Joseph Smith's Translation Seer Stone
Mormons publish photos of ‘seer stone’ used by Joseph Smith
August 4, 2015
SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon church for the first time is publishing
photos of a small sacred stone it believes founder Joseph Smith used to
help translate the story that became the basis of the religion.
The pictures of the smooth, brown, egg-sized rock are part of a new
book that also contains photos of the first printer’s manuscript of the
Book of Mormon. Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints unveiled it Tuesday at a news conference in Salt Lake City.
It’s the religion’s latest step in a push to be more transparent about
its history and tenets. The church’s effort in recent years to be more
open about its past was triggered by the religion’s increasing
prominence as its membership tripled over the past three decades to 15
million worldwide today. Questions emerged about the burgeoning faith,
with some criticizing it for being secretive about its beliefs and
Mormons believe that 185 years ago, Smith found gold plates engraved
with writing in ancient Egyptian in upstate New York. They say that God
helped him translate the text using the stone and other tools, which
became known as the Book of Mormon.
The pictures in the new book show different angles of a stone that is
dark brown with lighter brown swirls, the size and shape of an egg. The
photos also show a weathered leather pouch where the stone was stored
that is believed to be made by one of Joseph Smith’s wives, Emma Smith.
The church has always possessed the stone, which was transported across
the country during Mormon pioneers’ trek from Illinois to Utah in the
mid-1800s, but it decided to publish the photos now to allow people who
prefer visuals to words to better understand the religion’s roots, said
Richard Turley, assistant church historian. The stone will remain in
“The picture brings a kind of tangibility to something that has been
previously been talked about just in words,” Turley said. “That helps
people connect with the past. We’ve discovered that artifacts and
historical sites are a way to give a sense of reality to things that
are otherwise somewhat ethereal.”
The church has been releasing books containing historical documents
that shed light on how Smith formed the church. The religion also has
issued a series of in-depth articles that explain or clarify some of
the more sensitive parts of its history that it once sidestepped, such
as the faith’s past ban on black men in the lay clergy and its early
history of polygamy.
The ubiquitous use of the Internet today, and accompanying searches
about the faith’s roots, tenets and beliefs, have also played a factor
in the church’s decision to open more of its vault.
“The Internet brings both challenge and opportunities,” said Steve E.
Snow, church historian. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to share
much of collection through the use of the Internet.”
Joseph Smith's Translation Seer Stone
Joseph Smith the glass looker arrest record
The Isaac Hale Affidavit: Father-In-Law of Joseph Smith
The details of this
miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do
have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote: “Joseph Smith would
put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it
closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the
spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment
would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time
would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother
Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his
principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother
Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another
character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon
was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of
man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond,
Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.) A Treasured Testament, By Elder Russell M.
Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, June 25, 1992. Reprinted
in Ensign - July 1993.
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