The Internet has been abuzz about the fact that the LDS church recently produced a press release in conjunction with the Community of Christ in which they released pictures of the printers manuscript of the Book of Mormon and the Seer Stone that was used to translate the Book of Mormon. The LDS church has had the Seer Stone in its possession for many generations. The Community of Christ obtained the printers manuscript from the Whitmer Family. The following is taken from the LDS Church website:
The most extensive early text of the Book of Mormon—the printer’s manuscript from which the earliest edition was set in type—is now accessible to the public through the latest volume in the Joseph Smith Papers project.
Revelations and Translations, Volume 3: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon was announced August 4 at a news conference at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. Representatives of the Church History Department and of the Community of Christ were on hand for the launch of this, the 11th published volume of the project.
Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, Church Historian and Recorder, explained that the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon—the one scribes wrote as the Prophet Joseph Smith dictated it—was mostly destroyed from water damage after it was placed inside the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1841.
When it was removed 41 years later, much of it was unrecoverable, and only about 30 percent exists today. That remnant is in the custody of the Church History Department.
“So the printer’s manuscript, which is included in this volume, is the most complete early text of the Book of Mormon,” Elder Snow said, adding that the manuscript was copied primarily by the Prophet’s scribe, Oliver Cowdery, for use by E. B. Grandin, the printer in Palmyra, New York, who was contracted to produce the first Book of Mormon edition.
The Seer Stone Stole the Show and Overshadowed the Manuscript
In a world where Mormons were educated about the history of their religion, the press release would have unleashed a high degree of interest in the printers manuscript and significantly less interest in the seer stone. This is because the printers manuscript is the most foundational document to be studied when determining the true intent of any passages of scriptures that might otherwise be confusing.
Punctuation can completely change the meaning of what is being said and apparently, the original printing of the Book of Mormon may have contained punctuation from a printer who was not a believer in the Book of Mormon, and who did not claim prophetic inspiration in reading the word of God. Since that time, additional punctuation and the division of scriptural passages (which can also change the inflection of an intended meaning) has been added by various individuals with varying degrees of spiritual discernment.
Most Mormons are Historically Illiterate
However, we don’t live in a world where Mormons are typically familiar with their own history and for that reason, the public interest has been directed at the seer stone instead of the printers manuscript.
Because it is only recently that the LDS Church has publicly begun acknowledging that the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated were not even being used in the translation process and that Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon through traditional, scholarly means of translating words from one language into another.
Perhaps the most shocking thing to historically illiterate Mormons who are now beginning to ask questions and learn more about their religious history, is that the method of translating the Book of Mormon was a rather unconventional one.
It appears from historical accounts that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to do most of the translation. He would place the stone in a hat and then bury his head in the hat to keep the light out. According to some accounts, he may have initially used the stones from the Urim and Thummim by disconnecting them from the breast plate, but primarily used the seer stone that he had found years earlier.
By looking at the stone in a dark place, he could see a light shining forth with the translation in English which he would read to his scribe as the scribe wrote it down.
Ancient Scripture Explains How a Seer Stone Works
I personally find the method of translation using the gift of prophecy and seership to be a beautiful one that is implied and also blatantly referenced in scripture. In my opinion, the following snippet from the words of Peter provide amazing discriptives that relate to the gift of prophecy being able to reveal hidden knowledge from darkness into the light:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 2 Peter 1:19
A light that shineth in a dark place indeed!
Another related passage of scripture using similar keywords is found in the Book of Mormon that provides a less obscure reference to the gift of seership. It is about a future seer named Gazelem.
23 And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations. (Alma 37:23)
Alma uses remarkably similar descriptives to the ones Peter used but integrates them with how a seer stone is to be used. The stone will shine forth in darkness unto light!
That is an incredibly beautiful way to depict and characterize how seer stones would be used to reveal secret things. It provides a testimony from ancient scripture regarding the translation process that Joseph used.
Gazelem will Reveal the Secret Acts of the Secret Combination
In that particular passage and related prophetic narrative, the stone would reveal secret acts that had previously been hidden in darkness. The Lord’s servant whose name is “Gazelem” would become a prophetic whistle blower who would reveal the secret oaths, covenants and agreements of the secret abominations being entered into by a secret society which the Book of Mormon sometimes refers to as a “secret combination“.
And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations. (Alma 37:23)
Although the narrative seems to apply to the current conditions at the time, it becomes apparent that the plates will play a role at a future time in exposing the works of a secret combination
Every nation that possesses the land of America that is infested with the secret combination will be exposed by the content in this record! We are informed that the record was “reserve[d] for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.” (Alma 37:14)
That would be us.
Interestingly, Joseph Smith chose to use the name Gazelem as his own code name in a revelation referencing him, when his identity in the revelation needed to be kept secret.
The Urim and Thummim will be Sealed for a Future Use
The narrative in Ether 4 which is closely related to the narrative in Alma 37 informs us that the plates had written upon them “the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest..” it informs us that the account of the vision of the brother of Jared contained things that “were forbidden to come to the children of men” until sometime after the meridian of time.
Interestingly, not only were the plates sealed up in the earth, but the interpretation of what was in the vision of the brother of Jared was sealed up to come forth at a later time, and the interpreters themselves were sealed up!
And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord. (Ether 4:5)
Did you catch that?
Even the interpreters were sealed up.
One could interpret that to mean they were buried in the ground with the plates, however, I would submit that they were also sealed up from being used to interpret the sealed portion of the plates until the appointed time, just as the plates were sealed up from being interpreted until the appointed tim. Clearly, Joseph was involved in a preliminary work of translation that precedes the final work of translation that is yet to take place, which is the appointed time when the Urim and Thummim will finally be unsealed for the purpose of translating the sealed plates.
The Book of Mosiah explains that possession of the Urim and Thummim by a person is proof that he is a seer. That may well be one of the reasons the Lord saw fit to provide them to Joseph Smith before they would be unsealed for use in the final translation process. Also, it is reiterated that the Urim and Thummim is prepared for a very specific translation purpose and that “no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish” (Mosiah 8:13)
One of the things that is confusing to believers of the LDS restoration movement is the fact that Joseph was given the Urim and Thummim containing two stones (the interpreters ) when he received the plates, and yet it appears that he did not use them very much if at all to translate what we know as the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, when the two stones were used, they were disconnected from the breast plate, which may be an indicator that he was using them for a lesser function than what their ultimate purpose will be in the third watch.
While translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph appears to have briefly used the stones from the Urim and Thummim and then primarily used a separate seer stone that he had acquired separately.
Why was the Urim and Thummim not used as the instrument of translation if it was prepared for that purpose?
I believe the answer to the question is in the above narrative in Ether. The interpreters, attached to the breastplate, composed the Urim and Thummim and it had been specifically prepared to be used to translate the vision of the Brother of Jared at the time of the last restoration during the 3rd watch, when the greater things would be revealed to those that pass the test of faith.
“And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation” (3 Nephi 26:9-10)
The Interpreters were not be be used in the preliminary translation process that produced the lesser things (what we now call the Book of Mormon). Hence, the use of the Urim and Thummim was sealed up and could not be used until the appointed time arrives.
The Record will go forth when the Gentiles Repent
The next passage in the Book of Ether explains when the later translation of the sealed portion of the plates will take place:
For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.
And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. (Ether 4:6-7)
It is my opinion that the Urim and Thummim was prepared for the translation process that Joseph would be involved in during the “third watch” when the “greater things” would be translated at the time that the Gentiles finally repent.
The Lord provided the plates and the Urim and Thummim but prevented Joseph from translating the greater things. He only allowed Joseph to translate a portion of the plates that contained the lesser things. Apparently a seer stone was sufficient to do the preparatory work of translation while the Urim and Thummim had been specifically prepared for the final work of translation in the final watch or dispensation.
Mormons have been Deceived about the Translation Process
The reason that many Mormons are quite taken back by the press release, the public display of the seer stone, and a few recently published historical essays about the translation process of the Book of Mormon, is that for many decades the church has misrepresented and obscured the true process of how the Book of Mormon was actually translated.
The following picture is indicative of how LDS study manuals depicted Joseph Smith in the translation process, showing the plates by his side in open view and neglecting to mention the seer stone that was used.
The misleading pictures were not the only thing responsible for creating a false impression resulting in historical revisionism. Authoritative statements from church historians were also responsible for leading Mormons astray. The following is a quote from Joseph Fielding Smith, one of the most celebrated Mormon Church Historians, wherein he claims that he did not believe that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon:
“.. 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. ( Joseph Fielding Smith Doctrines of Salvation 3:225-226)
I am not questioning the sincerity of the above declaration. If you go to the original quote and read it in its entirety, he provides an interesting and believable explanation as to why he discounts the possibility of a seer stone being used. It has to do with the fact that ancient scripture indicates that the Urim and Thummim was prepared for the purpose of translating the plates. Based on that, President Smith rejects the notion that a seer stone was used instead of the Urim and Thummin. (We have already addressed that issue.) Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that writers of his generation that were making claims that the seer stone was used in the translation process were more informed than him with regard to the available historical documentation on the topic.
In a recent historical essay in which the church is now attempting to be more transparent about its history, the following information was disclosed:
Joseph related that when he finally obtained the plates from Moroni in 1827, he also received two stones to be used in translating them. He and close acquaintances left accounts of these stones, describing them as white or clear in appearance, set in silver bows or rims like modern eyeglasses or spectacles, and connected to a large breastplate.12 As described, this seeric device would have been bulky. Joseph Smith’s mother said that he detached the stones from the breastplate for convenience while using them.13
The text of the Book of Mormon calls these stones “interpreters” and explains that they “were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages,” being “kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord” (Mosiah 28:14‒15, 20).
The book also recounts how the Lord gave “two stones” to the brother of Jared, with a promise that they would aid future generations to recover his words. “Write these things and seal them up,” the Lord directs him, “and I will show them in mine own due time unto the children of men.” These stones, the Lord explains, “shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write” (Ether 3:24, 27).
Opening Pandora’s Box
While many people are applauding the LDS churches new agenda of being more transparent, one has to wonder if in fact the new historical essays and the transparency is back firing on the church and causing many people to experience a crisis of faith.
A close friend of mine recently sent me a copy of his friends resignation paper that he sent to his Bishop and Stake President. Here is a snippet from it that I am altering to maintain the anonymity of the person. I think it articulates the profound effect that the new historical essays are having on thousands of Mormons who are reading them. I suspect that many other similar letters have been sent by members of the church.
” I want you to know that my anger towards the church and feelings of betrayal concerning the lies and cover up they have been involved in regarding the true history of the church, has not been initiated by anti-Mormon literature.
I have become very angry and resentful as a result of reading the historical essays that have been published on the official LDS Church Website. I was lead to those essays as a result of reading an article in the Salt Lake Tribune.
For many years I would hear about many of the disturbing things that are now coming to light from what I considered to be questionable sources with questionable motives. I brushed aside those disturbing things as not being credible because of what I had been taught in the Church. However, after reading the historical essays, I now realize that I was being told the truth by critics and lied to by the Church.”
I believe the above scenario is happening with lots of members of the Mormon Church. The casualties are much greater than the church is willing to admit and they will continue to escalate as more and more people begin to wake up. I believe the new transparency came about because of increasing public pressure for the church to be more open about its history. Ultimately, it is God that put it into the hearts of the leaders of the Church to begin being more transparent. I believe that the current controversy is an inspired preliminary event to prepare people for the Marvelous Work and a Wonder and last final restoration that is about to take place.
Sadly, during the mass crisis of faith that is taking place, many people are being cast off into the darkness of unbelief while the elect of God are awakening to a greater spiritual belief.
One of the reasons I have prepared a book about the history of the church, through the eyes of prophecy (passcode 3watches777) and am doing a youtube series about the secret history of Mormonism, (part one, part two) is to answer many of the questions being asked by those who are experiencing a crisis of faith. However I have made an observation that I want to share with the readers of this blog.
I hope it will not be offensive anyone.
There seems to be two general categories of Mormons who experience a crisis of faith after hearing about all of the controversial issues related to the doctrine and history of Mormonism.
One category retains their belief in Christ after leaving the Church. Some of them join protestant churches while others simply maintain a personal faith in Christ without uniting with an organized religion.
The other category rejects or highly questions the existence of God and rejects any form of religion altogether.
I believe those that continue on with faith in Christ after leaving the church are those that already understood the difference between placing their faith in Christ and his gospel vs. the church and its leaders. They had read and believed the word of God and were visited by the manifestations of the spirit while being members of the church. Despite being deceived about the current state of the modern corporate church, they had feasted on the word of God and were holding onto the iron rod.
I believe those that reject the existence of God after having a crisis of faith and leaving the church actually never had a spiritual testimony to lose. They had not read and believed the word of God and had not been visited by the manifestations of the spirit. They were basically cultural Mormons going through the motions, who had put their trust in the arm of flesh. When they found they could not trust in mortal man, their sandy foundation failed them, leaving them without a brightness of hope in the plan of God and in everlasting life.
Now is the time for a person to read and believe in the Holy Word of God and exercise faith that the reception of the manifestation of His spirit will take place. This will help to prepare one to recognize the voice of the Lord through His servants when they return to offer the last warning and seal up the righteous and the wicked.