Seer Stone in a Hat

With apologies to Kevin Barney, I post here in response to a comment by Katie on Kevin’s current BCC thread publishing the testimonies of people in his ward. But I am not poaching from Kevin by writing here because what I want to say in response to Katie’s comment would have been a complete threadjack since it is not a report on people in my ward.

Katie reported on the testimonies of people in her ward and also on something her husband said to counter what people in her ward were saying:

During the week my husband and I made a pact that if people talked about the doc negatively he had to get up and say something positive. So true to his word he got up and said he loved it, and that it didn’t matter if Joseph translated the BOM with a peepstone in a hat, it was still true. A few in the congregation laughed at that, which I interpret to mean that people thought he was kidding, and of course Joseph did not use a stone.

From this comment I infer that Katie believes that people in her ward — at least those who laughed at her husband’s statement about the translation of the Book of Mormon — think that the PBS documentary on the Church is not accurate to the extent that it notes that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by means of placing a seer stone in a hat and putting his face in the hat to dictate words from the stone.

First, to the extent that the documentary implied that this was the sole means of translating the Book of Mormon, then it would be true to say that the PBS documentary was inaccurate.

Second, I applaud Katie’s and her husband’s proactive approach to dealing with negativity among Latter-day Saints resulting from the documentary: to say something positive about the documentary in response. I think that is a very useful approach, both in relation to this documentary, but also in other situations in life where criticism is being leveled that the hearer thinks might be unwarranted or unfair. If there are people who think that a PBS documentary, or the cartoon South Park, are “lying” when they report or depict Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon at least in large part with the aide of a seer stone placed in a hat, then this fact should be addressed directly. Similarly, if there are people who know that Joseph Smith used this as one method (among others) of translating the Book of Mormon and think that the Church is “covering up” this fact, then that should also be addressed directly. This post speaks to both groups, i.e. both to those whom Katie suspects of disbelieving that Joseph Smith used a seer stone in a hat as a method of translation and to Katie and her husband themselves.

An Ensign article in 1993 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church addresses both camps. If something is discussed in the Ensign, the Church’s monthly, general distribution periodical, it is difficult to make the case that the Church is covering it up; similarly, if it is addressed in the Ensign, it is difficult for believing members to claim that it is not true when reported by an outside source, such as PBS.

In his Ensign article — material meant for the entire membership of the Church and even with the ambitious goal of having the entire world for an audience, as Latter-day Saints are wont to do — Elder Nelson addresses the translation of the Book of Mormon and the seer stone in the hat (bold added):

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.)

Emma Smith, who acted as an earlier scribe for Joseph, gave this account in 1856:

“When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made any mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. Even the word Sarah he could not pronounce at first, but had to spell it, and I would pronounce it for him.

“When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, ‘Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?’ When I answered, ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘Oh! [I didn’t know.] I was afraid I had been deceived.’ He had such a limited knowledge of history at that time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.” (Edmund C. Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” Journal of History, Jan. 1916, p. 454.)

On another occasion, Emma Smith recorded:

“The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.” (“Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, p. 290; spelling modernized.)

Although the Prophet would polish his skills over the years, Emma acknowledged that Joseph possessed only rudimentary literacy at the time he translated the gold plates:

“Joseph Smith … could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, it is marvelous to me, ‘a marvel and a wonder,’ as much so as to any one else.” (Ibid.)

This is a fascinating account of the miraculous translation of the Book of Mormon. From other sources we also learn that Joseph Smith also used the Urim and Thummim to translate portions of the Book of Mormon. I believe there are also accounts of Joseph Smith periodically translating the Book of Mormon while reading straight from the plates, although at the moment my memory is failing me on this one so don’t quote it in testimony meeting.

I do not understand why people would be more embarassed by the idea of Joseph Smith using a seer stone in a hat and pulling the hat tightly around his face to look into the seer stone than by the thought of Joseph Smith putting on the breastplate and stones of the Urim and Thummim. I suspect it has to do with the recognition that for some or much of the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith did not even necessarily have the plates out in front of him on the table, although as the statements from Emma Smith above show, he did sometimes have them with him during translation.

Stated succinctly, translation of the Book of Mormon through the seer stone in the hat was a miracle — and we believe in miracles. As Latter-day Saints, we are pleased that there really is so much that is rational about the Gospel that we sometimes shy away from the miraculous or mysterious in our religion. Baptism for the Dead is an example of this: who can argue with the equity and reasonableness of the program instituted by Jesus and restored in the latter days of Baptism for the Dead — a practice which provides all people with the opportunity to accept or reject a vital ordinance, even if their circumstances in life prevented them from hearing and/or accepting the message at that time. It is an equitable doctrine that resonates with us rationally as well as spiritually. But translation through a seer stone in a hat is simply miraculous and mysterious. If we sustain Joseph Smith as a Prophet, we need to accept that God was powerful enough and that Joseph Smith was such a Prophet and Seer that he could accomplish the translation of the Book of Mormon by use of a seer stone in a hat.

The article by Elder Nelson is fair game for Sacrament Meeting talks, Gospel Doctrine classes, and Priesthood and Relief Society classes. It is an Apostle of the Church relating the eye-witness account of Joseph Smith’s scribes in the process of translating the Book of Mormon. We should all be edified by it.

This post is already too long to be of use to anyone interested in the seer stone in the hat issue. That is why DMI Dave has a rule — which he himself often does not follow — to keep blog posts down to three or four paragraphs.

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35 Responses to Seer Stone in a Hat

  1. J. Stapley says:

    I’m not certain that the mechanics of translation are all that important, however, if it is cast in a critical or mocking light, I can see why some people might be uncomfortable. There are lots of details like this, that have been discussed publicly, but due to the sheer volume of information, are drowned out.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any accounts of Joseph reading the plates either.

  2. JrL says:

    Can you give us the reference for the Nelson talk?

  3. john f. says:

    JrL,

    It’s linked in the post but here it is in old-school format:

    Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament,” Ensign, Jul 1993, 61. (Link here)

  4. Justin says:

    Some may have more difficulty with regard to the seer stone’s origins as opposed to the Urim and Thummim’s origins.

  5. As far as I can tell, the sources that have Smith using the Urim and Thummim date to the period that produced the lost Book of Lehi; several scholars, including faithful ones like Richard Bushman, argue that the seer stone was used to produce all of the text of what we currently have as the Book of Mormon. So there is some support for the claim that a seer stone in a hat was the only translation method used during the production of the Book of Mormon. It’s not certain, and it depends on what we define as the “Book of Mormon,” i.e., whether we include the Book of Lehi or not. But it’s nonetheless a possible interpretation.

    Emma’s statement, by the way, is completely compatible with this. Emma never claims that Joseph opened or uncovered the plates while dictating. Her statement that the plates existed as physical objects, though, is amply confirmed by both friendly and hostile sources — all of which relate that the plates were always covered or in a box during the translation periods.

  6. Jordan F. says:

    I can also remember primary lessons in which we colored pictures of a seer stone while learning about how Joseph Smith used them in translating the Book of Mormon. I even remember early on, through cartoon-drawings, being exposed to a light lampoon of Joseph using the stone in his hat to translate (I believe that Moroni popped out of Joseph’s hat, startling him, in the cartoon…)

  7. Brian Duffin says:

    Great post, John.

    Whatever the means used for translating the Book of Mormon, it is indeed a “marvelous work and a wonder.”

    I have, on several occasions, discussed the miracle of translating the Book of Mormon with those who I consider enemies of the Church. They delight in mocking Joseph’s use of a seer stone in a hat. My common retort is this: “Ok, then, why don’t you purchase a hat, find a stone you think would work as a seer stone and you compose a book equal in length and complexity to the Book of Mormon. Feel free to include as much of the Old and New Testament as is included in the Book of Mormon, since you feel Joseph Smith merely filled the Book of Mormon with copied scripture…”

    Much to my shock (?) and dismay, none of these critics has been equal to the task which they so willingly deride.

    In short, my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith is not shaken simply because he used a seer stone and a hat while translating the Book of Mormon.

  8. Katie says:

    Wow, I am proud to see my comment inspired not only a whole post, but one longer than 3 or 4 paragraphs and one that mentions my name no less than 7 times!

    Still, after reading the post I am not sure how you felt about my comment. It seems you think that it is good to say something positive, and that it is okay to talk about the seer stone in a hat, even in sacrament meeting. As you say, it is a miracle and we should not have any problem with that. But you also say:

    “Similarly, if there are people who know that Joseph Smith used this as one method (among others) of translating the Book of Mormon and think that the Church is “covering up” this fact, then that should also be addressed directly. This post speaks to both groups, i.e. both to those whom Katie suspects of disbelieving that Joseph Smith used a seer stone in a hat as a method of translation and to Katie and her husband themselves.”

    Since we do not belong to the first group, does this mean you are putting my husband and I in the group that thinks the church is covering up the seer stone fact?

    I wouldn’t say that I think this. I think people don’t talk about it, but I don’t think this is the church’s fault. As you have noted, Elder Nelson mentioned the hat in Conference.

    I think because the stone in the hat is not mentioned at church, members often reject it because the only time they hear it referenced is on South Park or on “biased” PBS documentaries. They thus draw a correlation between the stone and the hat and anti-Mormonism. I don’t think the church is covering it up, rather I think people haven’t been willing to dive into our history more. I just wish people were more open to embracing things like this. Personally I like our historical idiosyncrasies. I like the mixture of the traditional and the magical. My husband also said in his testimony that we should embrace our weirdness and be proud of it. That is basically what I was trying to get across.

  9. Ian M. Cook says:

    I too vaguely remember something about a seer stone growing up. I decided to do a quick search of LDS.org to see if I could find more references to a seer stone. A couple do show up. One is an article of the Ensign in 1977.

    “The person who best reflects Martin Harris is probably Edward Stevenson, since he spent nearly two months with the Witness after going to Ohio to escort him back to Utah in 1870. On the means of translation Stevenson reported, “He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone.” 4 ”

    The article actually talks about wether or not Joseph used the Urim and Tummim or the Seer stone. It’s an interesting read really.

    [comment edited to embed link to avoid formatting problems the link was causing]

  10. Ian M. Cook says:

    Here’s another one, but this reference is in the Friend, and more explicit. This was in 1974.

    [comment edited to embed link to avoid formatting problems the link was causing]

  11. lyle says:

    New site. New country. New Neighboors?

    But police said the number of car-burnings — a grim ritual in many suburbs — was similar to an average New Year’s Eve and did not amount to “large-scale urban violence”.

  12. Brian Duffin says:

    My husband also said in his testimony that we should embrace our weirdness and be proud of it.

    I believe the Bloggernacle qualifies as Mormon’s embracing their weirdness…or at least their weird ones. :-)

  13. Jared* says:

    Just to nit-pick, Elder Nelson’s talk was to the new mission presidents, not General Conference, and the link is not to the Conference edition of the Ensign. Am I missing something?

  14. john f. says:

    Jared, thanks for that clarification. A closer look reveals that you are correct that Elder Nelson’s discussion of the seer stone in the hat was in an Ensign article rather than a General Conference talk. I am updating the body of the post to reflect this accurately now. For comparison, I am pasting the items that I am changing right here as they were in the original post:

    A talk given in 1993 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church addresses both camps. If something is discussed in General Conference it is difficult to make the case that the Church is covering it up; similarly, if it is addressed in General Conference, it is difficult for believing members to claim that it is not true when reported by an outside source, such as PBS.

    In his General Conference talk — so a talk meant for the entire membership of the Church and even with the ambitious goal of having the entire world for an audience, as Latter-day Saints are wont to do — Elder Nelson addresses the translation of the Book of Mormon and the seer stone in the hat (bold added).

    The selection now reads as follows:

    An Ensign article in 1993 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church addresses both camps. If something is discussed in the Ensign, the Church’s monthly, general distribution periodical, it is difficult to make the case that the Church is covering it up; similarly, if it is addressed in the Ensign, it is difficult for believing members to claim that it is not true when reported by an outside source, such as PBS.

    In his Ensign article — material meant for the entire membership of the Church and even with the ambitious goal of having the entire world for an audience, as Latter-day Saints are wont to do — Elder Nelson addresses the translation of the Book of Mormon and the seer stone in the hat (bold added)

  15. john f. says:

    RT, whether the Book of Lehi is currently contained in the Book of Mormon (as you know, it is not) or not does not change the fact that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim as a method of translating the Nephite record. It is an interesting theory that Joseph Smith used the seer stone exclusively to translate everything after the Book of Lehi but does not change the fact that Joseph Smith did not use the seer stone exclusively in his translation efforts.

    As you note, Emma mentioned that there were physical plates present on some occasions of translation. This points to something more binary between truth and fraud as President Hinckley has been known to assert because the presence of physical plates necessitates either active fraud, as Dan Vogel theorizes, or else the reality of the Nephite record, as millions of Latter-day Saints believe.

  16. john f. says:

    Brian, Jordan, and Ian — great comments. Learning about the seer stone in Primary is not a relic of the 1970s and early 80s when we had such lessons. Only a little over one year ago my then four-year-old daughter had a lesson about the seer stone and translation of the Book of Mormon in her CTR class on the East Bench of Salt Lake City, of all places. She was very proud of the pente stone she carried home with her from that lesson in commemoration of Joseph Smith’s seer stone.

    As for embracing our weirdness, although I think that the statement is tongue-in-cheek, we should probably be aware that an overemphasis on PR can distract from our valuable distinctiveness. We should not be embarassed that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by use of a seer stone, the Urim and Thummim (also essentially a seer stone), or even by straight revelation rather than through the study of ancient languages, archaeology, anthropology, classic civilizations, and related fields. That’s the miracle of it. It is “marvelous” and “wonderful” for those of us who believe that it is true, but we must realize that outsiders will not see it this way; for them, “weirdness” might actually be what they perceive. We can’t do anything about the way people view these happenings. In some cases, when such people take a closer look and pray about it, they might accept the Restored Gospel and join the Church and adopt other words to describe what they previously viewed as weirdness.

  17. john f. says:

    Katie: it is odd that some believing Latter-day Saints link mention of the seer stone in the hat to anti-Mormonism. Reading Elder Nelson’s Ensign article should be able to alleviate that problem, although J. Stapley makes a good point that whether the fact of it is true or not, the way in which anti-Mormons refer to it and use it can certainly be off-putting, mocking, and manipulative.

    Lyle: I don’t understand your comment but it is very good to see you here.

  18. john f. says:

    That’s a really good point Justin. Related is the idea that Joseph Smith used or might have used the same exact seer stone during his pre-teen and early teenage adventures with treasure hunting.

  19. John, hey, get with the nuance. What I said was that Joseph may have used only the seer stone in producing the Book of Mormon — not in translating. We have sources saying he used the Urim and Thummim — although in the same way as the seer stone — for the Book of Lehi. But we have no early or first-hand sources saying that Joseph used anything but the seer stone after the Martin Harris/missing pages episode. So Joseph used multiple means to translate from the plates but perhaps only the seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon.

    I don’t agree that physical plates forces either an ancient record or fraud. The prototype here would be the Book of Abraham; wide ranges of members believe that the papyri didn’t contain the Book of Abraham text, but that the text remains divine.

  20. john f. says:

    RT, if Vogel is right that Joseph Smith manufactured plates so that others thought he actually had an artifact, then that is fraud. Joseph Smith did not manufacture the papyri that gave rise to the Book of Abraham.

  21. John — you’re now talking about details and degrees, a fact that inherently contradicts the hypothesis that there are only two possible points of view.

    There are a number of other possibilities, of course. Some people believe that Joseph found some plates while treasure digging, and then had a revelation producing the Book of Mormon contents. Or Joseph may have had a genuine revelation complete with instructions to manufacture plates in order to provide a focus of belief for others. Or many other combinations and permutations.

    Joseph’s life has inevitable shades of hucksterism for believers of most stripes today. Many conservative believers account for the Zelph and Kinderhook episodes that way; Joseph’s enthusiasm for ancient discoveries from all possible geographies as evidence (often “proof” in his terms) of the Book of Mormon likewise. Or the treasure in the Boston basement experiment. Or Joseph’s earlier efforts at digging for gold, silver, and salt. So most of us accept that Joseph was a bit of a salesman in addition to a prophet. Where you go wrong is in asserting that this forces a binary choice: it simply doesn’t. There’s no logical reason whatsoever that a bit of razzle-dazzle is incompatible with genuine revelation. Unknown numbers of people affirmatively believe positions regarding Joseph that combine the two, including most Mormon apologists. I don’t see this as problematic at all; do you?

  22. john f. says:

    It is questionable whether God would instruct Joseph Smith to affirmatively defraud people, although I agree that God can do something like that if he wants — he is powerful enough.

    From your perspective, what is the difference between God instructing Joseph Smith to manufacture plates as a focus of belief for people and God instructing Joseph Smith to marry the wife of one of his followers? Both entail God telling Joseph Smith to do something that conventional morality would deem questionable; on the one hand relating to fraud and on the other relating to chastity (assuming that Joseph Smith had sexual relations with his plural wives). Should we find it more problematic for God to instruct Joseph Smith to marry other people’s wives than to defraud people?

  23. It’s really an open question whether constructing an object to persuade people to believe in something true is a central instance of “affirmatively defrauding” people. In that belief scenario, there’s certainly some hucksterism, but the word defraud seems utterly out of place.

    God in Mormon scripture certainly does endorse some forms of deception when necessary. Two famous examples include Nephi misrepresenting himself as Laban to get the brass plates and Abraham being commanded to tell people that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. The repeated public denials of polygamy during Joseph’s life would seem to fall in the same category. If the gold plates were another instance in this group, that would seem really pretty irrelevant altogether: they’d be neither the most egregious nor the most consequential of the deceptions.

    I think your example regarding polyandry is also apropos. Obviously, Joseph saw God as doing things that most of us would be morally uncomfortable with. In the comparison you’re making, it seems clear to me that polyandry created more human misery than the physical existence of the plates. So, okay; that’s a bigger deal. If we can get on with being Mormon in spite of polyandry having happened, then our beliefs regarding the origins of the physical plates Joseph had would seem to be a secondary issue — and certainly not a polarized one that requires either total acceptance or total rejection.

  24. john f. says:

    The collateral question follows naturally from that logic. If we can accept that God ordered Joseph Smith to defraud people about the existence and origins of plates in his possession, then we should be able to accept that God ordered polygamy/polyandry such that it is not or should not be a stumbling block to being a Latter-day Saint in the first place.

    On first blush it might seem a more difficult position to refuse to accept that God ordered Joseph Smith to manufacture plates and to lie to people about their origins and meaning but at the same time accept that God ordered polygamy/polyandry. If, however, Joseph Smith was not lying about the provenance of the plates, then that can actually make it easier to accept his institution of polygamy and polyandry because the plates, if real, bolster his claim to being a prophet whose calling it is to communicate precisely such directives from God to his people in a system guided by direct revelation. Perhaps this is precisely the reason that many Latter-day Saints often soundly reject the idea that Joseph Smith had manufactured tin plates for the purpose of making people believe him when he told them they were Golden Plates containing the Nephite record.

  25. Pete says:

    Great post John.

    Enjoyed the comments too.

  26. I wonder if a modern-day Joseph Smith would use a blackberry to help him focus.

    I’m honestly not being flippant here. My only point is that when it comes to miracles and other interactions with those who would believe and obey the Lord seems very good at using the cultures and technologies of the time — sometimes in concert with, sometimes in opposition to — but I don’t see why we should be shocked that people bring their own epistemes to bear on the gospel.

    Modern day Mormons (and folks with other beliefs) do it all the time.

  27. john f. says:

    WM — interesting thought, instead of a seer stone, a blackberry. Do you say this because Joseph Smith was already familiar with seer stones and believed he was gifted to use one even before he began speaking of religion?

  28. John F., it’s all irrelevant anyway. We know for sure that Joseph Smith lied about polygamy — directly and indirectly — several times. If him lying makes us disbelieve, then we disbelieve.

    The reality or not of the plates doesn’t prove Joseph’s prophetic claims in any case. If Joseph simply found plates and concocted a story around them, then real plates and a fraudulent prophet coexist. If Joseph received a revelation, then the Book of Mormon is genuine independent of the plates. Indeed, the Book of Mormon can even be historical independent of the plates. It’s a red herring.

  29. By the way, regarding seer stones, I agree with William Morris. God speaks after the manner of our understanding. Seer stones, blackberries, still small voices, speaking in tongues. What we look for, we get…

  30. If I recall correctly, Bushman mentioned in Rough Stone Rolling (although it could be a different reference) that Joseph Smith prefered to use the seer stone because the “spectacles” of the breastplate that contained the Urim and Thummim were too wide for his eyes and it gave him a terrible headache.

    (Regretably, I am not able to check this in the book, as I am out of town and do not have access to the book).

  31. john f. says:

    RT,

    I don’t think you’re responding to my comments but that’s okay. It seems you feel it’s all right to lie about the Golden Plates but not about whether he was practicing polygamy. That’s one view, I grant you. As for the plates being a red herring, I’m not sure that’s either true or useful to say.

  32. John F., good grief, this is infuriating. No, I didn’t say it was okay to lie about the plates but not about polygamy. Rather, I said that if we can deal with lying about polygamy for whatever reason we ought to accept that lying about the plates is the same story. That’s why the origins of the plates is a red herring — it doesn’t change the fact that Joseph Smith lied about religion, either way, and it doesn’t determine whether we ought to take the Book of Mormon seriously. The plates are just a totem.

    If, however, Joseph Smith was not lying about the provenance of the plates, then that can actually make it easier to accept his institution of polygamy and polyandry because the plates, if real, bolster his claim to being a prophet whose calling it is to communicate precisely such directives from God to his people in a system guided by direct revelation.

    I think this is just confusion. What bolsters Joseph Smith’s claim to be a prophet is the Book of Mormon being genuine scripture. The origins of the plates are an almost orthogonal issue; the Book of Mormon can be genuine scripture regardless. But how would Joseph Smith deciding not to deceive with respect to the physical plates be relevant to our decision about condemning him or not for deceiving about marriage? The connection you see — Joseph Smith’s prophetic status — has only a narrow connection with the origins of the physical plates: those plates could be ancient or modern and still Joseph could be either a prophet or a fraud. What’s important is that the Book of Mormon be revelation. If that’s true, then Joseph’s a prophet, regardless of the origins of the plates. If it’s not true, then Joseph’s a fraud, regardless of the origins of the plates.

  33. Note also that logical linkages forward from the Book of Mormon to polygamy and polyandry fail. There is the logical possibility that Joseph Smith was a genuine prophet in the New York period but fell from his calling due to sexual lust — something that a considerable number of 19th-century followers believed. We need belief in Joseph’s calling during both periods; belief in his early calling won’t seal the deal on polygamy and polyandry.

  34. Kate M says:

    I know that most of the comments died out a while ago but I just found the blog and am really enjoying it.
    I have to question when people hold the idea that the Book of Mormon is true scripture but doubt the actual physicality of the plates. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why, but what about the numerous references the script gives to its own physcial existence?
    The Book of Mormon refers to itself as existing on plates, being engraven, being prepared for the purpose of having Joseph translate etc and so on, in many, many sections. It even references the struggles that some of the later prophets have in transcribing the document. If the plates were not physcially real, it would seem that Joseph would have to have created all of those passages, or slipped them in and around the “genuine revelation” he was receiving from God. So to disbelieve the reality of the plates means a disbelief in the text itself.
    I say all of this believing that there were actual plates.

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