Thursday, January 20, 2022

Lucy Mack Smith was solid except...

Lucy Mack Smith

Those Latter-day Saints who are familiar with Lucy Mack Smith universally admire her determination and faithfulness. She suffered tremendous losses and hardships. By the time she dictated her history in the fall of 1844, her husband and her sons Alvin, Hyrum, Joseph, Samuel and Don Carlos had all died, but her son William and daughters Sophronia, Katherine and Lucy were still living.

She deserves our respect.

Yet many LDS intellectuals are schizophrenic about Lucy Mack Smith. They think her history is credible and reliable about everything* except (i) Cumorah and (ii) the First Vision, which she didn't mention.

For example, in the Joseph Smith Papers, Translations and Revelations, Vol. 5, Original Manuscript, the Introduction cites or refers to Lucy 36 times.** But the editors carefully avoid what she said about Cumorah.

The Saints book, Volume 1, follows the same approach, citing Lucy's history dozens of times but omitting what she said about Cumorah.

And yet, there is nothing inherently suspect about Lucy's recollections regarding Cumorah. 

Lucy dictated her history in 1844-5. An 1845 second draft includes clarifications and insertions by others. 

Lucy explained that she dictated her history because she had recounted it so many times she was weary. 

People are often enquiring of me the particulars of Joseph’s getting the plates seeing the angels at first and many other thing which Joseph never wrote or published I have told over many things pertaining to these matters to different persons to gratify their curiosity indeed have almost destroyed my lungs giving these recitals to those who felt anxious to hear them I have now concluded to write down every particular as far as possible and if those who wish to read them will help me a little they can have it all in one piece to read at their leasure—


When she related what Joseph said about Moroni's visit, she recalled that Moroni told Joseph "the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place.

When Joseph was late returning home from Manchester in early 1827, he explained to his parents that he had encountered the angel as he "passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are." 

The intellectuals who reject (and censor) these accounts offer two justifications for their choice, both patently outcome-driven rationales designed to accommodate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C).

- Some say Lucy's reference to Cumorah must be attributed to her erroneous adoption of a supposedly false tradition about Cumorah started by unknown early persons at an unknown time. 

- Others say Lucy wasn't credible because she didn't describe the First Vision in her original dictated account (the 1844/5 version).

Obviously, these two objections contradict one another.

While it's true that Lucy didn't mention the First Vision in her history, that is consistent with the actual history; i.e., Joseph didn't say he told anyone other than the Methodist minister about his vision (JS-H 1:21), and we don't know what he actually told the minister anyway.

Given that Joseph never told his mother contemporaneously about the First Vision, why would anyone fault Lucy for not relating a memory of something that didn't happen? [I.e., she didn't relate a false account that Joseph told tell her about the First Vision, which is not the same as saying the First Vision didn't happen.]

In Lucy's 1845 draft, someone inserted Joseph Smith's 1838 account of the First Vision, but Lucy did not say Joseph told her about it when it happened.

IOW, Lucy's omission of the First Vision in her dictated history is evidence that her memory was intact and accurately related, even when people expected her to relate something about the First Vision.

Yet the M2C scholars and the historians who accommodate their theories want us to believe that 

(i) because Lucy didn't relate a false retrospective memory of the First Vision, 

(ii) she did relate a false retrospective memory of what Joseph said about the hill Cumorah. 

If not for their obsession with accommodating M2C, no historian would propose such an analysis. 

This is the type of irrational thinking and deceptive presentation that occurs when people become apologists for a theory instead of unbiased historians seeking to relate accurate history.

A far better, more scholarly and honest approach would be to accurately report the entire historical record, without seeking to accommodate modern theories about Book of Mormon geography. 


*The Historical Introduction in the Joseph Smith Papers explains: "Though there are errors in the dating of some events and occasionally in place and individual names, overall her account is of inestimable value, providing a rarely heard woman’s voice as it traces JS’s life from beginning to end. She was present at many seminal events and offered insights no one else could provide."

**Excerpts from the Introduction below. In addition, the Introduction cites Lucy's history 23 times.

- Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recorded that her son acquired the plates in the early morning of 22 September 1827

Lucy Mack Smith, who remembered seeing the spectacles before her son's move to Harmony, gave a description of the instrument that is similar to Harris's

Lucy Mack Smith, who was still living in Manchester when the loss occurred, recalled in her 1845 history that her son returned to Harmony almost immediately after learning the manuscript had been lost: 

Lucy Mack Smith did not learn that her son had received the plates again until she and her husband, Joseph Smith Sr., visited Harmony in early September 1828.   

Lucy Mack Smith recorded that it was with delight that her son stated he had “commenced translating,” with Emma's assistance. 

Lucy Mack Smith recorded that when the angel returned the plates to Smith, he also promised “that the Lord would send [him) a scribe.”

- Given the antagonism of their neighbors, Lucy Mack Smith and her husband were reluctant to share their son's experiences with their new acquaintance. 

- According to Lucy Mack Smith's reminiscence, Cowdery eventually gained the trust of the Smiths.

- Cowdery told Lucy Mack Smith and her husband, “There is a work for me to do in this thing and I am determined if there is to attend to it.” 

Lucy Mack Smith stated later that “evil designing people were seeking to take away Joseph's life in order to prevent the work of God from going forth among the world.”

- When Lucy Mack Smith received word that the translation was complete, she, her husband, and Martin Harris traveled to the Whitmer home. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Book of Mormon geography in one chart

People often ask for a simple explanation of Book of Mormon geography. 

Here's a summary of the entire debate in one graphic. Those who accept the Book of Mormon as an actual history of real people also accept one of these two assumptions. Then they rationalize their choice (confirm their biases) accordingly. 

It's very simple.

Of course, it's not only Oliver Cowdery who was wrong or correct. The New York Cumorah has been taught by every prophet/apostle who has addressed the topic of Cumorah. But Oliver takes the blame/credit for putting it into print (even though historical evidence shows Joseph taught it even before he got the plates, which he means he learned about Cumorah from Moroni.)

Book of Mormon Central (BMC) and the rest of the M2C citation cartel assume Oliver was wrong, and everything they produce flows from their obsession with offering evidence to oppose what Oliver taught. Their employees and followers amplify the message. 

BMC employees know perfectly well that M2C is based on the assumption the prophets were wrong and have misled the Church. You can see them on the Internet trying try to justify their position. As good employees, they promote the BMC message and pretend their M2C theory is "evidence driven." Some of them may actually believe that, but everyone outside their M2C bubble recognizes bias confirmation when we see it. Not only because M2C repudiates the prophets, but because M2C relies on a series of logical and factual fallacies. 

Many of the followers of M2C don't (yet) realize that their beliefs are based on this simple assumption, but more and more are learning the facts.

Those of us who assume Oliver was correct offer equivalent evidence to support what Oliver has taught. 

We think it's more useful to find and share evidence that corroborates what the prophets have taught than to find and share evidence that repudiates what the prophets have taught.

The question about Book of Mormon geography boils down to this: Which assumption do you accept?

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Awesome JSP comparison site for different editions

There's an excellent resource in the Joseph Smith Papers for anyone who wants to compare different editions of the Book of Mormon, including the Original and Printer's Manuscripts. 

The links to the Original Manuscript are not live yet because the physical book was published recently, but if you get the book you can find the references.

Eventually they will put the Original Manuscript material online so everyone can see it.

This is the type of resource that makes the Joseph Smith Papers so invaluable. Great work!


The next step, hopefully, will be translating this material so people who don't read English can appreciate it. That will be a long ways in the future.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Original Manuscript - Joseph Smith Papers

Yesterday I purchased Volume 5 of the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers. It focuses on the Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon.

Apparently they have only printed around 1,400 copies. If you're in Salt Lake City, they have them at the main Deseret Bookstore downtown.

It's a beautiful book. When I wrote A Man that Can Translate, Infinite Goodness, and Between these Hills, I had to rely on Royal Skousen's excellent transcript of the Original Manuscript. Now the same information is available for everyone to see right on the facsimiles of the extant pages of the Original Manuscript.

But there is a big problem with this book.

It is full-on M2C. [M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory]

This is no surprise, given that the editors are Royal Skousen and Robin Scott Jensen, both of whom are devoted members of the M2C citation cartel, but how can a purportedly accurate and comprehensive volume on the Original Manuscript completely censor Cumorah from the story of the Book of Mormon?

Such revisionist history is inexcusable.

This is a huge disappointment that will continue to mislead faithful Latter-day Saints and serious scholars for generations.

While the JSP editors could correct the content for the web page, these printed volumes obviously cannot be changed. And, based on past experience, the JSP editors have not been inclined to correct such errors anyway. After all, they have deliberated about the content of these books for a long time.


Here's the first sentence in the Introduction:

In the earliest hours of 22 September 1827, Joseph Smith left his parents' home in Manchester, New York, with his wife Emma and traveled a few miles to a nearby hill.1

Note 1. Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 105.

You can see the cited page in Lucy's History here:

The earlier version of Lucy's history is here:

The passage says nothing about where Joseph and Emma went that night, let alone that they "traveled a few miles to a nearby hill." An accurate footnote would be placed after "Emma" in this sentence. Instead, the editors misleadingly put it after "nearby hill."

Why would careful editors commit such an obvious error? Perhaps the answer has to do with where we get the information about the "nearby hill" this sentence refers to. 

The phrase "nearby hill" appears nowhere in Lucy's histories, but she did explain the hill was 3 miles from their home and between their home and Manchester. Her explanation supports the idea that the "hill" was "nearby," but the JSP editors never quote or cite these passages because in them, Lucy explicitly identified the hill as Cumorah.

Our M2C scholars cannot tolerate the idea that Latter-day Saints might read the actual history about Cumorah. The JSP editors collaborate with the M2C scholars to accommodate M2C by cleverly employing terminology that is not in the historical record and avoiding quotations of (or even citations to) the actual record.

Just as they censored the New York Cumorah from the Saints books, they're censoring it even from the Joseph Smith Papers. 


Lucy described the proximity of the hill in the passage that the M2C scholars refuse to quote or cite, but we can all read it right in Lucy's own history when she related what Moroni told Joseph during his first visit:

the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars <​of cement​>— then the angel left him

We see from Lucy's account that Cumorah was only 3 miles from the Smith home, which can reasonably be described as "nearby." But others might think "nearby" connotes a distance much less than 3 miles. Why use the ambiguous term "nearby" when we have an actual historical account of the distance? And why not cite Lucy's specific statement instead of citing a passage that doesn't even mention the hill? 

If you go to that link, you'll see that the JSP editors have lined this passage out of the transcript, even though we can all see it is not lined out on the original manuscript. An accurate transcript could show the blue marks that the editors apparently assumed were equivalent to a line-out. Instead, they imposed their editorial line-out.

Another passage from Lucy about the "hill" shows its proximity to the home, but the JSP editors never quote or cite this one, either. 

Lucy related that one day in early 1827, Joseph went to Manchester on an errand. He was late coming home. He explained that he had received a severe chastisement. His father became angry and wanted to know which of the neighbors was involved. Joseph replied (and Lucy put this in quotations):

“Stop, father, Stop.” said Joseph, “it was the angel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumorah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to <​be​> brought forth...

We see from Lucy's account that Joseph and his family already knew the name of the hill before he even translated the plates, and that the hill was located between Manchester and the family home. This account corroborates what Moroni told Joseph; i.e., that the hill Cumorah was 3 miles from the Smith home. 

Again, we have to ask the JSP editors omit these informative, relevant and authentic historical accounts instead of presenting their own theories as fact.


The second sentence is just as disingenuous. 

He later recounted that while at the hill, he unearthed a set of "plates of gold," whose existence had been revealed to him four years earlier by an angel.

If you search the Joseph Smith Papers for the phrase "plates of gold," you get 12 results.|documents-papers-histories|documents-papers-revelations-and-translations|documents-papers-documents|documents-papers-introductions|documents-papers-administrative|documents-papers-journals|related-materials|biographical-directory|geographical-directory|glossary|event

Not one of these mentions a hill: 

He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. 

After being warned several times, he went to the spot and found the record engraved on leaves or plates of gold fastened together by rings passing through one edge of all the leaves

he revealed unto me that in the Town of Manchester Ontario County N. Y. there was plates of gold upon which there was engravings which was engraven by Maroni his fathers the servants of the living God

he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham

He told me also of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold. I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited. He said to me the Indians were the literal decendants of Abraham.

To learn the plates were deposited in a hill, we have to go to Lucy Mack Smith, but the JSP editors won't tell readers that because Lucy explained the hill was called Cumorah by Moroni himself. Instead, they refer to the hill and quote "plates of gold" as if the same source provided both elements.

To be sure, Lucy's 1845 history includes an insertion from the 1842 Times and Seasons that refers to a hill of considerable size "Convenient to the village of Manchester..." But "convenient" does not mean "nearby." We rely on Lucy's accounts, as well as Letter VII, to learn that the hill was actually nearby. But the JSP editors won't explain their sources to their readers.

Readers should also know that the 1842 Times and Seasons account was composed by Joseph's scribes several years after Letter VII had already established that the Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill where Joseph found the plates. Letter VII was republished in the 1841 Times and Seasons as well so that readers of the 1842 Times and Seasons already knew the hill that was "convenient to the village of Manchester" was named Cumorah anciently.

Because of this misdirection by the JSP editors, even "engaged learners" who read this volume 5 of the Joseph Smith Papers are kept in the dark about all of this actual history.


Later on this same page, we read, "Within two and a half years of obtaining them, he had produced a manuscript and published the Book of Mormon an account of ancient inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere."

This is outrageous revisionist history that should have no place in a historical volume. When the editors engage in editorializing instead of presenting accurate history, they should clearly explain what (and why) they are doing.

"Western hemisphere" is a modern construct. It has been applied to Church history to obfuscate the actual accounts and to accommodate the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory. 

If you search the Joseph Smith Papers for the term "western hemisphere," you'll see that there are zero historical documents related to the Book of Mormon that use this term.|documents-papers-histories|documents-papers-documents|related-materials|biographical-directory|geographical-directory|glossary|event

Instead, we find the JSP editors editorializing:

Moroni, Smith was to learn, was the last in a long line of prophets in the Western Hemisphere who had written their story, just as the prophets in Palestine had written the Bible.

In his description of the Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt superimposed his understanding of Book of Mormon geography onto the Western Hemisphere by placing the Nephites in South America and the Jaredites in North America.

The actual history, which the JSP editors never quote or cite out of deference to M2C, is far more specific:

I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came... The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.

See also

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham.... He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

As faithful Latter-day Saints, we should be able to rely on the JSP editors to give us accurate Church history, not their revisionist opinions dressed up as facts.


There are additional examples of this historical revisionism in this volume 5, just as there have been in other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers.

We have to wonder what it will take to root out M2C from Church history. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

M2C and coming clean

Yesterday the Wall St. Journal published an article titled "The Media Stonewalls on the Steele Dossier: News companies are even more reluctant than other businesses to come clean about their misbehavior."

The article pointed out how media people do not hold themselves to the same standard to which they hold others. Excerpt:

‘Why don’t they just fess up and say they’re sorry?” That is the question journalists have asked about the corporate and institutional clients of my crisis-management business. It’s a question media companies should be asking themselves amid the implosion of the Steele dossier. Here we are, a few weeks after the dossier was discredited, and no one has paid a price.

Having had media companies as clients, I’ve found that when they’re under fire, they behave no differently from chemical or drug companies. Why? Because they don’t see coming clean as being in their self-interest.

Among other things, the truth can tarnish the brand and jam them up in court. So they often deny, stonewall, close ranks, and attack their critics. Two things media companies have that other businesses don’t is the ability to deliver news instantly and the mantle of moral authority.

The crisis confronting the news media post-dossier is rooted in disinformation....

The reluctance to correct course is often justified with the logic: Well, our hearts were in the right place...


We see a similar situation with the M2C citation cartel, consisting of Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, Meridian Magazine, FairLatterdaySaints, and, until recently, BYU Studies.

The people in the M2C citation cartel all know they have been promoting M2C while censoring and attacking alternative faithful interpretations of the Book of Mormon.  

However, like the media companies that pushed the fake Steele dossier and the Russian collusion hoax for years, the M2C citation cartel does not see coming clean as being in their self-interest.

Also like the media companies, they know the truth can tarnish their brands. Imagine having taught and promoted M2C for decades and then having to confess that you had deliberately suppressed the truth about what the prophets had taught about the New York Cumorah? Their brand--their self-appointed expertise about the Book of Mormon--would be tarnished for a long, long time.

As the article said, the M2C citation cartel instead denies, stonewalls, closes ranks, and attacks their critics. 

Because of their privileged positions at BYU, primarily, the M2C citation cartel controls LDS intellectual life and has the "mantle of moral authority." They even claim they've been hired by the prophets to guide the Latter-day Saints, so that criticism of their theories constitutes criticism of Church leaders.


Every Latter-day Saint seeks to be an "engaged learner" and not a "lazy learner." We don't want someone to tell us what to think. We want to study the scriptures ourselves, along with the teachings of the prophets. 

Unless we're lazy, we don't allow the credentialed class to promote their own theories, especially when they tell us that the prophets are wrong. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

SITH sayers everywhere

Readers of this blog know that I have a relatively naturalistic perspective on events in Church history. I think God works with us through natural means as much as possible, consistent with 1 Nephi 3:7.

I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

God prepares a way, but we have to accomplish the tasks. 

There are lots of examples in the scriptures. God didn't magically move the plates of brass from Laban's treasury to Lehi's tent in the wilderness; God had Nephi procure them. God didn't build a boat for Lehi; instead, He gave instructions to Nephi, who went about the work. 

Jonathan Edwards expressed this concept: Mortal men are capable of imparting the knowledge of human arts and sciences, and skill in temporal affairs. God is the author of such knowledge by those means: flesh and blood is made use of by God as the mediate or second cause of it; he conveys it by the power and influence of natural means. 

When a task is impossible by natural means, the Lord intervenes, such as touching the stones prepared by the brother of Jared. 

In like manner, the Lord prepared Joseph Smith from a young age to be able to translate the plates. 

The Nephites kept records, Mormon abridged them, and Moroni deposited them. 

Moroni told Joseph the records were "written and deposited" in the Hill Cumorah not far from Joseph's home near Palmyra, NY, which makes sense. These records were not "written in Mesoamerica" and then "deposited in New York" by magical or supernatural or superhuman means.

Moroni told Joseph he had to obtain the plates and translate them. 

The one thing Joseph couldn't do on his own was translate the characters, but he copied the characters and studied them with the U&T until he was able to translate the engravings on the plates, using his own lexicon which he had acquired starting at a young age.

Thus, the production of the Book of Mormon involved natural means as much as possible.

Yet our intellectuals want us to believe instead that all Joseph did was read words that appeared on a stone, provided there by the MIST (mysterious incognito supernatural translator).  


Recently there was a debate between "Midnight Mormons" and "RFM." Midnight Mormons purported to represent a faithful interpretation of LDS history, while RFM purported to represent a critical interpretation of LDS history.

Early on, both sides agreed that Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon by reading the words off a the stone-in-the-hat (SITH). 

There are SITH sayers everywhere. It's astonishing how quickly this narrative has become prevalent. It is taken for granted now, even though it is only one of several interpretations of the historical documents.

Repudiating the teachings of the prophets about the translation of the Book of Mormon is nearly as bad as repudiating their teachings about the New York Cumorah. 


Lately, certain LDS historians and intellectuals have promoted a narrative that when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery testified that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates with the Urim and Thummum, they were actually referring to the seer stone Joseph found in a well long before he got the plates from Moroni.

This is important because those who say Joseph used the "peep stone" also say he never used the plates. Instead of an actual translation of ancient Nephite records, the SITH theory leaves us with an entirely spiritual experience with no connection to the plates or any authentic history of real people in a real place.

However, Oliver Cowdery clearly distinguished between the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone. We've discussed before how he published Letter I in response to the "peep stone" claim in the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed. That book had identified two alternative explanations for the translation. One was by means of a "peep stone." The other was by means of the Urim and Thummim. 

In response, Oliver wrote, "Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon.’"

(Joseph Smith—History, Note, 1)

Also in

Those who promote the stone-in-the-hat narrative (SITH) rationalize that testimony away, mainly by ignoring the context of Letter I.*

However, Oliver made the distinction even more clear when he rejoined the Church at a special conference held at Kanesville, Iowa, Oct. 21, 1848.

You may remember this image of the seer stone, published in the Joseph Smith Papers. 

An article in the Ensign from October 2015 explains some of the history of this stone.

According to Joseph Smith’s history, he returned the Urim and Thummim, or Nephite “interpreters,” to the angel. But what became of the other seer stone or stones that Joseph used in translating the Book of Mormon?

David Whitmer wrote that “after the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, early in the spring of 1830, before April 6th, Joseph gave the stone to Oliver Cowdery and told me as well as the rest that he was through with it, and he did not use the stone any more.”26

Oliver, who was outside the Church for a decade until being rebaptized in 1848, planned to go west to be with the Saints in Utah, but he died in 1850 in Richmond, Missouri, before making the trip.27 Phineas Young, who had helped bring Oliver Cowdery back into the Church, obtained the seer stone from Oliver’s widow, who was David Whitmer’s sister, Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery. Phineas in turn gave it to his brother Brigham Young.28 

If, as the history indicates, Oliver possessed the stone from 1830 until he died, that means he had it with him in 1848 when he rejoined the Church in Iowa.

Oliver's statement upon rejoining was carefully recorded by Reuben Miller. As you read this, realize that Oliver had the seer stone with him, possibly in his pocket. 

Friends and Brethren, my name is Cowdery—Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this Church I stood identified with her, and one in her councils. True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. Not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called; but, to fulfill the purposes of God, He called me to a high and holy calling. 

I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages), as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, ‘holy interpreters.’ 

I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the ‘holy interpreters.’ That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr. Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.

On that occasion, Oliver did not produce the seer stone to show the audience as corroboration of his testimony. 

He did not say Joseph translated any portion of the record by means of that seer stone.

He did not equate the seer stone with the holy interpreters. 

Instead, he reaffirmed what he had written in 1834 in response to Mormonism Unvailed


What is the significance of this seer stone?

Readers of A Man that Can Translate know that, based upon detailed analysis of the Original and Printer's manuscripts and the language of the text, I propose Joseph used the seer stone to conduct one or more demonstrations of the translation process. He was forbidden from displaying the plates or the interpreters, but his supporters were curious. 

Presumably they were familiar with the idea of seer stones, which were widely known in western New York. Conducting a demonstration would satisfy their curiosity and leave Joseph and his scribes in relative peace to continue the hard work of actually translating. 

For the same reason, it makes sense that Joseph would use the seer stone in the process of receiving revelations, as several accounts describe. This doesn't mean that words appeared on the stone, but Joseph, receiving revelation directly in his mind, would use SITH as a sort of prop to help build faith and confidence among his supporters.

Once Joseph completed the translation and had begun dictating revelations directly, he had no more use of the seer stone so he gave it to Oliver as a sort of souvenir.

Oliver knew the truth, so he testified about what really happened; i.e., that Joseph translated the plates by means of the Nephite interpreters, which he and Joseph called the Urim and Thummim because that's how Moroni identified the interpreters.


*The article in the Ensign from October 2015 claims that "By 1833, Joseph Smith and his associates began using the biblical term “Urim and Thummim” to refer to any stones used to receive divine revelations, including both the Nephite interpreters and the single seer stone." 

The footnote there cites Wilford Woodruff's ambiguous journal entry from 1841. But once we understand the context of Oliver's Letter I--the clear distinction between the two terms in Mormonism Unvailed-- we see that Oliver's explicit statement that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim negates the effort by revisionist historians to blur the two terms.

BTW, at least for now we have this painting on the Church's website.

The Ensign article goes on to claim that, in "addition to using the interpreters, according to Martin Harris, Joseph also used one of his seer stones for convenience during the Book of Mormon translation. Other sources corroborate Joseph’s changing translation instruments."

An alternative explanation for these witness statements is that they observed demonstrations of the process which they inferred were the translation. Then, to refute the Spalding theory, they related the demonstration as if it was the actual translation.