Joseph Smith

The Church Shows Joseph Smith’s Seer Stone for the First Time: Five Things to Know about the Seer Stone
Seer stone used by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Photo by Weldon C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr.

In Doctrine and Covenants section 124:125, it says “I give unto you my servant Joseph to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet.”

We know what most of those things are, but what exactly does it mean to be a “seer”?

A 2015 Ensign article explains the following about seers:

“’Seeing’ and ‘seers’ were part of the American and family culture in which Joseph Smith grew up. Steeped in the language of the Bible and a mixture of Anglo-European cultures brought over by immigrants to North America, some people in the early 19th century believed it was possible for gifted individuals to ‘see,’ or receive spiritual manifestations, through material objects such as seer stones.”

In the Guide to the Scriptures, it also states that “In the Book of Mormon, Ammon taught that only a seer could use special interpreters, or a Urim and Thummim.”

When the Joseph Smith papers released a picture of a brown seer stone owned by Joseph Smith in connection with a printing of an original Book of Mormon manuscript, many questions were asked about seer stones—from where they came from to how they are used. We know from the Joseph Smith Papers that Joseph’s original brown seer stone made its way, through the years, to seven different people before it was donated to the Church. We also know he had a second seer stone.


Joseph Smith's Revelations
cover image via

Laura Harris Hales sat down with Matthew Grow, the LDS Church History Department Director of Publications, to discuss the completion of an exciting project.


The Revelations in Context essays, which have been added to over the past four years, are now complete.  In addition to finding them on the Revelations in Context webpage, they can be accessed in booklet form or on the Gospel Library App. Links to the essays have also been integrated into the digital version of the Gospel Doctrine manual on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church history.

The essays not only delve into the historical background of the revelations but also how the revelations were received by members at the time. These are not scriptural commentaries but rather stories about how these revelations affected the lives of individuals. They present the award-winning scholarship of the Joseph Smith Papers Project in an easy-to-read format.

We also talk about an essay written by Matt entitled “Thou Art an Elect Lady,” which discusses D&C 24, 25, 26, and 27. Thought you knew about “Emma’s revelation”? Listen in to hear new insights we gain from the fine researchers of the Church History Department.

Exploring the Revelations in Context is a seven-part series with episodes released monthly.

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Joseph Smith Death Mask
Image from Chad Wink's Youtube channel.

Chad Winks, a graphic digital illustration artist used Joseph Smith’s death mask as a foundation, to layer realistic features on top of it. This is quite possibly the most accurate image of the Prophet we have available.

Obviously we don’t need to speculate about it, but it is fascinating nonetheless that gifted artists like Chad can recreate this type of thing.

Watch the video below of how he did it and visit for details and other artwork.


image via

Last year the Church released photos of Joseph Smith’s brown seer stone. But did you know he also had a white seer stone that might have been even more important to him?

Palmyra resident Pomeroy Tucker, who worked on the publication of the Book of Mormon, remembered that Joseph Smith’s seer stone had a “whitish, glassy appearance, though opaque, resembling quartz” in his 1867 book. Other late sources claiming to have interviewed early Palmyrans reflected Tucker’s description of the stone, making it difficult to know if they were original observations or mimicking his more informed, publicly declared opinion. Nevertheless, they stated that Joseph Smith used a white stone.

Unlike his brown stone, Joseph Smith did not give his white stone away. In fact, the Nauvoo Apostles remember him showing them his seer stone, and they imply that he may have been using it in some way. Joseph showed Wilford Woodruff his white stone in 1841, years before Woodruff ever saw the brown stone (which was presumably in Oliver Cowdery’s possession until 1850). During that time, Joseph had been working on the Book of Abraham and preparing the Nauvoo Temple endowment. On 27 December 1841, Wilford Woodruff wrote that Joseph showed him his seer stone at a meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. From the fall of 1841 to the summer of 1842, Wilford Woodruff called Joseph Smith “Joseph the seer” in his journal numerous times.

View full article at LDS Living or buy the book here.

Front and back of four of the six Kinderhook plates are shown in these facsimiles (rough copies of even earlier published facsimiles), which appeared in 1909 in History of the Church, vol. 5, pp. 374–75. Image found on

The discovery of fake ancient plates, called the Kinderhook Plates, and the excitement they caused within the LDS community teaches us a lot about how Joseph Smith received revelation and who he was as both a prophet and as a man.

A number of Latter-day Saints like to discuss ancient America discoveries and how they might relate to the Book of Mormon. This is not new to the twenty-first-century church but has been a topic of interest since the Restoration. Letters and journals from the 1830s indicate that many early Mormons—including Joseph Smith—were fascinated by any and all ancient American discoveries and, using their fallible human brains, tried to figure out if such finds were connected to the Book of Mormon.

Some early LDS critics took advantage of this interest and decided to set up a sting operation wherein they hoped to expose Joseph Smith as a fraud. In the spring of 1843, one of these men claimed to have had dreams of a treasure buried in a mound near Kinderhook Illinois. After sharing this story with a local Mormon, a group of men—including the Latter-day Saint—excavated the mound seen in the dream.

About ten feet down they unearthed some bones and six brass, bell-shaped plates that were engraved with curious characters. All of the men were excited about the find, but the Mormon in the group thought that this would help prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Word and excitement about the discovery spread quickly—especially in the LDS community. The Saints were eager for Joseph to translate the plates. Although Joseph had a lot of other things going on, he did take possession of the plates for a little less than a week.

Read the full article at Meridian Magazine.

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Joseph Smith Death Mask
Image from

LDS Living recently went to the Church History Museum and discovered some interesting artifacts, from Hyrum Smith’s sunglasses to Eliza R. Snow’s pocket watch. But there are two additional historic items that have a story all their own: the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Read on to find out more about what a death mask is and how the Church came to have these special memorials on display.

1. Death masks date back to ancient Egyptian times.

Joseph Smith

Photography and daguerreotypes (photographic images on a silvered copper plate) were only beginning to make an appearance during the time of Joseph and Hyrum’s death, so death masks were an easy way to preserve the memory and appearance of deceased loved ones. Though making death masks is not a common tradition today, the practice dates back to ancient Egyptian times. The masks were usually intended as a way to remember the person who had died and to create other artwork of them. Joseph and Hyrum’s casts were made by George Cannon (father of apostle George Q. Cannon) with layers of plaster and fabric strips. These casts were the basis for many paintings and busts of the prophet and his brother, starting as early as the 1850s.

2. Hyrum’s mask still shows his fatal injury.

Latter-day Saints are fairly familiar with the story of Joseph and Hyrum’s martyrdom and the fact that Hyrum was killed when a bullet entered the left side of his nose. Because the masks were made soon after their deaths, there is little post-mortem distortion. However, the bullet wound on Hyrum’s face is distinguishable as a small distortion on the mask.


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Joseph and Hyrum Smith
image from wikimedia commons

Most members of the Church are familiar with the events surrounding the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. But what they might not realize is that news of their murder made headlines all across the country, from Arkansas and Connecticut to Florida and Maine. And though many didn’t believe Joseph was a prophet, the majority of these media sources condemned the act as murder and a scandal.

As we remember the anniversary of this tragic moment in Mormon history, here’s a look at a few of the reactions of newspapers across the country:

The New York Sun reported, “It is no small thing, in the blaze of this nineteenth century, to give to men a new revelation, found a new religion, establish new forms of worship, to build a city, with new laws, institutions, and orders of architecture, to establish ecclesiastic, civil and military jurisdiction, found colleges, send out missionaries, and make proselytes in two hemispheres: yet all this has been done by Joe Smith, and that against every sort of opposition, ridicule and persecution.”

Read the Full Story at LDS Living.

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Joseph Smith Vision of Mother in Heaven

“As with many other truths of the gospel, our present knowledge about a Mother in Heaven is limited,” the Church’s Gospel Topics Essay “Mother in Heaven” states.

While we do have quotes from Church leaders that give us insight into Her nature and role in our lives, many understand our unique knowledge of Her is sacred.

However, the First Presidency shared in 1909 that “all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity,” and in 1995 the First Presidency declared in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” ” Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”

While we might not know as much about our Heavenly Mother as we do our Heavenly Father, the words of prophets and apostles as well as Church records still provide a surprising amount of information about our other divine Parent.

Read more about this vision at LDS LIVING.

Dieter Uchtdorf
image from President Uchtdorf's Facebook page

On Tuesday, President Uchtdorf posted a picture of himself (above) on his Facebook page. He talked about a friend who asked him if he really believed that Joseph Smith used a stone to translate the Book of Mormon. Here was his reply:

Not long ago, the Church published photos and background information on seer stones. People have asked me, “Do you really believe that Joseph Smith translated with seer stones? How would something like this be possible?” And I answer, “Yes! That is exactly what I believe.” This was done as Joseph said: by the gift and power of God.

In reality, most of us use a kind of “seer stone” every day. My mobile phone is like a “seer stone.” I can get the collected knowledge of the world through a few little inputs. I can take a photo or a video with my phone and share it with family on the other side of our planet. I can even translate anything into or from many different languages!

If I can do this with my phone, if human beings can do this with their phones or other devices, who are we to say that God could not help Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration, with his translation work? If it is possible for me to access the knowledge of the world through my phone, who can question that seer stones are impossible for God?

Many religions have objects, places, and events that are sacred to them. We respect the sacred beliefs of other religions and hope to be respected for our own beliefs and what is sacred to us. We should never be arrogant, but rather polite and humble. We still should have a natural confidence, because this is the Church of Jesus Christ.

What do you think about his response?

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Images from Wikimedia Commons

There is more to Joseph Smith’s martyrdom than you may think. Read on to find out which famous American figures were involved in a plot to kill the first prophet of the LDS Church.

As early as 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith was aware of plots to have him silenced, whether by placing him back in jail or killing him.

In September 1843, Joseph Smith was shown a copy of a letter from Samuel Owens of Independence, Missouri, and wrote in his journal, “To show the wickedness and rascality of John C. Bennett and the corrupt conspiracy formed against me in Missouri and Illinois, I insert the following under date of the letter. (June 10, 1843)” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church Vol. 5 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 422). According to the letter, Owens, who was determined to have the prophet arrested on false charges and returned to Missouri, had been in contact with people such as John Bennett, Governor Reynolds, Governor Ford, Harmon Wilson of Carthage, Illinois, and Joseph Reynolds of Missouri. But these weren’t the only men involved. After further research, it has been verified, the “corrupt conspiracy” discovered by Joseph Smith included many other enemies of the Church, who conspired together to plan the martyrdom and force the exodus of the Saints. Enemies of the Church became desperate, wanting their illegal acts kept secret even while they plotted to kidnap Joseph. But after several unsuccessful kidnapping attempts, they determined to murder the prophet instead.

However, the reasons for killing the Prophet go far beyond a hatred of the Church and its beliefs. Here are just a few of those intriguing insights behind the plot to murder Joseph Smith.

1.William Clark, formerly of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the Chouteau family were afraid that if Mormons moved to Missouri, it would upset some dishonest business deals Clark and the Chouteaus relied on.

Shortly after the Church was officially organized, Oliver Cowdery wrote to U.S. Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Clark on February 14, 1831, seeking permission to teach the Native Americans in Kansas Territory, near Jackson County, Missouri. Clark didn’t respond to Cowdery’s request, and the missionaries were forced to leave.

As a result of the 1830 Indian Relocation Act, many Indian tribes were forced to remove to Kansas and Oklahoma Territories. During that time, Clark, Senator Thomas Benton (former Chairman of the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs), and Pierre Chouteau and certain members of his family were associated together in what their local newspaper identified as the “Little Junto” (or “St. Louis Junto”).

Often, Chouteau family members, as federal Indian Agents, would negotiate treaty terms with tribal leaders and secure large annual government annuities to pay for the Native Americans’ relocation, with approval from Clark and Benton. The Native Americans would in turn purchase goods at inflated prices at the various Chouteau family trading posts using these government funds, funneling large amounts of money into the pockets of the Chouteaus, Clark, and Benton.

As Mormon communities continued to expand in Missouri, members of the St. Louis Junto continued to fear the Mormons would return to Jackson County and challenge their trade monopoly. On May 12, 1836, Francois Chouteau of Jackson County wrote to his uncle Pierre Menard, “Apparently we are going to wage war here very soon with the Mormons. They have a force of 2000 men in Clay County who are organizing and making the arrangements necessary to attack us in Jackson County… It appears that they are disposed to retake possession of their land by force… we are determined to fight to the end rather than consent that the Mormons remain here” (Dorothy Brandt Marra, Cher Oncle, Cher Papa (Kansas City: University of Missouri, Western Historical Manuscript Collection, 2001) 154). Even after the Saints settled in Nauvoo, St. Louis Junto members still feared the Mormons might return as Joseph Smith was eagerly pursuing the various Redress Petitions in Congress for reparations and the right to return to their lands in Missouri.

2. Local Independence merchants felt threatened by the gathering Saints.