Did Joseph Smith Translate The Book Of Mormon With A Rock In A Hat?

“Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat for translating the Book of Mormon.

In other words, he used the same ‘Ouija Board’ that he used in his days treasure hunting where he would put in a rock – or a peep stone – in his hat and put his face in the hat to tell his customers the location of buried treasure. He used the exact same method while the gold plates were covered or put in another room or buried in the woods during translating the Book of Mormon… Why is the Church not being honest and transparent to its members about how Joseph Smith really translated the Book of Mormon? How am I supposed to be okay with this deception?” (CES Letter)

How did Joseph Smith dictate such a magnificent book from his head in a hat? How is that possible? On the other hand, if the rock and hat story is made up, why make up such a ridiculous story and expose his “treasure hunting” history?

Joseph Smith used ‘Ouija Board’ magic? Really, magic? Is that their theory as scholars and scientists? No, either:

  • Joseph Smith really was inspired with his head in a hat
  • Joseph Smith made up this ridiculous story and exposed his “treasure hunting” history
  • The story was made up by others
RLDS Hoax – All references to a rock in a hat begin in 1886 from a splinter group from the Mormon church. They all started around the same time in the 1870’s, and they appear to be based on an easily disprovable claim by anti-Mormon Willard Chase in 1842. There was no mention of it from any half-credible witness until almost fifty years after the Book of Mormon was published.

With each of the “seer stone in a hat” quotes, they come from modern unreliable sources, and only a few of them specify that the rock was different than the Urim and Thummim. Every quote that makes a distinction between the seer stone and the Urim and Thummim is totally unreliable. The others talk about a “stone in a hat,” but this could be a reference to the Urim and Thumim–a set of “spectacles” that the angel gave Joseph Smith along with the plates to translate them. The spectacles included two white stones.

Claims that Joseph Smith used a seer stone:

David Whitmer (via Richard van Wagoner, via Zenas H. Gurley), 1982

“[H]e used a stone called a “Seers stone,” the “Interpreters” having been taken away from him because of transgression. The “Interpreters” were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of [the manuscript] of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by use of a “Seers stone” which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English.” (Joseph Smith: ‘The Gift of Seeing’)

fourth-hand modern quote from a non-LDS source
– (Details of claim: Seer stone is different than Urim and Thummim, seer stone was always used after the 116 pages, seer stone was used in a hat)
Oliver Cowdery 1839 (forgery by R.B. Neal, 1906)

“I have sometimes had seasons of skepticism, in which I did seriously wonder whether the Prophet and I were men in our sober senses, when he would be translating from plates, through “the Urim and Thummim” and the plates not be in sight at all.

But I believed in both the Seer and the “Seer stone,” and what the First Elder announced as revelation from God, I accepted as such, and committed to paper with a glad mind and happy heart and swift pen; for I believed him to be the soul of honor and truth, a young man who would die before he would lie.”

Proven forged quote
– (Details of claim: Seer stone is different than Urim and Thummim, used seer stone)
David Whitmer, 1887

“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. [Page 175]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)

– The beginning of Whitmer’s book states its purpose to convince LDS to denounce polygmy and join the splinter group RLDS, that Joseph Smith was “drifting into errors after translating the Book of Mormon.”
– Given one year before David Whitmer’s death, edited & published by non-LDS
– (Details of claim: Used stone in hat)
Emma Smith Bigamon 1879

“In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.”

– Quoted soon before her death
– Preceding chapter denies polygamy, for which there is plenty of evidence
Second-hand non-LDS source
– (Details of claim: Used stone in hat)
Emma Smith Bidamon (via Emma Pilgrim), 1981

“Now the first that my translated, [the book] was translated by use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color.”

– Source is the wife of a pastor for the RLDS splinter group
– The first mention of this quote is fourth-hand from the 1981 “The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal.” There is no evidence that the 1870 source, a letter, actually exists.
– (Details of claim: Seer stone is different than Urim and Thummim, seer stone was always used after the 116 pages, seer stone was used in a hat)
Martin Harris (via Edward Stevenson), 1881

“…that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone.”

– Edward Stevenson was quoting the Evening News newspaper September 5, 1870 by an unknown author
-This quote refers to “an incident,” a singular time he he used the seer stone, instead of what the other quotes claim
-Third-hand, unknown source 50 years after Joseph Smith’s translation
– (Details of claim: Seer stone is different than Urim and Thummim, used the seer stone at least once)
Kenneth W. Godfrey, 1988

“From April 12 to June 14, Joseph translated while Martin wrote, with only a curtain between them. On occasion they took breaks from the arduous task, sometimes going to the river and throwing stones. Once Martin found a rock closely resembling the seer stone Joseph sometimes used in place of the interpreters and substituted it without the Prophet’s knowledge. When the translation resumed, Joseph paused for a long time and then exclaimed, “Martin, what is the matter, all is as dark as Egypt.” Martin then confessed that he wished to “stop the mouths of fools” who told him that the Prophet memorized sentences and merely repeated them.”

-Written in 1988. The source link to lds.org is now broken. Totally unreliable quote.
– (Details of claim: Seer stone is different than Urim and Thummim, used the seer stone at least once)
J.L. Traughber Jr., 1879

“With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state that he does not say that Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim; but by means of one dark colored, opaque stone, called a “Seer Stone,” which was placed in the crown of a hat, into which Joseph put his face, so as to exclude the external light. Then, a spiritual light would shine forth, and parchment would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said.”

– Non-LDS source
– Contradicts other quotes
– (Details of claim: Seer stone is different than Urim and Thummim, always used the seer stone)
David Whitmer (via Chicago Inter-Ocean, via The Saints Herald) 1886
“By fervent prayer and by otherwise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone, about the size of an egg, only more flat, which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing urim and thummim (the latter was a pair of transparent stones set in a bow-shaped frame and very much resembled a pair of spectacles). With this stone all of the present Book of Mormon was translated.” – Fourth-hand non-LDS source, an unknown reporter in Chicago
– Contradicts other quotes
-Allegedly given on David Whitmer’s deathbed
– (Details of claim: Seer stone is different than Urim and Thummim, given by an angel, always used the seer stone)
  • The rock and hat hoax made a resurgence again in the 1980’s, when RLDS published alleged quotes from early Mormon sources. Most notable is David Whitmer’s quote that the Urim and Thummim “interpreters” were taken away by an angel after Joseph Smith lost the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. The “seer stones” mentioned in most other quotes could possibly refer to the two white stones in the Urim and Thummim, but this quote draws a clear distinction between them and the “treasure hunting” rock that Joseph Smith supposedly used.
    The problem is that this quote is that it is a modern creation. The LDS scholarly journal Mormon Interpreter incorrectly attributes this to David Whitmer’s 1887 book. But actually it comes from a 1982 book by Richard van Wagoner and Steven Walker. Wagoner gets the quote from apostate RLDS apostle Zenas H. Gurley, who claims to get the quote from David Whitmer. Why did it take fifty years for Zenas Gurley to mention what David Whitmer said? Why did it take a century for Richard van Wagoner to mention what Zenas Gurley said? Why can’t we see the original David Whitmer document? Where is it?/li>

  • LDS scholars and anti-Mormons accept the second-hand quote attributed to Emma Smith, yet do not accept the paragraph immediately preceding it which denies polygamy in the early church. Why accept one part of what she said but deny the other? Why not consider the part opening of David Whitmer’s book that states its purpose was to convince people that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet?
  • The quotes contradict one another. Sometimes he used the stone… he always used the stone… he used it once… he used it for “convenience…” he used it because the Urim and Thumim got taken away, etc.
  • Many of these quotes are attributed to David Whitmer. How did David Whitmer know how to describe the spectacles if they were taken away before he started helping with the translation? David Whitmer entered the translation process after the 116 pages were lost. So then why does he provide a detailed description of them immediately before the Inter-Ocean quote? Why does the quote attributed to David Whitmer claim an angel gave the seer stone to him to translate the plates?
  • The phony quote from Martin Harris claims Joseph Smith used the seer stone for “convenience,” but how is it convenient to stick your head in a hat so that no light shines through around the edges? What made the seer stone more convenient? Why would Moroni provide spectacles already set up to wear on the head if looking at some random rock with very dim lighting is somehow more convenient? Furthermore, the seer stone was reportedly used to help find things. How would a stone used for this purpose help translate ancient writing? The narrative is totally inconsistent.
  • There is admittedly one similarity between the “treasure hunting” seer stone and the Urim and Thumim: they both used rocks. The Urim and Thumim used two round white rocks in a silver frame around the head, like glasses. The alleged seer stone was used by looking into it as well. This is probably where the mix-up came from and why so many early sources talk about “stones” without mentioning the spectacles they were within. Some people just naturally equated the two. But the differences are very important:
    • The Urim and Thumim was used for spiritual purposes only. The seer stone was used for physical objects. There is some evidence that Joseph Smith indeed used a seer stone as a teenager to look for things, but there is no evidence that he ever used it for spiritual purposes.
    • The Urim and Thumim was given by an angel. The seer stone was found somewhere.
    • The Urim and Thumim was passed down by many prophets over thousands and thousands of years. The seer stone didn’t work when anyone else tried to use it.
    • The Urim and Thumim was ued to translate languages. The seer stone was used to find stuff and locate a silver mine.
  • The “rock and hat” quotes come from the RLDS splinter group, beginning in the late 19th century, 50 years after the book of Mormon. The anti-Mormon narrative is that Joseph Smith made up a story about seer stones because he was already using these stones to hunt for treasure, and that’s what everyone was used to associating him with, and then Joseph wizened up and shifted the narrative to “spectacles” to sound more credible. Well if that’s true, why do early quotes mention only the spectacles and say nothing about seer stones? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the inital reports to newspapers and friends have mentioned seer stones? Why were they only talked about 50 years later, by an apostate splinter sect?
  • Early witnesses described the Urim and Thummim and gold plates both as 6 to 8 inches wide–small enough to fit in a hat. They describe in detail how Joseph Smith placed the Urim and Thummim in the hat.
  • Claims that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim:

    Joseph Smith (Elder’s journal), 1838

    “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”

    – Direct quote from Joseph Smith, who did the translating.
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating)
    Joseph Smith (Wentworth Letter), 1842

    “With the records was found a curious instrument, which the ancients called ‘Urim and Thummim,’ which consisted of two transparent stones set in the rims 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.”

    – Direct quote from Joseph Smith, who did the translating.
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating)
    Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery, 1870

    “He would place the director in his hat, and then place his [face in his] hat, so as to exclude the light, and then [read] to his scribe the words as they appeared before him.”

    – Likely witness, as wife of Oliver Cowdery
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    Martin Harris, 1859

    “The two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre; but not so thick at the edges where they came into the bow. They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which, with the two stones, would make eight inches. The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks. I never dared to look into them by placing them in the hat, because Moses said that “no man could see God and live,” and we could see anything we wished by looking into them; and I could not keep the desire to see God out of my mind. And beside, we had a command to let no man look into them, except by the command of God, lest he should “look aught and perish.””

    – Credible quote from witness
    – Urim and Thummim described much differently than the seer stones
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    Rochester Advertiser and Daily Telegraph, 1829

    “It was said that the leaves of the bible were plates of gold, about 8 inches long, 6 wide, and one eighth of an inch thick, on which were engraved characters or hyeroglyphics. By placing the spectacles in a hat, and looking into it, Smith could (he said so, at least,) interpret these characters.”

    – Size and description of gold plates correlate the Urim and Thummim description in the previous quote by Martin Harris (both were placed in the hat together)
    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    The Gem: A Semi-Monthly Literary and Miscellaneous Journal, 1829

    “By placing the spectacles in a hat and looking into it, Smith interprets the characters into the English language.”

    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    New York Telescope, 1830

    “Martin Harris returned, and set Joseph Smith to the business of translating them: who, “by placing the spectacles in a hat and looking into them, Joseph Smith said he could interpret these characters.””

    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    – Second-hand quote from witness Martin Harris
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    The Cincinnati Advertiser, 1830

    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    – Refers to Urim and Thummim as a “white stone.” Seer stone was described differently.
    – (Details of claim: “White stone” mentioned for translating, placed in hat)
    Daily Albany Argus, 1831

    “The preacher said he found in the same place two stones, with which he was enabled, by placing them over his eyes and putting his head in a dark corner, to decypher the hieroglyphics on the plates!”

    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    – Refers to Urim and Thummim as “two stones” provided along with the gold plates. Seer stones are only singular stones.
    – (Details of claim: “Two stones” mentioned for translating, used in a dark corner rather than–or in addition to–in a hat)
    Morning Star, 1833

    “…an angel gave him a pair of spectacles which he put in a hat and thus read and translated, while one of the witnesses wrote it down from his mouth.”

    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    Protestant Sentinel, 1834

    “In the year 1828, one Joseph Smith, an illiterate young man, unable to read his own name, of Palmyra, Wayne County, New York, was reported to have found several golden plates, together with a pair of spectacles, relics of high antiquity. The spectacles were designed to aid mental vision, under rather peculiar circumstances. They were to be adjusted, and the visage thrust into a close hat. This done Smith could interpret the sacred mysteries of the plates, in which lay, by the hypothesis, in the top of the hat!”

    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    Urim and Thummim described in detail
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    New York Weekly Messenger, 1835

    “…he was inspired to interpret the writing, or engraving, by putting a plate in his hat, putting two smooth flat stones, which he found in the box, in the hat, and putting his face therein—that he could not write, but as he translated, one Oliver Cowdery wrote it down.”

    – Record of this newspaper quote is available
    – Refers to Urim and Thummim as “two stones” provided along with the gold plates. Seer stones are only singular stones.
    – (Details of claim: “Two stones” mentioned for translating, used in a hat)
    William Smith, 1883

    “He translated them by means of the Urim and Thummim, (which he obtained with the plates), and the power of God. The manner in which this was done was by looking into the Urim and Thummim, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light, (the plates lying near by covered up), and reading off the translation, which appeared in the stone by the power of God.”

    – Joseph Smith’s family
    Urim and Thummim described both by name and as a “stone”
    Newer quote (1883)
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    Joseph Knight, 1827

    “Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and Darkned his Eyes than he would take a sentance and it would apper in Brite Roman Letters then he would tell the writer and he would write it[.] Then the next sentance would Come and so on But if it was not Spelt rite it would not go away till it was rite[,] so we see it was marvelous[.] thus was the hol [whole] translated.”

    – Earliest mention of Urim and Thummim (1827, date recorded by Thomas Bullock)
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, Urim and Thummim placed in hat rather than seer stone)
    The Evening and Morning Star, 1833

    “It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles-(known, perhaps, in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim).”

    – Calls the Urim and Thummim the same thing as the spectacles
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating)
    J. B. Bateman (A Letter to Those Who Have Attended Mormonite Preaching), 1840

    “…two large jewels resembling diamonds were given to him, which, being applied to the eyes, like spectacles, enabled him to get at the meaning and translate the Book of Mormon into English. These jewels were, he said, the Urim and Thummim of the Old Testament.”

    – Calls the Urim and Thummim the same thing as the spectacles, two white jewels
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating)
    William Smith (via J. W. Peterson and W. S. Pender), 1890

    “…a silver bow ran over one stone, under the other around over that one and under the first in the shape of a horizontal figure 8 much like a pair of spectacles… could only see through one at a time using sometimes one and sometimes the other. By putting his head in a hat or some dark object it was not necessary to close one eye while looking through the stone with the other. In that way sometimes when his eyes grew [tired] he [relieved] them of the strain.”

    – Detailed description of Urim and Thummim
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating, other means of darkness used besides hat)
    Joseph Knight, 1847

    “…it is ten times Better then I expected… But he seamed to think more of the glasses or the urim and thummem then [than] he Did of the Plates for[,] says he[,] I can see any thing[.] They are Marvelus.”

    – Urim and Thummim could see better than with seer stone. So how would seer stone be more “convenient?”
    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating)
    John Corrill, 1839

    “After finishing the translation, the plates and stones of Urim and Thummim were again taken and concealed by the angel for a wise purpose, and the translation published to the world in the winter of A. D. 1829 and ’30.”

    – Unreliable source, an apostate
    – (Details of claim: Urim and Thummim used to translate the entire Book of Mormon)
    Samuel W. Richard, 1907

    “He [Oliver Cowdery] represented Joseph as sitting at a table with the plates before him, translating them by means of the Urim and Thummim, while he sat beside him writing every word as Joseph spoke them to him. This was done by holding the ‘translators’ over the hieroglyphics, the translation appearing distinctly on the instrument, which had been touched by the finger of God and dedicated and consecrated for the express purpose of translating languages.”

    – (Details of claim: Only Urim and Thummim mentioned for translating)
    Oliver Cowdery

    “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 book of Mormon.””

    -Reliable source
    – (Details of claim: Urim and Thummim used to translate the entire Book of Mormon)

    Joseph Smith’s close friend Joseph Knight describes how the Urim and Thummim was “ten times better” than anything he expected. “I can see any thing!” Why, then, would he consider the seer stone “more convenient?” How could the seer stone possibly be a superior means of translating?

    Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith said the alleged “seer stone” probably wasn’t used:

    “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. 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. It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the Prophet would substitute something evidently inferior under these circumstances. It may have been so, but it is so easy for a story of this kind to be circulated due to the fact that the Prophet did possess a seer stone, which he may have used for some other purposes.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1956)

    The LDS Church Is Open About This IssueCES Letter says the church is not forthcoming about the seer stone:

    “Unlike the story I’ve been taught in Sunday School, Priesthood, General Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Ensigns, Church history tour, Missionary Training Center, and BYU… These facts are not only confirmed in Rough Stone Rolling (p. 71-72), by FairMormon here and here, by Neal A. Maxwell Institute (FARMS), but also in an obscure 1992 talk given by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Update: The Church’s December 2013 essay admits this.”

    But the church openly talks about the seer stone all the time, and have even released images of it! Nobody is keeping it secret. In fact, lots of my friends think it’s a cool story. The church has published scans of all the historical records they could find. One of the first things the church did was publish seven massive volumes of church history, with raw information for people to access and analyze. All this material is why anti-Mormon have ammunition to attack the church. It’s all right there for you to read. What more do you want?

    The church frequently teaches about it. From the evidence I have presented here, I think they give way too much credence to the flimsy allegations of peep stones. We don’t know for sure what happened, but the most reasonable conclusion by far is that Joseph Smith did not involve a seer stone in producing the Book of Mormon. We need to get a lot more skeptical of this false narrative. Stop accepting the frame of discussion from South Park.

    So what did Joseph Smith use a seer stone for?

    Claims about Joseph Smith’s Seer Stone:

    E. W. Vanderhoof, 1905

    “In September, 1819,… was the discovery of the celebrated Peek Stone. It was unearthed by the Prophet’s father and elder sons while engaged in digging a well near Palmayra for Mr. Clark Chase… When washed it was whitish, glossy, and opaque in appearance. Joseph, Jr., who was an idle looker- on at the labors of his father and brethren, at once possessed himself of this geological oddity… Very soon it became noised abroad that by means of this stone the inchoate Prophet could locate buried treasure and discover the whereabouts of stolen property. In the latter case he might not have to look a great way. People from far and near who had lost valuables consulted Joseph. With his eyes bandaged and his Peek Stone at the bottom of a tall white hat, he satisfied all inquirers for a fee of seventy-five cents. My grandfather paid that sum to learn what had become of a valuable mare stolen from his stable, and we was a tolerably shrewd and prosperous Dutchman for those days. He recovered the beast, which Joe said was somewhere on the lake shore, and about to be run over to Canada. Anybody could have told him that, as it was invariably the way a horsethief would take to dispose of a stolen animal in those days.

    It was not long before Joe discovered that with his stone he could locate hidden treasures of great value. Glittering heaps of gold and silver, contained in earthen pots and iron chests, buried in the earth, were revealed to his vision and their exact locality indicated by its aid… His money-digging operations were organized much in the usual way. The working capital was labor and whiskey… The whiskey was supplied by Joe from funds raised in the vicinity from credulous and goodnatured people who were taken in on the ground plan, and promised a thousand-fold for every dollar invested. From those who were not prepared to pay in cash, contributions of grain, flour, fat, sheep, calves, and pigs were received… After some prepatory mystic ceremonies, such as the waving of a magic wand, and the uterrance of some foolish incantation gibberish, Joe would look at the Peek Stone in his hat, and then indicate the spot where the digging was to begin… At length some tired and perhaps disgusted digger, “tempted by the Spirit of Evil,” would speak, and the treasure would vanish. The company were always assured by Joe that if the spell had not been broken a few more blows would have revealed the glittering heaps.”

    – Written 75 years after the Book of Mormon, based on wild allegations from a third-hand sources that obviously hated Mormons. He called Mormons “degraded and absurd.”
    – Conflicts with more credible witnesses.
    – If large groups of locals were ripped off, why was there no account of this? Wouldn’t someone have said something to a newspaper? Wouldn’t people have been angry at getting ripped off? Yet the only legal claim against Joseph Smith from this community occured seven years later, by a religious competitor, which was immediately dismissed?
    – Who would be so gullible to think huge piles of treasure would disappear into thin air if a person speaks a doubting word? If this alleged trick worked so well on the locals in his treasure hunts, why did Joseph Smith never use this tactic in regard to the church if it? If the people were this gullible, why didn’t the entire town convert to Mormonism right away?
    – Why were magic wands, magic spells, and weird incantations not used in translating the gold plates if that’s what Joseph Smith did with the seer stones?
    – (Details of claim: White seer stone, used to go on treasure hunts & look for stolen items, magic wands and spells involved, doubt of treasure’s existence blamed for not finding it)
    Henry Harris, 1842

    “I, Henry Harris, do state that I became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sen., about the year 1820, in the town of Machester, New York. They were a family that labored very little–the chief they did, was to dig for money. Joseph Smith, Jr., the pretended Prophet, used to pretend to tell fortunes; he had a stone which he used to put in his hat, by means of which he professed to tell people’s fortunes… They were regarded by the community in which they lived, as a lying and indolent set of men, and no confidence could be placed in them… He then went to Pennsylvania, got his wife, and they both went together and got the gold plates — he said it was revealed to him, that no one must see the plates but himself and wife”

    – Conflicts completely with the previous quote. Now the stone was used to tell fortunes, not locate items? Now they were hated by the community, not leading huge treasure hunts? This also flies in the face of credible witnesses, that the Smith family worked hard on their farm and were well regarded by their neighbors.
    The claim that Emma Smith got the plates with Joseph and saw them in correlated by no other source, pro-Mormon or anti-Mormon. Everyone agrees Emma did nothing more than acts as scribe shortly, and never saw the plates.
    Anti-Mormon source
    – (Details of claim: White seer stone, used to go on treasure hunts & look for stolen items, magic wands and spells involved, doubt of treasure’s existence blamed for not finding it)
    Lorenzo Saunders (via Edmund L. Kelley), 1884

    “Well you see by & by some of them says go to Jo. says he Jo. come look into futurity & tell us how it is there? Jo. says I can not do that, I can not look into futurity I can not look into anything that is holy. The old man stood there and says: ‘I guess he can not look into my shirt then.'”

    – Second hand source, years after Book of Mormon produced
    – (Details of claim: Joseph Smith refused to tell fortunes)
    Willard Chase, 1842

    “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 curiousity. I brought it to the top of the well… After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it…

    He went to Lawrence with the following story, as related to me by Lawrence himself. That he had discovered in Pennsylvania, on the bank of the Susquehannah River, a very rich mine of silver… He went to an honest old Dutchman, by the name of Stowel, and told him that he had discovered on the bank of Black River, in the village of Watertown, Jefferson County, NY, a cave, in which he had found a bar of gold, as big as his leg, and about three or four feet long. That he could not get it out alone…

    In April, 1830, I again asked Hiram for the stone which he had borrowed of me; he told me I should not have it, for Joseph Made use of it in translating his Bible.”

    – Contradicts in many ways the previous quote about this event.
    – The silver mine incident involved Stowell, not Lawrence. It was also before Joseph Smith married, not after as Willard describes. Stowell said himself that the silver mine was his idea. All kinds of incorrect details here that discredit this quote.
    – Anti-Mormon source. This quote appears to be the genesis of the RLDS stone and hat hoax. There’s just one problem with it. The Book of Mormon was already published before April 1830 when Willard claims he asked for the stone! Oops.
    – (Details of claim: Joseph Smith used stone in hat to translate, conned people over gold bars and a silver mine)
    Peter G. Bridgeman, 1826 (Court documents reported in 1883)

    “…he had a certain stone, which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold-mines were a distance under ground… he pretended to tell, by looking at this stone, where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra he had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was, of various kinds; that he has occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up…”

    – Second-hand anti-Mormon source, supposedly from the 1926 trial documents.
    – Contradicts previous quotes: that the stone was used for fortune telling, that it was used from 1819 (or 1822) until 1830, that he used the stone to translate, and that he published his claims aggressively.
    – (Details of claim: Joseph Smith used stone in dark hat because it hurt to look at it in front of the sun, used stone to look for gold and lost property, stopped using stone after 3 years of use)
    Josiah Stowel, 1826 (Court documents reported in 1883)

    “Had been employed by him to work on farm part of time; that he pretended to have skill of telling where hidden treasures in the earth were, by means of looking through a certain stone; that prisoner (Joseph Smith) had looked for him sometime,–once to tell him about money buried on Bend Mountain in Pennsylvania, once for gold on Monument Hill, and once for a salt-spring,–and that he positively knew that the prisoner could tell, and professed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone; that he found the digging part at Bend and Monument Hill as prisoner represented it; that prisoner had looked through said stone for Deacon Attelon, for a mine–did not exactly mind it, but got a piece of ore, which resembled gold… that he never deceived him; that prisoner looked through stone, and described Josiah Stowel’s house and out-houses while at Palmyra, at Simpson Stowel’s, correctly; that he had told about a painted tree with a man’s hand painted upon it, by means of said stone.”

    – Court document based on pro-Mormon witness, supposedly from the 1926 trial documents. This quote may be a hoax, as it was “lent to me by a lady of well-known position in whose family they had been preserved.”
    – (Details of claim: Joseph Smith successfully used the seer stone to correctly describe far-away places and see underground valuables)
    Martin Harris (via Richard van Wagoner, via Joel Tiffany), 1982

    “I was at the house of his father in Manchester, two miles south of Palmyra village, and was picking my teeth with a pin while sitting on the bars. The pin caught in my teeth and dropped from my fingers into shavings and straw. I jumped from the bars and looked for it. Joseph and Northrop Sweet also did the same. We could not find it. I then took Joseph on surprise, and said to him–I said, ‘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. I watched him closely to see that he did not look to one side; he reached out his hand beyond me on the right, and moved a little stick and there I saw the pin, which he picked up and gave to me. I know he did not look out of the hat until after he had picked up the pin.”

    – Fourth-hand modern quote from a non-LDS source, the same source that pushed the phony David Whitmer quote. Not to be found in online directories of Joel Tiffany.
    – (Details of claim: Joseph Smith used seer stone to locate lost items on a whim)
    Joseph Smith, 1839

    “In the year 1823 my father’s family met with a great affliction by the death of my eldest brother, Alvin. In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger.”

    – First-hand testimony.
    – (Details of claim: No mention of using seer stone but admits he looked for a silver mine)

    These claims are incredibly contradictory and fanciful. Joseph Smith waved a magic wand around? Really? The only really compelling evidence is the court record based on Josiah Stowel’s court testimony, which may or may not be a forgery. If it is authentic, we still don’t know how much of this was added by the court officer (we can be sure he didn’t say Joseph Smith was “pretending” and then two seconds later say he never deceived him.) But this record holds some weight for the claim that Joseph Smith possessed a seer stone and once found gold ore with it.

    The church also has a seer stone in their possession and released photos of it. It came from somewhere.

    Joseph Smith perhaps owned a seer stone, but he never used it for anything spiritual. The difference between the seer stone and the Urim and Thummim spectacles are very important, and we must never lose sight of the fact that the Book of Mormon was translated through divine inspiration.

    Joseph Smith did not search for treasure – Joseph Smith explained that he was employed to help dig for a silver mine by Josiah Stoal, not to hunt for buried treasure. Yes, an alleged copy of a court record, written by a second-hand based on court testimony by someone who employed Joseph indicates that he used the stone to find some gold ore, and a feather where someone once stashed coins. But that’s it. That is the extent of the treasure hunting. To draw a parallel between this silver mine excursion and the translation of gold plates into an incredible 500 page volume of scripture is nonsense. Only anti-Mormons claim he went hunting for treasure, and their hokey allegations contradict each other.

    CES Letter Logical Fallacies

    Falsehood Joseph Smith did not use the seer stone for translating.

    CES Letter can’t back up their claim that he “used the exact same method” to translate as he did to locate “buried treasure,” as the two are totally different activities.

    CES Letter says Joseph Smith translated “while the gold plates were covered or put in another room or buried in the woods,” but no claims of the gold plates being covered are credible, and nobody has claimed that Joseph Smith translated them while they were still buried. That’s just a lie.

    CES Letter‘s allegations are not “facts” which are “confirmed” by LDS sources. The church unfortunately gives too much credence to the rock and hat hoax narrative, but the church does not call it official history.

    CES Letter points to these LDS sources that talk about seer stones yet insist that the church is “not being honest and transparent” about it. Fact is, the church publishes all raw information on the internet as scanned pdfs and talks about it all the time. The 1992 Elder Nelson talk about the seer stone is not “obscure” as CES Letter claims, but was dilvered to hundreds of mission presidents and widely distributed in the church’s official magazines. Frankly, these unreliable quotes about seer stones get much more coverage by the church than they warrant.

    False Dilemma CES Letter claims Joseph Smith used a seer stone instead of the Urim and Thummim. But most sources say that he used both. This is a possibility that CES Letter does not permit.
    Red Herring CES Letter is upset with how some LDS artists illustrate the Book of Mormon translation. So? What does LDS art have to do with it? Joseph Smith did not paint those pictures. Artists are free to paint what they want. CES Letter shows us some anti-Mormon illustrations of how the “Book of Mormon tranlsation actually happened,” dark and sinister drawings with all kinds of mistakes in them.

    They show Joseph Smith sitting on the stairs with his head in a hat; but there is no reference to him sitting on stairs. Totally made up. They show Joseph Smith wearing fine polyester and satin clothes, with nice shoes and a belt with buckle; but he was a poor farmer that couldn’t afford these clothes. They show Joseph Smith behind a curtain; which contradicts most witness accounts. CES Letter provides these phony and sinister-looking illustrations to counter the church’s “deceptive” illustrations.

    CES Letter complains that they weren’t told about the seer stones in Sunday School, the MTC, and other church events, but most Mormons have heard of it as it is commonly talked about. Why does it matter?

    Shifting Goalposts In previous arguments, CES Letter claimed that the Book of Mormon copies “word for word” from the KJV bible, and some random books from the 19th century. But now they claim Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon with “Ouija Board” black magic.

    CES Letter complains about the Mormon church “not being honest and transparent,” and then points to a bunch of Mormon publications about it. So CES Letter is pretty much saying, “see, all these Mormon sources admit it… but the church is covering it up.” Sorry, it’s either one or the other. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Appeal To Ridicule Seer stones are not dark magic and nothing like “Ouija Boards.”

    The sinister black and white illustrations of the gold plates translation are also meant to ridicule.

    Repetition The list of nine church events that allegedly don’t talk about the seer stone is ridiculous. Just say “I didn’t hear about it in church.” By listing out every little church information source that doesn’t perpetuate the hoax, CES Letter adds false credence to the allegation.

    CES Letter adds four illustrations of the rock and hat hoax to add credence.

    CES Letter repeats the rock and hat hoax nine more times in their pdf.

    Big Lie Tactic – It is important for CES Letter to establish the rock and hat hoax story, because all the other attacks on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon follow this attack. Previous arguments set about to explain how Joseph Smith really produced the Book of Mormon, by copying the bible and random 19th century books. CES Letter set the narrative that Joseph Smith made stuff up on the spot based on books around him and post-rationalized contradictions and changes. One day it was magic seer stones that he used for treasure hunting, and the next day it was the Urim and Thummim spectacles.

    By building a relationship between treasure hunting stories and the Book of Mormon, CES Letter builds a powerful narrative. When we read of gold plates, we think of phony gold treasure hunts. When we read of divine translation through the Spirit, we think of fortune telling and con jobs. It is easy to assume that Joseph Smith moved from treasure hunt con-jobs and seer-stone divination on to gold plates that nobody can see and seer-stone translation jobs.

    It is unfortunate that the RLDS apostate splinter sect popularized this narrative, which was started by anti-Mormon Willard Chase. They really teed up the anti-Mormons for a simple and powerful narrative. But it is a narrative with very flimsy evidence and it does not make logical sense. If Joseph Smith moved on from seer-stone treasure hunts to a golden bible, why did everybody talk about the “spectacles”at the time instead of seer stones? Why didn’t the seer-stone narrative crop up until the late 19th century?

    CES Letter does not explain why Joseph Smith hist story from seer stones to spectacles, or how he could dictate a book of scripture with witnesses watching him put his face buried in a hat. But you don’t really need to explain logic when you are appealing to ridicule. The point is to ridicule and disqualify divine revelation as one possible explanation. If you believe the Book of Mormon is the product of Joseph Smith’s treasure-hunting days, it is easy to believe the subsequent narratives about Joseph Smith. This is why CES Letter repeats the rock and hat attack nine more times. They use it as a spring-board for their other attacks (bold added by me):

    “Like the rock in the hat story, I did not know there were multiple First Vision accounts.”

    “This is a testable claim. Joseph failed the test with the Book of Abraham. He failed the test with the Kinderhook Plates. With this modus operandi and track record, I’m now supposed to believe that Joseph has the credibility of translating the keystone Book of Mormon? With a rock in a hat?”

    “…the same stone and method Joseph used for his treasure hunting activities? Testimony/Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions: 1. Every major religion has members who claim the same thing: God or God’s spirit bore witness to them that their religion, prophet/pope/leaders, book(s), and teachings are true.”

    “Adding to the above deceptions and dishonesty over history (rock in hat translation, polygamy/polyandry, multiple First Vision accounts, etc.) 2013 Official Declaration 2 Header Update Dishonesty: Offending text: ‘Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.'”

    Anti-Intellectualism… ‘Some things that are true are not very useful.’ Joseph using a rock in a hat instead of the gold plates to translate the Book of Mormon is not a useful truth?

    “Are those facts invalid when someone discovers them on the scary internet? What happens when a member comes across Elder Russell M. Nelson’s obscure 1992 talk or the Church’s December 2013 Book of Mormon Translation essay where they learn – for the first time in their lives – that the Book of Mormon was not translated as depicted in Sunday Schools, Ensigns, MTC, General Conference addresses, or Visitor Centers?… I confirmed Nelson’s rock in the hat endorsement from his 1992 talk buried on LDS.org.”

    “When I first discovered that Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon… I desperately needed answers and I needed them 3 hours ago. Among the first sources I looked to for answers were official Church sources such as Mormon.org and LDS.org. I couldn’t find them.”

    “Somehow, I’m supposed to rebuild my testimony on newly discovered information that is not only bizarre and alien to the Chapel Mormonism I had a testimony of; it’s almost comical… And I’m supposed to believe with a straight face that Joseph using a rock in a hat is totally legit?”

    To set the big lie, it is important for CES Letter to dismantle the media narrative set by the church. That’s why they go out of their way to invalidate the paintings of Joseph Smith translating the plates created by LDS artists, and then post a bunch of false sinister-looking counter illustrations for how “it actually happened.” Anti-Mormons rely heavily on media influence–the images you see on TV and popular culture. They rely on the mainstream media’s severe anti-Mormon bias, that you see on TV, film, musicals, popular music, magazines, radio, etc. If this copious media bias against Mormons in popular media disappeared, it would make it a lot harder for them to push the big lie. They need “South Park.”

    Contradiction Strategy – The surrounding arguments for obscure books that allegedly influenced the Book of Mormon no longer seem very clownish now the CES Letter made the case for Joseph Smith’s rock and hat narrative. The attack on faith and promotion of fake science gains considerable strength with this narrative in place, and the explanation for how Joseph Smith fabricated it suddenly appears more credible.

    Well, what is a prophet of the Lord doing digging for buried treasure? Even if he was only looking for a silver mine, would a real prophet of God use his divine powers of seer-ship to look for wealth and glory?

    One thing nobody mentions is that Joseph Smith was only a child, a 17-year old boy, when anti-Mormon Willard Chase claims Joseph Smith used the seer stone in 1822. The Josiah Stowel silver mine saga occurred only a few years later. If Joseph Smith indeed did anything more than look around for a silver mine on behalf of a neighbor, it was the exploits of a teenager.

    The human mind is trained to find patterns. It is easy to cherry-pick a few vague similarities, dress up the context to sound more similar, and build a narrative that one thing derived from the other. It is especially effective for CES Letter to play this game immediately following arguments where they throw out vague similarities between two books and suggest one book was derived from the other. At this point in their document, our brain is eagerly looking for clues to piece together. We look at these stories of ‘treasure hunts’ and attach them to the gold plates. We look at the stories of ‘stones in a hat’ and attach them to the translation of the gold plates. Our brain is telling us there is no way the gold plates story couldn’t be derived from the teenage treasure hunting years.

    This is the same argument that Leftists use against the bible and all the other prophets. The human brain is trained to look for discrepancies and patterns, so this trick is common. Pareidolia is why people see the Virgin Mary in breakfast cereal and human figures on Mars. It is confirmation bias.

    When it comes to history, there is so much we don’t know and will never know. In this case, all we have are some angry statements from anti-Mormons and some second or third hand quotes from witnesses. Fools jump to conclusions.We must be careful not to be tricked when it comes to pareidolia and history, take care to use critical thought. If there is vague evidence for something but we mostly don’t know what really happened because it is history, do not jump to lazy conclusions, whatever narrative is hyped on South Park. It is easy to manipulate Satan’s followers when it comes to history because they rely only on what they can see and put no true faith in anything.

    It is silly to think Joseph Smith was into black magic and Ouija Boards, and it totally flies in the face of the narrative that CES Letter set thus far–that Joseph Smith made the Book of Mormon by ripping off of other books. But anti-Mormons have been pushing the black magic narrative hard lately, especially among the fake scholarship scene and among Mormon infiltrators in BYU’s faculty. The LDS scholar community these days scoffs in the face of anyone who rejects the narrative.

    Occult religion is a splinter sect that ripped a lot of the old church of Jehovah in ancient days, so it is no surprise to see similarities such as the pentagram symbolism in both the occult and LDS temples. Yes, there are similarities if you look only at the surface, which is what anti-Mormons tend to do, from what I’ve seen. It makes it easy for them to generalize all religions as wrong. Ouija Boards, the bible… what’s the difference? Both are myths, pretending to get revelation. Not only does this illogical, lazy thinking rationalize an atheist’s contempt for faith, but it also excuses them if they replace Sunday church with tarot card readings and horoscopes. Either way, the truth is not the rosy image of Joseph Smith with his face studying the pages of the gold plates, right? This mode of thinking leads ex-Mormons to replace their testimony of the gospel with superstition.

    What does CES Letter believe in? What tenant of faith do hold that we can verify or discredit with these kinds of comparisons? Global warming? Human evolution? Give us something! Why don’t anti-Mormons discuss their alternative belief to the beliefs of the Book of Mormon and bible, and talk about physical evidences? Instead, they nit-pick and tear down an entire belief system with unscientific appeals to fake science.

    This Marxist propaganda technique of finding contradiction is especially insidious as it defines Mormons in a constrained and unfair frame, and it rallies non-Mormons or anybody who was sitting on the fence in solidarity against Mormons and their beliefs. These days, everybody knows about Joseph Smith and his peep stones. It’s all over the media.

    Use Opponent As Authority Tactic – This is a popular Marxist tactic that anti-Mormons use. They use Mormonism’s own authorities to discredit the faith, such as an alleged Mormon scholar. What makes this argument powerful is:

    • Deceptively discredits the vast libraries of study on Book of Mormon theology by LDS professionals.
    • Gives more focus to a phony frame that attacks the Mormon church.
    • Divides the ranks of the church.
    • Establishes a frame that demands a clear, modern explanation in the Book of Mormon for every religious issue in existence, and that it be exactly corroborated by every other Mormon source.