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Dear Gramps,

I would like to know the exact way the Prophet Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. For instance, I read that at first he used a seer stone instead of the Urim and Thummim which he placed in his hat and buried his face into the hat to block out the light. A sentence of the Book of Mormon would appear and beneath it would appear the English translation. Are the testimonies of eye-witnesses confusing the seer stone with the Urim and Thummim? If not, what happened to this stone? I’d like to clarify this for my own mind and have an understanding of the mechanics of translating the Tablets. Thanks Gramps.





Dear Al,

You’re right, the Prophet used both the Seer Stone and the Urim and Thummim in translating the Book of Mormon. But “the exact way” in which it was done is not known. The only recorded words that the Prophet ever uttered about how he performed the translation are recorded on the title page of the Book of Mormon- To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof.

The Seer Stone was egg-shaped and of a chocolate color. And it is true that when using the Seer Stone, at least during the daytime, the Prophet would put it in a hat and then bury his face in the hat to keep out the light, so that he could read the inscriptions that would appear on the stone. B.H. Roberts quoted David Whitmer’s description of translating by the Seer Stone as follows:

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 translation 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 were correct, then it would disappear and another character with the interpretation would appear” (B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol.1, p.351).

The Urim and Thummim were two transparent stones arranged in a bow somewhat similar to spectacles, and were attached to a breast plate. The Prophet used either the Seer Stone or the Urim and Thummim in the translation of the Book of Mormon. B.H. Roberts comments on the use of the two instruments in the translation process as follows:

The sum of the whole matter, then, concerning the manner of translating the sacred record of the Nephites, according to the testimony of the only witnesses competent to testify in the matter is: With the Nephite record was deposited a curious instrument, consisting of two transparent stones, set in the rim of a bow, somewhat resembling spectacles, but larger, called by the ancient Hebrews ‘Urim and Thummim,’ but by the Nephites ‘Interpreters.’ In addition to these ‘Interpreters’ the Prophet Joseph had a ‘Seer Stone,’ possessed of similar qualities to the Urim and Thummim; that the prophet sometimes used one and sometimes the other of these sacred instruments in the work of translation; that whether the ‘Interpreters’ or the ‘Seer Stone’ was used the Nephite characters with the English interpretation appeared in the sacred instrument; that the Prophet would pronounce the English translation to his scribe, which when correctly written would disappear and the other characters with their interpretation take their place, and so on until the work was completed” (B.H. Roberts, The Seventy’s Course in Theology, First Year, p.111).







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