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Yesterday The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released photographs of a seer stone that was apparently one that the Prophet Joseph Smith used to aid him in translating the Book of Mormon. The stone has been in the Church Archives for many generations, but no known photographs have ever been taken of it or shown to the public.
The chocolate-colored oval-shaped stone was passed down from Oliver Cowdery’s widow, Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery, to Phineas Young who gave it to his brother Brigham Young. President Young’s wife, Zina D. H. Young, found this same stone in the estate of her late husband and gave it to the Church. It has remained in the archives ever since that time.
Here are five things to know about this seer stone.
One: It appears that Joseph Smith found this seer stone while digging a well for a nearby neighbor in Macedon Township, New York.
Elder B.H. Roberts recorded: “The Seer Stone referred to here was a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the prophet found while digging a well in company with his brother Hryum, for a Mr. Clark Chase, near Palmyra, New York. It possessed the qualities of Urim and Thummim, since by means of it…Joseph was able to translate the characters engraven on the plates.”
Two: Joseph Smith used this seer stone by putting it in the bottom of a hat and putting his face into the hat to block out ambient light.
David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses of the plates, gives many accounts of the use of the seer stone during the translation process. George Q. Cannon interviewed David Whitmer on February 27, 1884 and recorded, “In speaking of the translating he said that Joseph had the stone in a hat from which all light was excluded. In the stone the characters appeared and under that the translation in English and they remained until the scribe had copied it correctly. If he had made a mistake the words still remained and were not replaced by any other.”
In another account published in the Omaha Herald, October 10, 1886, the reporter indicated that “the stone…glared forth its letters of fire. The Urim and Thummim [still referring to the stone], in this strange process of translation, would reflect a number of words in pure English, which would remain on its face until the party acting as scribe had got it correctly written, and the occasional disposition of the characters to remain long after they had been so written was always an infallible evidence that there was something wrong in the translation of the record, and a close comparison would invariably reveal this fact. When the necessary corrections had been made the words would instantly disappear from the Urim and Thummim [again referring to the stone] and new ones take their place.”
Read the rest of the article at Meridian Magazine