In his excellent 2011 FAIR Mormon presentation, Don Bradley effectively neutralized the Kinderhook Plates argument against Joseph Smith. I invite the reader to view his presentation, because it provides a great deal of relevant background information.
Bradley used the following visual to illustrate the similarity between William Clayton's description of Joseph Smith's alleged translation of the Kinderhook Plates, and Joseph's description accompanying the GAEL's ho-e-oop-hah:
While the descriptions are not identical, we might reasonably allow room for Clayton's own interpretation and deduction.
Now, I would like to build on Bradley's comparison, by considering an additional document: the Hor Book of Breathings. It was in Joseph Smith's possession and on display in his house as part of his papyri collection, possibly even at the same time as the Kinderhook Plates, and as Bradley points out from Pratt's letter, a large number of people had compared the characters on the Kinderhook Plates with the characters on the papyri, many of which were copied from the papyri to the GAEL. So, the papyri is of direct relevance here.
It would be easy to get caught up in the fact that the Egyptian meaning of the boat-like character does not match the description Joseph associated with it in the GAEL, and to thereby deduce that Joseph did not derive said description from the Egyptological meaning of that character. This is well and good, however the fact that the character and description were not derived from each other does not mean the character and the description could not have both been derived from the same source - namely, the papyri. In fact, the papyri would seem to be the default candidate for such a source.
Ho-e-oop-hah: A Description Of Hor?
Let's compare what the Hor Book of Breathings papyrus says (Michael Rhodes translation), with the content of the GAEL's ho-e-oop-hah description.
Honor by birth
Hor, justified, the son of one of like titles, master of the secrets, god’s priest, Usirwer, justified, born of the house wife, the musician of Amon-Re, TaykhebytExplanation: The description of Hor being the son of a man and woman of high honor and distinction directly indicates "honor by birth."
Kingly power by the line of Pharaoh
You are on the throne of Osiris
...established upon your throne in the Sacred LandExplanation: Osiris is the dead Pharaoh. The idea was that a living Pharaoh would become Osiris after death, as would his successor, and so on. Becoming Osiris was reserved only for Pharaohs, for a long time. Eventually, other elites were allowed to also become Osiris. Thus, Hor is essentially being adopted into the line of Pharaoh, in order to become the dead Pharaoh, Osiris.
May you, Osiris, Hor, abide at the side of the throne of his greatness
Possession by birth
Hor, justified, the son of one of like titles, master of the secrets, god’s priest, Usirwer, justified, born of the house wife, the musician of Amon-Re, TaykhebytExplanation: Rhodes explains in footnote 3: "In the Greco-Roman period sa mi nn means that the son was of similar priestly rank, not necessarily having the exact same titles." Hor was not merely a lay priest, but was a Prophet, and "possessed" his rights of a priest by virtue of his birth.
One who reigns upon his throne universally
You are the Great God, foremost among the godsExplanation: Not merely the sentence I chose, but the entire Hor Papyrus, is about Hor becoming the Great God, Osiris. He certainly reigns upon his throne universally. The same could not be said of any earthly ruler.
Possessor of heaven and earth
Your soul is living in heaven every day
May you go forth to the earth every dayExplanation: The Hor Papyrus is a match for both the heaven and the earth themes
...and the blessings of the earth
May you assume again your form on earth among the living
Your flesh is on your bones, made like your form on earth
May your soul make for you invocation offerings of bread, beer, beef and fowl, libations and incense during the course of every day
May you drink with your throat. May you eat with your mouth.Explanation: Not only is Hor able to live in heaven and on earth, but Hor is able to enjoy the earth with his earthly senses
How Clayton Makes The Book of Breathings Relevant
They contain the history of the person with whom they were found
The Osiris, God’s father, priest of Amon-Re, king of the gods, priest of Min, who massacres his enemies, priest of Khonsu, who is powerful in Thebes . . . Hor, justified, the son of one of like titles, master of the secrets, god’s priest, Usirwer, justified, born of the house wife, the musician of Amon-Re, Taykhebyt.Explanation: The Hor Papyrus actually does contain the history of the person with whom it was found
The plates were on the breast of the skeleton
the Osiris Hor, justified born of Taykhebyt, justified, after his two hands have been clasped to his heart. The Document of Breathing whichExplanation: The Hor Papyrus actually was on the breast of the deceased
made shall (also) be buried, which is written on both the inside and outside of it, (and wrapped) in royal linen, being placed under his left arm near his heart
William Clayton made the Book of Breathings directly relevant to the Kinderhook Plates, in his journal entry, by claiming the Kinderhook Plates were on the breast of a skeleton. They actually were not, but the Book of Breathings was - on the breast of a mummy. Moreover, such Egyptian funerary documents are the only genre of document in the world which gets placed on a deceased person's breast. So Clayton was not only saying something which applies to the Book of Breathings, but he was in fact saying something which essentially applies only to the Book of Breathings and to similar Egyptian funerary texts.
The question is, where along the line did Clayton come to believe the Kinderhook Plates were on the breast of a skeleton? It's possible that Clayton had concluded on his own that the Kinderhook Plates were an Egyptian funerary text similar to the papyri, and thus assumed that the Kinderhook Plates were on the breast of a skeleton, just as the papyri had been. Or it's possible that a random person made that assumption and passed it along to Clayton. The problem with that explanation, however, is that nothing about the actual find would have associated the Kinderhook Plates with Egypt. In the first place, they were plates. That brings to mind the Book of Mormon, not the papyri. Second, they were found in an Indian mound. That again brings to mind the Book of Mormon, not the papyri. And third, they were found in the American heartland - which brings to mind a wandering Nephite, not a wandering Egyptian. It's true that a few scattered bones were also found, along with miscellaneous other items, but nothing pointing to Egypt.
The only known factor which points to Egypt in this situation is the GAEL's ho-e-oop-hah description. Which makes it probable that the way Clayton came to believe the Kinderhook Plates were on the breast of a skeleton was by talking with Joseph Smith. But this does not necessarily mean Joseph Smith himself made that assumption. It could instead mean that Clayton made the assumption based on statements Joseph made about the papyri.
The fact that Clayton spoke with Joseph does not mean Clayton perfectly understood everything regarding the papyri. To begin with, Clayton was not present during the initial excitement surrounding the papyri. The papyri arrived in 1835, while Clayton did not join the Church until 1837, and he emigrated to America in 1840, when the papyri was not a primary focus.
Difference Between Joseph Smith And William Clayton
Consider when Joseph showed Clayton the boat-shaped character on the GAEL, and compared it with the boat-shaped character on the Kinderhook plate, how differently the two men might have interpreted the situation. To Joseph, the matching characters may have represented an encouraging sign of authenticity, meriting further inquiry. While to the excited Clayton, the matching characters, along with the description in the GAEL, may have represented a clear translation.
Evidence of this difference between Joseph Smith and William Clayton is in the letter Bradley pointed out from "A Gentile," who confirms that Joseph found characters that matched, but goes on to say that Joseph "therefore will be able to decipher them." The future-tense seems to indicate that Joseph had not moved from authentication to translation. And this was a full week after Clayton's May 1 journal entry. That Joseph had not translated is also supported by Wilber Fugate's claim that Joseph "would not agree to translate them until they were sent to the Antiquarian society at Philadelphia, France, and England." Also, this is consistent with the Willard Richards account of Joseph exhibiting the Kinderhook Plates on May 7, which does not indicate any actual translation.
I realize I'm implying some confusion on Clayton's part, so let's consider just how plausible it is that a person in Clayton's shoes might get confused about ancient records. Don Bradley may have helped answer this already, when the FAIR Mormon audience seemed to accept Bradley's casual suggestion that "A Gentile" had confused the Book of Mormon with the Book of Abraham - and that "A Gentile" did so in a prepared letter to a major newspaper, which we might imagine "A Gentile" had put some thought into. If we can easily allow for that, then can we not allow for Clayton to make a false assumption? As for critics who might suggest that the FAIR Mormon audience granted too much plausibility to the idea of "A Gentile" being confused, I would remind them that the recovered Kinderhook Plate had sat in a museum, falsely labeled as one of the Gold Plates from the Book of Mormon! Confusion does happen.