Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/180

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lying southward of the Isthmus of Darien. This war ended in the annihilation of the Nephites, "an exceeding fair and delightsome people," while a degraded remnant of the Lamanites still survive, after fifteen centuries of rapine and discord, under the name of American Indians. "Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin, which was girded about their loins; and the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression." Thus the term Gentile is properly used to denote the white man, as distinguished from the copper-colored house of Israel, and the Mormons themselves are expressly described as the "Gentile Saints." For the remnant of Joseph a glorious future is prophesied. They, the despised redskins, shall have the land for their inheritance, and it shall be "a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land." They are to be the chief agents in building the New Jerusalem, and will be converted and redeemed before their brethren of Judah.

The story of the plates, from which the sacred book is said to have been translated, first into English, and subsequently into nearly all the European languages, is of some interest from an archæological point of view, and may be told in a few words. They are described as having been found by Joseph Smith in a cyst composed of six stones, smooth on the inner surfaces, and firmly cemented together. This stone box was buried in the side of a hill near Palmyra, in the State of New York. The plates had the appearance of gold, were six by eight inches in width and length, each plate being nearly as thick as common tin. They were filled on both sides with small characters beautifully engraved, and were fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole: thus bound together they formed a volume about six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. Various unsuccessful attempts were made by the enemies of Joseph Smith to obtain possession of these plates, and they finally disappeared, having been examined and described by eleven persons, whose testimony, signed with their names, is added to the Book of Mormon.

The evidence of these persons would have been more conclusive had not all of them been believers in the new prophet; moreover, the disappearance of the plates is not quite satisfactorily explained by the statement that they were restored to the charge of the angel under whose guidance they were discovered. Still the actual existence, as well as the genuine antiquity, of plates such as Joseph Smith is said to have brought to light in 1827, seems to have been sufficiently verified elsewhere.

In 1843, near Kinderhook, Illinois, in excavating a large mound, six brass plates were discovered, of a bell-shape, four inches in length, and covered with ancient characters. They were fastened together