The Gold Plates as Cultural Artifact

The Neal A Maxwell Institute has announced its forthcoming Summer Seminar. As ever the topic is provocative and inspiring. Details below:

The Annual Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture

Brigham Young University
June 18 – July 27, 2012

In the summer of 2012, the Neal A Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young  University will sponsor a second summer seminar for graduate students and junior faculty on “The Gold Plates as Cultural Artifact.” The seminar will be held on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, from June 18 to July 27. Admitted participants will receive a stipend of $3000 with an accommodations subsidy if needed. The seminar continues the series of seminars on Mormon culture begun in the summer of 1997.

The seminar will be conducted by Richard Bushman, Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University.

The seminar will consider the gold plates as a cultural object situated in various environments ranging from the Book of Mormon to modern popular culture. From the beginning the plates have fascinated disbelievers as well as believers. They have sparked ongoing research and debate and still figure in Mormon song, story, and art. The plates take their place alongside a host of sacred objects that figure in the world’s religious imagination and stand in a long tradition of recovered lost records. The seminar will ask how cultural meanings have attached themselves to the gold plates in these various environments and what the plates mean today.

Each participant will be asked to prepare a paper on some aspect of the plates’ cultural history for presentation in a public symposium in the final week. Applicants are welcomed from the fields of history, literature, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, philosophy and other humanistic and social scientific fields. Graduate students at any level of preparation are eligible. Junior faculty are also invited to apply.

Applications should be submitted by February 15, 2012. Notifications will be sent by March 15, 2012. Application materials are attached. For further information write:

Summer Seminar on Mormon Culture
Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah 84602

phone: (801) 422 9229 fax: (801) 422 0040


  1. Now, if only we had the artifact…

  2. .

    If you can wait till Tuesday, I’ll have a hot tip for you.


  3. Sounds great, except the plates weren’t gold; they were *golden*.

  4. I keep wanting to ask those who demand, “Where are the gold or “golden” plates,” what would it matter? Seriously, if Tommy Monson were to show up on your doorstep today with a set of gold or “golden” plates–what does that prove? What allows you to have confidence that those (or any set of metallic plates ever presented as such) are the actual plates supposedly surrendered to Joe Smith by the angel Moroni? I often question the intelligence and motives of many critics.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Yes, the best approach to inquiry is to call those people stupid and untrustworthy.

  6. Jeff, that’s actually a non-trivial point. Gold plates the size which JS described would have weighed far too much for anyone to lift them. One cool project from last year’s seminar was done by a metallurgist who worked on methods of making thin sheets of a gold alloy and trying to figure out whether it could have been accomplished with the tools we know were available in the Americas a few hundred years BCE.

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