Friday, September 21, 2007

September 21

Joseph_Smith_receiving_golden_platesAccording to Joseph Smith, Jr. -- founder of the Latter Day Saint Movement -- the angel Moroni appeared to him on the night of 21 September 1823, bearing important information about the location of numerous golden plates, on which the history of the extinct Nephite people had been inscribed. Moroni, the last of his race, claimed to have lived in North American during the late fourth and early fifth centuries after Christ; his people, he insisted, had traveled to North America from Israel a thousand years before. Moroni had been forced into seclusion by the vicious Lamanites, who were alleged to have killed anywhere from 10,000 to one million Nephite soldiers and civilians at the battle of Cumorah, located in present-day Ontario County, New York. During his last years of mortal existence, Moroni dedicated himself to completing the history of his people, which he recorded on the famous golden plates -- at least until he ran out of golden ore, the shortage of which forced his narrative to a speedy conclusion.

Quite conveniently, Moroni had buried the golden tablets in a stone box at Cumorah before his death; after whiling away his days as an angel for nearly 1500 years, Moroni at last decided to reveal his secret to a worthy confidant, a teenager with a history of proclaiming himself a "seer." Between 1823 and 1827, Moroni visited Smith numerous times and allowed him to translate the ancient tablets, which Smith claimed to have hidden in (among other ingenious location) a barrel filled with dry beans. Although no one else was allowed to view them, Moroni’s golden plates were eventually translated by Smith and published in 1830 -- to no small amount of acclaim and controversy -- as the Book of Mormon.

One hundred and fourteen years after Joseph Smith’s first encounter with Moroni, J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit, an equally plausible tale involving dwarves, gnomes, wizards, and dragons, all of whom dwell in a fantastic place known as Middle Earth.