‘The Dam Has Broken’: Joseph Smith Papers publishes the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon

Today the Joseph Smith Papers Project released its Volume 3 in its Revelations and Translations series, which comprises the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. It is the culmination of a monumental effort, and the books themselves are gorgeous, but the real story is not the volume itself but rather what this means for Latter-day Saints and for Mormons in general. We are entering a new age of transparency and openness about Mormon history.

First of all, let me chide the JSPP editors: a two-volume Volume 3? C’mon guys, that’s cheating on the volume numbers.

Now, then: those familiar with the history of the Book of Mormon may remember that the LDS Church does not own the printer’s manuscript. That document, along with several other key documents, belonged to Emma Smith after her husband’s death the David Whitmer family, and they have become the property of the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) in 1903. The CoC has safeguarded the manuscript for over a hundred years. That the JSPP was able to have access to that set of documents at all is significant, but their publication here represents something truly special. The level of cooperation between LDS and CoC historians is remarkable. The output, from what I have seen so far, is amazing, with painstaking transcripts, excellent photography and detailed charts of provenance. It is a treasure.

I spoke briefly with Lachlan Mackay, director of historic sites for the Community of Christ, about what these volumes mean. “The dam has broken,” he said. We are in a new era of collaboration and shared community. Mackay has a vision for Mormon historical sites that go beyond the competing fiefdoms of billboards and visitors’ centers; imagine a visit to Nauvoo or Kirtland where you are able to simply see the restoration in historical accuracy, without filter and without agenda. We are getting closer to making that vision a reality. Mackay expressed gratitude for CoC and LDS historians of the past who were able to cross enormous barriers of mistrust in order to increase access to original sources, and the hope that the trust and mutual respect felt between the historians can translate to increased cooperation between leadership, and eventually between members. “These family feuds — and we are family — are dying away, and it’s in large part thanks to historians,” said Mackay.

I also spoke with Richard Turley, Assistant Church Historian and member of the Board of the JSPP. His involvement in this process and cooperative role with the CoC cannot be overstated. I asked him in particular what role these volumes could play for everyday members (you know, dilettantes like me). Bro. Turley emphasized the value of going to original sources, avoiding the filters and lenses of secondary materials. “There is a veil of imagination at play,” he said, “when we don’t look at original sources.” When we are able to directly interact with places, books, records that form the foundation of our beliefs, that veil is taken from our minds and we have the ability to see the truth for ourselves. Bro. Turley’s article in the October Ensign is to be recommended.

And yes, the seerstones. For the first time these are photographed and included. The pouches are in there too, the handicraft of Emma. But what’s significant isn’t the photograph — it’s the fact that we live in an age where that photograph exists, and what’s more, is in the Ensign. The dawning of a brighter day. I’m looking forward to reading these volumes.

Comments

  1. A Happy Hubby says:

    This is interesting.

    So when expect to see the Brigham Young papers? :-)

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Lach’s vision of collaboration at the historic sites is compelling stuff. Thanks for the write-up Steve. I can’t wait to check out the volumes.

    Hubby, The Brigham Young papers are largely available on the internet published by the Church History Library.

  3. Alf O'Mega says:

    “His involvement in this process and cooperative role with the CoC cannot be understated.”

    If you meant that as a compliment, the word to use would be “overstated.”

  4. Eeep! Thanks for the keen eye.

  5. Angela C says:

    Evidently, it cannot be stated, full stop.

  6. the other Marie says:

    Very exciting! As to improving relations with the CoC, in 2006 former CoC prophet Grant McMurray addressed a student LDS history group I belonged to and I was stunned at how candid he was with us about what he felt were his own and his church’s mistakes. His disarming honesty did create a feeling of trust and kinship, and I hope we (including our rank-and-file) will reciprocate.

  7. So does this put Royal Skousen out of business?

  8. Royal Skousen is an editor of these volumes, so I’m gonna say no.

  9. J. Stapley says:

    Skousen is one of the editors of this volume.

  10. How big is that stone?

  11. unclear. Not huge.

  12. I don’t have the dimensions in front of me, but I remember that 4 centimeters was one of the lengths, so it’s smaller than you think. I imagine it as a robin’s egg.

  13. J. Stapley says:

    5.5 cm x 3.5 cm x 4 cm

  14. MikeInWeHo says:

    I’m reading in the press that it is the size of an egg.

  15. MDearest says:

    As a connoisseur of rocks and stones, I would pick that one up and put it in my pocket.
    And I’m worse than a dilettante. I saw vols. 1 and 2 recently at the thrift store, but didn’t get them because I spaced out on what they were.

  16. Is there a geologist out there that might be able to identify the composition of the stone? (Or offer some suggestions based on the photograph?

  17. Kevin Barney says:

    I like Lach’s comments. I’m old enough that I can remember the old enmity and mistrust between the traditions. I’ve also attended a lot of historical conferences, and I’ve seen how the historians have led the way in breaking those walls down.

  18. Thank you for this information.
    It is nice to see the CofC church and the LDS church cooperate more.

  19. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to expect the LDS correlation department to begin incorporating into church manuals the teaching that Joseph Smith translated the BoM by looking at a seer stone in a hat. If believers aren’t bothered by the idea that Joseph Smith translated an ancient language that he had never learned by looking through two stones in silver bows (the Urim and Thummim), then I can’t imagine why they would be bothered the idea that he also translated by looking at a seer stone in a hat.

  20. Brad, I think we have already crossed that bridge and it is not an uncommon thing to hear today.

  21. Joshua G. H. Smith says:

    I met my cousin Lach about ten years ago at a Joseph Smith Sr Family Reunion in Nauvoo. He’s a REALLY neat guy. He tried to turn my Mom down from eating a pulled pork sandwich (He lost that battle) and ended up hanging out with the family down by the Nauvoo House (which we’d rented from CoC) for like two hours. It was an awesome time, he’s good people. Big thanks to Steve for reaching out to him.

  22. I’m not a geologist, but I am a bit of a rock hound. To me it looks like smoothed & rounded petrified wood actually. (Which isn’t really wood, but the rock materials have taken the place of the original wood, hence – petrified). But they retain the original design and look of the wood.. that looks like wood grain to me.

  23. Jason K. says:

    Thanks for this reportage, Steve.

    EmJen: “Robin’s egg”? :)

  24. The problem is why the deceit? Why lie about it?

  25. What deceit are you talking about?

  26. The process by which the Book of Mormon was translated. I was always taught he did it with the Urim and thummim. What’s this about seerstones?

  27. He did it with the urim and thummim. This is not inconsistent. U&T are seerstones.

  28. Ah. Ok thanks for clarifying

  29. Steve,

    Yes, I have heard that the U&T are seerstones, but are all seerstones Urim and Thummim? I still don’t think it was a lie. I have heard about the different seerstones before, but it was not really described well. I doubt the people trying to explain it to me knew much about it.

  30. AM, that is the core of the problem. Nobody knew much about it, but everyone has the D&C and was trying to make sense of it all. The Turley article in the Ensign is good.

  31. Steve, with all due respect, the Church has historically obscured, and arguably misrepresented, the manner in which the BofM was translated. The artwork used in CES manuals and as teacher aids for Sunday School and Seminary classes frequently depicts Joseph pouring over the gold plates as if he were actually reading and translating “Reformed Egyptian.” Indeed, such artwork can still be found today on the Church’s web site: https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/gospel-art/church-history?lang=eng (click on the first picture in the third column; this jpeg is labeled “joseph-translating-gold-plates.”

  32. Clark Goble says:

    I think there’s a distinction between the U&T and seer stones or at least the seer stones in use in Joseph’s vicinity in the 1820s. However clearly Joseph saw them primarily as seer stones although I’m not sure he used them exactly the same way. The U&T that Joseph describes might be also seen as two seer stones held in a fashion akin to spectacles although perhaps the sizes are off.

    Of course most scholarly reconstructions of the U&T don’t match up to Joseph’s descriptions. But then the evidence from which these reconstructions are made is very fragmentary to be kind. Also some descriptions of the U&T by the priestly editor in the documentary hypothesis are thought to be made after the U&T was lost. There’s even debate about whether it’s one object or two. Typically it’s thought it or they were thrown as a lot with a yes/no answer. Nibley and others have mentioned arrow diviniation from late antiquity that might also throw light on what the U&T are. There two shafts have text written on them and one is pulled out at random. The Talmudic Rabbis thought U&T were words written on the breastplate (12 stones) and that they would shine out spelling words. (Interestingly offering some parallels to the liahona) This is also in Josephus which is earlier as well as in a fragmentary form in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Of course scrying, which is the broader category seer stones are part of the traditions of late antiquity. They became significant during the Renaissance with angelic magic (say John Dee in the Elizabethian community) where it was through crystal stones one was able to see the angels. Although in the ancient world scrying was more often done with liquids or polished surfaces. While scrying with crystals isn’t attested before Byzantine times it does appear older – often using beryl stones.

  33. FarSide, I think that’s accurate (and is probably, looking back, the ‘deceit’ mentioned above). There are no hats, no chocolate stones in CES manuals. There are not that many possibilities:

    1. Those creating and approving those materials had no idea what the process was actually like;
    2. Those creating and approving those materials knew the process but decided to portray things otherwise.

    Even if 1. is true, SOMEONE knew. So yeah, it’s problematic to say the least. The least problematic explanation is that the bureaucracy of the church is such that those with access to accurate information were completely cut off. There’s no explanation that doesn’t imply some massive failures.

    On the other hand, we are better off today than we have been for decades and decades. That’s cause for celebration, across the board.

  34. Clark Goble says:

    FarSide, I think it problematic to attribute too much history to a few paintings. There were several Ensign articles mentioning the use of seer stones. July 1993, Jan 2013. Sept 1977 etc. The Book of Mormon Translation entry at lds.org has also mentioned the seer stone for some time (I’m not sure when that was written)

    I’d put more links but I think that flags the comment as spam so I just put a few examples across a range of years.

    While maybe it wasn’t frontmost the way you’d like this was hardly something being covered up. I found several entries from every decade. Including the Children’s Friend which said, “Joseph also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating called a seer stone.”

    Now I do wish LDS art was better. But seriously attributing too much to the art is a bit much. I wish they made Nephites with darker skin. I’m glad new art commissioned by the Church for their visitor centers has mesoAmerican swords but unfortunately the artists then mix them with traditional Roman swords. However such paintings are hardly doctrine. (Otherwise we’d have to consider the Nephites to be tall German ubermensch rather than likely short darker skinned people)

    While it’s true some people look at pictures, read nothing and assume all artwork conveys the truth of Jesus as an Irishman living in a heavily jungled Palestine I think it people who think that way are simply doing shoddy thinking.

  35. Clark, I think you’re downplaying things. We’re not just talking about random artwork here and there. CES has systematically taught a certain model of translation for years and years, with it only waning in recent years. It doesn’t help to pretend it was never really a big problem.

  36. A few years ago, during a High Priests Group lesson about the BofM, I noted that most available evidence suggests that Joseph did not perform a literal translation of the gold plates, that he couldn’t read Reformed Egyptian, that the plates were actually covered during much, if not all, of the translation process, that he relied primarily upon a seer stone, like the ones he used for treasure hunting. I was promptly labeled a heretic and asked to keep my opinions to myself in the future.

    Clark, attitudes such as these have their origins in something more than just artwork. It will take at least a generation to reverse this inculcation. Thanks to the Internet, the process has begun.

  37. Serves you right for being uppity in HPG.

  38. I thought the whole point of HPG was being uppity. My mistake.

  39. Lol

  40. Clark Goble says:

    Steve I think you’re overplaying things. I’ll be the first to admit that CES doesn’t always do a good job. (Maybe that should be frequently) However when in the official magazine and even the youth magazines the seer stones are repeatedly discussed it’s hard to say it’s obscure knowledge. Further, with all apologies to seminary and those who actually remember anything from those early mornings, I think the Ensign has a wider influence.

    I’d break out my old CES manuals however unfortunately in my attempt to go ebook as much as possible I traded in all the books I could to Pioneer Book a few months ago. So I don’t have them anymore.

    Unfortunately there’s no searchable index of old lesson manuals, although I’m pretty sure it was in those as well. Certainly the current institute and seminary manuals discuss the seer stone in several places including the Primary manual!

    Since I grew up in the McConkie era when Mormon Doctrine was perhaps too oft quoted and the source for many people’s doctrine I’d note that it also discusses the seer stone that we now have pictures of. It notes it’s use for the translation and it’s use on the altar of the Manti Temple. He also notes that the brown seer stone was sometimes called an Urim and Thummim.

    I mean really, this stuff is all over. I can’t speak to what particular seminary teachers taught but when Mormon Doctrine discusses it, when the Ensign discusses it regularly, when even the Children’s Friend discusses it then this really isn’t an obscure history. Polyandry I’ll grant you. Relation between masonry and the endowment I’ll give you. The problem of horses and metal in the Book of Mormon I’ll give you. But I’m sorry, seer stones just aren’t even remotely in that same category.

    Even a brief google for seer stone at lds.org shows a large number of references through all decades. Contra some, these aren’t a few obscure references. Very clear discussions can be found in the entry on Book of Mormon Translation, Sept 1974 Childrens Friend, New Era 1974, March 1976 Ensign, Sept 1977 Ensign, Sept 1986 Ensign, Aug 1987 Ensign, Oct 1987 Ensign, Jan 1988, July 1993 Ensign, June 1994 Ensign, Jan 1997 Ensign, Jan 2005, and Jan 2013 Ensign all give detailed descriptions. While I don’t know when the seminary manuals were updated, they all discuss it now. The great web page with monthly Church History articles has discussed it relative to various figures at least 5 times since 2010 that I counted.

    Several of those Ensign articles were talks by apostles such as Elder Maxwell’s from 1997 where he said,

    The Prophet Joseph alone knew the full process, and he was deliberately reluctant to describe details. We take passing notice of the words of David Whitmer, Joseph Knight, and Martin Harris, who were observers, not translators. David Whitmer indicated that as the Prophet used the divine instrumentalities provided to help him, “the hieroglyphics would appear, and also the translation in the English language … in bright luminous letters.” Then Joseph would read the words to Oliver (quoted in James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News, 25 Mar. 1884, 2). Martin Harris related of the seer stone: “Sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin” (quoted in Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses: Incidents in the Life of Martin Harris,” Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, 6 Feb. 1882, 86–87). Joseph Knight made similar observations (see Dean Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU Studies 17 [Autumn 1976]: 35).

    Unfortunately I just can’t find older manuals to know if they were discussed there. I wouldn’t be shocked to find they were.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m expecting people to know this. Heavens, how many people even do the Sunday School reading? I’m just saying you can’t throw this into the category of hidden or obscure teachings. It’s just too common.

  41. Clark Goble says:

    Far Side when you say he didn’t do a literal translation I’ll lay good odds most people thought you were talking about the product and not the process. While I favor Brant Gardner’s semi-expansion loose translation that to me is still a literal translation. So there’s an ambiguity in words here.

  42. Clark, unfortunately for you, your perception that this isn’t a problem doesn’t really matter. Plenty of others will disagree with you, and telling them they’re wrong in their perceptions is a total loser of an argument.

  43. I’m not saying they are wrong in their perceptions anymore than I’m saying the many people who think Jesus looks Irish are wrong. By and large most people are ignorant. I’m simply saying that this can’t be laid at the feet of the Church. The information is out there and regularly discussed unlike the other topics where a critic does have a point that it wasn’t discussed by the Church.

    But heavens, most people are largely ignorant of church history. Thats not necessarily a bad thing. You can be a fantastic member more in tune with the spirit than I am and be completely unable to distinguish Martin Harris from Sidney Rigdon. In fact I bet more than 50% of the Church would get wrong some simple questions distinguishing the two. I just wouldn’t draw any inferences about what the church hides from that ignorance.

  44. Jack Hughes says:

    We have pictures of the stone, but no mention of where the stone is located, or who possesses it?

    And the big question on everyone’s mind: does it still work?

  45. Also not a geologist, but it looks to me less like petrified wood and more like a stromatolite fossil, polished like this http://shop.realmofcrystaldreams.com/image/cache/data/Stromatolite/stromatolite%20tumbles%203-500×500.JPG.

  46. Sorry if this sounds cynical but isn’t it all about money? When we want something from CoC isn’t it done with a checkbook and then the doors open? I know this has been the case in the past. Glad historians are mending fences and building bridges between the two groups. However your amazement that they are granted access shouldn’t be that amazing. What I want to know is how much was spent for the most recent access?

  47. kc, that does sound cynical. And unfounded. I have no reason to believe the LDS church has a financial motivation for publishing the JSP; in fact, based on the work that has gone into it and the amount of information it’s providing for free online, among other things, I suspect the church isn’t breaking even (though, I suppose, it may be). But that doesn’t seem to be the LDS church’s purpose here.

    Similarly, why would you impute the CoC’s motivation to solely finances? Both the LDS church and the CoC have a decades-long history of doing things to help each other, gratis. I don’t see any reason we should denigrate what we’ve done, or what they’ve done; rather, both churches have made monumental amounts of information available to the general public. That strikes me as something to celebrate.

  48. That’s the transparency your talking about!! Well said Steve.

  49. Kc, you’re also dead wrong about how things have been done in the past.

  50. When the official story doesn’t match what everyone involved reported, you have huge problems. I for one want the truth to come out at all cost. I am tired of making excuses and stories for the church. I feel like an abused spouse. In this day of easy information the church will be in real trouble if they don’t make this whole thing right. Looks like now they are starting to get that

  51. Jim, an abused spouse? Please. If you’d ever witnessed domestic violence I doubt you’d make that comparison. Let’s try to stay grounded.

  52. Fair enough. I have spent my life in defense of the church. I am hurt that they kept secrets.

  53. Clark, I am sure that the information regarding the translation was available. However, the Church has also been active in publishing pictures that directly contradict the historical record. See the February 2001 cover of the Ensign for example. It appears that some attempt at fixing the problem has occurred. The cover shown for the issue on lds.org is different from the one I have at home, unless I am mistaken. The new one is better, but still gives a misleading picture of the translation process, in my opinion. Surely someone on the Ensign staff knew better. I believe one picture on the cover of the Church’s flagship magazine is more memorable than a dozen articles, for most people.

  54. WestBerkeleyFlats says:

    What is the relationship of these seer stones to the Urim and Thummin said to consist of spectacles that included seer stones and returned to Moroni along with the plates?

  55. Ryan Mullen says:

    Clark, some of the confusion probably stems from Church publications that do little to distinguish the chocolate seer stone (which Joseph picked up off the ground?) from the “two (clear?) stones in silver bows” (JSH 1:35) that Joseph received with the gold plates. In my experience, Mormons are more comfortable with the latter than the former. And only the recent Gospel Topics essay, of all the articles you linked to, states that Joseph used the chocolate seer stone to search for treasure.

  56. I retract my earlier statement then. Thanks for the clarification.

  57. Clark Goble says:

    Ryan, that’s a fair point. Although in a certain sense that makes the problem even odder. We have people complaining because they didn’t know Joseph used a single stone he found/obtained rather than two stones that came with the plate. Yet when you take a step back both views entail much of the translation being done by looking at a stone. So it isn’t much of a difference.

    West Berkeley Flats, there’s no essential connection between the two stones. In certain ways as I noted above the U&T with the plates appears to be similar to certain early views of the U&T in Judaism that tied them to writing. (Although most scholars interpret that as light shining on individual stones of the 12 stones on the High Priest’s ephod – although there’s then the problem of getting 22 letters from 12 stones. I’ve not seen any scholars claiming writing appeared directly on the stones – but that’s the claim by some observers to the U&T with Joseph or the seer stone)

    However things get more complex as Joseph often would call his seer stone (presumably this brown stone although there were a few others) an U&T. This makes everything a little more confusing since some references to the U&T are actually to the seer stone. So it seems like Joseph, at least, saw them as essentially the same thing. He then moves away from needing the items at all and according to Orson Pratt this was become he’d become conditioned to revelation to the degree he didn’t need them.

    AM, as I said I wish the Church had better art work. As I noted this isn’t just a problem with the translation of the Book of Mormon or even the narrative of the Book of Mormon itself. (Most pictures for the Book of Mormon are highly misleading) It also goes to a lot of the art work of events taking place in Palestine. The Church likes to use the work of dutch masters from the 19th century in particular but often these are fairly misleading.

    Jim in Panama, whether people agree with me on perceptions or not, I hopefully have demonstrated that the official Church story pretty much is the standard history. We can debate how well emphasized that history is such that people not terribly curious know it instead of seeking it out. But I’ve seen no evidence that the Church is hiding the place of the seer stone.

  58. With regard to traditional artistic renderings of the Book of Mormon translation, I highly, highly recommend this article by Professor Anthony Sweat in the Appendix of From Darkness Unto Light.

  59. Clark Goble says:

    That’s a great essay JT. I’d never read it before. Thanks for posting it. It really contextualizes a lot of these issue. That said I still think the Church’s art is particularly bad. I get Sweat’s arguments about what one conveys with art. However I think often people want something closer to technical illustrations rather than real art.

    I know there’s a counter movement that sees the problem with the Church’s art (outside of its use of dutch master’s religious art) is that it’s too literal. They want to see art that’s much more expressive as art. Thus they want more Minerva Teichert and as little Del Parson as possible.

    I’m actually sympathetic to that in some ways. No one would say that Sweat’s picture of Joseph translating with the seer stone and hat is great art, for instance. Yet purely from a pedagogical perspective I’d want more work like Sweat and hope we’d phases out most of the art with significant historical errors.

  60. sandia21 – now that I see that stromatolite fossil, I think I would agree with you.. looks more like that. And if that’s what it is, it’s an interesting choice for a seerstone. I found this fascinating description of them:
    “Stromatolites are not only Earth’s oldest of fossils, but are intriguing in that they are our singular visual portal (except for phylogenetic determination of conserved nucleic acid sequences and some subtle molecular fossils) into deep time on earth, the emergence of life, and the evolving of the beautiful forms of life of modern time. A small piece of stromatolites encodes biological activity perhaps spanning thousands of years.” http://www.fossilmuseum.net/Tree_of_Life/Stromatolites.htm
    hmm….

  61. Tom, I’m glad you see the resemblance too. You have a great point about the elegance and poetry of the use of stromatolite as seer stone.

  62. Thanks Tom and Sandia! I wondered about the stone. In researching stromatolites, I found it fascinating that they come with various layered patterns, including iron ore reds, limestone, and other colors and formations. In using google image searches and poking around fossil shops trying to purchase a similar one (for classes), I found that the brown/black ones most resembling wood grain pattern in the seer-stone picture come from Peru and Bolivia.

    Just saying . . . that’s what I found.

    I suspect that the church has researched the composition and geologic origin of the stone. I can understand the church not wanting to mix a technical geological report in an article on matters of faith, but a few more details about the stone would have been helpful. The 3.5-million-year-old-earlies-fossil-and-origin-of-life-on-earth fact would have been meaningful. Whether the stone is a rare Bolivian/Peruvian anomaly or an ordinary piece of limestone doesn’t matter at this point, it just would have helped describe what we were looking at besides the obvious descriptor of “rock”.

    I also found it interesting that the article did not mention whether or not modern prophets had tried to use it. Seems like a completely fair question to ask the Prophet when someone bumps into him.

  63. I found the same – at least in the collections shown on eBay, the ones most similar to the seer stone are coming from Peru.

  64. Personally, based on nothing other than my own gut sense, I would be shocked to learn that recent prophets had used or tried to use the seer stone.

    Re: the question of whether the stone “works,” it was never the stone which was working; it was the Holy Ghost. The stone can be a medium of revelation if God wants to make it so, which is also true of everything else.

  65. Question: When Joseph Smith found the seer stone, what made him think it was particularly suited for supernatural purposes? I’m not sure I can distinguish sedimentary rocks from metamorphic rocks; how does one recognize a seer stone from other stones? Did it simply look unusual and interesting? Was it glowing or something?

  66. The Other Clark says:

    To repeat a portion of the comment I made at JI, it appear this stone is a Genesis Stone ( a type of banded jasper) Stromatolites are fossilized algae, and are a broader category that includes Genesis stones. The dark stripes are iron ore, which makes the rock heavy for it’s size, and usually magnetic. A rock formation with similar minerals is found in Ontario, Canada. Movement by glaciers and centuries of wear from water account for it’s round shape.

    JS claimed everyone had their own seer stone. What if the crystal necklace folks are right, and each mineral has it’s own resonant frequency? Then this stone matched and amplified JS’s abilities, but not for others because they were not in tune …with a rock? Weird.

  67. Travis, Joseph apparently used a stone from a neighbor (Sally Chase) and saw the location of the brown stone.

  68. jiminpanama and others: There’s a fascinating book on the UT. Its called The Urim and Thummin: A Means of Revelation In Israel. Written by Cornelis Van Dam and published by Eisenbrauns (1997). It is not the typical report but is a serious biblical study (I think its a published Thesis). On p. xi, Van Dam writes, “The time has come for a new scrutiny of this important institution in ancient Israel. A renewed examination is not superfluous when one considers that the last book-length studies on the UT appeared in 1824. fn. J.J. Bellermann, Die Urim und Thummim die altesten Gemmem: Ein Beitraf zur biblish-hebraischen Alterthumskunde (Berlin, 1824); J. L. Saalschutz, “Prufun der vorzuglischsten Ansichten von den Urim and Thummim,” in Historish-theologische Abhandlungen (ed. C.F. Illgen: Leipzig, 1824).”

    In other words, there were existing works on the Urim and Thummim at the time of Joseph Smith, BUT THEY WERE IN GERMAN.

  69. lolz for everyone should know about the brown seer stone bc it was in the ensign–that is actually the most strategic place you could actually hide something that you don’t want ppl to know about. Even better than burying essays on the lds site. Amirite?

  70. Sorry, I can not believe that translation was accomplished using this stone and looking into a hat. This is inconsistent with D&C 9 in which Oliver is chastised for assuming God would give him the translation merely by asking for it. Instead, he is supposed to “study it (the translation) out in his mind” and then ask if it is right.

    Why would the plates have been compiled and preserved if they were ultimately unecessary?

    Why would the urim and thumim have been preserved if they weren’t needed to translate?

    This whole thing stinks to me, honestly.

  71. Eso, that is an interesting question: Why does God use gadgets if they aren’t necessary?
    Why did he provide the Liahona? Surely there were other ways to guide Lehi and his family – in fact, they made much of their trip before the had it. Nevertheless, he provided a gadget that has been used as an object lesson and “type” for the Holy Ghost ever since.
    I think that people often need something tangible. Of course God didn’t need to provide golden plates. Ultimately, of course, it comes down to faith. However we need a story that makes some sense to us. In the absence of plates and the Urim and thummim, how would Joseph have explained how he wrote the B of M? That the idea just “came to him”?

  72. The Other Clark says:

    See also…
    Christ anointing the eyes of the blind man with clay, Sharing loaves and fishes instead of ex nilio dinner for 5,000, etc.

    I don’t have the answer, but it does seem to be a consistent pattern.

  73. “Ultimately, of course, it comes down to faith”

    That’s not faith. Faith is a degree of confidence which inspires action. For example, you exercise faith in the pilots’ expertise and the airworthiness of the aircraft when you board an airplane. You exercise faith in Jesus Christ when you believe that the Word of Wisdom is his commandment and that dictates your behavior (abstain from substances).

    I’m not arguing that Joseph should have translated without something to work with. My argument is that if Joseph translated the BoM with a “seer stone” which he had already found been found by him at the time the plates were revealed to him, why would it have been necessary to obtain the Urim and Thumim? Why would it have been necessary for them to be preserved in the first place? That’s not logically consistent.

    JSH 1:35 indicates a few facts (this is cannonized scripture). A “seer” is a person, not a stone. The qualification of being a seer is the possession and use of a pair of stones called “U & T”. Joseph was told that the these U & T – those preserved with the plates – were prepared for the purpose of translating the book. Mosiah 8:13 – again, a “seer” is a person, one who is commanded to look into the “interpreters” (plural). Mosiah 28:11+ describes these interpreters, matching the description of the U & T (not a singular, chocolate colored stone).

    It does not logically follow for the U & T to have been prepared for the purpose of translating the plates when the Lord knew Joseph would find a stone capable of the task before getting the U & T. It does not logically follow for the plates to be preserved if they were not necessary for translation.

    Accounts of words or letters appearing in, by, or through a stone placed in a hat to block out the light is incompatible with D&C 9 which requires translation be accomplished by thinking through the translation and then asking God if you got it right.

    This is why it I say it stinks. It offends reason. It contradicts scripture. Yet the church is lapping it up. The pictured stone sure is pretty – I doubt it’s ever translated ancient records, however.