What happened to Joseph Smith’s seer stone?

What happened to Joseph Smith’s seer stone?

Question

 

Gramps,

What happened to Joseph Smith’s seer stone?  Does the church have one today?

Mary

 

Answer

 

Mary,

Joseph Smith owned several seer stones throughout his life.  From what historians can gather, it seems that he gave the stone that was used during translation of part of the Book of Mormon to Oliver Cowdery.  After Cowdery’s death, Brigham Young’s brother Phineas happened to visit with Elizabeth Cowdery, Oliver’s widow and sister of David Whitmer.  Elizabeth gave the stone to Phineas, who brought it back to Salt Lake and turned it over to President Young.  That stone remains in possession of the Church, having apparently been publicly displayed at the dedication of the Manti Temple in 1888 and having been mentioned by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith in his Doctrines of Salvation, published around 1954.

At least one other stone that the Prophet owned at one point, was given to an early Church member named Philo Dibble and remains in private hands.  I understand the Church also owns one or two other seer stones also used by Joseph Smith at various times in his life, though it has not publicly said very much about these sacred objects.

 

Gramps

 

 

Any recommendations for books to help me learn more about Joseph Smith?

Any recommendations for books to help me learn more about Joseph Smith?

Question

 

Gramps,

I do wish to understand Joseph Smith better as a person and his nature and personality. Are there any books or diaries that you recommend? I’ve read Joseph Smith history a lot, but some other sources would be amazing.
Mauri

Answer

 

Dear Mauri,

As you note, the Joseph Smith-History in the scriptures is a good resource to get started with. It reminds us of the core reason why Joseph’s life is worth examining: he was a prophet of God, chosen by Him. But it only covers the earliest events in Joseph’s life and ministry. For a continuation on this theme, you can read the entire Doctrine and Covenants to get a sense of the voice of the Lord through Joseph (again, this is why he’s so important to Latter-day Saints).

From here, you can get into the uncanonized sermons and writings of Joseph Smith. The most accessible is probably Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith – the instruction manual the Church produced of his life and teachings. The chapters are grouped by topic for easy reference. Additionally, you may consider reading Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This was compiled and edited by Joseph Fielding Smith and is organized chronologically. I recently finished rereading it and am once again impressed by how well Joseph understood doctrine – specifically that of Priesthood and where Adam, Elijah, and the Temple come into play. The similarly named Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith by Alma P. Burton is something of a cross between the two. It groups Joseph’s discourses topically rather than chronologically, but is “fuller” (for lack of a better term) than the Church manual.

For more of a biographical sketch, you should start with The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother by Lucy Mack Smith. It’s really a history of the Smith family, but you get to see Church history and Joseph’s own life through a mother’s lens. May we all be viewed thus. For a more scholarly approach, you can read Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman. If you decide to read this, I highly recommend getting comfortable wading through footnotes as he includes a number of sources that I find questionable. For contemporary accounts of Joseph, you can read Remembering Joseph, edited by Mark L. McConkie. It’s a collection of public and private recollections of people like Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, and others.

But if you enjoyed the Joseph Smith-History, you might consider reading the first volume of History of the Church compiled by B.H. Roberts. The first volume is more narrative in structure than the other volumes and opens with the section excerpted into Joseph Smith-History. A more modern look at the same sources can be found in the Joseph Smith papers – available in book form and online.

 

Gramps

 

 

Why did God make Joseph Smith marry so many women?

Why did God make Joseph Smith marry so many women?

Question

Dear Gramps,

I’ve read some of your articles regarding polygamy in the church. They answered some of my questions but I’ve read some stuff recently that the Church has released and I can’t shake this heavy feeling weighing on me. I’ve been praying about it a lot to find peace on the matter but I would love some additional insight. I don’t understand why God would send an angel to Joseph Smith to threaten him to take more than one wife. I don’t get the point in having more than one wife if you aren’t going to have children with them. Why did God make Joseph marry so many young women? Won’t they have the option to marry in heaven? I don’t understand why men need more than one wife. Doesn’t that go against the foundation of the family? I’m distressed because in D&C it says we will be destroyed if we don’t accept this doctrine. Please help.

Mauri

 

Answer

Hi Mauri,

I assume you’re referring to the recent essay published on lds.org and titled Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo.

I admit I do not know why God commanded Joseph to do what he did regarding polygamy. There are many reasons I don’t know, but one of the most important is that I have never sought to find out. Why not? Because it doesn’t touch my life. It doesn’t impact what I am supposed to do, how I relate to my own wife, children, grandchildren, or really anything else that I deal with. For me, it’s a purely academic question, and it just doesn’t interest me enough to make me take any serious effort to understand it.

If it weighs heavily on your mind, though, then you must do something about that. There are several possible avenues you can explore:

  1. Ignore the issue and hope it goes away.
  2. Ask of God and seek diligently until you receive an answer that satisfies you.
  3. Examine your own life and figure out how this topic touches you personally, then go before God and find out how to resolve those issues that impact you personally.
  4. Put this issue on the back burner, so to speak. Accept it as an issue that you don’t understand at present, but that at some point you’ll get back to, and then go on with your life for the time being.

#1 rarely works. For this particular issue, I would say #1 will never work, because the issue is a historical reality that won’t suddenly disappear.

At first glance, #2 looks like a reasonable course of action. But God does not always answer all our questions to our satisfaction merely because we ask. Ask, and we shall receive, but we shall receive when God thinks it appropriate and in the way God wills. If you have sufficient faith and spiritual maturity to receive an answer, you certainly will. But many of us have questions about things that we are not spiritually prepared to understand. So you may not get an answer that you find satisfying.

If you can follow #3, it’s a very good way to go. It requires mature judgment and the humility to recognize what you do and do not need; you may well determine, as I have done, that the question doesn’t really impact you at all. Then your question becomes one of curiosity rather than of need to understand, in which case you can ask and explore but have no real claim on requiring an answer.

Which brings us to #4. This is something that I suspect every Saint has to do at some point. This is where you experience a trial of your faith, a trial through which all of us must pass.

There are some things that I do not understand. Maybe you do, but your understanding won’t help me. I need my own. And maybe I simply am not prepared to receive an answer to that question. Maybe I lack the maturity or the experience or the background information to understand something. When I ask God to know these things, in his mercy He might tell me, “Wait. The time for you to understand is not yet.” And then it’s my job to wait on the Lord’s time.

Notice that I have not even attempted to answer your questions yet. I have some ideas that may or may not be of any use to you. But ultimately, when God has not publicly revealed the reasons behind some doctrine, any discussion of those reasons is really just speculation. My speculation is as good as (and as useless as) anyone else’s. In the end, the answers you need will come from God, and not from me.

But, for what they’re worth, here are some ideas:

Most happily married men would be reluctant to take multiple wives. Joseph was no different. It’s not overly surprising that Joseph, faithful and obedient though he tried to be, might require some motivation to fulfill this commandment. Where God gives much, he also requires much, and Joseph was given more than perhaps any other man in this dispensation. God commanded plural marriage and required obedience to this principle, even if it wasn’t easy. Joseph needed to understand that this was no light thing required of him; his very salvation was at stake.

In the Book of Mormon, Jacob taught the Nephites that they were never allowed to live polygamy unless God specifically commanded them to do so, and that God would command plural marriage only when he wanted to raise up a people unto himself. This idea of raising up a chosen people appears to have been the case early in the restoration of the Church, which may account for why the commandment was given.

Joseph married women when he felt constrained by the commandments of God to do so. In some cases, it appears that Joseph felt (or had revealed to him) that some specific woman needed to be sealed to him as his wife in eternity.

The foundation of the family is one man and one woman united in marriage. This is true now, and has always been true. Plural marriage did not consist of a family composed of one man and many wives. In plural marriage, the man and each wife (and their children) constituted a family. If a man had three wives, then he had three families, not one. This is no picky point of definition; this is fundamental to the understanding of what a family is.

The Doctrine and Covenants records that Joseph Smith was required to both accept and practice the doctrine of polygamy, or he would be destroyed. That commandment is not extended to us; on the contrary, we have been commanded to take only one wife, and to love her with all our hearts.

These are some of my thoughts on the matter. In the end, they are not important; what is important is what you determine from the Lord. I would encourage you in any case to consider how much this historical doctrine touches your life today. I suggest that it may not be something with which you need to concern yourself.

Gramps

Was Joseph Smith just a con man?

Was Joseph Smith just a con man?

Question

Gramps,

In 1971 Joseph Smith was arrested and brought before a Justice of the Peace for that practice of a “glass looker”. Before this he was in a court case where he would look into a stone placed in his hat to find treasure. He conned many people with this practice before it was brought before court. He found the plates in 1823. How do you know it wasn’t just another con of his? No one else really saw the plates and no one was there for the first vision or when angel moroni told him to get the plates.

Ashley

 

Answer

Hello Ashley,

Let me start off by making an observation regarding your question.  In 1971, Joseph Smith would have been dead for 144 years.  I will address this more later.

With access now to more information than any other generation, pertaining to the life of Joseph Smith, these are important questions, thank you for asking.  Let’s first recognize your unspoken question, “Was Joseph Smith truly a prophet called by God”?

When Joseph Smith was first informed of a book on gold plates that he would translate, the angel Moroni declared, “[Joseph Smith’s] name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”  By a simple search on the Internet, as you have discovered, we are given evidence constantly that this prophecy is proven to be true!

The trial of 1826 is evidence of the angel Moroni’s prophecy.  Have you truly studied, thoroughly studied, all the evidences in support and against the accusation?  What sources have you actually studied and are they actual records or an interpretation of actual events, or simply another false accusation (along with many others) that seek/aim to slander the character of Joseph Smith?

Accusatory Witnessess

Joseph’s “money-digging” past is covered in a balanced way in Rough Stone Rolling pg 48-52. I say “balanced” because I find some of Bushman’s sources questionable (such as the affidavits asserting that Joseph hung out with questionable company that did not include the swearers, yet they ascertain that they were privy to confessions that one does not share with strangers). Nonetheless, as Bushman observes, “[i]n exposing the Smiths, the neighbors inadvertently described a culture of magic in which they and many others in the nineteenth-century New York were involved” (pg 49). That is, the statements set up a context where a humble Joseph is not surprised when the Lord instructs him to translate via sacred instruments (much like Moses’ tabernacle and the temple it inspired greatly resemble Egyptian and Assyrian temples; and how Moses’ law smacks of being influenced by Hammurabi).

The charge of treasure hunting via magic crescendoed with the 1826 Bainbridge trial (or more properly, hearing). Cowdery’s account is scant. “[W]hile in that country, some very officious person complained of him as a disorderly person, and brought him before the authorities of the county; but there being no cause of action he was honorably acquited” (The Messenger and Advocate, October 1835). “Disorderly person” is a legal phrase meaning Joseph claimed he could discover lost items (treasure included). I assume this is the event you specifically refer to, since Judge Neely’s bill was found and published in 1971 (before this, there was a lot of doubt on the reality of the event given that most of the testimony was recorded by the Prophet’s enemies half a century later). The accounts we have of the hearing are contradictory (the bills simply state something happened that day, and the judge should be paid for his services), but Joseph’s testimonies as shared in the affidavits (ironically enough) paint him as a reluctant participant (Bushman, 51-52). The judge apparently did not find the results of the hearing warranted an actual trial.

This accusation is so dated that Joseph included it in a list of frequently asked questions. “Was not Joseph Smith a money-digger? Yes, but it was never a very profitable job for him as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it” (History of the Church 3:29). Joseph outgrew the things of his youth. Oliver Cowdery confirms the “culture of magic” and the influence that would have on a young Joseph after his time at the Stowell’s as a “money-digger”. Bushman even goes so far as to state that the period of preparation from 1823 to 1827 “may have [been]… to purge himself of his treasure-seeking greed” (pg 51).

Vindicating Witnesses

Now, let’s review a spoken question of yours that you haven’t researched very thoroughly.  I hope I am not too blunt, Ashley.  It appears you haven’t taken the opportunity to study for yourself — possibly just read a few Google searches or listened to an uninformed or misguided individual — as your statement specified, “No one else really saw the plates and no one was there for the first vision or when the angel Moroni told him to get the plates.

True, no one was there when Joseph Smith experienced the first vision.  True, no one witnessed the angel Moroni telling Joseph Smith where to find and then retrieve the plates.  False, no one really saw the plates; Wait! can this really be true?

As a Christian, a believer in Christ, no one was there except for Adam and Eve when they taught their children about their experience in the Garden in Eden.  No one was with Moses when he was called to the top of a mountain, and the Lord wrote with his finger the Ten Commandments that as Christians we love and abide by.  No one went with Moses as he walked up the mountain a second time.  No one was with Moses when God spoke to him from a burning bush asking him to remove the shoes from his feet for he was on sacred/holy ground.  Yet!  Do we accept and bear witness that these events did occur?

Indeed we do bear witness that these events did occur, and occur they did.  Thus, I am a little shocked when this argument is presented by Christians — no matter how sincere they may be — as we have plenty of evidence from scripture that God will work with his prophets, one-on-one, face-to-face, as a friend would speak unto a friend, as a father would speak to a son.

Let us now take a moment to review facts pertaining to the Book of Mormon, which was translated from plates with the appearance of gold.  In the beginning of the Book of Mormon we are given 11 additional witnesses regarding these plates.  The first of these witnesses was given by three others, “The Three Witnesses,” and their words:

“Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true.”

Now that it has been verified that three other people saw the plates, let’s move forward with the Eight Witnesses,

“Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.”

In light of these witness we know for a surety that 11 other people were given opportunity to view the plates.  Three of the witnesses, not only were able to view the plates, they were given opportunity to meet Moroni — the same Moroni who informed Joseph Smith of a work he would accomplish and where to locate the plates of gold.  The other eight witnesses confirm the number of leaves, did handle the plates with their own hands and give witness to the accuracy of the engravings and the curious workmanship; however, despite all these witnesses what is the most important witness a person can receive?  Personal revelation from the Holy Ghost which God has promised we can receive.

Apostolic Witnesses

In our General Conference meeting, this month, one of the Lord’s Apostles specified, Elder Neil L. Anderson,

“To questions about Joseph’s character, we might share the words of thousands who knew him personally and who gave their lives for the work he helped establish. John Taylor, who was shot four times by the mob that killed Joseph, would later declare: “I testify before God, angels, and men, that [Joseph] was a good, honorable, [and] virtuous man— … [and] that his private and public character was unimpeachable—and that he lived and died as a man of God.”

Elder Neil L. Anderson,“We might remind the inquirer that some information about Joseph, while true, may be presented completely out of context to his own day and situation.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson illustrated this point. He said:

“I was serving as a consultant to the United States government at its National Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. Once while awaiting a taxi to take me to the airport after our meetings were over, I stretched out on the lawn to soak in a few welcome rays of sunshine before returning to the winter weather of Utah. … Later I received a photograph in the mail taken by a photographer with a telephoto lens, capturing my moment of relaxation on the lawn. Under it was a caption, ‘Governmental consultant at the National Center.’ The picture was true, the caption was true, but the truth was used to promote a false impression.” We do not discard something we know to be true because of something we do not yet understand.”

Joseph Smith, indeed, has been accused of both things he did do and things he has been falsely accused, false witnesses.  What Joseph Smith did or did not do is irrelevant to his calling as a prophet of God and as the translator of the Book of Mormon.  We have promise.  We have sure promise, from a loving God, that if we sincerely search the prophets (sincerely read the Book of Mormon),  and then pray with real intent (pondering the love of God) that God will answer our prayers by the Holy Ghost; however, this witness will not come, Ashley, unless an individual reads, ponders, and then prays with a sincere heart with real intent (a true desire to act upon the witness given).  I wish you the best Ashley in your pursuit of truth and happiness and bear again my witness, “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”

 

Gramps

 

Did Joseph Smith use a hat during the translation of the Book of Mormon?

Did Joseph Smith use a hat during the translation of the Book of Mormon?

Question

Gramps,

There was a question about Joseph’s stone and hat but you never mentioned either. What is this about a hat? I was taught that the seer stones helped translate the golden plates but I never heard anything about a hat. Can you be a little more specific?

Toni

 

Answer

Hello Toni,

The Church recently released an essay summarizing what we know about the process of translating the Book of Mormon.

Gospel Topics:  Book of Mormon Translation

As you will see from the article, Joseph Smith apparently alternated between using the Urim and Thummim (which he obtained simultaneously with the plates), and a “seer stone” that he had owned for some time previously.  David Whitmer recalled that, when using the seer stone to translate, Joseph Smith would place the stone into a hat and then put his face into the hat in such a manner so as to block out the ambient light in the room.

As the article notes:

“Some people have balked at this claim of physical instruments used in the divine translation process, but such aids to facilitate the communication of God’s power and inspiration are consistent with accounts in scripture. In addition to the Urim and Thummim, the Bible mentions other physical instruments used to access God’s power: the rod of Aaron, a brass serpentholy anointing oils, the Ark of the Covenant, and even dirt from the ground mixed with saliva to heal the eyes of a blind man.”

Gramps

If Joseph Smith used a hat and a stone, why the need for the gold plates?

If Joseph Smith used a hat and a stone, why the need for the gold plates?

Question

 If all Joseph Smith needed was a stone and his hat to write the Book of Mormon, why the need for gold plates for which a murder was committed?

Poki

 

Answer

Hello Poki,

I presume the “murder” to which you are referring is Nephi’s killing of Laban.  This killing was a part of Nephi’s efforts to obtain the brass plates, not the gold plates; and the worth of the brass plates to Lehi’s family and to his descendants (as well as the Mulekites) is well attested in scripture (see, e.g., Omni 1:14Mosiah 1:3-4Alma 37:1-10).

As to the question of why the actual plates were necessary if the seer stone (or the Urim and Thummim) rendered their presence unnecessary?  For one thing, the plates provided concrete evidence for eleven official witnesses–and a handful of unofficial ones–that the Book of Mormon recounted the stories of real people, places, and events.  For the world at large, of course, the plates obviously would never be made available as empirical proof of Joseph Smith’s claims–but the supporting testimony of multiple witnesses also made Smith’s claims especially worthy of extraordinary consideration in a world rife with, and generally skeptical of, individuals who claimed uncorroborated experiences with the Divine.

It may also be that the existence of gold plates sparked extra interest and attention in a region of upstate New York where treasure-seeking and “money digging” was already an established (and, among the educated classes, controversial) practice.

And finally, the efforts Joseph Smith had to make to actually obtain the plates–as well as his later struggles to safeguard them–were an opportunity for him to fine-tune his ability to obey, to listen to the Holy Spirit, and ultimately become the kind of prophet that God needed him to be.

Gramps

How can the Book of Mormon have identical quotes from the Bible?

How can the Book of Mormon have identical quotes from the Bible?

Question

Dear Gramps,

We enjoy your website. Really sorry to hear that you are no longer physically with us, but I guess we can assume you are still here in spirit. My question: There are over 120 verses in the Book of Mormon that appear to exactly copy quotations from Isaiah in the King James version of the Bible. How can this be considering that this version of the Bible was written a long time after the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, were inscribed. Best regards.

Yvonne

 

Answer

Yvonne,

Thank you for your question and I’m glad that you are enjoying the website.

Now to answer your question.  I hope you don’t mind if I refer you to an answer that was given in 2007. I believe it holds the answers to your question.

Why is some of the Book of Mormon identical to the Bible?

 

Gramps

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