a barrel of beef; it would also weigh ten times as much as a feather bed of twenty pounds. What has a feather bed to do with the case? Exactly as much as a barrel of beef. The reader is requested to accept all these as facts of physical science.

But will a pile of thin metalic plates weigh as much as a solid mass of the same metal, dimensions being equal? Mr. McHale coolly assumes that the plates will weigh as much as the mass, and though he knows this assumption to be not only false but absurd, he builds upon it his whole argument. If the plates were as smooth and flat as tin sheets ordinarily are, and were not under pressure, they would be lighter by a considerable percentage than a solid mass. If each plate had had a considerable portion of its bulk cut away in the process of being engraved on both sides, the difference in weight would be that much greater.

But let us come to features of the subject that can be discussed with mathematical exactness, seeing that we are considering a purely scientific proposition. A thin metallic sheet, which, in a process of handling and engraving has been bent, wrinkled, or buckled so that these irregularities equal its thickness, will, when lying in a pile, occupy double the vertical space it would occupy were it a perfect plane; if these irregularities equal twice the thickness, the plate will occupy three times the space, etc. The plates of the Book of Mormon were very thin, thinner than common tin, and being of pure gold were easily wrinkled and indented; and it is not at all unreasonable to suppose that the deviations in their surfaces would average three times their actual thickness. In that case they would weigh not more than fifty pounds. We cannot in reason put this average at less than twice the thickness of the plates, and in that case they would weigh not exceeding sixty-five pounds.

Thus by a process of scientific reasoning based on physical facts within the common knowledge of all persons who have ever handled thin plates made of any kind of metal, and especially of gold, we reach the conclusion that the Book of Mormon plates probably weighed not far from fifty pounds, and not to exceed sixty-five pounds. To recapitulate, discarding fractions: Weight of a mass of gold the size of the volume of plates, 201 pounds. Deducting two-thirds because of increased bulk of plates due to bending, wrinkling, etc., 134 pounds, leaves 67 pounds; deducting 6 per cent loss due to cutting away in engraving, a very low estimate, say 4 pounds, leaves 63 pounds as the weight of the plates. If we assume that the bulk of the plates was increased four fold in consequence of bending, wrinkling, etc.. an estimate which, as shown above, is very reasonable, we have the weight of the plates as being less than 50 pounds.

Joseph Smith the prophet was a man of splendid physique and great physical strength, and it was no trick at all for him to walk miles with a weight of 50 or even 65 pounds under his arm. So much for this argument based on physical science, first published by an apostate "Mormon." When will our opponents learn the danger of depending upon arguments obtained from such a source?

Laying aside physical science, the Book of Mormon purports to be a miracle. Mr. McHale proposes to prove that it is not a miracle by attempting to show that a second and infinitely smaller miracle in its interest could not have happened. We have forgotten by what term logicians designate this sort of reasoning, but it is equivalent to unmitigated foolishness.

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