Seer Stone Memo

January 20, 2006

My daughter M recently moved up a class in Primary, as is the custom at the beginning of a new year in the Church. She progressed from being a Sunbeam to being a CTR, I believe (at least, they got a CTR sticker, so I assume that is the class she is now in–whatever is now the class immediately after Sunbeams).

Imagine my surprise on Sunday when she walked out of her Primary class holding a card with two clear Pente stones glued to it. Apparently, Sister T., a senior citizen who seems not to have gotten the memo on covering up Joseph Smith’s use of seer stones in the process of translating the Book of Mormon, thought that the children in her Primary Class should learn about the miracle of the seer stones. I am assuming that she also spoke to them about the Urim and Thummim.

A little background: people were incredulous when I commented that I had learned about the seer stones in Primary, specifically, I think I mentioned CTR class, if Ronan recorded the statement correctly.  This just couldn’t be, everyone assured me; after all, people leave the Church when they learn about seer stones, so primary kids cannot be told about them. The ward I grew up in was in Dallas. The ward my daughter is growing up in is in SLC. It appears that in these two wards, geographically so far apart, and with a generation of time between the two experiences, primary children are being taught about Joseph Smith’s seer stones and their use in translating the Book of Mormon. Is this a coincidence? Or is the Church not as "hush-hush" about seer stones as everyone assured me?

One thing this emphasizes for me is that my learning about the seer stones as a Primary aged child was not merely because my parents were interested in the particulars of the history of the LDS Church. Rather, people are talking and teaching about them in the Church. People in the mainstream Church are not embarassed about them–at least any moreso than they are or could be embarassed by the myriad other weird things we believe in, such as the visitation of angels to the Prophet Joseph Smith; the fact that God and Jesus called a boy prophet to restore the Gospel of Jesus Christ; exaltation; temple worship; the ministry of Jesus Christ to the inhabitants of the American continent sometime shortly after his Ascension in Jerusalem; and many other things. Joseph’s using seer stones to translate the Book of Mormon, even looking into the stone in his hat to block out the light, as recorded by Emma, is no stranger than any of these things. It is strange, but it is true, and it is miraculous.

I hope what my children learn from being taught about the seer stones in Primary and in our home is that it is okay to believe in things that seem strange to people without the same faith as them. When they see the South Park episode that supposedly disturbed so many Latter-day Saints (I have always doubted this claim), if they ever do see it, I hope that what they feel is a genuine sadness that others want to mock their faith (this is what I feel), and not some kind of shock that if we really believe that Joseph used a seer stone to translate, then that is just too weird and must be bogus.

Anyway, someone please see that Sister T. gets that memo before she accidentally lets the whole business about seer stones slip to yet another class of four and five year olds next year.