Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Joseph Smith And His Magic Seer Stone: A Rare Act Of Honesty Out Of Salt Lake City

Joseph Smith's magic seer stone
One of the deeply held tenets of mormonism is that the founder of their religion, Joseph Smith, was the "prophet of the restoration". Based on this belief and the alleged apostasy of all other Christians since the earliest days of the church, Smith claimed to be a prophet and seer divinely chosen to restore genuine Christianity in the form of the religion known as Mormonism. His signature feat was the "translation" of a book known as the Book of Mormon from a record inscribed on golden plates that purports to describe a Jewish civilization that existed in America in tandem with the events described in the Bible, culminating in a visit to this civilization by Christ. The account has proven problematic as the plates were never actually seen by anyone but Smith, there is no such language as "reformed Egyptian" which Smith claimed the plates were written in and there is no evidence of a proto-Jewish/Christian civilization anywhere in the Americas. Prospective converts to mormonism are asked to take Smith's claim on faith and "pray about the Book of Mormon". Compounding the problem for mormons are the wildly varying accounts Smith provided for this entire process, from being confused apparently by the number and identity of various divine visitors who told him where to find the conveniently located golden plates and the method he used for "translation". The story has changed a lot and one key facet, Smith's claim to have used a seer stone in a hat to translate the book of mormon, has been mostly hidden from mormon members. These members would often find out about this online and be quite disenchanted with the church for hiding the embarrassing truth.

What occurred recently is remarkable for its rarity. The mormon church revealed the existence of the seer stones and a picture of one called the "Chocolate Easter Egg" stone (see picture). Now the spin they are putting on this article for the October issue of Ensign Magazine, the mormon church's main periodical, would make even  the most experienced carnival ride aficionado barf in dizziness but it is a huge deal that they are finally being honest with the way that the "Book of Mormon" was alleged to be translated. It is quite a difference from the way it has always been portrayed in mormon literature. For example, the picture on the left shows (from the official mormon website) how it has often been portrayed. Notice that Smith and Oliver Cowdery (the scribe) are sitting at a table. Cowdery can clearly see the plates even though the evidence suggests that neither Cowdery or anyone else actually saw the plates.  There are no physical aids to translation, like a magic stone in a hat, rather it looks like Smith is reading directly from  the plates and Cowdery is writing what Smith "translated". Other renditions are different, some with the curtain, some with Smith wearing the breastplate and "Urim and Thummim". As Smith moved west and his following grew, his accounts of critical events changed quite dramatically.

I don't know about you but if I was visited by angelic visitors I would remember who they were and how many there were. Likewise if I translated a book claiming to be "another testament of Jesus Christ" and the most important event in the history of Christianity since the crucifixion, I would recall if I was reading it directly or via a stone in a hat to get the "revelation". Young Joseph Smith possessed a vivid imagination and the account of the first vision and the translation of the "Book of Mormon" bear all the marks of someone making it up as he went, in much the same way that he claimed to translate papyri that were later shown to say nothing at all what Smith claimed.

The easily debunked claims of virtually all of early mormonism are not really the point to this. What is the point is that the mormon leadership is finally admitting in public to issues like Joseph Smith "marrying" dozens of women, including some already married and others as young as 14 as well as his use of pagan and folk magic devices like the "seer stone" in a hat and the alleged "Urim and Thummim". This rare show of honesty in public is a stark contrast to the normally secretive mormon elite that hides most information very closely, only permitting carefully vetted documents out in public, and might be a sign of waving the white flag after realizing that in this day and age any inquisitive mormon or prospective convert can find plenty of evidence of shenanigans with the historical record. When the opening lines of thousands of young missionaries is shown to be malarkey, it is no wonder that mormons are leaving the church or becoming "inactive" in huge numbers.

Hopefully the foundations of this cultic religion will continue to crumble but as always my sincere and prayerful desire is that Christians are there to catch people when the house of cards that is mormonism collapses. As I have said on many occasions, it is not enough to prove mormonism false, a fairly easy task. It is critical that we also show them the real Jesus Christ. An active mormon, a mormon apostate or an atheist all have the same need for the redeeming power of the true Gospel.

For my testimony of being saved out of mormonism please see Our Journey Out Of Mormonism: Saved By Sovereign Grace.

For other, older blog posts from me on mormonism see The Fo-Mo Chronicles

Other valuable sources of information

Utah Lighthouse Ministry Sandra Tanner and her late husband Jerald, one of the originals and a vast repository of knowledge and research!

Mormonism Research Ministry Another treasure trove!

God Never Sinned

Mormon Coffee



Joseph Smith seer stones false prophet LDS mormon mormonism church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints.

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