The Sealed Portion – Follow Up

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Actual Photo of the alleged Golden Plates

I’ve received a few messages since my short post on this topic. Most have agreed with my initial assessment. One person fairly prominent online however, has tried to persuade me that this is all real. He is, in my view, sincere.

Since there may be others who still believe there’s something to this claim, I want to share just a few more observations.

I have since my last post, spent many more hours reading and pondering the alleged Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon translated by a Brazilian man named Mauricio Berger.  I admit that I still do so with some measure of skepticism, in part because there are way too many overt things that continue to bother me.  Just like I would read the so called prophetic exhortations of Warren Jeffs or Ghandi or Mohamed, with a healthy dose of skepticism, I do so here.  I think we set ourselves up to be deceived when we follow the opposite course.

I also know too well how conformation bias works. One of the 8 witnesses admits as much when he said the following:

In the end, could I with the physical things of this earth, know that they were the plates of Mormon? Sadly, I had to say no. There is no amount of examination that will ever get me there. But as I hefted those plates, and I held those (about 50 pounds). My brother Tyler was using my camera, taking pictures of me. I held those precious plates. And I just let God know. I cannot know whether these are the plates of Mormon. It is beyond my means to make that determination. And as I pleaded, the help that is there right present, for God is at hand at all times, is when those plates became weightless for a moment. And presence of God rested upon me. And I knew, I was given to understand that these were the very plates of Mormon. And there was a smile that broke forth on my face.

This kind of thing could easily happen if you’re holding any item. Someone could feel such emotions or adrenaline if told for example that the terracotta pot in their hands was from Abraham’s village at the time of his youth. Just because you feel the emotion or excitement of that moment doesn’t make it an authentic relic. But the feelings you had may still have been sincere and amazingly heart felt although not necessarily a confirmation from God or the Spirit of anything.

The first thing I notice as problematic is as I mentioned in my last post, there is nothing in the contents that is greater or even equal to that which I find already in scripture. The excuse thus far has been that somehow it sounds better in Portuguese. I’m sure the Book of Mormon would sound best had it been written in Hebrew rather than Reformed Egyptian, but somehow even when I read it in French, which is three languages removed from its original form, it still has a power to it that is unmistakable. Everything I’ve read of that which “has been held back” until now because of our collective unbelief, simply is beyond unimpressive. It’s boring.  It’s uninspiring.  It’s clunky.  It contains NO profound teaching.

It’s not even as interesting as the false Nephite endowment from the Mentinah Archives and I definitely have found greater light reading apocryphal writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Jasher, the Enochic Texts, etc. But this is not that. Believers argue that the best is about to come if we can just have the faith. So we apparently had enough faith to view pictures of the golden plates and sword of Laban and to get 155 translated pages, but we don’t have enough faith for the full release.

I don’t believe the original record was sealed simply to tease, as if there’s just more info that will eventually be revealed. It’s not more info that matters, it’s greater info that matters. These are the kind of words and teachings that were too sacred to share and too great to impart. This is not more ironically, this is less. In any language.

I also find it strange that when Joseph Smith received the record from Nephi the Angel (resurrected being – i.e. not Moroni), and eventually was able to show it to others, no drawings or sketches I’m aware of were made available to view.  Perhaps they were not permitted to.

In the Brazilian plates case, there are pictures of the actual golden plates and sword of Laban. These plates and their pictures have become a sign seeker’s spectacle. I’m surprised there’s not a picture of the angels as well. It’s just odd and it’s opposite of the pattern the Lord uses.  Here you have not 3 or 8 witnesses, but a billion. But now after gawking over the records online we’re suppose to have more faith so that a seer named Mauricio can translate the rest. I just don’t think God works that way.  God doesn’t give you “proof” first and then with more faith, give you the substance.  He tries our faith first.

And now as I said concerning faith—afaith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye bhope for things which are cnot seen, which are true.  (Alma 32:21)

I also noticed in the testimony of the one of the witnesses that they couldn’t feel anything when running their fingers over the writings on the sheets of the plates.

Joseph Frederick Smith said in 2017 in his witness:

The plates were very smooth.  When I first looked at them I guessed about 5X8 sheets, but it’s more like 6X6, I think.  I could see the hieroglyphics on them, but you couldn’t feel them.  . . . The sealed portion had two straps across it.  They work something like a belt.  They opened them up.  I took one of the straps, because they were metal and very flexible. . . .

That strikes me as odd. If the process was painstaking as it mentions in the record, then why would there be no sign of the manual struggle? I wouldn’t think it would be smooth but rather more like a reverse Braille. Etchings and engravings imply there to be texture and lack of smoothness.  Contrast with the descriptions from some of the original witnesses:

“[The plates] were filled with … characters … small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving.”23—Joseph Smith Jr., Orson Pratt

“There were fine engravings on both sides.”24—John Whitmer

“We also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship.”25—Eight Witnesses

One of the original witnesses in Joseph’s day said the etchings were filled with a black substance. This made it easier to see the characters. The pictures of the Brazilian plates don’t show any black in the characters and don’t seem to be engraved upon or indented at all.

“Upon each side of the leaves of these plates there were fine engravings, which were stained with a black hard stain so as to make the letters more legible and easier to be read.”26—Orson Pratt

Look at this picture of an actual engraved plate from the Plates of King Darius etched at about 530 BC.

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Even from this photo one can see the antiquity and craftsmanship of this ancient golden record.  Strangely none of the witnesses of the Brazilian plates use the words, “ancient, craftsmanship, antiquity, or fine workmanship.”  No one seems to say that they look really old or that the craftsmanship is remarkable in Brazil.

Among the Brazilian witnesses who supposedly saw the angel Moroni, none said anything of a brilliant light.  Here is their official testimony:

Testimony of Three Witnesses

By the power and mercy of our Heavenly Father and our Master and Redeemer, yes, Jesus Christ, we bear our witness to all nations.

The nature of this testimony is to briefly describe what we have seen, heard and touched:

After some time with Mauricio Berger, who told us about the events on Mount Agudo, we decided to accompany him to the mountain. We can say that everything we have seen there has an extraordinarily sacred character. The prayers and praises offered to the Lord in that place, seeking to do the will of the Father, resulted in the visit of celestial beings; the instructions received directly from the Angel Moroni, are events that have marked our lives forever and ever. We squeezed his hand and received from him the Golden Plates, the translating stones and the Sword of Laban, formerly in possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. This sublime circumstance had a powerful effect on our beliefs by enlarging our perception of this great and marvelous work.

We affirm that, by the power of God, the Sealed Book of Mormon will be translated, contained in the plates.

We know, therefore, that the translation will take place in two time periods. The first part that belongs to Maurício Berger (in fulfillment of the prophecy of 2 Nephi 27: 21-26 LDS, or even 2 Nephi 11: 143-147 RLDS), with the intention of calling His people again to repentance. Upon completion of the translation, we understand that will be fulfilled what is written in 2 Nephi 30: 3 LDS, or 2 Nephi 12:80 RLDS – where it is clear this Record will be sealed back to the Lord in accordance with Ether 4: 7 LDS or Ether 1: 101 RLDS. Qualifying your people to receive the second part.

We place our witness at the disposal of the world, with a deep sense of gratitude and a total sense of responsibility towards God who directs this work. We solemnly affirm that by our fidelity to this testimony our garments will be clean at the last day.

In vain will be the one who stands up against the work of God. Honor and glory be for ever and ever, the Father, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, in whom we entrust the conclusion of this glorious work. Amen.

Joni Batista, Valdeci Machado, and Wagner Zeppenfeld

And yet, here is how the encounter was described by David Whitmer in 1829.

“It was in the latter part of June, 1829, Joseph, Oliver Cowdery and myself were together, and the angel showed them [the plates] to us. . . . [We were] sitting on a log when we were overshadowed by a light more glorious than that of the sun. In the midst of this light, but a few feet from us, appeared a table upon which were many golden plates, also the sword of Laban and the directors. I saw them as plain as I see you now, and distinctly heard the voice of the Lord declaring that the records of the plates of the Book of Mormon were translated by the gift and power of God.”

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Picture as shown on www.thesealedbookofmormon.org

I’m also a little perplexed about the sword of Laban. It was supposedly made of precious steel with a solid gold handle. Interestingly there is no drawing that exists from those in 1829 who saw it.  (Again, notice the contrast that doesn’t focus on the object itself).  Nephi said that Laban was wearing a fine sword made of “precious steel” with a hilt of “pure gold.”  If in fact precious steel, it is not likely to be in such good condition as this one shown above. Look at this steel sword from 600 BC from Jerusalem:

This sword from Jericho dates to about 600 BC and is on display in the Israel Museum. Photograph by Jeffrey R. Chadwick

The handle on the one from Brazil doesn’t look as though it’s separate from the blade either. It looks to be entirely molded from one sword and not as if it’s two pieces. And even if somehow preserved from the natural elements, it still does not look special or ornate in the least.

It’s also strange to me that Mauricio claims the angel Raphael came to introduce Moroni. Why does Moroni need an introduction? And if Moroni is an unresurrected being then how would anyone be squeezing his hand as the witnesses claim?  For it is not in the nature of a just man made perfect awaiting the resurrection to deceive and therefore when you ask him to shake his hand he will not. It is however in the nature of the adversary to try to deceive and to make you feel and see things. And it’s not certain that when he extends his hand to you that you won’t feel anything. He just can’t give you the tokens and signs to prove he’s a true messenger as I understand it. But make no mistake, he can deceive even the very elect.

But back to “why does Moroni need an intro” — If they’re all fellow servants then why the intro? Again, just seems inconsistent and like a strange embellishment.

It’s also curious that so early in, there are actually witnesses who either couldn’t tell while holding the plates that they were authentic – one said he had no ability to know – and 2 of the 8 have already backtracked on their witness. Both of these facts smack of a hoax. The circumstances of seeing the plates and holding them apparently is already wearing off after such a short period of time and the so called Fire in their breasts was not enough to stay believing only a year later.

Those in Joseph’s day may have left the Church and betrayed and even came to hate Joseph, but their testimonies did not waiver so easily as these.

Some have suggested that they can’t imagine how or why anyone who is just a normal guy could or would ever try to concoct such a scheme. How could this simple car salesman from Brazil afford to pull off such an elaborate and expensive scheme? “No one would do that!” So they say — “not without money or fame or something.”

There is a history however for people doing this kind of thing. Look at the Mentinah Archives. The Salamander Letters. The Koran. I’ve heard more than one person in my own life claim they’ve seen an angel or the Lord where I believe they are mistaken. Why on earth would anyone lie about that? Or embellish that? How could they and why would they? Only God knows that but the fact is they do. And they do it all the time.

Why did Mark Hoffman love creating forgeries so much? Was it just for money? Or did he derive some perverted pleasure in how good he was at it? Why do people get a thrill from shoplifting? Why did the magicians in Pharoah’s court love magic and producing signs? How did they do it? Why are people crazy? Why do angels of light appear in order to deceive? Why do people say the Lord comes to them when He doesn’t? Why did an angel come to Korihor? Why couldn’t Laman and Lemuel repent after seeing an angel? I don’t know the answers to all of these questions, but I’ve given up trying to be so open minded that my mind becomes beelzebub’s playground. It has led to nothing but psychosis in my life.

One more example. Annalee Skarin. She wrote some great books that one would think were filled with love and light. She prayed and fasted and knocked, so she says, as hard as anyone ever did. If you take her at her word, she was translated and left her and her husband’s clothes in a way to make it look like they vanished. Some fake their own death, they faked their own translation. So what do I do with her books so filled with interesting insights and what I thought was light? I throw them in the trash heap and say “I’m looking for the true messengers Father promised to send me.” You give that garbage a room for the night and you’ll entertain more crazy guests than you ever thought existed.

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Another example. Anna Rountree. This one is one of thousands of Christians who say they’ve seen Jesus. This particular woman had such an awe inspiring relationship with Jesus that included riding horses on the beach and dancing endlessly in the rain with our Lord. This Jesus has all the time in the universe to play and sing and dance with Anna Rountree but apparently doesn’t think to tell Anna to get baptized by one with authority or that the Book or Mormon is his new covenant for this land.

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Perhaps the best example is that of James Strang.  Here is an account of his “inspiration” from the Wikipedia:

Book of the Law of the Lord

James J. Strang, one of several contenders to succeed Joseph Smith during the 1844 succession crisis, asserted that he had been given the “Plates of Laban” in fulfillment of Lehi’s prophecy. His translation of selections from them was published in 1851 as The Book of the Law of the Lord: Being a Translation from the Egyptian of the Law Given to Moses in Sinai.[22] In its preface, Strang clearly identifies the “Plates of Laban” as the source for most of his book.[23]

Strang’s Book of the Law comprises a constitution for a Mormon monarchy, wherein the Prophet-leader of the Latter Day Saint church equally rules as king over God’s kingdom on earth. His 1856 expanded version also contains other revelations and teachings by Strang to enhance understanding of the work. The Book of the Law was seen by Strang as making up only a portion of the Plates of Laban, rather than the whole, showing that it was a more complete bible that included books now lost. The Book of Mormon also claims this in reference to works by Zenos and Zenock, prophets who lived in Jerusalem, but are now unknown to history.

Seven witnesses testified to having seen and handled the plates Strang claimed to possess. They described the plates as being eighteen in number, each measuring approximately seven and three-eighths inches wide, by nine inches long. The plates themselves were “occasionally embellished with beautiful pictures,” and all appeared to be of “beautiful antique workmanship, bearing a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages.”[24]

The subsequent history of Strang’s “Plates of Laban,” and their current whereabouts, is a mystery.

The Book of the Law of the Lord is not viewed as sacred scripture to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Brighamite) or Community of Christ (Josephite) churches, the two largest factions of the Latter Day Saint movement, although the Community of Christ (then RLDS) was formed primarily of Strang’s followers under Joseph Smith III, and held the book as sacred until Strang was official decanonized due to persecution and the scandal surrounding polygamy.

There are countless Indian gurus and 8 foot tall brothers of Jared walking around the earth giving fantastical revelations to special people. Some of them have had NDEs and write their visions or glory. What am I to do with all this? I’ve looked at some of it and now can see quickly if it contradicts the Lord’s pattern which is NOT sensational. So I throw it away. I don’t try to take a little light from each source or glean some incredible mystery—I throw it away once I discern it’s not from the right source. I’ve been burned too many times and simply refuse go down these strange roads if I can avoid them.  If Satan gives a great speech with many truths are you going to try to take the good from it?  I hope the answer is no.

There are so many more examples. Way too many to mention and way too many that deceive people. It’s as if there’s this great sign seeking spirit among us.  A person sometimes joins some group with all the zeal and evangelism of a new convert. And then there’s this new book or new guy online from Australia or India or Brazil or Canada or Montana or Southern Utah. “There’s more light” they cry! “More prophets!” Itching ears! Sorcerers and peeping wizards. More titillating information! More pieces to the puzzle! Some try to make it all fit and cleave to multiple beliefs or organizations. Others leave one group disappointed only to join another with their new friends in the newest and next best offering.

This one has THE SEALED PORTION. And pictures to boot! Doesn’t get much better than that. Previous ones had super power seminars where for a reasonable fee you could learn to bend forks with your faith. Still others sold revelations directly from the great prophetess who walks with Mahonri Moriancumr. Learn how to cast out devils for the low low price of $40 a session from another. I wish these were embellishments. They are not. Some are content to just sell books while others just share their “crazy” for unknown benefit and unknown reasons.  It doesn’t really matter why they do it.

Maybe we should ask ourselves IF we actually have faith or if we are an adulterous sign seeking generation. Because all of this is adulterous in my opinion. It breaks a covenant with God to be faithful to Him and to His words.

Because there is no money being made on this latest Mentinah scheme does not mean it’s from God. I don’t know this Mauricio fellow nor do I know his adherents, but I can tell you that I believe that none of it is from God.

Anything that is NOT from God, no matter how enticing or appealing, will take you away from God. But that’s a lesson we each have to figure out for ourselves and sadly too often the hard way. The scriptures show clearly that we ultimately always get what we want. God allows us to have things that we can’t understand because we seek them.

As a side note, If you happen to be someone who thinks Denver Snuffer is telling the truth, then you may want to re-examine why and how you can also believe this Brazilian tale to be true. He’s written about this here and here. They can’t both be true. If you’re more drawn to the effort in Brazil then you ought to follow your heart and become a part of that group. It’s likely you’ll be happier there. If you have doubts or are uncertain then I would take that stupor of thought as something to not ignore and I would beg the Lord to clean your house and fix your heart and mind.

It’s also interesting to note that during the time of translation in Joseph’s day, it was as if the legions of hell were enlisted to steal the plates from Joseph. The angels did not prevent him from having to hide the record to keep it safe. He was required to run through the woods, dislocate his thumb, move his family, hide them in various places, fight mobs, and almost lose them time and time again. But this group has some special protection?  Or maybe it’s because Satan does not cast out Satan?  (Matthew 12:26)

In my mind I see this as yet another sad opportunity to be unfaithful to the Bridegroom. I believe the perpetrators of this fraud will eventually be exposed and sadly souls will be drawn away into the dreary waste.

*Update. It’s been brought to my attention that a much more exhaustive critique of Mauricio’s scheme can be found here:

https://restorationbookstore.org/Brazil_Plates_Labans_Sword_v2-4.pdf