Short post: it’s all over the internet, the church has formally released an essay Joseph Smith the Seer which contains an explanation about the seer stone used by Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon.
“In fact, historical evidence shows that in addition to the two seer stones known as “interpreters,” Joseph Smith used at least one other seer stone in translating the Book of Mormon, often placing it into a hat in order to block out light. According to Joseph’s contemporaries, he did this in order to better view the words on the stone.”
Naturally for many of us this is inconsistent with the narrative that we’ve generally had provided by the artists renditions of the translation process within the textbooks of the church (and videos too), with Joseph actually reading the gold plates. For example the two below images:
Naturally the exmormon and other communities are all over this new revelation.
At this point in time all I can say most sincerely is that I’m supportive of the church releasing new information about its history (essentially “cleaning it up”) and the new direction of transparency, instead of just ignoring stuff.
Returning to the subject of one of my previous articles can church leaders be mistaken? — Jospeh Fielding Smith said: (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, edited by Bruce R. McConkie, 3:, p.225)
“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 believe 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”
From this I would argue that it seems obvious that church leaders can indeed be mistaken, and even about spiritual or doctrinal matters. FairMormon responds that “Joseph Fielding Smith was entitled to his opinion, and he clearly stated that it was his opinion.” — this is OK. But the point remains: they can be mistaken about spiritual or doctrinal matters.
How do we as members judge when a leader is wrong about a doctrinal matter? If a prophet of God can say something at the pulpit that turns out to be incorrect and just his own opinion, how do we differentiate that from the rest of the things that they share that is meant to be the word of God? Normally one would say their opinions on non-spiritual matters are opinions but on spiritual matters they have authority; but this is an example of a spiritual matter which is shown to be incorrect later on.
These are some tough questions for us to answer as young members of the church. I’m not saying the church is untrue, or that there aren’t answers to these questions, but it is tough.
I honestly don’t know what to think of it either. This means that the church is still in possession of the seer stone, right? And does it…..still work? If it does, then maybe it’s a miracle object to be scrutinized by science… If it doesn’t work, then what makes it a seer stone? Wouldn’t Joseph have been able to use any stone or any thing to use as a “seer object?” Why have any object at all if the spirit of revelation is all that was needed to translate? Anyway, lots of questions but I’m not expecting any answers.