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How was the Book of Mormon etched on gold plates?

“He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants." Book of Mormon, Introduction

No book in history has ever been etched in gold.  Even God, when he carved the 10 commandments in stone, only had enough energy to make 10 lines.  The Book of Mormon is like 500 pages!

Etching anything like that would take an entire lifetime.

A 500 page book etched in gold would weigh tons and be impossible to carry anywhere.  Smith claimed at a time they were in a wooden box, then another that they were hidden in a barrel of beans.

In the Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon, it says:

The Book of Mormon is a sacred record of peoples in ancient America, and was engraved upon sheets of metal. Four kinds of metal plates are spoken of in the book itself:
  1. The Plates of Nephi, which were of two kinds: the Small Plates and the Large Plates. The former were more particularly devoted to the spiritual matters and the ministry and teachings of the prophets, while the latter were occupied mostly by a secular history of the peoples concerned (1 Nephi 9:2–4). From the time of Mosiah, however, the large plates also included items of major spiritual importance.
  2. The Plates of Mormon, which consist of an abridgment by Mormon from the Large Plates of Nephi, with many commentaries. These plates also contained a continuation of the history by Mormon and additions by his son Moroni.
  3. The Plates of Ether, which present a history of the Jaredites. This record was abridged by Moroni, who inserted comments of his own and incorporated the record with the general history under the title “Book of Ether.”
  4. The Plates of Brass brought by the people of Lehi from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. These contained “the five books of Moses, … And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, … down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; And also the prophecies of the holy prophets” (1 Nephi 5:11–13). Many quotations from these plates, citing Isaiah and other biblical and nonbiblical prophets, appear in the Book of Mormon.

These plates have expanded to four plates and now they are metal.  Again, carving words into metal in 421 AD would be impossible.  This kind of technology did not exist in America until after the colonists showed up.

Possible Mormon explanations:
  1. God did it.  Then why did he carve the 10 Commandments on stone with Moses?  Stone breaks, as Moses found out.  Metal is much better.
  2. The Lamanites were from a lost Jewish tribe that came from the Middle East where they did work with metal.  Yeah, but how much gold and time would be required for such a task?
But the eyewitnesses of the plates claim it was more like a book.

The plates were said to be bound at one edge by a set of rings. In 1828, Martin Harris, is reported to have said that the plates were "fastened together in the shape of a book by wires".[165] In 1859 Harris said that the plates "were seven inches [18 cm] wide by eight inches [20 cm] in length, and were of the thickness of plates of tin; and when piled one above the other, they were altogether about four inches [10 cm] thick; and they were put together on the back by three silver rings, so that they would open like a book".[166] David Whitmer, another of the Three Witnesses, was quoted by an 1831 Palmyra newspaper as having said the plates were "the thickness of tin plate; the back was secured with three small rings...passing through each leaf in succession".[167] Anomalously, Smith's father is quoted as saying that the plates were only half an inch (1.27 centimeter) thick.[168] Smith's mother, who said she had "seen and handled" the plates, is quoted as saying they were "eight inches [20 cm] long, and six [15 cm] wide...all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate".[162]

Hyrum Smith and John Whitmer, also witnesses in 1829, are reported to have stated that the rings holding the plates together were, in Hyrum's words, "in the shape of the letter D, which facilitated the opening and shutting of the book".[169] Joseph Smith's wife Emma and his younger brother William said they had examined the plates while wrapped in fabric. Emma said she "felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book".[125] William agreed that the plates could be rustled with one's thumb like the pages of a book.[170]

Joseph Smith did not provide his own published description of the plates until 1842, when he said in a letter that "each plate was six inches [15 cm] wide and eight inches [20 cm] long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were...bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches [15 cm] in thickness".[171]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_plates (WIKIPEDIA: footnoted sourced can be verified on this page)

It sounds like a three ring binder with goldish pages.