The full question asked as part of many anti-Mormon pamphlets is:
How did Joseph Smith carry home the golden plates of the Book of Mormon, and how did the witnesses lift them so easily? (They weighed about 230 lbs. Gold, with a density of 19.3 weighs 1204.7 lbs. per cubic foot. The plates were 7″ x 8″ by about 6″. See Articles of Faith, by Talmage, page 262, 34th ed.)
I’d love to give my own answer to this, but it’s already been answered by others. Here is a link to the standard LDS response about the weight of the plates, but then I stumbled onto MormonThink.com’s explanation, read the interview with the author, and now I find it more interesting to respond to that page because it brings up an entirely new question the anti-Mormons generally don’t get to because they’re intent on repeating the “they weighed 230 lbs!” bit. The question MormonThink.com brings up is “Ok, so they were 50 lbs instead of 230 lbs, could Joseph Smith have run 3 miles with 50 lbs of golden plates?” and concludes that it’s impossible.
Based on the account, I find MormonThink.com’s answer to be assuming a lot. Here is the account:
“The plates were secreted about three miles from home…Joseph, on coming to them, took them from their secret place, and wrapping them in his linen frock, placed them under his arm and started for home.”
After proceeding a short distance, he thought it would be more safe to leave the road and go through the woods. Traveling some distance after he left the road, he came to a large windfall, and as he was jumping over a log, a man sprang up from behind it, and gave him a heavy blow with a gun. Joseph turned around and knocked him down, then ran at the top of his speed. About half a mile further he was attacked again in the same manner as before; he knocked this man down in like manner as the former, and ran on again; and before he reached home he was assaulted the third time. In striking the last one he dislocated his thumb, which, however, he did not notice until he came within sight of the house, when he threw himself down in the corner of the fence in order to recover his breath. As soon as he was able, he arose and came to the house.” (Lucy Mack Smith, mother of Joseph Smith, in Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, 1853, pp. 104-105; Comp. reprinted edition by Bookcraft Publishers in 1956 under the title History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, pp. 107- 108)
MormonThink.com then asks “How could any man, especially a man that had a slight limp run with a 50 pound weight and avoid capture by three assailants?”
That question doesn’t give me too much pause. Perhaps they weren’t very good runners. Perhaps they also had limps. Perhaps Joseph didn’t have to run full-out for three miles, but was able to stop and rest periodically. Perhaps they couldn’t see well in the dark. Perhaps they were drunk. Perhaps the Lord aided Joseph. The point is, it’s not hard to come up with several reasonable explanations of how Joseph could have avoided capture by these three assailants, despite his own physical limitations and the weight of the plates. Unlikely? Perhaps, but impossible? Hardly.
MormonThink.com’s conclusion seems to be based on the idea that Joseph was running from three men at once, all three of whom were in full possession of their faculties, in broad daylight, through open terrain. Even in those most unfavorable of circumstances you can just say “Well, the Lord must have helped him” and the argument ends right there. Although Joseph makes no such claim, he could have been assisted without even knowing it.
Still, MormonThink at least takes the question a step further than most. I’ll have to peruse his site a bit more when I have a moment.