A set of metal plates supposedly found near Kinderhook, in Pike County, Illinois on April 23,1843. The account reads that one Mr. Robert Wiley and others "found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton and were covered on both sides with ancient characters." The description of the skeleton was consistent with one race described in The Book of Mormon. The plates were given to Joseph Smith to translate, like he did other documents.

Smith released what he claimed was a partial description of the translation. "I (Joseph Smith) have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth" (History of the Church, Vol. 5, p. 372) The Warsaw Signal, on May 22, 1844 stated, a month before his death, that Joesph Smith was "busy in translating them. The new work... will be nothing more nor less than a sequel to The Book of Mormon;..." The Mormon newspaper, The Nauvoo Neighbor confirmed this, by reading "The contents of the Plates, together with a Fac-Simile of the same, will be published in the 'Times and Seasons,' as soon as the translation is completed."

Later on, in 1879, Wilbourn Fugate came forward and stated that he worked with Wiley to fake the plates, admitting "that the plates were a humbug, gotten up by Robert Wiley, Bridge Whitton, and myself. Whitton (who was a blacksmith) cut the plates out of some pieces of copper; Wiley and I made the hieroglyphics by making impressions on beeswax and filling them with acid, and putting it on the plates. When they were finished, we put them together with rust made of nitric acid, old iron and lead, and bound them with a piece of hoop iron, covering them completely with rust."

The plates then disappeared, but later on, in 1920, one of them was found in the possession of the Chicago Historical Society, accidentally mislabeled as one of the gold plates of The Book of Mormon. Tests were done on the plates, and they determined not only that the plate was in fact one of the Kinderhook Plates, but that the story described by Wilbourn about their manufacture and age was correct.

Somehow, Joseph Smith "translated" a fake that had no real text on it.

Mormon apologists have made various claims about the plates in an attempt to explain them away. And knowledge of these plates and their story is not very common knowledge among Mormon believers.

One common reply is that the account supposedly in the first person by Joseph Smith wasn't actually written by him, and that this was common practice. Diane Wirth wrote, "Joseph Smith's supposed statement that the Kinderhook plates were authentic and that they were the "records of the descendants of Ham," came from the journal of William Clayton, who wrote in the first person, as though from the mouth of Joseph Smith. A first-person narrative was apparently a common practice of this time period when a biographical work was being compiled. Since such words were never penned by the Prophet, they cannot be uncritically accepted as his words or his opinion."

Oddly, this seems to seriously contradict the statement, "The most important history in the world is the history of our Church, and it is the most accurate history in all the world" (Doctrines of Salvation 2:199). After all, how accurate can it be if you can't even trust it to report who actually wrote what?

And finally, for some odd reason Mormon historians have made changes to Joseph Smith's History of the Church. "WE LEARN THERE WAS A MORMON present when the plates were found, WHO IT IS SAID, LEAPED FOR JOY AT THE DISCOVERY, and remarked that it would go to prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon--which it undoubtedly will. " From the Times and Seasons, Vol.4, p.187, was changed to "A PERSON was present..." That same Times and Seasons, p.186, read "...said plates mouldered into dust on a slight pressure. The above described plates we have handed to Mr. Sharp for the purpose of taking them to Nauvoo.". History of the Church has removed the entire second sentence. Why alter history?

Information compiled from:
Archaeology and the Book of Mormon http://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/kinder.htm;
The Kinderhook Plates http://www.mindspring.com/~engineer_my_dna/mormon/indekind.htm;
Fooling the Prophet with the Kinderhook Plates http://www.mrm.org/articles/kinderhook-plates.html