The New Narrative
We have many statements and posts from current church leaders trying to normalize Joseph’s seer stone translation. We have Elder Uchtdorf and Brother Brad Wilcox discussing the rock in a hat and independently comparing it to a mobile phone of all things.
We even have President Nelson demonstrating the rock-in-hat procedure Joseph Smith used to translate with the seer stone before then also comparing the seer stone to a cell phone too!
This is more similar to how South Park depicted the story than it is to the story most Mormons today grew up hearing about the Book of Mormon translation.
The Old Narrative
We can’t forget that we have past church leaders who denied the rock in the hat and promoted the story of the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate. We can’t forget the flipcharts and images used in lessons and church manuals depicting Joseph looking at the gold plates through the spectacles, or the paintings displayed on the walls of the church hallways. The current narrative has changed to Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon by putting a little brown rock, called his seer stone or peep stone, into the bottom of a hat and pressing his face into the darkness to see the translated word of God when he could block external light out.
It is interesting to point out that Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t believe the seer stones were used for translation though. He was the 10th president of the church, the grandson of Hyrum Smith, and the official Church Historian for 60 years. So we should think that he had studied this. He’s even credited with allegedly hiding the oldest version of the first vision when it challenged the narrative he understood. 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.
SEER STONE NOT USED IN BOOK OF MORMON TRANSLATION. We have been taught since the days of the Prophet that the Urim and Thummim were returned with the plates to the angel. We have no record of the Prophet having the Urim and Thummim after the organization of the Church. Statements of translations by the Urim and Thummim after that date are evidently errors. The statement has been made that the Urim and Thummim was on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated. The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the seer stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is now in the possession of the Church.
While the statement has been made by some writers that the Prophet Joseph Smith used a seer stone part of the time in his translating of the record, and information points to the fact that he did have in his possession such a stone, yet there is no authentic statement in the history of the Church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose. The reason I give for this conclusion is found in the statement of the Lord to the Brother of Jared as recorded in Ether 3:22-24.
These stones, the Urim and Thummim which were given to the Brother of Jared, were preserved for this very purpose of translating the record, both of the Jaredites and the Nephites. Then again the Prophet was impressed by Moroni with the fact that these stones were given for that very purpose. It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the Prophet would substitute something evidently inferior under these circumstances. It may have been so, but it is so easy for a story of this kind to be circulated due to the fact that the Prophet did possess a seer stone, which he may have used for some other purposes.Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith, 1954
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.
What story do you remember learning? Have you been gaslighted by the church or apologists trying to convince you that it’s always been so? Tell your story!
- Elder Uchtdorf Compares Peep Stone to His Smartphone
- The Problems with Joseph Smith and Peep Stone Translations
- What is the CES Letter? Is it True/Safe to Read?