Press Conference, Printer’s Manuscript BOM — Kelsey

Joseph Smith with breastplate and Urim and Thummim
Illustration by Robert T. Barrett @ LDS.org

Press Conference, Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon:

Press Conference at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library, in Salt Lake City, on Tuesday August 4th, 2015:

“SALT LAKE CITY — In collaboration with the Community of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published the original printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon as part of its ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project.

The release of ‘Revelations and Translations Volume 3, Parts 1 and 2: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon,’ the facsimile edition, was announced in a press conference Tuesday at the Church History Library … The new volume, the 11th in the Joseph Smith Papers series, includes images and details the use of seer stones as instruments used by Joseph Smith during the translation process of the Book of Mormon.” (The Deseret News)

During that press conference, for the first time ever, the LDS (Mormon) Church shared photos of Joseph Smith’s brown seer stone with the world.

On this subject LDS Assistant Church Historian, Richard Turley, explained:

“… the chocolate-colored, oval-shaped seer stone has been mentioned from the earliest days of the church, including general conference talks and church magazine articles.

‘We felt as we were putting together the Joseph Smith Papers project, it would be helpful for our public to see a visual image of it,’ Turley said. ‘We live in a highly visual age. A lot of our rising generation of church history like to see pictures of things. We thought that putting an image of the stone in would do a lot in terms of connecting people to it.'” (Deseret News, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015)

To coincide with the news release, the following Ensign Magazine article was made available online: 

[Ensign Magazine, October 2015]

Joseph the Seer

By Richard E. Turley Jr., Assistant Church Historian and Recorder, Robin S. Jensen and Mark Ashurst-McGee, Church History Department

Press Conference reveals seer stone
Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr.

What Happened to the Seer Stone?

The stone pictured here has long been associated with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon translation. The stone Joseph Smith used in the Book of Mormon translation effort was often referred to as a chocolate-colored stone with an oval shape.

According to LDS Church history, Joseph Smith returned the Urim and Thummim, or Nephite “interpreters,” to the angel.  But what became of the other seer stone or stones that Joseph used in translating the Book of Mormon?

David Whitmer wrote,

“… 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, David Whitmer, p. 32)

Concerning the printer’s manuscript, Richard Lloyd Anderson: LDS professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, made the following statement:

“… we possess parts of the original unpunctuated Cowdery manuscript from Joseph’s dictation in 1829. The scribe on occasion wrote ‘hart’ for ‘heart’; ‘desirus’ for ‘desirous’; and ‘futer’ for ‘future.’ These spelling errors were corrected in the recopied printer’s manuscript and thus appeared in correct form in the first printing.” (By the Gift and Power of God, Ensign, Sept, 1977)

One might wonder why the original manuscript from Joseph’s dictation in 1829 was not correct to begin with?  After all, it was claimed that the translation came about, by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man:

“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.  A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing.  One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English.  Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.  Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (An Address to All Believers in Christ, 1887, p. 12.Quoted by Elder Russell M. Nelson, A Treasured Testament, Ensign, July 1993, p. 61)

One thing is certain: According to the story, a spiritual light would shine forth from the stone.  That was a common claim by stone peepers in Joseph Smith’s day:

“As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure.  As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture.” (Book of Mormon Translation, LDS.org)

A Historical Fact:

During the 1820s, Joseph Smith became known as,

“a famous seer of lost or hidden treasures.”[1]

Continued:

Joseph Smith’s Stone In a Hat Routine — Rich Kelsey

LDS Series

Endnote:

1. “There had lived a few years previous to this date, in the vicinity of Great Bend, a poor man named Joseph Smith, who, with his family, had removed to the western part of the State, and lived in squalid poverty near Palmyra, in Ontario County. Mr. Stowell, while at Lanesboro, heard of the fame of one of his sons, named Joseph, who, by the aid of a magic stone had become a famous seer of lost or hidden treasures. … as a seer, by means of the stone which he placed in his hat, and by excluding the light from all other terrestrial things, could see whatever he wished, even in the depths of the earth.” (CHENANGO UNION, Vol. 30, Norwich, N. Y., Thursday, May 2, 1877, No. 33, Joseph Smith The Originator of Mormonism, Historical Reminiscences of the town of Afton, BY W. D. PURPLE)