“Show me the brass plates!” sounds an awful lot to me like “Show me the birth certificate!” In each case, whether it’s someone looking for hard evidence of where the Book of Mormon or the president comes from, there’s the tacit implication that they would be convinced of authenticity by the presentation of such an artifact.
But it doesn’t work. When President Obama released his birth certificate, there were plenty of people who automatically assumed it was forged, or that he was still ineligible for office for some other reason. Whatever anyone might think of the president, it seems obvious that some of those who criticize him for issues relating to his birth certificate are being disingenuous.
So also with critics of the Book of Mormon, who suggest that if they could just see the ancient plates from which it was translated, they’d believe. Does anyone think this is serious? As if they’d look at these plates sitting on a table, which the Church told them they’d convinced God to return for a bit just to disprove skeptics, and then scratch their heads and say, “Well, shucks, I guess that’s that. When’s my baptism?”
Even with the presentation of such evidence, the critic would cry foul, accuse of fraud, or might even invent a new theory of how the plates might be genuine, but Joseph Smith and the church are still wrong. Who knows, but it would be something.
And in both cases—the brass plates and the birth certificate—the desire to see this one arbitrary item is really a red herring anyway, an almost random change of subject from larger issues that are much more pressing. For some reason, there always seem to be critics who prefer to focus on irrelevant matters.
So the next time someone demands to “see the plates” so they can have faith, I’ll reply, “You’re a Book of Mormon birther!”