Why the Seer Stone Matters

Most of my readers will already have read that, earlier this week, the LDS church released photographs of one of Joseph Smith’s “seer stones.”

peep stone0

Here’s the church’s statement about the seer stone:

An accompanying article on the history of the Book of Mormon translation will appear in the October 2015 issue of the Church’s Ensign magazine, and is now available online. Both the introduction to the new volume and the magazine article discuss the instruments Joseph Smith used to translate, and both include never-before-seen photographs of a seer stone Joseph Smith likely used in the translation of the Book of Mormon.

The stone he used in the translation was often referred to as a chocolate-colored stone with an oval shape. The stone was passed from Joseph Smith to scribe Oliver Cowdery and then from Cowdery’s widow, Elizabeth Whitmer Cowdery, to Phineas Young. Young then passed it on to his brother, Brigham Young, the second president of the Church. After President Young died, one of his wives, Zina D. H. Young, donated it to the Church. In addition to this seer stone, historical records indicate that Joseph Smith owned other seer stones during his lifetime.

The Ensign article gives a lot more information about what a seer stone is and how it was used in Joseph Smith’s day, but in my view, it seems to avoid some of the trickier questions about the stone and its history.

So, what is the big deal with the seer stone? Richard Bushman writes that modern Mormons aren’t comfortable with the early church’s connection to folk religion:

Why then does the picture of a brown, striated stone trouble us? I think because it crosses a boundary we had held on to between religion and superstition. We have known about the gold plates and the angel and the Urim and Thummim long enough to assimilate them into respectable religion. Those are the ways of God. On the other side of the boundary are witchcraft and spells and tarot cards. Those are silly superstitions that the benighted believe in. We want none of that.

The seerstone, sitting there like it had just been dug up, drags across the line into the realm of the superstitious. Do we really want to be part of a religion that dredges up objects and symbols from folk magic? In doing so we join a battle that has waged for four centuries or more between magic and religion. In the seventeenth century lots of religious people believed in seerstones and various kinds of magical apparatus. They were instruments for reaching the divine. In the eighteenth century all such things were discredited by the Enlightenment, and Protestants (more than Catholics) sloughed them off. That process began at the top of society and only worked its way down gradually. In Joseph Smith’s time ordinary people were divided. Many of his neighbors believed in seerstones; others ridiculed them. He made them part of his religion.

There are echoes of this sentiment in the Ensign article, which notes correctly that Joseph Smith himself downplayed his use of seer stones as such activities became more disreputable with time:

For those without an understanding of how 19th-century people in Joseph’s region lived their religion, seer stones can be unfamiliar, and scholars have long debated this period of his life. Partly as a result of the Enlightenment or Age of Reason, a period that emphasized science and the observable world over spiritual matters, many in Joseph’s day came to feel that the use of physical objects such as stones or rods was superstitious or inappropriate for religious purposes.

In later years, as Joseph told his remarkable story, he emphasized his visions and other spiritual experiences.9Some of his former associates focused on his early use of seer stones in an effort to destroy his reputation in a world that increasingly rejected such practices. In their proselyting efforts, Joseph and other early members chose not to focus on the influence of folk culture, as many prospective converts were experiencing a transformation in how they understood religion in the Age of Reason. In what became canonized revelations, however, Joseph continued to teach that seer stones and other seeric devices, as well as the ability to work with them, were important and sacred gifts from God.

But both of these statements assume that using seer stones for hire was, at one time, an acceptable and honorable profession, so it’s just “presentism” that makes us modern folks recoil at the thought. In fact, scrying, or “juggling” as it was sometimes called, for money was potentially grounds for a criminal charge of being a “disorderly person,”  and it was an activity acceptable only to the credulous. A legal document from 1819 includes in its definition of a disorderly person “All Jugglers; All who pretend to have skill in physiognomy, palmistry, or like crafty science, or pretend to tell fortunes, or to discover where lost goods may be found.” This explains why, in 1826, Joseph Smith was tried on a charge of being a disorderly person and impostor. Leaving aside whether or not he was convicted (he seems to have been let off with a warning not to continue the practice), he is known to have hired out to Josiah Stowell and others to locate hidden treasures through the use of the seer stone.

The problem, then, is not only that modern Mormons do not believe one can find lost or hidden items using a seer stone, but they recognize, as did people in Joseph Smith’s day, that people who pretend to have that ability are being dishonest. At best, finding items this way is a sort of parlor trick, but at worst, it’s a conscious fraud. That Joseph Smith may or may not have made very much money in his endeavors is beside the point. That he used a seer stone at all in exchange for money is troubling to a lot of people. Thus, it’s not so much the connection to folk magic but the connection to possible fraud that is troubling to people, especially since most are hearing of this for the first time.

But I’m just showing my modern prejudice, some might say. Perhaps, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that Joseph really did have a gift for finding hidden treasures. Why downplay it if it was so honorable? Wouldn’t evidence of his success as a treasure hunter bolster his later claims as a prophet? Indeed, if he had such a gift, why wasn’t he successful with it? If anything, Joseph seems to have been a little embarrassed by his career using the seer stone. In his official history, he writes:

In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger.

There’s no mention of the scrying activities, and Joseph tells us he was just a hired hand doing manual labor for Stowell, leaving the impression that the “very prevalent story of [his] having been a money-digger” was merely a distortion of the truth.

Of course, now the church acknowledges that he was digging for money using the stone, and the church confirms that he used the same stone and method to translate the Book of Mormon. For as long as I can remember, the church has always taught that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God through the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were the interpreters deposited with the golden plates, not by looking at a stone that had been found in a well when Joseph was a teenager. An LDS friend reminded me that the story of the seer stone in the hat was mentioned in official LDS sources exactly twice in the last 40 years, the last time in 1993. So, it’s no wonder that this information might be a bit of a surprise to most members of the LDS church, and no one can blame some people for feeling that the church should have been more open with this information.

At this point, some people will say I’m accusing the LDS church of “covering up” its history, but I don’t think that’s what happened. As the Ensign article mentioned, seer stones fell into disrepute, even within Joseph Smith’s lifetime, and the stories were presented in a way that distanced the early church from these “folk magic” practices. In time, the standard narrative was accepted without question, such that many, if not most, church leaders probably had no idea the seer stone was involved or where it came from. And if they were unaware of these things, I don’t imagine that curriculum writers knew about them, either. So, the church published a sort of “sanitized” version of its history, perhaps without even knowing it.

But now we know the fuller history, and it is upsetting to a lot of people. I am dismayed–though not surprised–that many Mormons I know are blaming those who were blindsided by this revelation for being upset about it. The church, they say, has always been open about these issues, and people should take responsibility for learning about the history of their church instead of expecting the church to spoon-feed it to them. In short, too many people want to blame the unsuspecting members and absolve the church (and vice versa, for that matter). But such an approach helps no one.

What is called for is an open discussion of what we know, and then we can discuss the reasons people are upset or feel they have been misled. I don’t see why leaders and members can’t acknowledge that the church was a little squeamish about the history of the seer stones. Insisting that the church has always been perfectly transparent when we know otherwise just reinforces the feeling that many have that the church has broken its trust.

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65 Responses to Why the Seer Stone Matters

  1. Open discussion about the stone and similar issues is outside the modus operandi of the church, and I don’t believe it will happen. This is only the most recent in an ongoing string of inoculations, necessitated by historians and the Internet (and apostates like you, Runtu). Rough Stone Rolling was arguably the first shot, and I wonder if Bushman went to church authorities to present the idea or they came to him because they needed a faithful, respected historian outside Utah Valley. Bit by bit, the disconcerting stuff is coming out of church headquarters. It is sweet vindication for the Tanners and Michael Quinn, and it is also sanctioned so those who believe largely without question can incorporate it into their world views. I don’t think this is the end of it, but I will be stunned if they produce the sword of Laban or the gold plates.

    • runtu says:

      Now, that would be something, if they produced the plates and the sword. I agree with you that they are doing this because circumstances have forced them to open up, but they are still trying to control the message and spin it, hence the near-total absence of any discussion of Smith’s for-profit use of the stone.

  2. Sure. For most of the Mormons the closely follow the dictum to not read church-approved sources, this works because it is an approved source. I think that’s only relevant if we view this as a retrenchment (damage control) exercise. Gaining new converts by leading with the stone and polygamy will be tough, but coming clean in a limited way works for many who are already invested. It will be very interesting to track those growth numbers over the next few years.

  3. Could you imagine being on your mission, and the mission presidents tells you that there is going to be a change to the discussion involving the Book of Mormon. You are now to teach that Joseph Smith put his face in his hat with a seer stone at is base and read the text to his scribe? I honestly do not think I could have taught this.

    • runtu says:

      Thinking back on my mind-set as a missionary, I might have wondered about it, but I probably would have just gone with the flow.

  4. jiminpanama says:

    On not being spoon fed and doing your own research. Isn’t that the forbidden “anti Mormon zone”. And as for transparency, just go the the Mormon blogs and make a comment about your concerns and problems with the stones and you get blocked. This seer stone is only one of many hotbed topics to come down the pipe. It will be transparent, little by little, so folks can adjust slowly. But when you look at the big problems in a 20 minute review, all at once, you realize the scope of the cover ups. I really don’t believe the seer stone aided Joseph in any way. He played the part of the uneducated country boy with the mind of a genius storyteller. When I first saw this I was upended and sick about it. I’m going to have to go with my gut on this one.

    • runtu says:

      That’s what I mean. There’s a reason you were upended and sick about it, but some people want to blame you for it.

  5. CAB says:

    I cannot agree.

    I have known about the seer stone and rock-in-hat for many years. However, I was taught otherwise. The church presented many illustrations of Joseph sitting in front of gold plates with or without the artists’ version of urim and thummim.
    I was taught that Joseph “translated” the plates, literally.

    That is quite conscious choice to “control the message” or to divert the members from the truth. I do not believe that the leadership of the church did not know about the seer stone. I do not believe that any form of innocent forgetting took place. The church is far too careful of its reputation and how it appears to the members for this “small oversight” to be anything but deliberate.

    That behavior would be far more consistent with what we already know about choices the leadership makes than that they simply did not know and made an honest mistake.

    • runtu says:

      For the record, I think it’s somewhere between the two extremes of deliberate lying or innocent forgetting. As I said, Joseph Smith clearly tried to distance himself from the practice, and that wasn’t an accident.

      • CAB says:

        The stone-in-hat narrative is in many early accounts and journals. The current leadership is even older than I am and I am certain that they all knew about it. Perhaps they conveniently forgot. But I doubt it. Possibly some of the younger members of the correlation committee did not know.
        The church has been controlling the message and rewriting its history for far too long for me to ever believe that this was some innocent mistake. I have been watching the changes for many decades now, so I know I am not making this up.
        If Grant Palmer (Mormon Origins) is to be believed, and I am inclined that way, all 15 at the top are fully aware that the church is not “true.”

    • jiminpanama says:

      Brigham Young was asked how he was able to move all the saints west in that huge undertaking. He said they did it because they had no choice. I think this is what is happening now. With the Internet and all of the exposure gives them no choice but to come clean or look even more ridiculous than ever. What troubled me wasn’t a thing or two, but virtually every aspect of Joseph Smiths life is in question.

  6. AZeus says:

    D. Micheal Quinn’s book, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, should now be the standard for church history in Sunday School Class. The book is great read and cover the stone and more in wonderful detail.

  7. jiminpanama says:

    Hey doesn’t the CoC have another stone as well? I remembered a picture of a carved stone with a while in it.

  8. jiminpanama says:

    I’m guessing the salt lake tribune might be home field advantage for the stone story. Not so it is taking a beating.

  9. Ismael says:

    Great work Runtu! I agree with you on the obfuscation of the stone issue. I think there was an early attempt after the early church moved to Kirtland to distance itself from treasure lore and its relics as reflected in Oliver Cowdery’s history. Over time inertia probably moved the story along changing the story to the urim and thumin instead of the stone in the hat b.s.

    Nevertheless its great the church is finally inoculating or whatever its doing. It greatly justifies my position to view mormonism for what it is. I can now point to church materials to show how bull shitty the dogma is. So thank you church from the bottom of my heart!

  10. lane says:

    I am left so saddened by everything I have learned within the past six months. I think I was at BYU at the same time as Runtu. I learned nothing about magic rocks or any other important info that would have certainly changed my beliefs. I think about bearing my testimony countless times to children, young woman and the relief society about things I was taught and believed, that were not true.Thank you for your insights! They are very helpful!

  11. Frank Fourth says:

    “outside Utah Valley.”

    Bushman teaches a Mormon Studies seminar every summer at BYU.

  12. IrishLDS says:

    It is a fact that sacred instruments have been used since ancient times to commune with God. Indeed, even the scriptures themselves are material objects that improve our ability to connect with God beyond the actual words written. The methods that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon is far less important than the message it contains. This concern with how joseph translated the book over what the book actually teaches is an example of judging by roots rather than fruits. It is the fruits that are evidence that the book is of God.

    Why “magic rocks” would be more shocking than “magic spectacles” makes no sense. Additionally, even if Joseph Smith was superstitious and engaged in immature actions that would not prove that he was not later inspired by God. God can, thankfully, use normal mortals to do his work. The only question, then, is, is this the work of God. I suggest going to him directly to find that out.

    • runtu says:

      As I said, it’s not the rock so much as it is that he used the same method for treasure seeking, which most people, even Mormons, see as fraudulent at best. Joseph Smith himself seems to have recognized this, hence his attempt to distance himself from the money-digging.

      • IrishLDS says:

        I really don’t get that. Joseph Smith admits that he was tempted by the gold plates because of his poverty, yet the real “treasure” he dug up was the word of God. It is no sin to be tempted. I really think this is a distraction from what really matters.
        I’m glad I’m not judged now by every belief I held or every practice I performed as a young man. Pointing out that Joseph Smith was a sinner in a particular way, even if true, does nothing to disprove the veracity of the Book of Mormon.
        Plus I don’t see the same connection between the “scrying”, “juggling” or visionary “money-digging” and fraud as you seem to posit. You seem to be sneaking that into the narrative … possibly as a way to suggest that Joseph was also fraudulent about other later … and more fantastical (and important) claims. Just my suspicion.
        Joseph may have needed to be educated about the proper use of seeric devices … as indeed, most of us need to be educated about the proper uses of resources given to us (be that time, talents or other things). But he actually admits to needing to change in his official history. And even after his call to be a prophet, numerous revelations received by him command him to repent. Plus there are several references to seeric devices – a fact well know to those who have read the revelations.
        Joseph Smith was not perfect … but he was a prophet. I’ve tasted of the fruit and that’s why I know. Ignoring the fruit while you can dig up the root is just plain foolish. 😉

      • runtu says:

        There’s nothing sneaky about it: he was involved in scrying long before his prophetic career began. Obviously, you think the scrying is unrelated to his translating, but I think other people disagree. Your faith is your own, and you’re welcome to it. I know what I believe and why, whether or not you think I’m foolish.

    • AZeus says:

      You can say the same thing about the Quran! Have read that and prayed about it? A quarter of the world’s population apparently thinks it is the word of God.

      • IrishLDS says:

        The Quran contains many truths – “correct principles” – just as other “inspired” works do. But what it gets wrong is what is most important: What it says about Christ as the Son of God. This is where the Book of Mormon trumps the Quran and improves upon the Bible – what it teaches of Christ.
        I have no problem with people reading, pondering or praying over any book. But people often rely on others to tell them what the book says – which leads to trouble.

      • runtu says:

        Your assumption seems to be that people like me haven’t prayed about it.

      • AZeus says:

        My assumption was that IrishLDS hasn’t read it and prayed about it.

        You say The Book of Mormon is the word of God, but Joseph Smith didn’t feel it necessary to follow it.

        Jacob 2:27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

        There are other passages that say the same thing, NO POLYGAMY.

  13. IrishLDS says:

    This is the offending paragraph:
    “The problem, then, is not only that modern Mormons do not believe one can find lost or hidden items using a seer stone, but they recognize, as did people in Joseph Smith’s day, that people who pretend to have that ability are being dishonest. At best, finding items this way is a sort of parlor trick, but at worst, it’s a conscious fraud. That Joseph Smith may or may not have made very much money in his endeavors is beside the point. That he used a seer stone at all in exchange for money is troubling to a lot of people. Thus, it’s not so much the connection to folk magic but the connection to possible fraud that is troubling to people, especially since most are hearing of this for the first time.”
    There are clearly some major assumptions here. The use of words such as “pretend … dishonest … trick …. conscious fraud” clearly indicate the central claim. But again this is irrelevant.
    Joseph did find a lost and hidden item … the most important thing he ever found. Although we can’t interview Joseph Smith (or those around him) to check out what was really going on – and we can’t hold the seer stone, the interpreters or the gold plates – we can check out the Book of Mormon. It can be examined. And it demands explanation.

    • runtu says:

      I think I was pretty clear: most people don’t believe that hiring out to search for buried treasure by looking at a stone is a legitimate occupation. As I said, most people believe it’s somewhere between a parlor trick and fraud, which is why it’s troubling that Joseph Smith engaged in this activity, which most people would consider dishonest. It’s doubly troubling that he used the same procedure to translate the plates. Apparently, you’re one of the few people who think that such treasure-seeking is an honorable enterprise.

      As for the Book of Mormon itself, there’s not a lot of mystery involved in determining the provenance of a book that outlines frontier American beliefs about religion and history and includes anachronisms and borrows liberally from a specific English translation of the Bible. Not sure why that “demands an explanation.”

      • IrishLDS says:

        Glad you have such access to what “most people” think. Very scientific of you. I highly don’t your ability since you couldn’t tell what I was saying. Honorable enterprise? I don’t recall saying that. I understand that you have an agenda. When your “faith” in Joseph Smith came crashing down you had to paint him as a charlatan to the last. So it is all a fraud now. From beginning to end. At least you’re not trying to straddle a middle ground. Which is commendable. But it is a distortion.
        There a numerous doctrines, prophecies and principles in the Book of Mormon that transcend (and often contradict) “frontier American beliefs about religion and history”. There are prophecies in there that were not fulfilled until well after Joseph Smith’s death. The book is a spiritual tour-de-force in some places and a bore-fest in others – which does “borrow liberally from … the Bible” (in theme and in impact ;), but often in ways that Joseph Smith could not have known by normal mortal means. But it is the expansions (or corrections) of the biblical material that is most interesting.
        It rewards a careful, consistent and covenant-living reading. It draws us to Christ because it contains his words. I think we all underestimate this book.

      • runtu says:

        I think it’s a safe bet that, if you asked, say, the population of the United States or Ireland what they’d say about someone who finds treasure by looking at a stone, most people would say it’s not a legitimate occupation. Do you really think otherwise?

        As for Joseph Smith, I don’t have to paint him as anything. There seems to be a dichotomy between those who believe he was a near-perfect Saint and those who believe he was an evil charlatan. I am pretty sure he was something in between. Most people are, after all. If there’s a middle ground, it’s probably that he believed he was doing the right thing in coming up with Mormonism. As Dale Broadhurst once put it, he was doing two things at once: building the kingdom of God on earth and running a scam. That is the best explanation I have for Joseph Smith. Sometimes he seems truly inspired and inspirational, and other times he seems unbelievably narcissistic and cruel. In my view, he was a complex human being, a brilliant syncretist and creative thinker, and architect of an enduring belief system. A remarkable man, to be sure.

  14. IrishLDS says:

    Haven’t prayed about it in a while … I’d venture.

    • runtu says:

      Would you continue to pray for an answer you’ve already received through prayer? Do you continue to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true, or are you satisfied with the answer you have already received?

      • IrishLDS says:

        In connection with the meaning of the Book of Mormon, “I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him” (Moses 1:18). When I read something there, and think about it what it means, I feel confident that I can pray and he will manifest the truth of it unto [me], by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4). So, yes, I will continue to read, pray and receive more (2 Nephi 28:30).

      • runtu says:

        That wasn’t the question I asked, but OK. Like I said, I don’t question anyone’s spiritual experiences, as it’s not my business. That you’re not bothered that Joseph Smith was involved in scrying for money and then used the same method to translate scripture is fine with me. I’m just saying that it isn’t for a lot of people, and those are the people the church should be concerned about, not reprobates like me or true believers like you. I would reconsider the Book of Mormon if I saw any reason to do so, but my guess is that you wouldn’t reconsider your belief even if you had a signed confession from Joseph Smith saying he made it all up. That’s why I don’t consider debating a testimony to be particularly useful. But, if you can think of some reason for me to believe in the Book of Mormon, I’m happy to hear it.

  15. IrishLDS says:

    AZeus,

    nice misread. 😉

  16. IrishLDS says:

    polgamy was practiced by ancestors of Christ. It is worth thinking and praying about.

    • CAB says:

      Which certainly does not make it right. Ancestors of Christ also engaged in incest.
      As a product of polygamy–my great-grandfather, a 1st cousin of JS, had 5 wives–I prayed about it and thought about it for years, decades, really.

      The Bible and Book of Mormon aside, Joseph Smith did not abide by his own rule of polygamy which was to obtain the first wife’s consent. The simple fact of the matter is that he lied to Emma.

      • runtu says:

        Yes, generally speaking, there is no excuse for sleeping with other women behind your wife’s back.

    • Lot had sex with his daughters and the offspring was in Christ’s biblical lineage. That doesn’t mean that sex with daughter’s is a good thing. I don’t even need to pray about it to know its wrong.

  17. IrishLDS says:

    Runtu,

    This is ironic to say the least.

    You don’t judge anyone’s spiritual experiences? You sound like you’re judging Joseph’s spiritual experience in translating of the Book of Mormon (e.g., “the same method”) and my witness of the book (e.g. “a signed confession”).

    I agree with you about not debating a testimony.

    I can think of hundreds reasons why you should believe in the Book of Mormon … but you already know that is not how testimony comes. If we could talk face to face, and heart to heart, then maybe I would engage … but it would require commitments from both of us to accept the challenge to change. I’m sure we would both gain from such an exchange … but the online dialogue just doesn’t cut it. It is too truncated.

    Read the sermons in the book. Read 3 Nephi again. Pay attention to your feelings. Live the invitations you receive. Then pray to know again. Take the test. Practice the promise. Then you will know. It is as simple … and as difficult … as that.

    • runtu says:

      Nope, I’m not judging your spiritual experiences or Joseph Smith’s. I don’t think Joseph’s scrying counts as a spiritual experience, do you? As for your testimony, from what you’ve said, it’s rock solid, and you’re extremely unlikely to reassess it. Perhaps my “signed confession” was overstatement, but I think you know what I meant.

      I’ve already done all those things. For me, the bottom line is this: the answers I received to prayer are completely in line with what my head and my heart tell me. What possible reason would I have for asking God to tell me to walk away from peace and contentment and ignore what he’s already told me?

  18. CAB says:

    The point of the original discussion, as I understood it, was not how spiritual Joseph Smith was or how honest or human or righteous or poor, etc. The point was that the LDS Church controlled the narrative, at best.

    I have no issue, per se, with how JS “translated” the gold plates. Whether he did it by reading directly from plates on the table in front of him or read words on a stone, or however he did it, does not ultimately matter to me–all the stories are in the realm of the fantastic, ie. “take it on faith.”

    No, the problem here is that the Church pretended for many, many years that JS sat in front of some artists’ version of gold plates and read from them, dictating to a scribe.
    Countless paintings produced for the Illustrated Book of Mormon, official Missionary Discussions, paintings in ward houses, paintings in seminary buildings and Institutes of Religion, paintings at various Visitor Centers–including the big one in SLC–depict JS in front of those plates. Never do you see the rock in the hat over the face.

    You can call that lying by omission or by co-mission. Whatever you call it, a deception has been practiced by the leadership of the Church. A deliberate deception. That is the real issue here.

    It is not as if no one knew about it and the rock is only now being discovered. D. Michael Quinn wrote about it years ago and was excommunicated for his pains. Grant Palmer wrote about it more recently and he was strongly urged to quietly leave, which he did.

    Maybe it’s true that “some truths are not useful,” as Boyd K. Packer said, but that is a sophistry too far for me.

    • runtu says:

      Exactly.

    • AZeus says:

      Thank you! It was this kind of deception that made me think about the truthfulness of the church. Why does the church lie? Isn’t the truth important? And if truth is important shouldn’t they embrace it, no matter where it came from?

      What I concluded is that the appearance is more important than the truth, and almost all churches do this. Only after enough evidence and pressure from their members and elsewhere, do they change their stance.

      • runtu says:

        I guess I’ve tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I do think it’s clear that starting with Joseph Smith, the church distanced itself from the money-digging. The Joseph Smith–History quote is the one I am most familiar with, and it leaves the impression that the story is a lie. I think the story now is that Joseph did the treasure seeking reluctantly (he was sort of forced by his father to do it), but that doesn’t hold up, either. What I was trying to get at was that, for most of us (and I include much of the leadership), the standard narrative was accepted without question. Of course, some people knew about it and tried to keep a lid on it. You can asked Mike Quinn about that.

  19. Karen Carson says:

    It isn’t just the seer stones that bothers me. it is all the other contradictions that go along with it. Perhaps IrishLDS should read books like “Viewpoint of Mormon origins” whose author was the church historian for over thirty years. The information provided in there may have an influence, since the author is credible.
    However, I know it is never easy to change lifelong beliefs which have formed so much of our identity. It can be a gut wrenching experience, and I have empathy and compassion for anyone who goes through it. Many Mormons I know would never consider reading such books because the reality is that they don’t want anything to shake their testimony.
    As for the use of the stone for money digging, I can only relate it to those I know who have been given the gift of seer (seeing.) They use it for the purpose of helping others. Some work with police departments in finding missing persons. Others help determine areas in which the body is showing ill health. Any honest person knows that the gift isn’t given to them for the purpose of gambling, getting lottery numbers, finding gold or whatever. If Joseph Smith was getting information from God, most certainly God has the capacity to give it to him in other ways besides the use of stones,
    at least that is my opinion.)
    I think to know truth, we need to use our brain as well as our heart. If God really wanted us to believe Mormonism is “true”, there wouldn’t be so many contradictions or illusions. It helps to take a step back from Mormonism for awhile and read some of the information from the archives of the church that is available in some books, and YES. pray about it.

    • I find it really difficult to believe that anyone actually receives these kinds of “gifts” from God. But, assuming some do, and assuming JS assumed this gift, the success of his treasure seeking would suggest it didn’t really exist.

  20. CAB says:

    “You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.” -Morpheus, The Matrix

    • AZeus says:

      I love that! I also would say that related to “Pleasantville”, upon realizing that the church is no longer what it says it is. Seeing the color of the world, seeing the color of people and accepting them for who they are and loving them. What a wonderful feeling and my whole world changed. Never, never can I ever go back!

      • runtu says:

        Nor could I. A few months after I left I finally admitted to myself how unhappy I’d been in the church–clinically depressed, really. I tried several times to figure out a way to go back to the church, but each time I realized it would require going back to that miserable state. I couldn’t do it.

      • CAB says:

        Yes!
        The sense of relief when I no longer felt I had to struggle to juggle and justify was intense. No longer did I need to “study and pray” to make the Church work. No more, “just have faith, God will explain in the hereafter.” No more trying to understand the eternal second-class citizenship of females.
        I could just be honest with myself: Mormonism was a horrific experience, which damaged me, my extended family and most of the people I know who were or are Mormon.
        Not having to lie to myself anymore was the best gift of freedom. I wish that same gift of freedom for the miserable people I know who are still trying to make it work, especially those who are marginalized like the Gays. And women.

      • runtu says:

        I think a lot of people are miserable, but there are obviously people like IrishLDS who thrive in the church. I was miserable, but I wish people like him/her well. We all have to find our path through life the best way we can.

  21. Here is my take on the Seer Stones as the technology of the powerless, and its relevance for understanding of LGBT empowerment:

    http://latterdaythinking.org/2015/08/10/seer-stones-as-tools-of-the-disempowered/

    What do you think?

  22. qzxv says:

    The church should admit that they have portrayed the translation inaccurately and begin to portray it accurately. I first learned about the stone in the hat when I read Anderson’s book on the witnesses shortly after it was published. I first learned the church was sanitizing its history in the mid-80s. Certain leaders wanted it that way and I disagreed with them. That the stone was used for both money-digging and receiving the translation is no problem for me since it is obvious that God must work through earthly instruments — both animate and inanimate — that have not always been used for good things in order to further his purposes.

    • lane says:

      The church should admit it has portrayed everything inaccurately and admit to various frauds throughout the history. Many lies and cover-ups have been committed. It has gone on to long!

    • AZeus says:

      Being out of the church, I find watching it interesting. But, it’s quite predictable. The church, like many other churches, will hold on to traditions, doctrines and practices, even though they are incorrect or discriminatory, for as long as they can until enough pressure, from either inside the church or outside, to force a change.

      This is one thing that bothers me about religion and why I can’t ever participate in any again. If a religion, who claim they for God here on earth, don’t they speak against evil practices, such as slavery. We all know that slavery is evil and we had to fight, with many life lost, to finally rid ourselves from slavery. Where were the Leaders, the Prophets to speak out against this evel deed. The Bible given to us by God, which tells us how to own a slave, could include in the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not own another Man, Woman or child for your own purposes, but treat them respectfully and pay them fairly for services rendered. This could saved humanity a lot of trouble.

      • Here, here. As a corollary, the throw-God-under-a-bus approach of refusing to even mutter an apology for years of discrimination convinces me there is no “enhanced” direct line to heaven. If there is anything, it’s the same access I have, so why follow these guys?

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