Publikationsserver der Universitätsbibliothek Marburg

Titel:The Case of the “Gold Plates”: How Ordinary Material Objects Sparked a Religious Revolution.
Autor:Hazard, Sonia (Prof. Dr.)
URN: urn:nbn:de:hebis:04-es2022-00085
DDC:200 Religion, Religionsphilosophie


Technology, Joseph Smith, Print culture, New materialism, Mormonism

Did Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, really find “gold plates”? In this talk, I will reconsider the question of the plates—the enigmatic material artifacts at the center of America’s most famous homegrown religion—using methods inspired by new materialism and actor-network theory. The answer is yes, Smith (and possibly a group of witnesses) had a formative bodily encounter with a set of plates, and that this encounter was partly responsible for provoking Mormonism’s development. These plates could have been either stereotype plates or copper plates, both commonly used for industrial printing in the nineteenth-century United States. I will offer this historical investigation as an occasion to reflect theoretically on the implications on material religion scholarship when we expand the concept of “agency” to include nonhuman actors. I will also take the first steps toward a case for the value of borrowing “emic theory” from within certain religious traditions (including Mormonism) that possess robust understandings of more-than-human material forces.

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