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CES Reply: A Rock in a Hat

Book of Mormon Translation Concerns & Questions: 

Unlike the story I’ve been taught in Sunday School, Priesthood, General Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Ensigns, Church history tour, Missionary Training Center, and BYU…Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon.

What did they teach you in Sunday School, Priesthood, General Conferences, Seminary, EFY, etc.? In my experience, there was some discussion about the Urim and Thummim, which were, in fact, used during the process, although it’s true that the rock in the hat never came up. But, for the most part, no one really brought up any real specifics about the process, which means that, once again, in the absence of solid information, speculation fills in the gaps. I think each of us had different ideas about the process and never thought to question our assumptions.  I don’t recall hearing any official rejection of the rock in the hat taught in any of the places you cite. And if you did, I would think you’d be able to provide a link to a manual or article that explicitly rejected the rock in the hat idea.

Ironically, the first time I heard the rock-in-the hat story was on my mission, when Joseph Fielding McConkie, son of Bruce R. and grandson of Joseph Fielding Smith, quoted David Whitmer on the subject and claimed that Whitmer didn’t know what he was talking about. Whitmer’s account about the process came decades later, after Joseph Smith’s death, and J.F. McConkie, taking a position he attributed to his father and grandfather, insisted it couldn’t have been that way, because reading words off a seer stone seemingly contradicts D&C 9, which is the only contemporaneous document on the subject that we have. D&C 9 chastises Oliver Cowdery for his translation attempt because he “took no thought save it was to ask” the Lord rather than trying to “study it out in [his] mind.” So if the rock in the hat idea wasn’t widely disseminated, which it wasn’t, it may have been because there was significant disagreement among the Brethren as to its veracity, with President Smith and Elder McConkie on the side that (probably incorrectly) maintained it was nonsense.

(I wish I had some kind of link for you, but I don’t. I do know that J.F. McConkie gave recorded speeches on this that were at one time sold by Deseret Book, but since his passing in 2013, all his stuff is out of print.)

Joseph Smith himself dodged questions about specifics of the translation process, saying only that it was accomplished “by the gift and power of God” and that it “was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the book of Mormon.” That was largely the extent of the official story I heard until the Church published its essay on the Book of Mormon translation.

In other words, he used the same “Ouija Board” that he used in his days treasure hunting where he would put in a rock – or a peep stone – in his hat and put his face in the hat to tell his customers the location of buried treasure.

Those are some other words, all right. How is a stone the same thing as a Ouija Board? Have you ever seen Ouija Boards? They don’t look like rocks in a hat.

He used the exact same method while the gold plates were covered or put in another room or buried in the woods during translating the Book of Mormon. These facts are not only confirmed in Rough Stone Rolling (p. 71-72), by FairMormon here and here, by Neal A. Maxwell Institute (FARMS), but also in an obscure 1992 talk given by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Update: The Church’s December 2013 essay admits this.

It admits that the translation process included the rock in the hat method, but, contrary to the implication you’re making, it was not the exclusive method. From the Church’s essay:

Nevertheless, the scribes and others who observed the translation left numerous accounts that give insight into the process. Some accounts indicate that Joseph studied the characters on the plates. Most of the accounts speak of Joseph’s use of the Urim and Thummim (either the interpreters or the seer stone), and many accounts refer to his use of a single stone. [Emphasis added]

The fact that both “unofficial” apologists like FAIR, quasi-official apologists like BYU, respected Mormon scholars like Bushman, and entirely official apologists like Elder Nelson openly acknowledge the seer stone in the hat make it hard to argue that the church was actively engaged in “deception,” to use your word. We’ll talk more about it after looking at the pictures you provide.

Book of Mormon translation that the Church portrays to its members:

rock in hat 1

Book of Mormon translation as it actually happened:

Rock in hat 2

Actually, there are a number of inaccuracies in this second group of pics, too. Which hat did he use – the straw hat in the far right, the top hat in the bottom center, or the cowboy hat in the top center? The one on the far left looks like it has some kind of feather in it.

Those are quibbles, of course. The second group of pictures is undoubtedly more historically accurate than the first. Although many of the first group of pics can be interpreted as being consistent with the reports that Joseph, at least occasionally, “studied the characters on the plates.” I especially like the one on the top left, which shows Joseph wearing the breastplate and using the Urim and Thummim, something that witnesses insist was a part of the translation process, at least early on. (Looks weird, though doesn’t it?) But the two showing Joseph and Oliver with the plates in full view are clearly wrong, as all accounts say that the plates were hidden from Oliver’s view at all times during translation. Although I’ve always wondered what resources Oliver had at his disposal when he attempted to translate. Was he only given a stone and a hat? Maybe just his rod, which you complain about later? Wouldn’t it have been likely that he’d insist on having the plates, too? We’ll probably never know how that worked.

Why is the Church not being honest and transparent to its members about how Joseph Smith really translated the Book of Mormon? How am I supposed to be okay with this deception?

You call those paintings “deception?” Brother, you haven’t seen nuthin’ yet. Let me show you some real deception in Mormon art.

Witness “Abinadi before King Noah” by Arnold Friberg, which has appeared in every edition of the Book of Mormon in my lifetime.

jaguar

I’m pretty sure that just about everything about this picture is wrong, from Abinadi’s ripped physique/six-pack to the weird fez things the priests are wearing, but, especially, to Noah’s pet leopards. Where’d he get the leopards? Aren’t they African? How’d they get to America? How did he domesticate them? Do they share a litter box?

[Note: Since first writing this, I found an interview with Friberg where he states these are jaguars, not leopards, which, alas, undermines my point, as, according to the infallible Wikipedia, jaguars are “the only extant Panthera species native to the Americas.” So Noah could conceivably have had jaguars. Although, really, no, he couldn’t. The Book of Mormon says nothing about jaguars, and people don’t have pet jaguars, even if they’re kings. Again, how did he domesticate them? Do they share a litter box?]

Here’s Friberg’s depiction of Ammon:

ammon

Those pecs! Those biceps! Man, they had good gyms back in ancient America, as well as funny looking hats. But guess what? All research we have suggests what they didn’t have is domesticated sheep. In fact, the Book of Mormon never mentions sheep in connection with Ammon, who was defending the kings “flocks,” but never says what animals were in those flocks. In my daughter’s Book of Mormon class at BYU her freshman year, the teacher made a convincing argument that these were flocks of turkeys. Turkeys, of all things! Yet here Friberg paints a bunch of sheep, or, at the very least, the hairiest turkeys I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Or howsabout Friberg’s stripling warriors?

helaman

Again with the zero percent body fat! Didn’t the Nephites have access to carbs?

And there’s our friend Helaman, leading his troops on horseback.

Wait a minute. On horseback? As we established earlier, nobody rode a single horse in the Book of Mormon. Nobody rode anything, not even a tapir. And why does Helaman get a horse while making all his troops walk on foot? What a jerk. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure this isn’t how it happened.

And on it goes.

The fact is that religious art has a very long history of inaccuracy, in and out of the church. It’s undeniable, for instance, that a Jewish fellow born just over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem wouldn’t grow up to look anything like this:

heartjesusThis blonde, pale, delicate-featured blue-eyed waif looks more likely to be the lead singer of ABBA than anyone with a drop of Middle Eastern blood in their veins. Yet pictures like this one have been the dominant artistic depictions of Christ for centuries, and long before Joseph Smith came along.

And, to be fair, I don’t think Mormon depictions of Christ do it much better. In every chapel, you can’t help but come face to face with this guy:

mountainjesusI love that he’s standing in front of a background you’d find in a modern photography studio, as if he’s posing for a senior portrait or something.

This seems to be the favored image of Jesus among most Mormons, but I confess I’ve never liked it at all. This doesn’t look like a kind and loving savior to me; it looks like a cross between a young Grizzly Adams and a BYU football player, the kind of guy who would have probably beaten me up back in middle school. Did Jesus work out at Arnold Friberg’s gym, too?

While we’re at it, let’s talk Christmas for a moment. You do realize that every nativity scene on display in every home is terribly, hopelessly, and woefully wrong, right? Mary and Joseph were poor people taking shelter in a dirty, stinky cave they shared with livestock, and they had to put their baby in a filthy pig trough, probably stepping through piles of poop to get there. Every nativity set I’ve seen shows a well-dressed couple in a rustic wooden cabin that’s entirely poop-free.

The Three Wise Men, who are always beatifically swooning over the child as the shepherds stand back in awe, didn’t arrive until at least a year after the birth, and, in fact, we don’t know if there were, in fact, three of them. There may have been two; there may have been a dozen or more. But tradition says three, so that’s how many strike a contorted swooning pose in deceptive plastic figurines that are hauled out of the attic in every Christian home during the month of December. And if your kids are anything like my kids, the figures all get rearranged and stuck in weird places, and maybe Luke Skywalker or My Little Pony end up making an appearance in the stable sometime along the way.

I also want to share a story with you that doesn’t really help my point here, but it does give some insight into where the Brethren are coming from on this.

I once had a meeting with a high-level church employee, and we had a very interesting conversation that included the following story:

It seems that, on one occasion, the Church commissioned an artist to paint a depiction of the First Vision. In this case, the artist did a considerable amount of research, and he determined that, back in the early 19th Century, a 14 year-old impoverished farmboy who went out into the woods to pray would almost certainly have been barefoot at the time. That makes sense – shoes were expensive, after all, and wearing them outside while working crops in the Spring would likely have been ridiculously extravagant and probably uncomfortable to boot.

So the artist painted his shoelessly and historically accurate portrayal of the First Vision, turned it into the Church, and found himself in the center of a controversy he had not anticipated, but which I’m sure you’ve guessed.

The Church wanted to know where Joseph’s shoes were.

The artists began by patiently explaining his research and conclusion, but it didn’t matter. The Church was unwilling to accept the painting as is. They insisted that the artist paint some suitable footwear, and the artist refused. One of the members of the committee suggested a compromise – that Joseph be depicted in a position where his feet would not be visible. The artist was unwilling to do that, either, and he ended up rejecting the commission altogether and withdrawing the painting. I have no idea what happened after that – I don’t know if he left the Church or if he just chalked it all up to experience and sucked it up, but I am interested in the questions this thing raises.

First off, what would I do in this situation? The artist has a point, certainly, but with regard to my relationship with the Church, I doubt this would be the hill I would want to die on. I’d probably just accept the compromise option, paint Joseph with his feet hidden, and recognize that the focal point of the painting shouldn’t necessarily be 19th Century podiatry.

But it has to be asked: why on earth should the Church care? Who are they protecting? What member of the Church is going to be offended by the idea of a barefoot prophet?

This is a problem of cultural groupthink more than deliberate deception.

I once asked a high-ranking mucky-muck on the Church’s Temple Committee why we didn’t see more original, interesting art in temples instead of the prints of prints of Harry Anderson and Del Parson magazine illustrations that you see everywhere else. His answer was that every piece of art that is approved to hang in temples has to go through umpteen layers of committee approval, and particularly with any portrayal of the Savior, it’s almost impossible to get consensus. So that’s why we stick with the tried and true – and boring.

Which is sad, really. Harry Anderson’s paintings are the ones that are used more often than any others, and the guy was a Seventh-Day Adventist! Can’t we rely on homegrown artists for a change?

Back to the main point, which is that religious art isn’t now and, really, never has been about historical accuracy. Like all art, it’s largely about evoking an emotional response by telling a story in a single static image, even if it has to take “artistic license” to do so. An image of Joseph poring over the plates by candlelight is evocative, and it tells a story that helps people feel an emotional connection to the translation process. An image of Joseph with his face in a hat just looks like he’s throwing up.

That’s not to say that excuses the fact that the art you provide is misleading and inaccurate, as it is definitely both of those things. But it’s noteworthy that the only way you can demonstrate that the church has been deliberately deceptive is to produce pieces of art, not actual false statements. Art is seldom, if ever, truly accurate, and every painting of the First Vision has Joseph Smith in shoes.

But if the Book of Mormon itself isn’t infallible, why should we expect Arnold Friberg to be?

The Church, to my knowledge, has never denied the rock in the hat; they’ve just chosen not to talk about it because it’s weird and embarrassing. Like you, I think that’s the wrong choice, and that bringing the weird, embarrassing bits of our history out in to the open is a much better approach. Thankfully, it’s the approach that the Church is starting to take. Although, like you, I believe there’s a lot more they can and should do on that score in the days ahead.

Tomorrow: The First Vision

 

 

 

CES Reply: Joseph Smith - Trinitarian? (Part II)
CES Reply: The First Vision (Part I)

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31 Comments

  1. As this is one of the hottest topics for ex-Mormons I’m surprised they don’t debate you, Jim, on this point. True, your facebook page has a debate raging right now about the rock/hat controversy. Jeremy Runnells was on Randall Bowen’s Facebook page a few days ago, as Randall took issue with Jeremy’s advertising his upcoming church hearing (happened yesterday, actually) and the possibility of not having an accompanying interpreter.

    As Jeremy Runnells himself posted and engaged (I admit, I was shocked to see the object of so much debate share a fb thread), I personally (and repeatedly) encouraged Jeremy and the numerous (reading and commenting) other ex-Mormon sympathizers to visit your blog and let you have it, Jim. Or at least engage you with their opinions.

    I explained that Jeremy had questions and you just may have answers. Perhaps at least one point you share may be valid and change his mind a fraction of a degree. After all, you spent countless hours creating a 300+-page response. They may find at least one bit of valid counterargument I hope they’ll change and come on here today, as this rock/hat subject is loaded with (in my view, mostly unneeded) controversy…

  2. You’re missing recent articles in the Ensign where this has been covered. Joseph Smith described the process and changes in the way he did things as a result of what he had learned about working with the revelatory process and the Spirit.

    Your rather adolescent-sounding whines and put-downs don’t come across well to serious readers, in case you hadn’t known that. I doubt I’ll be back in this dry desert waste.

    • Where do I contradict recent Ensign articles on this subject?

      Can you provide me a example of a “whine” or a “put-down?” I deliberately made an effort to avoid ad hominem attacks, so if you have found an example where I fail in that regard, I’d appreciate it being brought to my attention so that I can quickly remove it and provide an apology for having made it in the first place.

      I’m sorry this blog isn’t moist enough for your tastes, but know that you’re welcome back anytime.

      • Ensign article last fall: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/10/joseph-the-seer?lang=eng&_r=1

        I didn’t say ad hominem attacks.

        Whines: mocking the artists — the “ripped abs” Friberg painted: Ammon, Abinadi.

        Laying aside the question of horses during the BofM period, you were pretty snide about Helaman riding a horse while his troops walked. “And why does Helaman get a horse while making all his troops walk on foot? What a jerk. ” A jerk? What’s with that? If a soldier was in the cavalry, he rode, otherwise he walked, just like the Brits, French, Germans, Celts, Goths, and Romans. Jeeps and APCs hadn’t been invented yet, if history serves us correctly.

        Whine: “a high-ranking mucky-muck” — yeah, you have a lot of respect for someone in that position.

        I appreciate the invitation back.

        • Thanks for the link – it’s a good and thoughtful piece. I don’t see where I’ve contradicted anything in that article.

          You didn’t say “ad hominem,” no. You said “put-downs.” I interpreted that as an accusation that I had attacked someone personally – i.e. ad hominem.

          I certainly didn’t write anything with the intent to “mock” Arnold Friberg, who was clearly a talented and brilliant artist, although I concede my tongue-in-cheek discussion of his historical inaccuracies could be taken that way. In any case, mockery isn’t synonymous with whining. I was poking fun, not genuinely complaining, and I would hope people would recognize that much of what is written there is light-hearted and written largely in jest.

          As for Helaman being a jerk, I thought it was pretty clear that, since the picture showing Helaman horseback is likely historically inaccurate, that I don’t actually think Helaman was a jerk.

          I said “high-ranking mucky-muck” because, to respect this person’s privacy, I wanted to be vague about their identity. The mucky-muck in question happens to be a person I greatly respect. I didn’t intend the term “mucky-muck” to be insulting; I consider it to be a playful, goofy old-timey phrase like “Grand Poobah,” which is how I describe Hugh Nibley, another person I greatly respect.

          I think you are interpreting much of what I’ve written in a different spirit from how I intended it to be interpreted, which is likely my fault, as humor doesn’t always translate well into the written word.

          • Stallioncornell,

            Well, thanks for the gracious reply.

            As to Helaman:
            “As for Helaman being a jerk, I thought it was pretty clear that, since the picture showing Helaman horseback is likely historically inaccurate, that I don’t actually think Helaman was a jerk.”

            This elliptical line of thought is escaping me. I will parse and re-parse, and re-evaluate what you’ve said, but I’m not hopeful about the understanding of it getting better.

            Yes, Arnold Friberg is (was) a remarkable artist.

            • “Mockery not equal to whining” — hmm, well, then — is mockery respectful? It’s certainly not part of a valid argument.
            • “I was poking fun, not genuinely complaining” — ah, good to know, but still, not being familiar with your m.o., how it came across is how it came across. OMMV

            As this is your play yard, … thank you for being here.

            So, what about the Ensign article?

          • The Ensign article is great.

            Again, I really think you’re misinterpreting the purpose of what I’ve written here. You seem to think I’m attacking the Church when I’m actually responding to an attack on the Church and trying to do so from what is, hopefully, a faithful perspective.

            I do not think the Church has been deceptive about the rock in the hat, and I think the Ensign article is clear evidence of that.

            As for Helaman, I was making a point that religious art is designed to be emotionally evocative and tell a story with a single static image. The “mockery” I provide does not represent my personal position. It is written in the voice of a straw man – I’m trying to illustrate the absurdity of demanding historical accuracy from religious art by pushing the idea to a ridiculous extreme. Using the logic of the CES Letter, one would reach those kind of silly, “mocking” conclusions about the Friberg paintings, when those paintings were designed to have an emotional and spiritual impact and not designed to be substitutes for historical photographs.

            I think the Friberg paintings are magnificent and serve their purpose well.

          • Stallioncornell,

            Sorry to get back so late to this topic and thread, but it didn’t take too long after your last response that I’d seen that I’d *waay* overreacted to what you’d written, and I understand now (actually, shortly after your last reply to me) what and how you were writing. My apologies, and also a big thank you to your gracious responses.

            Best regards

    • The way the answers are written are entertaining and some are funny. What is wrong with having a little fun. Does his answers really have to be serious to make it factual? His answers and information and the presentation are refreshing.

      I agree whole heartedly about the artwork.

      There is no whining. The only whining is coming from the CES Letter. Liiiiiighten…… uuuuuupp.

  3. This was a discussion on the veracity and misrepresentation of fact in the translation story of the BoM, the basis of the LDS church’s existence. It has been turned into a discussion on Church art and the dumbness of the members, and bureaucratic embarrassment. You state in conclusion, “The Church, to my knowledge, has never denied the rock in the hat”. So what was McConkie’s position when he denied the hat/rock story or the multiple movies versions of the “First Vision’. McConkie was your Mission President who was formally called and a financially remunerated employee of the LDS church. I fear you know fine well the LDS church actively and intentionally misrepresented what it knew about the translation over an extended period of time with the direct objective to further its own aims and benefit from misrepresentation. McConkie was your hierarchal leader and placed in a position of authority over you and he is the representative of the Church. Pretending that if God himself doesn’t lie to you directly that the LDS Church is absolved of its active misrepresentation by its leadership – well it just doesn’t wash. This has to be placed into context with multiple other cases of active misrepresentation of history and doctrine which establishes an unsavoury pattern. This is the crux of the discussion not a critique of sample art to belittle or detract from the discussion. This is reminiscent of political techniques of conflagration multiple unrelated topics to divert attention and a tad disingenuous, no?

    • I’m not trying to be disingenuous or divert attention. Jeremy’s case that the Church has lied about the rock in the hat rests entirely on how the translation process has been depicted in church art, so directly addressing that art seems, to me, to be central to the discussion and not a diversion.

      As for Pres. McConkie, you’re conflating a mistaken opinion with a dishonest one. McConkie was entirely honest in sharing his position, even though that position may have been incorrect. Agency is incompatible with infallibility, and I don’t believe in infallible mission presidents.

      I don’t think there is any question that the Church hasn’t been eager to discuss the rock in the hat, because it’s weird and embarrassing, and the Church doesn’t like to discuss the weird and embarrassing. As I say in my reply, I think that’s the wrong approach, and I’m heartened by the fact that the Church is taking steps to address this kind of stuff head on.

  4. I think this is a perfect example of Mormon apologetics giving answers where some might claim there are none. The problem (as it so frequently is) is that the answer is not a good one.

    When someone is struggling with the idea that the Book of Mormon, “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion” came from a translation process that involved a rock in a hat. The best answer is not; well if you think that is weird, look at all of this other weird stuff.

    The simple truth of the matter is that the only good answer to this problem is the simplest and most understandable one. That the rock in the hat, the urim and thummin, the plates not being in the room (or existing at all), all speak to a fabricated history. That the whole translation process is just part of a larger invented narrative. Joseph and others just made it all up.

    That answer, being simple, believable, and consistent with other truths, is a good answer. And until apologists can find an answer as good as that, they will struggle to be convincing.

    • Well, two things. First, I think you’re misrepresenting my answer here by summarizing it as “well if you think that is weird, look at all of this other weird stuff.” The other stuff I ask you to look at here isn’t particularly weird; it’s a demonstration that religious art is seldom historically accurate. Jeremy’s complaint is that the Church has lied about the rock in the hat, and the only evidence he uses to support that assertion is Church art. I’m not diverting attention from the rock in the hat; I’m demonstrating that Jeremy’s allegation of deception is largely baseless.

      Second, “Joseph made it all up” is not at all a good answer to explain the Book of Mormon. Joseph was a functional illiterate who all of his contemporaries, both friends and enemies, insist was incapable of writing a simple letter, let alone producing a work of such astonishing scope, breadth, and complexity as the B of M. So far, no critic, including Jeremy Runnells, has offered a good alternative answer to account for the existence of the Book of Mormon other than the very good answer provided by Joseph Smith.

      It should also be noted that the Book of Mormon doesn’t vanish in a puff of smoke just because people think the rock in the hat is ridiculous.

      • I think you are diverting attention from it. The rock is a weird thing. Super weird. Especially once they released a picture of that very rock. As a 32+ member of the church it was emotionally impactful seeing it. I had then and have now serious reservations how anyone could believe any of the stories coming out of that time period faced with how nonsensical it must be to have a God that uses objects like that to inact his work.

        There might not be good answers for where the Book of Mormon actually came from. Such is history and some things are simply lost to time. We may never know with any surety. But is the answer that Joseph quite literally pulled it from a hat any better an answer that he (with help or not) did like many of his time did and wrote a book in biblical style using the bible as a linguistic and stylistic guide? Yeah, it would be hard to pull of a deception like that. But is it really that much worse an answer?

        There are many things in the universe and life that we don’t have good answers for. But we can certainly talk about what are better and worse answers. I wouldn’t expect Jeremy Runnell’s answers are always the right ones. But the answers doubting Mormons get are so bad, that you can’t blame him for finding better ones.

        • We’ll have to agree to disagree on whether I’m diverting attention from the rock/hat. If that were my intent, which it wasn’t, I clearly did a poor job of it, as both the hat and the rock come up repeatedly both in the original letter and in my reply.

          I don’t agree, however, that it is “nonsensical” for God to use such a stone, given how un-weird it was to Joseph. I don’t have any problem with God communicating to us using symbols and objects that are part of the culture of the person or people to whom he is communicating, even if such things may be strange to modern eyes.

          It’s not that your answer re: the Book of Mormon’s existence is a “better” or “worse” answer – it’s that it’s an inadequate answer. You just throw up your hands and say “I don’t know.” Yet the Book of Mormon exists and had to come from somewhere, and, so far, there has not been an adequate answer to account for its existence other than the one offered by Joseph Smith.

          Again, agree to disagree re: whether Jeremy Runnells provides “better” answers to those who doubt than Mormons like me. Runnells offers a cold, uncaring universe with no divine presence. In my estimation, answers that allow room for God will always be better than that.

      • What is someone like myself supposed to think when they find out about the rock in the hat for the first time? You say the church didn’t lie about it. But my dad was a CES instructor and I knew the church history and doctrine better than most and somehow I hadn’t heard of it until after my mission. I can say that when the church actually released a photo of it, it was emotionally impactful. And not in a good way. So yeah, we can talk about the word “lied” as maybe being not the best fit, but you have to admit the church was and still is very secretive with the truth. That is Jeremy’s point even when he may be talking about art. And to just point out other inaccuracies in pictures the church uses does help me, or anyone else feel better about how the church is teaching.

        We might not have a good answer for where the Book of Mormon came from. Some things are just lost to time. There are big problems with every theory I have seen for is creation. I’m not arguing that Joseph just sat down and wrote the book is a good answer. I’m saying that reading off a stone in a hat is a worse one. For too many reasons to list here.

        Here’s the thing, I don’t expect you to find any of the theories to the origins the BoM credible other than the one the church has presented. And that is okay. You are free to decide for yourself what you personally find a good answer. But I would hope you understand that those answers don’t work for many of us. That is what the CES letter is all about. We just want good answers, and most of what we find on FairMormon, in apologetic books, etc… are just not good enough. Not good enough to overcome the imperfect, but simpler conclusion that it’s all just made up.

          • I think both are valid and offer different insights, so I’ll keep them both, if that’s okay.

        • What is someone like myself supposed to think when they find out about the rock in the hat for the first time?

          Well, you can always think what I thought, which is, “Hmmmm. That’s kind of odd.” I didn’t have the reaction you had, which seems to be that the majesty of the Book of Mormon somehow vanishes on the wind because of an odd 19th Century cultural quirk. I guess I’m not the right guy to ask, because I don’t fully under the assumption driving the question.

          • I think I grew up in a time or culture where Mormonism had a strong scientific love. Like an understanding that God worked through the laws of the universe. We were taught to admire people like Hugh Nibley and pursue science and evidence in the search for knowledge.

            I just can’t see the seer stone the way you and others do. As a “quirk”. To me it turned the majestic BoM and Gospel into something peddled by a snake charmer. It turned the belief I had into something “hokey”, something I fell for. I honestly felt duped.

            And I’m not really trying to justify it. Really just hoping you can understand the way I see it.

        • The story of the seer stone was reasonably well-know in the 70s. It had been found in the church historian’s office. At a Church Education Week (remember those?) back then the instructor told us a lot of the history of it. A ruckus now? Ho-hom to me. Move on, please. I’m sorry that so many people are upset. There’s what happened, there’s the history, there’s what’s related, there’s what’s communicated, there’s what’s received, and there’s what’s understood — each is an abstraction of the previous one.

          The point is whether or not Joseph Smith had revelations (and whether or not we can, too). The how, especially relating to “objects” is fluff. How does God speak to a prophet? The prophet knows, and we have the prophets describing it in the Old Testament. The prophet knows, and Ezekiel 3 gives us a start of the minimum of the strait that a prophet is in. I

          • We seem to be speaking past each other. I agree with you completely, yet you seem to think what I’ve written here is antagonistic to the Church, when my intent was precisely the opposite.

      • Clearly the church has lied by omission on many topics covered in the CES letter. Unless you don’t believe that omitting information or not addressing inconsistencies at any serious level is not lying or dishonest. Your response does very little to explain why and how the church has avoided the hat story. It has rarely been discussed in any detail in my experience and in the experience of many others like me. I heard the hat story maybe once in all my 18 years of church attendance and teaching. I believed what I was told in Sunday school, seminary and shown in church movies and images that Joseph literally translated the plates looking at them. The fact that the stone(s) were only called the “Urim and Thummim” after the fact, years later, fits the pattern that the church continually revises its history to make it more believable. This pattern began with Joseph and continues even today.

        Your last sentence here is a great example of church apologists refusing to address the totality of evidence stacked against them and deflect.

        “It should also be noted that the Book of Mormon doesn’t vanish in a puff of smoke just because people think the rock in the hat is ridiculous.”

        Every founding story of the church has inconsistencies, the number of direct text copies from the Bible (including errors) and other contemporary writing of Joseph’s day, found in the BOM all lead to a totality that is indefensible. He would be guilty of plagiarism in today’s world with that amount of direct copy. it is that totality of evidence that DOES make the Book of Mormon vanish in a puff of smoke for any clear thinking individual not swayed by apologists tactics that refuse to address all of the evidence against the BOM in a clear, concise and effective manner.

        That does not even take into account all of the animals and items discussed in the BOM that did not exist on this continent or the sheer number of battles and people discussed with not one shred of evidence yet to support them existing. This is not for lack of trying, the church has desperately tried to prove through archaeology that the BOM is true without a single piece of evidence found over the course of over 100 years now. Human history has been uncovered on this continent that goes beyond the timeline for the BOM yet, there is nothing to support the BOM. You see, once you start to look clearly at the truth, without the lens the church has carefully crafted its members to use, the founding stories, the church doctrine and the BOM do not stand up to even the most basic scrutiny.

        • Well, I talk about all of these issues directly and extensively in my 110,000 word response, so I’m never quite sure how to respond when people just make the same charges I’ve answered as if my original answers don’t exist.

          • I am sorry, your responses do NOT address all of the facts thus, my comment. You have done what apologists do, use a lot of words but you don’t directly refute ALL of the facts.

          • Whereas as your comment does what so many critics do, which is pretend that I address NONE of the facts. You also INAPPROPRIATELY use CAPITAL LETTERS for EMPHASIS.

            My reply contains lengthy discussions of B of M anachronisms and translation errors, as well as plenty of direct engagement with the infamous rock in the hat. You may find those discussions unsatisfying or inadequate, but it’s silly to pretend they don’t exist.

            Since you interpret my use of a lot of words to address these subjects as a negative rather than a positive, I don’t see any need to add to them.

    • Actually, as someone who has experienced a spiritual/meta-physical gift similar to what Joseph had when he translated, it’s not a far cry from what I have personally experienced using my gift.

      But for people who aren’t open to understanding the meta-physical world, this is on the level of “sorcery or witchcraft” and just goes to show how much residue from the Catholic Church sponsored witch hunts and the Puritans led Salem Witch Trials still lingers in our culture and society at large.

      • Also, since the Church DOES encourage studying science, I suggest studying Quantum Physics, reading The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton and then going back and reading Lectures on Faith. Joseph Smith understood these quantum physics principles that scientists are just now understanding more.

  5. “And if you did, I would think you’d be able to provide a link to a manual or article that explicitly rejected the rock in the hat idea.”

    In fact way back in 1974 the seer stone was mentioned in a Friend article:

    “To help him with the translation, Joseph found with the gold plates “a curious instrument which the ancients called Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones set in a rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.” Joseph also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating called a seer stone.” (“A Peaceful Heart,” Friend, Sep 1974, 7)

  6. You lost me here. You cannot tell me I was not taught what I was taught all my life. All my life I was taught that the BOM was translated using the Urim and Thummin. JS reading the writing of the golden plates through the spectacles fashioned to the breast plate. Don’t tell me I wasn’t taught this by the church!

    • I’m not telling you this wasn’t taught by the church. It was and is taught by the church, mainly because it’s accurate, at least for the first part of the translation process.