Seers and Stones: The Translation of the Book of Mormon as Divine Visions of an Old-Time Seer


TitleSeers and Stones: The Translation of the Book of Mormon as Divine Visions of an Old-Time Seer
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsSpencer, Stan
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture
Volume24
Pagination27-98
KeywordsBook of Mormon; Early Church History; Faith; Joseph Smith; Lehi; Prophet; Revelator; Seer; Seer stone; Seer Stones; Seerstone; Seerstones; Translation; Urim and Thummim; Vision
Abstract

Joseph Smith used the term the Urim and Thummim to refer to the pair of seer stones, or “interpreters,” he obtained for translating the Book of Mormon as well as to other seer stones he used in a similar manner. According to witness accounts, he would put the stone(s) in a hat and pull the hat close around his face to exclude the light, and then he would see the translated text of the Book of Mormon. By what property or principle these stones enabled Joseph Smith to see the translated text has long been a matter of conjecture among Mormons, but the stones have commonly been understood as divinely powered devices analogous to the latest human communications technology. An alternative view, presented here, is that the stones had no technological function but simply served as aids to faith. In this view, the stones did not themselves translate or display text. They simply inspired the faith Joseph Smith needed to see imaginative visions, and in those visions, he saw the text of the Book of Mormon, just as Lehi and other ancient seers saw sacred texts in vision. Although Joseph Smith also saw visions without the use of stones, the logistics of dictating a book required the ability to see the translated text at will, and that was what the faith-eliciting stones would have made possible.

URLhttp://www.mormoninterpreter.com/seers-and-stones-the-translation-of-the-book-of-mormon-as-divine-visions-of-an-old-time-seer/