LDS Elders Meeting With Rich Kelsey

Moroni Seattle LDS Temple, picture taken by Rich Kelsey
Moroni on the Seattle LDS Temple, picture taken by Rich Kelsey

LDS Elders at the Seattle Temple Grounds:

The following is an account of a meeting with two LDS elders on the Seattle Temple grounds on August, 29th, 2014. Even though this meeting took place years ago, this account is most interesting because of the mindset of the elders. The dialog from the approximately 45 minute visit has been condensed down to a reasonable read.

(Rich) “Hello Elder Mitchell, Elder Weakly, glad to see that you brought the copies of the Doctrines and Covenants which I asked you to bring.”

(Rich) “Let’s start by reading the INTRODUCTION from Section 17; as well as the first verse.”



The Prophet inquired of the Lord, and this revelation was given in answer, through the Urim and Thummim. 1 – 4, By faith the Three Witnesses shall see the plates and other sacred items …

Verse (1) Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my [God’s] 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 … 

(Rich) “According to the story, how many objects called the Urim and Thummim were obtained with the golden plates?”

(Elder Weakly) “One.”

(Rich) “Good answer; let’s see where this takes us?”

(Rich) “We have just read that the Prophet Joseph Smith was looking into the Urim and Thummim, and what does he discover? That,

“By faith the Three Witnesses shall see the plates and other sacred items,”


“the Urim and Thummim …”

(Rich) “Now we have a problem with our math. Because, from the context of the revelation, there are evidently two objects called the Urim and Thummim: The one Joseph Smith is presently looking in; and, the one the witnesses are about to see by faith!”

(Rich) “The mystery is solved when we realize that a reference to one of Joseph’s seer stones is right here in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 17; and, the seer stone is also called,

“the Urim and Thummim.”

(Elder Mitchell) “No. ‘It is not a seer stone!’ ‘It’s the Urim and Thummim that was found with the golden plates.'”

(Rich) “If the Urim and Thummim of LDS tradition was right in front of them, then why would the witnesses be told they would need to see it by faith?”

(Elder Mitchell) “Because the Three Witnesses were not present when Joseph Smith got the revelation; so, later on the witnesses would see the Urim and Thummim by faith.”

(Rich) “To the contrary, there is nothing in Section 17 to suggest that the witnesses were not present while Joseph was speaking out the revelation.”

(Rich) “And, now you are disregarding the LDS Ensign Magazine quotes, as well as numerous other LDS quotes which we documented in our three previous studies, which claimed Joseph Smith used a seer stone to receive this revelation; as well as other early revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants!”

(Rich) “Also: The revelation in question was given after the angel supposedly took the golden plates, along with the Urim and Thummim, to heaven:”

[To the reader]:

What LDS apologists maintain:

“When Joseph Smith had completed the translation of the Book of Mormon, the angel Moroni appeared to him and took the plates into his possession, along with the Urim and Thummim.” (Ask Gramps: What happened to the Urim and Thummim after the Book of Mormon was translated?)

LDS statement on the subject:

“… the Urim and Thummim were returned with the plates to the angel.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Joseph Fielding Smith, 3, p.225)

(Rich) “Ok, let’s move on to the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 17, verse 5.”

(Elder Mitchell) “I’ll read it:”



5 And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith.

(Rich) “Notice how Joseph Smith saw the plates:”

” … by my [God’s] power … and … because he had faith.”

(Rich) “In my right hand, I’m holding a cell phone.”

(Rich) “Do either of you need a spiritual experience to see this cell phone; or, faith of any kind?”

(LDS Elders) “No.”

(Rich) “That is because it is a tangible object, unlike the golden plates.”

(Rich) “Also, consider that almost every account of the golden plates have them hidden in the woods, covered by a cloth, hidden in the beans, under the hearth, in a wooden chest; Martin Harris was told by Joseph Smith that God would strike him dead if he tried to look at the golden plates; and then, they were taken to heaven by an angel.”

(Rich) “And, doesn’t it seem a bit odd that the spirit of a dead man was guarding the golden plates?”

[To the reader]:

The well respected LDS author/scholar Richard Bushman said:

“This, then, is the historical difficulty of the plates. Accounts of hiding the plates, wrapping the plates with cloth, showing the plates and translating from the plates become nothing more than one long attempt at fraud and make everything else Joseph Smith did doubtful. ‘Like a beggar claiming to have a diamond that he allows nobody to see.'” (Statements from Richard Bushman – Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum’s Conference, Oct. 23, 2010)

(Rich) “Now let’s go to Section 5 of the Doctrine and Covenants.”



1 Behold, I say unto you, that as my servant Martin Harris has desired a witness at my hand, that you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., have got the plates of which you have testified and borne record that you have received of me;

2 And now, behold, this shall you say unto him—he who spake unto you, said unto you: I, the Lord, am God, and have given these things unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and have commanded you that you should stand as a witness of these things;

25 And then he shall say unto the people of this generation: Behold, I have seen the things which the Lord hath shown unto Joseph Smith, Jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for I have seen them, for they have been shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.

26 And I the Lord command him, my servant Martin Harris, that he shall say no more unto them concerning these things, except he shall say: I have seen them, and they have been shown unto me by the power of God; and these are the words which he shall say.

27 But if he deny this he will break the covenant which he has before covenanted with me, and behold, he is condemned.

(Rich) “Notice how in verse 1 it reads:”



1 … my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., have got the plates …

(Rich) “But, then further down it is written:”

25 And then he shall say unto the people of this generation: Behold, I have seen the things which the Lord hath shown unto Joseph Smith, Jun., and I know of a surety that they are true, for I have seen them, for they have been shown unto me by the power of God and not of man.

(Rich) “If Joseph Smith had the plates in his possession, then why were they shown to the Three Witnesses by the power of God?”

(Rich) “Are you beginning to understand that the plates supposedly had properties unlike anything in our natural world?”[1]

(Rich) “Let’s read verse 27 one more time:”



27 But if he deny this he will break the covenant which he has before covenanted with me, and behold, he is condemned.

(Rich) “Here, supposedly Jesus Christ threatens Martin Harris with condemnation if he does not say he saw the golden plates.”

(Rich) “Why?”

(Rich) “Martin Harris wanted to see the golden plates with his whole heart; he had asked Joseph Smith for a view of the plates while serving as his scribe, over and over again; and, he wanted to tell the world about them!”

(Rich) “Harris was obsessed with the golden plates; he even had a falling out with Joseph Smith over not being allowed to see them; then, he came back to Joseph’s side still hoping to see the plates.”

(Rich) “The way I see it, the content of this supposed Divine commandment lacks credibility because it was supposed to convince Martin Harris that Joseph Smith had,

“got the plates,”

yet, the story of an angel coming down from heaven with the plates to show them, from my perspective, indicates that Smith did not have possession of the plates at that time; supposedly an angel did.

(Rich) “In the Bible, Jesus said my sheep listen to my voice and they follow me. The concept is that the sheep know the voice of the Shepherd; and they will not follow someone else.”

(Rich) I bore my testimony at this time: describing to the LDS Elders my long search for the meaning of life and how it culminated the evening I asked Jesus to be my savior.

(Rich) Then I said: “I believe I know the voice of the Shepherd, yet, I do not recognize the words written in the Doctrines and Covenants sections we just looked up as being his voice; even though Joseph Smith claimed it was Jesus speaking through him.”

(Elder Mitchell) “You need to repent!”

(Rich) “Repent from what?”

(Elder Mitchell) [Blank stare]

(Elder Mitchell) “We are out here proclaiming the gospel under the authority of the priesthood.”

(Elder Mitchell) “You need to repent!”

(Rich) “About that priesthood doctrine: David Whitmer said the doctrine was introduced into the Church almost two years after its formation.”

(Elder Weakly) “That is FALSE!”

At this point I invited the LDS Elders over to my house to document what David Whitmer said using early LDS source material.

[To the reader]: The LDS Elders ignored my invitation.

Elder Mitchell continued to taunt me as both the Elders and I went our separate ways:

He repeated:

“You need to repent.”

“You need to accept Christ.”

“You need to be baptized.”

Several times.

[What seems ironic to me]:

Right before these taunts from the LDS Elders, I shared my testimony of the night I repented and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior; and, how I experienced a blanket of love surround me, as thick as butter, and stay with me all night long giving me assurance that my prayer for salvation had been accepted. About a week later I was baptized in a Christian Church.

The Elder’s insulting words suggest that they are convinced no one can truly accept Jesus Christ outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

I said one thing to the men as I was leaving:

“What you have is faithful history, and perhaps, wishful thinking?”

[To the reader]:

I really am sorry that the LDS Elders chose to act the way they did. Not only did they oppose me, they ended up opposing the LDS Church History Department, LDS teachers, authors, apostles, past and current LDS publications.

We looked up over 25 quotes on Joseph Smith’s use of seer stones from, BYU Studies, the Maxwell Institute, the Joseph Smith Papers project, the Ensign Magazine, etc.; every single quote was dismissed as,


because, all of the quotes in question went against Elder Mitchell’s assertion that Joseph Smith never used or possessed a seer stone!

On this subject, the tenth President of the LDS Church said:

“The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, [on the altar in the Manti Temple when that building was dedicated] however, was the seer stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is currently in the possession of the Church.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 3: 225)

LDS Scholars From the Church History Department Explain:

“Eyewitnesses reported that he [Joseph Smith] also used a dark brown seer stone. JS referred to the pair of stones found with the plates as ‘spectacles,’ and he later referred to these stones and his other seer stones with the term Urim and Thummim …'” (Joseph Smith Papers, Translate, Summary)

Other articles of interest:

Cognitive Dissonance and the LDS Faith — Rich Kelsey

■ LDS Urim and Thummim — Rich Kelsey

LDS Priesthood — Rich Kelsey

The Golden Plates of Joseph Smith — Rich Kelsey

Full Article Index / LDS SERIES


[1] “The plates walk a fine line between magic and religion, between enchantment and disenchantment, between fraud and religious genius … They make the claim that the supernatural has entered into the natural world.” (Presentation given at Utah State’s Eccles Science Learning Center on March 22, 2012, by LDS author/scholar Richard Bushman)