The church has done much to normalize the fact that Joseph Smith used a peep stone or seer stone when he purportedly translated the Book of Mormon. They have released images of the exact stone he used and have received quite a bit of pushback since in the past, the narrative was he used the Urim and Thummim to translate, as is stated in church materials and lesson manuals as well as church-sanctioned artwork on display in many church buildings, websites, and material.
The church and even some members like to gaslight others by saying the church has always taught that Joseph used the seer stone for translation. There is some old art that depicted it, but that wasn’t the art used to portray the translation process, please find one and share it if you can. So much so that when the news broke there has been an effort to create new artwork that more closely resembles the new narrative with Joseph Smith with his face buried in a hat.
Elder Dieter F Uchtdorf shared a message on facebook about the seer stone. He mentions the pushback he’s heard in the form of questions from members asking if he really believes that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones. He answers simply “Yes”, but then proceeds to compare the seer stone to his iPhone. An odd comparison, yet not the first or last time a Mormon leader compares the peep stone to a cell phone.
Here’s the full text for those who don’t wish to jump to facebook (emphasis added):
Not long ago, the Church published photos and background information on seer stones. People have asked me, “Do you really believe that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones? How would something like this be possible?” And I answer, “Yes! That is exactly what I believe.” This was done as Joseph said: by the gift and power of God.
In reality, most of us use a kind of “seer stone” every day. My mobile phone is like a “seer stone.” I can get the collected knowledge of the world through a few little inputs. I can take a photo or a video with my phone and share it with family on the other side of our planet. I can even translate anything into or from many different languages!
If I can do this with my phone, if human beings can do this with their phones or other devices, who are we to say that God could not help Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, with his translation work? If it is possible for me to access the knowledge of the world through my phone, who can question that seer stones are impossible for God?
Many religions have objects, places, and events that are sacred to them. We respect the sacred beliefs of other religions and hope to be respected for our own beliefs and what is sacred to us. We should never be arrogant, but rather polite and humble. We still should have a natural confidence, because this is the Church of Jesus Christ.Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Official account for Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
He continues by stating that many religions have sacred artifacts that are sacred to them. Is he suggesting that the seer stone Joseph found as a boy, used in his fraudulent treasure-digging expeditions, and then used in his hat to dictate the stories that were written as The Book of Mormon is a sacred artifact to the Mormon church and its members?
He believes that by the gift and power of God, Joseph put the rock in his hat to transmit word-by-word translations of reformed Egyptian into 18th-century, King James style text. His mobile phone analogy misses the mark though, and his comparison would work better if the smartphone was not technology, but a crystal ball, but we all know the church doesn’t believe in such things, right?
While it is nice that the church is now being more transparent and sharing the true history of the church, this feels too little too late. Not to mention the immense gaslighting they perform by acting like this has always been the narrative. The narrative is shifting because the dominant narrative is not true and to withstand the “Google effect” church leaders are having to walk the fine line between presenting new true material that was previously dismissed as false and being honest. The real reason for this post is to innoculate members to the idea that Joseph used a seer stone, which the church admits openly today in the Gospel Topic Essays. Had it always been the narrative the church told about the translation it wouldn’t need to be a big post and reveal when they shared photos of the seer stones Joseph used.
Did they always accept and share that Joseph used a peep stone? The same stone Joseph used in treasure digging? Refer to Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith where he emphatically states that Joseph did no such thing! He says “Seer stone was not used in Book of Mormon translation”. Some apologists will still gaslight members struggling with this by saying that they should have known he use the rock in a hat all along, and they must not have been paying enough attention, or not studied deeply enough. But it is not bizarre at all that members didn’t know things that the church didn’t teach. Even the church admits it didn’t teach about the seer stones in Joseph’s hat in videos like this that discuss how they are “coming clean” and trying to help people accept the “weirdness” of it all.
Joseph Fielding Smith and the Seer Stone
Also, interesting to point out that Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t believe the seer stones were used for translation. He was the 10th president of the church, the grandson of Hyrum Smith, and the official Church Historian for 60 years. He said “The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose” in his Doctrines of Salvation.
So, if this was always taught, if the narrative was always that Joseph Smith used a seer stone for translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth president of the church and grandson of Hyrum Smith, missed the lesson in Sunday School as well as plenty of present-day members. Though Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t know what a cell phone was either.