Joseph Smith Stone in Hat Routine — Rich Kelsey

Joseph Smith Stone in Hat Routine
Illustration of Joseph Smith gazing at a stone in hat from

A Picture of a Stone in a Hat Is Worth a Thousand Words: 

The way the LDS Church portrayed a young Joseph Smith gazing at a stone in a hat is not a true picture of Joseph Smith’s well documented stone in a hat routine! Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Isaac Hale, Willard Chase and Joseph Lewis, who was a neighbor of the Smith family, all claimed that Joseph Smith put the seer stone in a hat and then put his face in the hat.[1]

Here is an example:

David Whitmer wrote: “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo. p. 12)

Yet today the LDS Church is portraying Joseph Smith looking at a stone in a hat without his face even touching the hat, and he is using his hand to block out the light instead. Perhaps Church leaders were concerned that having their founding prophet’s face buried in a hat would be embarrassing? So, they misrepresented what actually took place, to make Church history a bit easier to swallow.

One thing is certain: Over the years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has sugarcoated the over-the-top lifestyle and activities Joseph Smith was once known for. Using misleading images of the Book of Mormon translation process is one example.

LDS Attorney Gordon Madsen’s View:

While speaking of Joseph Smith’s well documented 1826 Glass Looking Trial, LDS Attorney Gordon A. Madsen, said:

“The pivotal testimony, in my view, was that of Josiah Stowell. Both accounts agree on the critical facts. The Pearsall account states: ‘[Joseph] had been employed by him [Stowell] to work on farm part of time; … that he positively knew that the prisoner could tell and professed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone.’

The Purple account states:

Justice Neeley soberly looked at the witness and in a solemn, dignified voice, said, ‘Deacon Stowell, do I understand you as swearing before God, under the solemn oath you have taken, that you believe the prisoner can see by the aid of the stone fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plainly as you can see what is on my table?’ ‘Do I believe it?’ says Deacon Stowell, ‘do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief. I positively know it to be true.’” (Joseph Smith’s 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting, BYU Studies, p. 105)

The obvious question: Was Joseph Smith’s stone in a hat routine merely a con game, or could he really see underground?[2]

LDS Attorney Madsen Went on to Say:

“The foregoing considerations lead me to conclude that in 1826 Joseph Smith was indeed charged and tried for being a disorderly person and that he was acquitted. Such a conclusion does nothing to ‘prove’ or disprove the claim that he was reputed to be a ‘glass-looker.’” (Joseph Smith’s 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting, BYU Studies, p. 106)

To maintain that because Joseph Smith was acquitted, the claim that he was reputed to be a ‘glass-looker’ was not proven or disproven, is a misleading statement. Because at the request of Justice Neeley, Joseph Smith exhibited the stone[3] and he readily admitted to being a glass looker when he said:

“… he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were.” (Joseph Smith 1826 Glass Looking Trial, Miss Pearsall Account)

Another statement that Joseph Smith made during the 1826 Glass Looking Trial also proves beyond any reasonable doubt that he was a glass-looker:

“With some labor and exertion he found the stone, carried it to the creek, washed and wiped it dry, sat down on the bank, placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing-Eye.” (Joseph Smith Jr. Testimony, Purple Account)

Misleading Statement from

“A time line of some key events in the life and ministry of Joseph Smith

… Mar. 1826: Tried and acquitted on fanciful charge of being a ‘disorderly person,’ South Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York. New York law defined a disorderly person as, among other things, a vagrant or a seeker of “lost goods.” The Prophet had been accused of both: the first charge was false and was made simply to cause trouble; Joseph’s use of a seer stone to see things that others could not see with the naked eye brought the second charge. Those who brought the charges were apparently concerned that Joseph might bilk his employer, Josiah Stowell, out of some money. Mr. Stowell’s testimony clearly said this was not so and that he trusted Joseph Smith.” (Highlights in the Prophet’s Life, Ensign, June 1994)

The reasoning in the above quote equates Mr. Stowell’s trust in Joseph Smith’s ability to use,

“a seer stone to see things that others could not see with the naked eye,”

with Stowell not being bilked out of some money.

Since when does the confidence of gullible people exonerate those who are exploiting them?

“Confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, and greed.” (Confidence trick, Wikipedia)

There is no doubt that Mr. Stowell was convinced that Joseph Smith could see things that others could not see; but, that doesn’t make what Joseph Smith was telling Mr. Stowell true.

According to the 1826 Trial transcripts, Joseph Smith told Mr. Stowell there was a box of treasure buried on his property; and by using a stone in a hat, Joseph Smith showed Mr. Stowell the exact spot where the treasure could be found.[4]

Double-talk from LDS Apostle Uchtdorf:

LDS Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf talking about a seer stone
Image of LDS Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf from

Today, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are telling us that Joseph Smith’s seer stone was similar to a smartphone. Here is an example:

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!” (President Uchtdorf Compares Smartphone To Seer Stones)

What LDS Apostle Uchtdorf said is a clear example of double-talk:

Language that appears to be earnest and meaningful but in fact is a mixture of sense and nonsense. (Merriam Webster Dictionary, double-talk)

Any smartphone app which allows users to see buried chests of treasure, and the spirits watching over the treasure, would not have anything to do with reality.

Joseph Smith Quit the Stone in Hat Routine:

David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, said:

“After the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, early in the spring of 1830, before April 6th, Joseph gave the stone to Oliver Cowdery and told me as well as the rest that he was through with it, and he did not use the stone any more.” (An Address to All Believers in Christ, p. 32)

So, according to David Whitmer, for the remaining 14 years of Joseph Smith’s life:

“… he did not use the stone any more.”


The most likely reason Joseph Smith gave up gazing at a stone was because the stone in a hat routine was simply a ruse that the young Mormon prophet had grown tired of.[5]

Articles of interest:

■ Joseph Smith 1823 Bedroom Dream — Rich Kelsey

Ten LDS Plot holes — Rich Kelsey

■ Book of Mormon Archeological Evidence? — Rich Kelsey

Full Article Index / LDS Series



Isaac Hale:

“I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called ‘money diggers;’ and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man — not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father.

Smith, and his father, with several other ‘money-diggers’ boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the ‘money-diggers’ great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found — he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see.” (TESTIMONY OF ISAAC HALE, Mormonism Unvailed — Eber Howe’s 1834 book, p.262-263)

Willard Chase:

“Manchester, Ontario Co. N. Y. 1833.

I became acquainted with the Smith family, known as the authors of the Mormon Bible, in the year 1820. At that time, they were engaged in the money digging business, which they followed until the latter part of the season of 1827. In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith to assist me; the latter of whom is now known as the Mormon prophet. After digging about twenty feet below the surface of the earth, we discovered a singularly appearing stone, which excited my curiosity.

I brought it to the top of the well, and as we were examining it, Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat. It has been said by Smith, that he brought the stone from the well; but this is false. There was no one in the well but myself. The next morning he came to me, and wished to obtain the stone, alledging that he could see in it; but I told him I did not wish to part with it on account of its being a curiosity, but would lend it. After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it, and made so much disturbance among the credulous part of community, that I ordered the stone to be returned to me again. He had it in his possession about two years.

I believe, some time in 1825, Hiram Smith (brother of Joseph Smith) came to me, and wished to borrow the same stone, alledging that they wanted to accomplish some business of importance, which could not very well be done without the aid of the stone. I told him it was of no particular worth to me, but merely wished to keep it as a curiosity, and if he would pledge me his word and honor, that I should have it when called for, he might take it; which he did and took the stone. (Mormonism Unvailed — Eber Howe’s 1834 book, pp. 240-249)

Martin Harris:

Take your stone.’ I had never seen it, and did not know that he had it with him. He had it in his pocket. He took it and placed it in his hat– the old white hat–and placed his face in his hat.  (Interview with Martin Harris in Tiffany’s Monthly)

Joseph Lewis:

“Their digging in several places was in compliance with peeper Smith’s revelations, who would attend with his peep-stone in his hat, and his hat drawn over his face, and would tell them how deep they would have to go; but when they would find no trace of the chest of money, he would peep again, and weep like a child, and tell them the enchantment had removed it on account of some sin or thoughtless word; finally the enchantment became so strong that he could not see, and so the business was abandoned. (The Amboy Journal, Amboy, Illinois, Wednesday, April 30, 1879)

2. “… a young fellow By the name of Docter Benton in Chenengo County to sware out a warrent against Joseph for as they said pertending to see under ground. A little Clause they found in the york Laws against such things.” (Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History, Dean C. Jessee)

3. “On the request of the Court, he [Joseph Smith] exhibited the stone. It was about the size of a small hen’s egg…” (Purple Account, Joseph Smith Jr. Testimony, 1826 Glass Looking Trial)

4. “Mr. Thompson, an employee of Mr. Stowell, was the next witness. He and another man were employed in digging for treasure, and always attended the Deacon and Smith in their nocturnal labors. He could not assert that anything of value was ever obtained by them.

The following scene was described by this witness, and carefully noted: Smith had told the Deacon that very many years before a band of robbers had buried on his flat a box of treasure, and as it was very valuable they had by a sacrifice placed a charm over it to protect it, so that it could not be obtained except by faith, accompanied by certain talismanic influences [something believed to have magical powers]. So, after arming themselves with fasting and prayer, they sallied forth to the spot designated by Smith.” (1826 Trial, Purple Account, Jonathan Thompson Testimony)

5. “His father-in-law (Mr. Hale) addressed Joseph, in a flood of tears: “You have stolen my daughter and married her. I had much rather have followed her to her grave. You spend your time in digging for money — pretend to see in a stone, and thus try to deceive people.” Joseph wept, and acknowledged he could not see in a stone now, nor never could; and that his former pretensions in that respect, were all false. He then promised to give up his old habits of digging for money and looking into stones.” (Peter Ingersoll Testimony of Joseph Smith)