Renowned historian of Mormonism Richard Lyman Bushman's latest book presents a vibrant history of a sacred object that gave birth to a new religion: the gold plates Joseph Smith said he discovered in upstate New York in the 1820s. Believers hailed Smith as a revered prophet and translator of lost languages while critics warned the public he was a dangerous charlatan. Two hundred years later the mystery of the gold plates remains.
In Joseph Smith's Gold Plates: A Cultural History (Oxford UP, 2023), Bushman offers a cultural history of the gold plates down through the years. How have they been imagined by believers, critics, and skeptics, by treasure-seekers, novelists, artists, scholars, and others?
In this interview, Bushman talks about his personal relationship to the project and whether he thinks the plates can help re-enchant a largely disenchanted modern world.
Blair Hodges hosted and produced the Maxwell Institute Podcast for eight years before going independent with his current show, Fireside with Blair Hodges. It features interviews with writers, scholars, social justice advocates, and artists talking about culture, faith, memory, and more.