The Mormon church is shifting the narrative surrounding the Book of Mormon translation lately by admitting that Joseph used a rock in his hat as a main translation method. This narrative shift has put some apologists in an awkward position. The Joseph Smith Foundation apologist group has published a book discussing Joseph Smith’s use of the Urim and Thummim in the translation process. They have been troubled by this shifting of the narrative and inoculation of the Gospel Topic Essays.
The authors found the rock-in-the-hat translation method strange and dismiss it as anti-mormon lies. They published this book to prove the previous “traditional” narrative of the Urim and Thummim was true, while the church is adjusting the official “new” narrative to become more “progressive”. So we have apologetic historians like Richard Bushman, claiming the dominant narrative is not true and cannot be sustained as well as apologists who are clinging to the traditional narrative and the only explanation they can find to reconcile the two is conspiracy theories encircling current church leadership being swindled to believe these “progressive” anti-mormon lies.
In 2019 they released the book to defend the historical authenticity of the traditional narrative. They claim the book provides the latest research “providing encouragement for Latter-day Saints who fear they have been “betrayed” by the translation history taught by the Church for over 190 years.” Here is their book description:
Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim places the Book of Mormon translation on trial, presenting the latest research in one of the most comprehensive treatments of the translation process to date providing encouragement for Latter-day Saints who fear they have been “betrayed” by the translation history taught by the Church for over 190 years.
Did Joseph Smith study and master the Nephite language? Did the Prophet tutor some of the early Brethren in ancient Nephite characters?
Did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon using a dark seer stone in a hat?
Why are progressive historians creating a new history using sources from a man who vowed to wash his hands in the blood of Joseph Smith, while boasting that he had deceived the Prophet and his God?
Has The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints covered up its history for nearly 200 years?Seer Stone v. Urim & Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial
Are they calling out or criticizing church leaders? We now have on record Elder Uchtdorf, church historians, Brad Wilcox, and even President Nelson discussing the rock-in-the-hat translation method. While there are also church leaders who stated that there was no seer stone used for translation, such as Joseph Fielding Smith. However you look at it, these are major shelf items for many members. How to reconcile the two narratives?
The Book’s Message
This book Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial discusses the fact that the narrative is changing before our eyes, and rather than see that as evidence that the foundation of the church was a charade and made-up history in the first place, they are digging in as believers in the traditional narrative. Here’s what the book itself states about the two conflicting narratives:
For 190 years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders have put forth the overwhelmingly dominant and consistent position that Joseph Smith translated Nephite characters engraven on ancient plates from whence came the Book of Mormon. Faithful leaders and members have agreed that the Nephites and Lamanites were actual people who dwelt on this the American continent and that their prophets produced physical, tangible records, which were abridged by the prophet-historian, Mormon, who engraved characters upon metal plates “hav[ing] the appearance of gold.”
In the traditional narrative, the characters engraven on the plates represented the written language of the ancient Nephites (reformed Egyptian). These characters were translated into the English language by the Prophet Joseph, who used the Nephite interpreters, called the Urim and Thummim. For nearly 200 years, our official Church history never promoted the seer stone hypothesis. Since its inception, the official history of the Church describes the Prophet Joseph Smith and his family as coming from worthy, hard-working, and God-devoted New England stock. The Smith family was honest, industrious, pure-minded, and holy. For them, treasure seeking, folk and ritual magic, alcoholism, and other unworthy practices and pursuits were unthinkable.
We the authors, over the past several years, in meeting with and talking to thousands of members, members just like you, have noted a shift. A shift from confidence and faith in our religious tradition to countless stories of heartache, even heartbreak. Stories of confusion, frustration, doubt, disillusionment and even anger. Have I been lied to? What can I hold on to? Who is telling the truth? Does anyone have answers? Why is the story changing?
For nearly two hundred years these two narratives stood in stark contrast to one another. However, over the past decade a major shift has prompted many Latter-day Saints to abandon the “traditional narrative,” as many progressive intellectuals call for a “new narrative.”
Ironically, this “new narrative” is not “new” at all. Many progressive scholars and intellectuals believe that the new narrative is reinforced by “new information,” “new sources,” and “new understanding.” However, in regard to the translation of the Book of Mormon, no historical source has been discovered that substantially alters our understanding. In fact, there are no new sources, only new interpretations or a return to previous anti-interpretations of the same data.
If we accept that Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon using a dark occultic seer stone he presumably found from an alleged career in treasure digging, scrying, and magic, this means the Book of Mormon was revealed through an occultic instrument and not by revelation and instruments provided by God. No true Christian can accept as God’s word, a book which came from this “bitter fountain.” The very foundations of our faith crumble.
Additionally, if we accept that Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon from words magically appearing on a seer stone, even a stone that was not occultic, Joseph Smith’s character and integrity are shattered and our history is not viable. Critics antagonistic to the Church use this logic:
- If Joseph Smith never used the plates, why did the Lord burden generations of Nephite prophets with the painstaking recording and preservation of their history? Why was Moroni doomed to spend years on the run, hunted by the Lamanites, while he finished his father’s abridgment and hid the record from those who were seeking to destroy it? Why was Joseph Smith warned by Moroni that he would be “cut off” if he lost the plates, if he never used them? Was the Lord just wasting everyone’s time?
- If Joseph Smith never used the plates, relying instead on words that appeared on a stone, to what degree does the Book of Mormon text we read today correspond with the original Nephite plates, if there is any correlation at all? Is the Book of Mormon even an historical text? Why not simply an inspired parable with heart-warming lessons “for our day”? How can we know the book’s validity, the book’s authenticity, and the book’s truth, if this is our foundation?
- The “seer stone in a hat” narrative contradicts the testimonies of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in every respect. Critics point out that Joseph and Oliver were simply covering up the true occultic origins of Mormonism—they were lying. Why do Joseph and Oliver tell an entirely different story from their antagonists? Whom should we trust?
Can grievous errors in life truly be preparation? Can dabbling in Satanism lead to good? For the progressives, the answer seems to be “yes.” For traditionalists, the answer has always been “no, never.” This is the major point of contention.
The new narrative’s “Joseph Smith” is a man who has serious character flaws. The prophet is “greedy,” self-centered and superstitious; a mere stone-gazer. In the progressive worldview, the “preparatory gospel” is confused with soothsaying, necromancy, sorcery, alchemy, conjuring, divination, enchantment, mysticism, and magic. For traditionalists, this is an insurmountable obstacle. In the modernist viewpoint, there is no devil. In the worldview of academia, spiritualism (communication with dark spirits) and magic are simply unknowns.
Progressive historian Steven E. Snow echoes the “new narrative” and promotes this new occultic “Joseph Smith” in these words:
By 1825, young Joseph had a reputation in Manchester and Palmyra for his activities as a treasure seer, or someone who used a seer stone to locate gold or other valuable objects buried in the earth.
Contrast Steven E. Snow’s approach with that of President Gordon B. Hinckley. President Hinckley noted:
. . . the fact that there were superstitions among the people in the days of Joseph Smith is no evidence whatever that the Church came of such superstition.
President Joseph F. Smith also weighed in on this divisive and pivotal discussion:
No man or woman who enjoys the Spirit of God and the influence and power of the holy Priesthood can believe in these superstitious notions, and those who do, will lose, indeed have lost, the influence of the Spirit of God and of the Priesthood, and are become subject to the witchery of Satan … These peepstone-men and women are inspired by the devil …
The progressive new narrative promotes the viewpoint that leaders of the past, including Gordon B. Hinckley and Joseph F. Smith, were either dishonest with our history or misinformed.
The Book of Mormon itself teaches that a bitter fountain cannot bring forth pure water and a pure fountain cannot bring forth bitter water. If Joseph Smith’s origins were a bitter fountain, does it not follow that the work he produced would also be bitter? On the other hand, if the Prophet Joseph Smith, his family, and ancestry were noble, honorable, and faithful, would it not also follow that the works he produced—the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the Joseph Smith Translation, the original temple ceremonies, and the Prophet’s other teachings, also be good? Does this not suggest that we are involved in a struggle for the very heart of our faith? Because of such disinformation, is it any wonder that many thousands of Latter-day Saints, including a majority of the youth, are currently struggling with their own personal crisis of faith?
Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial: Look Inside
They’ve published this book stating that the seer stone, rock in the hat narrative is not true, only to have their prophet, President Nelson, come out and say it was and even demonstrate how Joseph would look into a hat at his stone and dictate the words of the Book of Mormon. They claim that no statement from anyone critical of the church can be trusted.
Full disclosure, President Nelson even spoke about the seer stone in a hat in the early nineties! He referenced David Whitmer’s statements in an Ensign article in July 1993 titled A Treasured Testament. They state that the shift has been in the last decade, but this article should put it at a few decades at least.
Reviews for the book reveal that many members are feeling cognitive dissonance from this changing narrative and are clinging to this anti-narrative-narrative. They want to believe the “new” official church narrative is mistaken and Joseph never used folk magic or anything like that, because that challenges their worldview. Joseph being a treasure-digger means he was no pure boy prophet called to restore the fullness of the gospel.
Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim makes a great case for simply going ‘back to the basics’! That is, accepting the translation of the Book of Mormon as Joseph said it was done, as opposed to how others claim it was done.Kay M Godfrey, Author, Joseph Smith Epoch Historian
This book did such a wonderful job showing how BOGUS this “new narrative” is about the hat and seer stone, where the lies began, and how it is coming forth.bradjuliesmith
As I have spoken with members who have had questions over the years, literally every answer I have given is found within the pages of this book!! Only three people were true faithful witnesses to the translation process…. 1. The Lord 2. Joseph Smith Jr. 3. Oliver Cowdery. All three of these faithful witnesses state the translation was accomplished through the Urim and Thummim.Rooster23 (verified owner)
This book shows you the truth and puts it on trial alongside the falsehoods. The faithful Latter-day Saint will know in their heart what is true.t3allenfamily
The sources of the quotes in this book come directly from Joseph Smith himself and Jesus Christ, not from someone quoting someone who hated Joseph Smith. Satan wants to destroy the foundations of everything, our Country, the restored Church of Jesus Christ, your own family, and more. This book will help you realize this and then want to work hard to do whatever you can to come to know the Truth.cajun_kepoo
I’ve been studying and praying to understand how the latest video from the church depicting use of a stone in a hat could be presented since it is not fully understood the role of the Seer Stone in the translation process. I’ve had some strong feelings about the possibility of the following scenario which I feel good about and have had my concerns pacified.lnpoulsen
I was never aware of this great effort put forth by the adversary to deceive the historicity and authenticity of the translation process of the Book of Mormon.James
This book does a fabulous job explaining something that has puzzled me for a while. It walks you through the history of this topic and reviews most of the relevant sources and how progressives have used the sources they wanted to promote their agenda. The book shows how many of the sources that progressives use to promote the seer stone in a hat narrative are not credible, particularly to those of faith.Kaylene Stoddard (likley related to the Authors)
This shows that the church shifting its narrative is having multiple effects. First, it’s causing the disillusionment of many members who when asked to reconsider the origin stories of the church find that the actual history now being taught is unbelievable. The church knew what it was doing in the first place by telling the whitewashed versions of church history because those were at least believable–even though they weren’t true. Then, we also have members who are digging in on the “traditional” narrative believing it to be the actual history, and see the church now as being wayward. This is similar to many fundamentalist groups who believe the central church has apostatized from the fundamental aspects of the religion since 1890 when polygamy was “stopped”. These groups feel that the church leaders are mistaken and that they are taking the church in a direction they don’t agree with. Either way, the church is losing faithful members because of its own history, how it has been telling it, and the recent shift in the narrative. It has painted itself into a corner and is facing the consequences.
What can the church do? It seems they are doing all they can. They’re adjusting the narrative and they must have calculated that they will come out better by being honest. They aren’t doing it for the sake of integrity though, they’re doing what will keep more members “in the boat” vs looking totally dishonest by continuing to spin the same unsustainable dominant narrative.
This shows how detrimental the church’s propaganda is to people. The church is behaving like Oceania and feels they can control the information and change the narrative before our eyes while we practice doublethink and stay in line. Ultimately it is up to every individual to research (or not) the issues and decide for themselves if they believe the church history as it was taught or as it is taught today or if the changing narrative simply calls attention to the fact that it is not true and never was. What do you think about the mental gymnastics apologists ask us to perform in order to make sense of the contradictions and attempt to reconcile all the shelf items? Share your own faith transition story at wasmormon.org.
- Changing The Narrative –Reconstructing Mormon History
- Dominant Narrative of Church is Not True
- The Problems with Joseph Smith and Peep Stone Translations