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Margaret J. Stoddard

A New Narrative

Progressive LDS historians are trying to change the historical narrative regarding the translation process. They claim:

    • For most of the translation, Joseph Smith used a seer stone which he placed in a hat.
    • Joseph obtained his “seer stone” years before he obtained the plates. Before he used his seer stone for translating the gold plates, he used it to find hidden objects and buried treasure.
    • The gold plates were not used during most of the translation, but lay covered with a cloth on the table or concealed somewhere in the house, or even outside.

Following the Facts

However, the only two authoritative witnesses of the translation who solely understood the process of translating the Nephite plates, were the Lord, and the Prophet Joseph Smith, the translator. Therefore, it seems logical that we should look to them to know positively how Joseph Smith translated the gold plates, which translation became The Book of Mormon.

Two authoritative witnesses: Jesus Christ & Joseph Smith

The Lord’s teachings on the translation process

The words of the Lord are found in the scriptures. In D&C 10:1-3 the Lord talks about the part of the translation that was lost, because of Martin Harris:

Now behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.

And you also lost your gift at the same time, and your mind became darkened.

Nevertheless, it is now restored unto you again; therefore see that you are faithful and continue on unto the finishing of the remainder of the work of translation as you have begun.

The Lord states that Joseph Smith translated “by the means of the Urim and Thummim”.

Here the Lord explains to the Prophet Joseph why his gift to translate was taken from him for a short time, but that it was restored to him. The Lord definitively states that Joseph Smith translated “by the means of the Urim and Thummim,” and he would continue the remainder of the work of translation, “as [he had] begun“, with the Urim and Thummim.

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 17, which revelation came from the Lord “through the Urim and Thummim,” the Lord explains to those who would become the Three Witnesses:

D&C 17, See the original document at

Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea.

Here the Lord informs the Three Witnesses that the Urim and Thummim by which Joseph translated the gold plates was the same “Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared.” Then in verse 6 of that section, the Lord declares His witness of Joseph’s translation:

And he has translated the book, even that part which I have commanded him, and as your Lord and your God liveth it is true. (D&C 17:6)

The Prophet Joseph Smith on the translation process

The Prophet Joseph Smith gave at least six accounts telling of the translation. One of his accounts was recorded in the Elders’ Journal published July 1838, at Far West, Missouri. The Prophet Joseph Smith answered questions pertaining to the translation of The Book of Mormon. The Prophet stated:

How did Joseph Smith translate the plates from which the Book of Mormon came forth?I am answering these questions by publication for the reason they are asked me thousands of times.

Moroni, the person who deposited the plates from whence the Book of Mormon was translated, in a hill in Manchester, Ontario County, New York, being dead, and raised again therefrom appeared unto me, and told me where they were and gave me directions how to obtain them. I obtained them and the Urim and Thummim with them, by the means of which I translated the plates and thus came the Book of Mormon. 1

Joseph Smith himself wrote his own history, which is included in our scriptures—Joseph Smith History 1. He includes in his narrative the visit of the angel Moroni:

34. He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;

35. Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and the use of these stones were what constituted ‘seers’ in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. . . .

42. Again, he told me, that when I got these plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it. (Joseph Smith—History 1:34-35, 42)

Note that in this official account written by Joseph Smith, Moroni describes to Joseph the Urim and Thummim:

two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates,” and “that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

President Joseph Fielding Smith also gave this explanation of the instrument that had been prepared to translate the Book of Mormon in Doctrines of Salvation.

President Joseph Fielding Smith, grandson of Hyrum Smith, 10th President of the Church


The people of Limhi brought to Mosiah a record, ‘engraven on plates of ore,’ (Mosiah 21:27) which record Mosiah translated, by the aid of ‘two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow,’ and which gave an account of the Jaredites. (Mosiah 28:11-19)

Joseph Smith received with the breastplate and the plates of the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim, which were hid up by Moroni to come forth in the last days as a means by which the ancient record might be translated, which Urim and Thummim were given to the Brother of Jared.2

Another of the Prophet Joseph’s very significant accounts was written to John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, because Joseph wanted to guarantee that a correct version of the coming forth and translation of the Book of Mormon was given, due to all the spurious accounts and rumors circulating. Joseph was assured that his entire version would be published, as he requested, “ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.” The following is part of this account:

John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat
John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat

These records were engraven on plates which had the appearance of gold: each plate was six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something over six inches in thickness, part of which was sealed. The characters on the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, and much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found a curious instrument which the ancients called “Urim and Thummim,” which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record, by the gift and power of God. “ 3

In all of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s accounts regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon, he never varied from his narrative that the gold plates were translated by the gift and power of God, using the Urim and Thummim.

For Our Day Documentary Series. Review by Tim Ballard.

The For Our Day documentary series explores the prophetic parallels in the Book of Mormon referencing statements from latter-day prophets of God and the Standard Works.

For Our Day: Covenant on the Land discusses the covenant on the Promised Land for both ancient and modern inhabitants.

Oliver Cowdery’s understanding of the translation process

Oliver Cowdery was the witness who had the closest relationship to the Prophet Joseph Smith during the translation period, because, as he stated, he was his scribe for all of it “save a few pages.”

Oliver Cowdery wrote a series of eight letters to W.W. Phelps, which are invaluable as they tell of the translation of the Book of Mormon.

This oft-quoted statement is included in one of these letters:

These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, “Interpreters,” the history, or record, called the “The book of Mormon.” 4

Watch Oliver Cowdery’s testimony, as portrayed in the film “Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration (1999), produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Another oft-quoted account by Oliver Cowdery is his testimony given at a conference held at Council Bluffs, Iowa:

Friends and brethren my name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery, In the early history of this Church I stood Identified with her. And [was] one in her councils. . . .

I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the prophet Joseph Smith. As he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or as it is called by that book “Holy Interpreters.” I beheld with my eyes, and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the Interpreters. That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr [Solomon] Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the prophet.” 5


How were the plates translated?There are other accounts given by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, but these are the most significant.

A careful reading of all of their accounts reveals no information regarding the manner of translating the Book of Mormon, except that it was translated by the gift and power of God by the aid of the Urim and Thummim.

In answering the question, “How did Joseph Smith translate the plates from which the Book of Mormon came forth?” should we not trust what the Lord, Joseph Smith, the translator, and Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, stated over and over again?

Answers to the claims made by progressives LDS historians will be forthcoming in upcoming articles.

  • Where did the idea that the Book of Mormon was translated with a seer stone in a hat come from? Did Joseph Smith use a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon?
  • Did Joseph Smith use the Urim and Thummim (or Nephite “interpreters”) to translate?
  • Did Joseph Smith use the Nephite plates to translate the Book of Mormon?
  • Why did President Joseph Fielding Smith believe it was unreasonable to claim that Joseph Smith used a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon?
  • and more!


A careful reading of all of their accounts reveals no information regarding the manner of translating the Book of Mormon, except that it was translated by the gift and power of God by the aid of the Urim and Thummim.

  1. Answers to Questions, Elders’ Journal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (July 1838): 43.
  2. Joseph Fielding Smith—Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, 224-225
  3. Joseph Smith, “Church History,” Times and Seasons 3, March 1, 1842: 707
  4. Oliver Cowdery to W. W. Phelps, Messenger and Advocate, October 1834
  5. Reuben Miller, Journal, October 21, 1848, holograph, microfilm, Church Archives.
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  1. This is a well written article. I appreciate the time, effort, and testimony of its author, Margaret Stoddard. I would like to add my testimony by sharing two simple truths that have helped me when I have run into conflicting information or tough questions about church history.

    Truth #1 Things of the Spirit can only be understood by the Spirit.

    It was the apostle Paul who taught us that while the things of man can be understood by the spirit of man, the things of God are understood only by the Spirit of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:11). Thus we learn that it takes prophets to understand prophets, scripture to understand scripture, and the Spirit to understand the things of the Spirit.

    Most scholars/ historians who have their writings published are doing so to earn advanced degrees, win publishing contracts, or to receive honors and recognition at universities. I believe this puts their motive for representing Joseph Smith, knowingly or unknowingly, at odds with the revealed truth.

    I recently came across this quote by Joseph Fielding Smith that illustrates my point.

    “I attended sessions of meetings for the institute teachers, held in the assembly room on the fourth floor of the Church Office Building. I cannot say that I was very greatly edified. Too much philosophy of a wordly nature does not seem to mix well with the fundamentals of the gospel. In my opinion many of our teachers employed in the church school system have absorbed too much of the paganism of the world, and have accepted too readily the views of uninspired educators without regard for the revealed word of the Lord. What to do about it I do not know. It is a problem for the Presidency to consider. It is a very apparent fact that we have traveled far and wide in the past 20 years [since his father’s death]. What the future will bring I do not know. But if we drift as far afield from fundamental things in the next 20 years, what will be left of the foundation laid by the Prophet Joseph Smith? It is easy for one who observes to see how the apostasy came about in the Primitive Church of Jesus Christ. Are we not traveling the same road? The more I see of educated men—I mean those who are trained in the doctrines and philosophies now taught in the world, the less regard I have for them. Modern theories which are so popular today just do not harmonize with the gospel as revealed to the prophets, and it would be amusing if it were not a tragedy to see how some of our educated brethren attempt to harmonize the theories of men with the revealed word of the Lord. Thank the Lord, there is still some faith left and some members who still cherish the word of the Lord and accept the prophets. Surely the world is ripening rapidly for the destruction, and Satan has power and dominion over his own. If any are saved surely the Lord must soon come and have power over his Saints and reign in their midst, and execute ‘judgment upon Idumea, or the world.”
    Joseph Fielding Smith

    Truth #2 The devil has great power to deceive.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “The devil will so transform things as to make one gape at those who are doing the will of God”.

    Changing the historical narrative, sets the stage for other false narratives to be written about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon which we have seen already.

    If we truly desire to know the truth, we must go to the right sources. The right sources are the scriptures and the Prophet’s own testimony. This article does a great job in pointing the reader to the scriptures including a testimony of the Urim and Thummim and method of translation by the Son of God himself.

    • How can anyone with good intentions deny that Joseph Smith indeed translated the Book of Mormon using the Urim and Thummim and gift and power of God? I appreciate this article getting its information from the Prophets own accounts and that of Oliver Cowdery as well.

      • Russell M Nelson himself stated that it was by the stone in a hat method and did a demonstration in front of a camera, likening it to a cellphone. The Church also has the stone and put a large picture of it in the Liahona a while back. It’s brown and oval.

        • Its frustrating actually to some. As the years drift on, more historians are relying on other unofficial sources thinking its accurate. The whole church seems to support it now due to all these other historians using these sources as facts. There are two sides that every historian and member of the twelve and first presidency takes their personal opinion on. The traditional idea and then the progressive idea. I am not trying to put a label on everyone. However, its the the best way to describe it.

  2. I love how simple this is. I remember reading somewhere how Hyrum invited Joseph to share how the translation was done and Joseph replied that “it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon” and that “it was not expedient for him to relate these things”. Good enough for me.

    The second Oliver Cowdery account was new to me until now. I love the bold, simple, and plain witness. He wrote it with his own pen. How beautiful.

  3. Thank you for this article. I appreciate reading the firsthand accounts from the Prophet himself and Oliver Cowdery, and, of course, the scriptural references to the translation of the Book of Mormon.

    Reading your article got me curious as to why—with such direct and clear information on how the Book of Mormon was translated—there’s even a question about it.

    I look forward to your explanation as to how and why differing accounts have emerged.

    Thank you for the valuable information!

  4. Thank you very much for writing this!! I am relieved that someone is speaking out on this subject, and not just sitting back and going along with the changes to this narrative story, given to us in the media and through our CES programs. Thank you for once again defending Joseph the Seer’s name. I appreciate the research done on this subject, the simplicity of this article, and the sources given which are not from those who have apostatized, old court records, scholars, or anti Mormon stuff. Each of these “seer stone in a hat” quotes comes from unreliable sources. Everyone needs to gain a testimony of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon with the holy and divine power of the Holy Ghost using the Urim and Thummim. Where do you begin? By reading FIRST hand sources like what this article shares, or even Joseph Smith’s own history. Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon was a great miracle, and the proof of its truth can be found in its contents.

  5. Here’s a great article written on this twenty years ago by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler. Here’s a statement they give about David Whitmer’s account:

    “The testimony of David Whitmer clearly contradicts the principles established by the Lord in this revelation. It is also at odds with the testimonies of both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. In our judgment, Mr. Whitmer is not a reliable source on this matter.”

    They lay it out so much better than I can, and it completely supports your article too. Here’s the link:

  6. Thank you for identifying and/or reminding us of what we should know. The words of our Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., and the scriptural text in the Doctrine and Covenants which you posted are true.
    Trust in the Lord and not in Progressives.

  7. The first thought comes to my mind is, why would you use the Aaronic Priesthood (seer stone) when you have the Melchizedek Priesthood (urim and thummim)?

    • The Urim and Thummim was used, but so was the seer stone. He alternated. He found the Urim and Thummim a bit uncomfortable and preferred the seer stone. Doesn’t really matter what he used, the Lord isn’t limited to either.

      • Adam J

        Where is your source for your statement that he alternately used the Urim & Thummim with the seer stone and hat and prefered the seer stone and hat to the Urim & Thummim? Because “he found the Urim & Thummim a bit uncomfortable”. ?

        I’d really like you to show where your sources came from that make you feel like you had the authority to make such a statement.
        And yes it does matter. You need to do your own homework and see for yourself that Joseph, Oliver and The Lord himself all bare testimony of the Urim & Thummim. A specific tool used for translating the records. Like the Liahona, the record is very careful to describe the Urim & Thummim and its function and gives great details about the depiction of it for the reader to know what it is. Never do they mention the seer stone & hat.
        Please do not Be duped into thinking it doesn’t matter. It does. By your statement, one could claim that Joseph used a Ouiji Board and that would be ok with you. Like the Ouiji Board… the seer stone and hat is made out to be associated with the occult. This story was conjured up by an anti Mormon in hopes of portraying the prophet Joseph Smith as being involved with mysticism and the occult. NOT GOOD and completely out of step with the Lord’s way of doing things. This is why Sourcing your information is sooo important. You have to go directly to the purest source. The original source.
        This is how progressives change and polute history. Don’t fall for it.

        • Colleen. Unfortunately, if people are too caught up on this matter, they will begin to fall into contention and distaste towards anyone who disagrees, as it appear you are now.

          We understand that Joseph had several different means of translating, one being a seer stone (EVEN if he only used it 2-3 times).

          It is interesting to see people hyper focus on the defense of the lack of a seer stone because it causes discomfort in their traditional narrative.

          In fact, if God would have given Joseph an Ouija board to translate, I would have accepted the fact he used an ouija board to translate, haha.

  8. I just visited the LDS Church History sites in Palmyra and Susquehana (Harmony) Pennsylvania. In both, they talked about the seer stones and that Joseph Smith used them to translate a great deal of the Book of Mormon. Knowing about the Urim and Thumin I was a bit surprised, but that’s what they’re teaching at the LDS Church History Sites. They even have a picture of the stone which is in the Church Archives.

  9. I am glad you wrote this. I remember when the seer stone and stuff about that came out a few years ago. I was wondering if it was true because it did not fit with what the scriptures said about seers and the urim and thumin or what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said about the translation. Then I ran into an article by Joseph Fielding McConkie about it, in which he substantiated the claims about the urim and thumin as the means for translation. If we want to know truth, we need to get the story from those who are known to be truthful and not the enemies of the Church. All through the 7 volume History of the Church, by Joseph Smith, Joseph and others recount the lies told about Joseph Smith. Most of what modern historians are printing as written proof of history, were already recorded as lies.

  10. Thank you for setting the record before us. People who seek God, know Him and His ways. People who seek confusion, the fantasmic and esoteric will be led astray.

    • First of all, the essay is not doctrine. Nowhere is there a revelation in it. It was written by scholars.

      Second of all, the problem with that essay is that it attacks our Church leaders of the past. It says President Joseph Fielding Smith didn’t know what he was talking about, that somehow we’ve decided that David Whitmer is right and the scriptures are wrong, and Joseph Smith’s statements on the subject aren’t accurate but we’ll go with David Whitmer again. It’s almost hard to believe that the essay was ever written and it isn’t the only essay that is filled with errors! Other essays are seriously flawed.

      • And yet the essays were published with the approval of the First Presidency. Does that mean that they too are leading us astray?

        • President Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the Church: “It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3: 203.)

        • The issue is that in many instances our leaders contradict each other. At times they teach that unconditional love is true and at other times teach that unconditional love is a false doctrine. At times they teach one thing on race and at other times they teach another thing on race and the list goes on and on and on. These statements by our current leaders may help you to understand our current situation.

          “We don’t believe in the infallibility of our leaders.” (President Dallin H. Oaks, press conference, Tuesday, January 16, 2018)

          “Give your leaders a little leeway to make mistakes, as you hope your leaders will give you a little leeway to profit by your errors.” (President Russell M. Nelson, press conference, Tuesday, January 16, 2018)

        • You may also be interested to know that President Brigham Young taught that members who place blind faith and blind obedience in their leaders are not capable of the Celestial Kingdom.

          “Who has influence over any one of you, to cause you to miss salvation in the celestial kingdom of God? I will answer these questions for myself. If brother Brigham and I shall take a wrong track, and be shut out of the kingdom of heaven, no person will be to blame but brother Brigham and I. I am the only being in heaven, earth, or hell, that can be blamed.

          “This will equally apply to every Latter-day Saint. Salvation is an individual operation. I am the only person that can possibly save myself. When salvation is sent to me, I can reject or receive it. In receiving it, I yield implicit obedience and submission to its great Author throughout my life, and to those whom He shall appoint to instruct me; in rejecting it, I follow the dictates of my own will in preference to the will of my Creator. There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. “I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own,” say they, “to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem.

          “I wish to notice this. We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars. In the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, these glories are called telestial, terrestrial, and celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father’s house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.

          “Do you know what is right and just, as well as I do? In some things you do, and in some things you [p. 313a]may not know as well; but I will explain what I mean, in the following words—I will do all the good I can, and all I know how to do, and I will shun every evil that I know to be an evil. You can all do that much. I will apply my heart to wisdom, and ask the Lord to impart it to me; and if I know but little, I will improve upon it, that tomorrow I may have more, and thus grow from day to day, in the knowledge of the truth, as Jesus Christ grew in stature and knowledge from a babe to manhood; and if I am not now capable of judging for myself, perhaps I shall be in another year. We are organized to progress in the scale of intelligence, and the least Saint by adhering strictly to the order of God, may attain to a full and complete salvation through the grace of God, by his own faithfulness.” (Brigham Young – Journal of Discourses, 1:312)

        • In Response to Teelea about the first Presidency approving the Church Essays.

          They also wrote this about the Church Essays

          “The purpose of these essays, which have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has been to gather accurate information from many different sources and publications and place it in the Gospel Topics section of, where the material can more easily be accessed and studied by Church members and other interested parties”.

          I see no where in the above statement that indicts the First Presidency intended the information contained in the church Essays to be considered official doctrine or the official position of the church.

          Rather they clarified that the purpose of the essays was to be a study tool and a place to easily access the information.

          They went on to further clarify by stating:

          “We encourage members to study the Gospel Topics essays cited in the links below as they “seek learning, even by study and also by faith”.

          The statement made by the First Presidency is clear. We as members of the church are to act in faith and STUDY the information provided in the essay. They didn’t say this what you are to believe but rather what we are to study.

          I have studied the information provided in the essays. I have also studied as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have invited me to do which is out of the Best Books.

          Speaking of the church essays, the church also declared:
          “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

          This is more than a simple exhortation to learn about the gospel. It is an invitation from the Lord to recognize that not all sources of knowledge are equally reliable. Seeking “out of the best books” does not mean seeking only one set of opinions, but it does require us to distinguish between reliable sources and unreliable sources”.

          This is clear!!! They warn us that it is our responsibility to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information. It is my job to seek that knowledge and not the job of the church to do it for me.

          Studying by faith also requires we ask, seek, knock or in other words it requires us to study it out in or heart and our mind and then pray for the correct knowledge and information.

          The Best Books are the scriptures and the Words of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

          Both the Scriptures and the testimony and Withess of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith declare that the Book of Mormon was translated through the medium of the Urim and Thummim and by the Gift and power of God NOT by a stone in the hat. “

  11. From the Church’s own website:

    “Virtually all of the accounts of the translation process are reproduced in Welch, “Miraculous Translation.” Two accounts of the translation process, including the use of a seer stone, have been written by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and published in Church magazines. Historians have also written about the seer stone in Church publications, both in the Ensign and in The Joseph Smith Papers. (See Neal A. Maxwell, “‘By the Gift and Power of God,’” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 36–41; Russell M. Nelson, “A Treasured Testament,” Ensign, July 1993, 61–63; Richard Lloyd Anderson, “‘By the Gift and Power of God,’” Ensign, Sept. 1977, 78–85; and Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831, xxix–xxxii.)”

    Modern prophets appear to disagree with you. Whom to choose?

    • Kevin,

      What a about our 10 President of the Church, President Joseph Fielding Smith? He as a church Historian for 69 years and the President of the Church. He studied the historical documents claiming that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a seer stone in a hat and he concluded “JOSEPH SMITH DID NOT use a seer stone to translate.

      “While the statement has been made by some writers that the Prophet Joseph Smith used a seer stone part of the time in his translating of the record, and information points to the fact that he did have in his possession such a stone, yet there is no authentic statement in the history of the Church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not that this stone was used for this purpose. The reason i give for this conclusion is found in the statement of the Lord to the Brother of Jared as recorded in Ether 3:22-24. These stones, THe Urim and THummim which were given to the Brother of Jared, were preserved for this very purpose of translating the record, both of the Jaredites and the Nephites. Then again the Prophet was impressed by Moroni with the fact that these stones were given for that very purpose”… (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:225-26).

      So I suppose the choice isn’t between LDS Answers and modern Prophets because even Modern Prophets are not of one mind and in agreement with each other.

      The real decision is if you choose to believe the Lord, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Joseph Fielding Smith or if you choose to believe apostate sources and those who repeat the testimony of apostate sources.

      For almost 200 years, the Church has remained true to the testimony and Witness of Joseph Smith on translation. Only recently, have some decided they preferred the testimony of David Whitmer over the Prophets.
      David Whitmer was a sworn enemy to Jospeh Smith who was excommunicated for possessing the same Spirit of Apostasy as the mobs who violently murder the Prophet in cold blood.
      He didn’t start telling the Stone in the hat rumor until 40 years later and after all the Book of Mormon witnesses had died.

      I don’t know about you but I CHOOSE to stick with the witness of Son of God, The Prophet Joseph Smith, Oilver Cowedery, and President Joseph Fielding Smith

  12. Fantastic article! Well researched and clear and concise! Thanks for sharing a different perspective than what is currently being taught to many people!

  13. Your testimony is powerful, thank you. The history is pretty antiquated. One example, is that Joseph did not write his history that is in the Pearl of Great Price (the word write was used) it was written by at least 7 different scribes, then approved by Joseph, then changed by scribes after Joseph died. We use “Urim and Thumim” as if it were a proper name, Joseph used it as a description. As one who has been an eye witness to what happens at the history department, specifically the Joseph Smith Papers, I can tell you that the essays are up to date according to source material we now have that was not available just a few years ago. Each essay is seen by each member of the Quorum of the Twelve and we don’t print the essay until we receive a letter from the First Presidency approving it. We believe in a living Church with President Nelson using the keys. Please be careful what is said when until all the correct facts are known.

    • Dear rekcap,

      It appears that you are under the delusion the hired and well compensated Church historians speak for God and that the teachings and writings of said historians are not to be questioned or challenged. and that said scholars are empowered by God to declare that the teachings of dead prophets were merely their own opinions and were false, inasmuch as they contradict the teachings of said scholars.

      You also made some pretty bold opinions that you failed to back up with any real evidence or history.

      “For example, You say that Joseph did not write his history, it was written by 7 different scribes, then approved by Joseph, then changed by scribes after Joseph died”. Please provide the Evidence. REAL Evidence.

      I think these friends of yours at the Church History department are leaving out one Vital detail. During the Kirtland Apostasy and after John Whitmer, the official Church historian, was excommunicated for Apostasy Joseph Smith did WRITE THE HISTORY HIMSELF.
      “April 27 [1838],—This day I chiefly spent in writing a history of the Church from the earliest period of its existence up to this date.” (History of the Church, 3:25-26)

      “In this history I shall present the various events in relation to this Church, in truth and righteousness, as they have transpired, or as they at present exist, being now [1838] the eighth year since the organization of the said Church” – Joseph Smith

      Then you state “we use urim and Thummim” as if it were a proper name. The Urim and Thummim is the ancient order of things. Was the Lord in scripture also mistaken when he called the Urim and Thummim by its proper name in scripture?? (Exodus 28:30) What about Abraham? Was he mistaken when he called his instrument given to him by God to receive revelation the Urim and Thummim?

      The Church Essays have NO AUTHOR it is simply a project of “historians” and “authors” who write books for the honors of men. There is no revelation in the Church Essays. It is opinion based and written according to the interpretation of man. Anyone with even a child’s understanding of scripture text can see that there are several doctrinal errors in the essays.

      I have also been informed by people that work for the Church that there are many church “scholars” and “historians” that no longer have a testimony of the restored Gospel but keep their beliefs “in the closet” so to speak so that no one finds out and they can keep collecting a paycheck from the Church. i am not sure it is wise to trust those without testimonies to attempt to give a faithful account of the life of Joseph Smith or the restoration especially when they lack faith themselves.

      This reminds me of the warning of the Lord to the Nephites who warned us for our day “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves”.

      The New Narrative pushed by historians is at odds with the testimonies and witnesses of the Prophets of the Restoration and every other Past President of the Church. Given the fact that this new narrative contradicts the words of Jesus Christ in Scripture, The Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery his scribe, and every other faithful historian, each member of the church is being put in a position where they have decide for themselves who to believe. Given the fact, that this “new narrative” is easily debunked using reliable sources and the scriptures I believe our spiritual survival requires us to stick to the History written by the Hand of the Prophet himself lest we are tossed to and thro by the shafts in the whirlwind and by those who are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).

      These church “historians” are not helping anyone by repeating anti-mormon rhetoric that has existed since the Church was organized. In fact, I pray that they speedily repent before they face the judgement of the Almighty.

      But I do agree with you about the importance of following wise Counsel given to us by the Living President of the Church. In Fact, President Nelson recently counseled us to SEEK knowledge directly from the Lord.

      “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost”…

      I also agree with President Nelson. We need the Holy Ghost to be our guide and our constant influence so that we can know truth from error, fact from fiction, reliable from the unreliable.

      have a great day!

    • rekcap,

      I would like to respond to this statement: “The Essays are up to date according to source material we now have that was not available just a few years ago”.

      This is a false or at least an extremely misleading statement. The source material in the essays is not new and has been available for decades. In fact, many faithful historians and Past Presidents of the Church including Joseph Fielding Smith, examined every bit of these sources that the modern historians are now relying upon to “Change the history” and they determined these sources were either not reliable or they came from Apostate and cannot be trusted.

      I will give one example. These modern scholars claim that Joseph Smith used a brown seer stone he found in a well to translate the Book of Mormon.

      Here is the source and quote directly from the Church Essay:

      “…he appears to have found one of the stones while digging for a well around 1822…” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism [Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984], 69–70.)

      Here is the problem. Did they quote an original and reliable historical record? No!! THe source in the church essay is Richard Bushman. And notice how careful Bushman was in his wording. He did not state it as fact that Joseph smith found a stone while digging a well. He said it “appears”. Essentially, Bushman isn’t sure. Why isn’t he sure? Because the only evidence he has for this claim comes from the testimony of Willard Chase. What is the source for Willard Chase’s claim? Bushman cites “Mormonism Unvelied”, the oldest and first anti-mormon publication. It has been around since 1834!!! This claim is nothing new!! This is just the same, tired , worn-out, anti-mormon falsehoods that have been in circulation since Joseph Smith received the plates. Willard CHase was an enemy of the prophet from the beginning. He is the one that led a group of 12 men to try and steal the plates from Joseph Smith finally obtained the plates from the Hill Cumorah.
      Lucy Mack Smith recounted the incident in her history:

      “Mr. Smith (Sr.) was soon informed that ten or twelve men were clubbed together, with one Willard Chase, a Methodist class leader, at their head, and what was more ridiculous, they had sent some sixty miles for a conjuror to come to divine by magic art the place where the record was deposited”. Accordingly, the morning after we heard of their plans, Mr. Smith went over the hill which lay east of us to see what he discover among the neighbors. At the first house he came to, he found the conjuror and Willard Chase, together with the company… They stood in the yard near the door and were devising many plans and schemes to find ‘Joe Smith’s gold bible’ as they termed it. The conjuror was really animated, although he had traveled sixty miles during the latter part of the day and the night before” (History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, ).
      In 1827, Willard Chase and his mob enlisted the help of his sister, Sally Chase, who unsuccessfully attempted to use a green occult stone to locate Joseph’s hiding place for the gold plates.
      “A young woman, who was a sister to Willard Chase, had found a green glass through which she could see many wonderful things, and among the rest of her discoveries, she said she had found out the exact place where ‘Joe Smith kept his bible’. And so in pursuance to her direction, they gathered their forces and laid siege to the cooper shop, but went away disappointed.
      This did not shake their confidence in Miss Chase, for they still went from place to place by her suggestion, determined to get possession of the object of their research” (The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, 150-151).

      So this is the man that Bushman relies upon to tell us how the Book of Mormon was translated? A methodist leader from Palymra who hired psychics and enlisted the help of evil men to steal the record?

      We need to be careful that we do not approach history through a secular lens but instead we need the help of the Holy Ghost. Any and every member of the church can fact check any and all of the claims in the church essays and I recommend that they do. We should never rely upon anyone to do our thinking for us.

  14. In regards to the essays here is a video clip. It’s about 40-43 minutes into the conversation when they talk about the Essays, and admit that even thought the Fist Presidency “approved them,” there are errors in them. This is quite lengthy, so don’t waste your time listening to it, unless you listen while you’re doing other things. It is quite informative though, because of the weakness of the answers these brethren give, and I felt no testimony of the Spirit in anything they said–really sad. The exchange that there is no archaeologic evidence, DNA, or any evidence that the Book of Mormon really happened was especially telling, and all they could do was encourage him to read John Sorenson’s writings. I’m sure that would be a testimony builder! (sarcasm)

  15. I really liked this article. I have shared it with two people. And they have enjoyed it.
    At the end of the article you said that another article about where the idea of the seer stone in the hat came from. I really want that article completed soon. I want the sources so I can teach others the truth.

  16. Thank you Sister Stoddard!
    I believe Nephi saw our day when prosperity has gone to seed and many in the church begin to disbelieve the simple truth of Josephs testimony. In the words of Paul they” will not endure sound doctrine but turn to fables”.
    2 Nephi 28:14 They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.