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History and the Claims of Revelation: Joseph Smith and the Materialization of the Golden Plates

Ann Taves reviews the accounts of the golden plates that Joseph Smith discovered and interpreted. In spite of conflicting historical evidence regarding the actuality of the plates, Taves suggests a nuanced approach of skilled perception as a means to resolve the challenges of accepting their reality wholesale or denying their reality and inferring that Smith intentionally misled people. This excerpt reproduces the first two sections of the longer article cited below.

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Non-ordinary Powers: Charisma, Special Affordances and the Study of Religion

Ann Taves presents a rich theoretical work on religious objects. Reviewing Max Weber’s ideas about charisma, J.J. Gibson’s ecological psychology, and a range of other theorists too numerous to mention, Taves produces a novel account, deeply informed by cognitive science, regarding the fascinating roles objects have played in religious traditions.
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