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Response to questions related to Joseph Smith's treasure digging


A work by author: John Dehlin

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"As a youth and young adult Joseph Smith engaged in folk magic and treasure digging"

The author's unresolved question

"(25 June 2014 revision): As a youth and young adult Joseph Smith engaged in folk magic and treasure digging"




If Mr. Smith dug for money he considered it was a more honorable way of getting it than taking it from the widow and orphan; but few lazy, hireling priests of this age, would dig either for money or potatoes.

— W.I. Appleby, Mormonism Consistent! Truth Vindicated, and Falsehood Exposed and Refuted: Being A Reply to A. H. Wickersham (Wilmington DE: Porter & Nafe, 1843), 1–24.
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Was not Joseph Smith a money digger?
Yes, but it was never a very profitable job for him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.

—Joseph's tongue-in-cheek response to one of a list of questions that were asked of him during a visit at Elder Cahoon's home. (Elders' Journal 1/3 (July 1838): 43) [1]
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Question: Was Joseph Smith's participation in "money digging" as a youth a blot on his character?

Money digging was a popular, common and accepted practice in their frontier culture

Joseph Smith and some members of his family participated in "money digging" or looking for buried treasure as a youth. This was a common and accepted practice in their frontier culture, though the Smiths do not seem to have been involved to the extent claimed by some of the exaggerated attacks upon them by former neighbors.

In the young Joseph Smith's time and place, "money digging" was a popular, and sometimes respected activity. When Joseph was 16, the Palmyra Herald printed such remarks.

The local newspapers reported on "money digging" activities

  • "digging for money hid in the earth is a very common thing and in this state it is even considered as honorable and profitable employment"
  • "One gentleman...digging...ten to twelve years, found a sufficient quantity of money to build him a commodious house.
  • "another...dug up...fifty thousand dollars!" [2]

And, in 1825 the Wayne Sentinel in Palmyra reported that buried treasure had been found "by the help of a mineral stone, (which becomes transparent when placed in a hat and the light excluded by the face of him who looks into it)." [3]

The Smith's attitude toward treasure digging was similar to a modern attitudes toward gambling, or buying a lottery ticket

Given the financial difficulties under which the Smith family labored, it would hardly be surprising that they might hope for such a reversal in their fortunes. Richard Bushman has compared the Smith's attitude toward treasure digging with a modern attitudes toward gambling, or buying a lottery ticket. Bushman points out that looking for treasure had little stigma attached to it among all classes in the 17th century, and continued to be respectable among the lower classes into the 18th and 19th. [4]

Despite the claims of critics, it is not clear that Joseph and his family saw their activities as "magical."

For a detailed response, see: Joseph Smith/Occultism and magic


Question: Did Joseph Smith "retrofit" his "treasure seeking" to have a religious explanation?

Critics claim that Moroni was originally conceived of as a treasure guardian by Joseph, and only later came to be seen as a divine messenger, an angel

The attitude of acceptance toward money-digging in general society changed later in the century, and certainly became a liability for Joseph among the educated and sophisticated, such as newspaper publishers and clergy. His use of a seer stone provided further ammunition for his critics. For example, it is now claimed by one critic of the Church that "As a youth and young adult Joseph Smith engaged in folk magic and treasure digging, promoting himself as one who could help others find buried treasure by placing a magic stone in a hat." [5]

The earliest documents strongly suggest that Joseph and those close to him always understood Moroni as an angelic messenger, with a divine role

Claims that Joseph "retrofitted" his visions with religious trappings after the fact often beg the question, and ignore crucial evidence. In fact, the earliest accounts treat the matter as religious; this is true even of skeptical newspaper reports, as well as a Smith family letter which shows that Joseph or his father considered Moroni "the Angel of the Lord" as early as 1828. [6]

Joseph and those around him may have also seen some aspects of Moroni in a "treasure guardian" role (and he certainly did guard something of both material and spiritual value—the gold plates) but this seems to have been a secondary conclusion, as they interpreted Joseph's experience through their own preconceptions and understanding.

However, Moroni's status as an angel and messenger from God, is well attested in the early sources. Interestingly, the "treasure guardian" motif becomes more common and distinct in later sources, especially those gathered by enemies of Joseph, who sought to discredit him through ridicule and association with the (increasingly disreputable) practice of "treasure digging." [7]

The Hofmann forgeries exaggerated "magic" and "occult" elements of treasure digging even further

The Hofmann forgeries gave great emphasis to the "money-digging" and "occult" aspects of Joseph's experience, and they unfortunately shaded a good deal of the initial scholarly discussion surrounding these issues. Hofmann's documents made the case "air-tight," so to speak, and so other clues along the way were given more weight. When the Hofmann documents collapsed, some authors were not willing to abandon the shaky interpretive edifice they had constructed. [8]


Question: Was "money digging" Joseph Smith, Jr's primary source of income during his early years?

Tax records indicated that the Smith family was intensely engaged in activities related to improving their farm

The primary evidence–especially tax records, which provide a relatively unbiased look at the Smiths' work ethic—cannot support the argument that Joseph and his family were not intensely engaged in the duties related to farming.

See also: Lazy Smiths?

LDS scholar Daniel C. Peterson notes,

[I]n order to pay for their farm, the Smiths were obliged to hire themselves out as day laborers. Throughout the surrounding area, they dug and rocked up wells and cisterns, mowed, harvested, made cider and barrels and chairs and brooms and baskets, taught school, dug for salt, worked as carpenters and domestics, built stone walls and fireplaces, flailed grain, cut and sold cordwood, carted, washed clothes, sold garden produce, painted chairs and oil-cloth coverings, butchered, dug coal, and hauled stone. And, along the way, they produced between one thousand and seven thousand pounds of maple sugar annually. "Laziness" and "indolence" are difficult to detect in the Smith family.[9]

The data shows that the Smith farm increased in value, and was worth more than 90% of the farms owned by their neighbors

The data shows that the Smith farm increased in value, and was worth more than 90% of the farms owned by the four families—the Staffords, Stoddards, Chases, and Caprons—who would later speak disparagingly of the Smiths' work ethic.[10] How did they manage this without doing farm work? These are physical improvements. They were too poor to pay someone else to do it. So, are we to believe that Joseph's family let Joseph just sit around doing his "magic business" while the rest of them worked their fingers to the bone?

The Smith farm had a perimeter of a one and 2/3 miles. To fence that distance with a standard stone and stinger fence required moving tons of stone from fields to farm perimeter, then cutting and placing about 4,000 ten-foot rails. This does not include the labor and materials involved in fencing the barnyard, garden, pastures, and orchard, which, at a conservative estimate, required an additional 2,000 to 3,000 cut wooden rails (McNall 59, 84, 87, 91, 110-11, and 144). Clearly, this work alone—all of it separate from the actual labor of farming—represents a prodigious amount of concerted planning and labor....

In comparison to others in the township and neighborhood, the Smiths' efforts and accomplishments were superior to most. In the township, only 40 percent of the farms were worth more per acre and just 25 percent were larger. In the "neighborhood," only 29 percent of the farms were worth more and only 26 percent were larger (Assessment Rolls 1-34).[11]

Orlando Saunders: "They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died"

What did Joseph's associates have to say about Joseph's work? Former neighbor Orlando Saunders recalled,

They were the best family in the neighborhood in case of sickness; one was at my house nearly all the time when my father died....[The Smiths] were very good people. Young Joe (as we called him then), has worked for me, and he was a good worker; they all were. . . . He was always a gentleman when about my place."[12]

John Stafford, eldest son of William Stafford said that the Smiths were "poor managers," but allowed as how Joseph "would do a fair day's work if hired out to a man...."[13]

Mrs. Palmer's father "loved young Joseph Smith and often hired him to work with his boys"

According to Truman G. Madsen,

Mrs. Palmer, a non-Mormon who lived near the Smith farm in Palmyra, said of Joseph that "her father loved young Joseph Smith and often hired him to work with his boys. She was about six years old, she said, when he first came to their home. . . .She remembered, she said, the excitement stirred up among some of the people over the boy's first vision, and of hearing her father contend that it was only the sweet dream of a pure-minded boy.”[14]

Martha Cox's father said "that the boy [Joseph Smith] was the best help he had ever found

According to a contemporary, Martha Cox,

She stated that one of their church leaders came to her father to remonstrate against his allowing such close friendship between his family and the "Smith boy," as he called him. Her father, she said, defended his own position by saying that the boy was the best help he had ever found.[15]

Joseph's brother William noted that derogatory comments about Joseph's character came only after he reported his visions,

We never heard of such a thing until after Joseph told his vision, and not then, by our friends. Whenever the neighbors wanted a good day's work done they knew where they could get a good hand and they were not particular to take any of the other boys before Joseph either… Joseph did his share of the work with the rest of the boys. We never knew we were bad folks until Joseph told his vision.[16]

Joseph Knight said that Joseph Smith, Jr. was “the best hand [my father] ever hired”[17]

Martin Harris described what a good hand Joseph was: "He lived close by my farm, and often worked for me hoeing corn for fifty cents a day, which was the biggest wages given in those times." [18] "He also said that he had hoed corn with Joseph often, and that the latter was a good hand to work."[19]

The Smith family produced maple sugar and constructed barrels

Furthermore, the Smiths produced maple sugar, a difficult and labor-intensive occupation:

Sources document over two dozen kinds of labor the Smiths performed for hire, including digging and rocking up wells, mowing, coopering, constructing cisterns, hunting and trapping, teaching school, providing domestic service, and making split-wood chairs, brooms and baskets. The Smiths also harvested, did modest carpentry work, dug for salt, constructed stone walls and fireplaces, flailed grain, cut and sold cordwood, carted, made cider, and "witched" for water. They sold garden produce, made bee-gums, washed clothes, painted oil-cloth coverings, butchered, dug coal, painted chairs, hauled stone, and made maple syrup and sugar (Research File).

Joseph Jr.'s account suggests honest industry in the face of difficult conditions: "Being in indigent circumstances," he says, "[we] were obliged to labour hard for the support of [our] Large family and . . . it required the exertions of all [family members] that were able to render any assistances" (Jessee 4). The Smith men had a reputation as skilled and diligent workers. William Smith asserted that "whenever the neighbors wanted a good day's work done they knew where they could get a good hand" (Peterson 11). Eight wells in three townships are attributed to the Smiths (Research File). They likely dug and rocked others, including some of the 11 wells dug on the farm of Lemuel Durfee, who lived a little east of Martin Harris. The Smiths did considerable work for this kindly old Quaker; some of their labor served as rent for their farm after it passed into his ownership in December 1825 (Ralph Cator; Lemuel Durfee Farm books).

Father Joseph, Hyrum, and Joseph Jr. were coopers. Coopering was an exacting trade, particularly if the barrel was designed to hold liquid. Dye tubs, barrels, and water and sap buckets were products of the Smiths' cooper shop. They also repaired leaky barrels for neighbors at cidering time (Research File).

Sugaring was another labor-intensive work. William recalls, "To gather the sap and make sugar and molasses from [1,200-1,500 sugar] trees was no lazy job" (Peterson 11). Lucy said they produced an average of "one thousand pounds" (50) of sugar a year. One neighbor reportedly said that the Smiths made 7,000 pounds of sugar one season and won a premium for their effort at the county fair (Brodie 10-11). Many people could make maple syrup, but it required considerable skill to make sugar and particularly good skill, dexterity, and commitment to make high quality sugar.[20]


Question: Did Joseph Smith and his contemporaries believe in supernatural entities with real power?

Every Christian, Jew, or Muslim who believes in God, angels, and divine power believes in supernatural entities with real power

So, did Joseph Smith and his contemporaries believe in supernatural entities with real power? Yes—and so does every Christian, Jew, or Muslim who believes in God, angels, and divine power to reveal, heal, etc. However, to label these beliefs as "magic" is to beg the question—to argue that Joseph believed in and sought help from powers besides God. Nobody disputes that Joseph and his family believed in the Bible, which condemns divination and witchcraft:

There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Deuteronomy 18:10

Joseph and his family viewed folk magic and the use of seer stones as not falling under Biblical condemnation

Therefore, Joseph and his family viewed folk magic and the use of seer stones as not falling under this Biblical condemnation. It is clear that Joseph and his contemporaries believed that one could gain knowledge from such activities as dowsing (using a rod to find water, ore, or buried treasure) and the use of the seer stones. This does not mean, however, that Joseph understood such activities to be a form of magic.

In Joseph's day, the power of (for example) dowsing was seen as a manifestation of "how the world worked." An article published in 1825 described how the downward bob of a divining rode "closely resembles the dip of the magnetic needle, when traversing a bed or ore."[21] A journal of science reported the idea that "the rod is influenced by ores."[22]

An early British dowser denounced the idea that dowsing for ore was based on magic. "it [the rod] guided mee to the Orifice of a lead mine. [The rod is] of kin to the Load-stone [magnet], drawing Iron to it by a secret vertue, inbred by nature, and not by any conjuration as some have fondly imagined."[23]

Using a divining rod was seen in these examples as a manifestation of natural law, and requiring the grace of God to operate

Thus, divining was seen in these examples as a manifestation of natural law. Just as one might use a compass or lode-stone to find true north, without understanding the principles or mathematics of magnetism which underlay it, so one could use dowsing as a tool, without understanding the principles by which it operated.

It is further clear that those who used divinization by rods, for example, believed that the rod's natural ability also required the grace of God to operate. Hence, practitioners would consecrate their rods, and pray to God to bless their efforts.[24] Of such matters, Oliver Cowdery was told in an early revelation, "without faith you can do nothing."[25] Like any natural ability, Joseph believed that the gift and tools of seership (in the broader sense) could be misused. As he told Brigham Young, "most...who do find [a seer stone] make an evil use of it."[26] And, Emma Smith's hostile brother Alvah would later remember that Joseph told him "that his gift in seeing with a [seer] stone and hat, was a gift from God."[27]


Question: Was Joseph Smith commanded by the Lord to go to Salem, Massachusetts to hunt for treasure in the cellar of a house?

Joseph and several other leaders traveled to Salem hoping to find money that could be used to satisfy some of the Church's outstanding debt

The trip was apparently made on their own initiative, and was not commanded by the Lord. Joseph did not "prophesy" that they would find money in Salem, but instead made the trip because he became convinced that the story that the treasure existed might true. Upon failing to locate the money, they spent their time preaching to the people in Salem.

The trip to the East was an effort to find a means to relieve some of the outstanding debt that the Church

On July 25, 1836, Joseph, Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery began a journey from Kirtland to the East Coast for the purpose of seeking a means to relieve some of the outstanding debt that the Church had incurred. The men visited New York City in order to consult with their creditors regarding their debt.[28] Four days later, upon completing their business in New York, they then continued on to Salem, Massachusetts.

After visiting New York City, the men traveled to Salem upon hearing that a large amount of money would be available to them there

The trip to Salem is the subject of the revelation contained in D&C 111. The introduction states:

At this time the leaders of the Church were heavily in debt due to their labors in the ministry. Hearing that a large amount of money would be available to them in Salem, the Prophet, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and Oliver Cowdery traveled there from Kirtland, Ohio, to investigate this claim, along with preaching the gospel. The brethren transacted several items of church business and did some preaching. When it became apparent that no money was to be forthcoming, they returned to Kirtland.

This was a period in which great financial difficulties were being experienced by the Church in Kirtland—hence the motivation to search after the alleged treasure.

The revelation itself indicates that the Lord did not command the prophet to go to Salem to obtain money

I, the Lord your God, am not displeased with your coming this journey, notwithstanding your follies. (DC 111:1) (emphasis added)

B.H. Roberts provides additional information regarding the reason for the trip.

While the Prophet gives a somewhat circumstantial account of this journey to Salem and his return to Kirtland in September, he nowhere assigns an adequate cause for himself and company making it—the object of it is not stated. Ebenezer Robinson, for many years a faithful and prominent elder in the church, and at Nauvoo associated with Don Carlos Smith—brother of the Prophet—in editing and publishing the Times and Seasons, states that the journey to Salem arose from these circumstances. There came to Kirtland a brother by the name of Burgess who stated that he had knowledge of a large amount of money secreted in the cellar of a certain house in Salem, Massachusetts, which had belonged to a widow (then deceased), and thought he was the only person who had knowledge of it, or of the location of the house. The brethren accepting the representations of Burgess as true made the journey to Salem to secure, if possible, the treasure. Burgess, according to Robinson, met the brethren in Salem, but claimed that time had wrought such changes in the town that he could not for a certainty point out the house "and soon left."[29]

The trip to Salem was apparently a "venture of their own design"

The trip to Salem was apparently "a venture of their own design, not one of divine direction."[30] Two weeks after receiving the revelation recorded in D&C 111, Joseph wrote the following letter to his wife Emma from Salem.

Salem, Mass., August 19th, 1836.
My beloved Wife:—Bro. Hyrum is about to start for home before the rest of us, which seems wisdom in God, as our business here can not be determined as soon as we could wish to have it. I thought a line from me by him would be acceptable to you, even if it did not contain but little, that you may know that you and the children are much on my mind. With regard to the great object of our mission, you will be anxious to know. We have found the house since Bro. Burgess left us, very luckily and providentially, as we had one spell been most discouraged. The house is occupied, and it will require much care and patience to rent or buy it. We think we shall be able to effect it; if not now within the course of a few months. We think we shall be at home about the middle of September. I can think of many things concerning our business, but can only pray that you may have wisdom to manage the concerns that involve on you, and want you should believe me that I am your sincere friend and husband. In haste. Yours &c., Joseph Smith, Jr.[31]

The letter indicates that Joseph had not yet given up hope of locating the actual physical treasure for which they had originally come. The four men spent their time in Salem preaching and sightseeing.

Salem's "treasure"

The Lord indicates, however, that there is some benefit to be derived from their presence there. The "treasure" referred to has to do with planting seeds for the future preaching of the Gospel:

I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. Therefore, it is expedient that you should form acquaintance with men in this city, as you shall be led, and as it shall be given you...For there are more treasures than one for you in this city. (DC 111:2-3,DC 111:10)

Richard Lloyd Anderson notes that in D&C 111, "the definition of riches came in doublets, a scriptural pattern of restating one idea in two aspects."Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984). PDF link
Caution: this article was published before Mark Hofmann's forgeries were discovered. It may treat fraudulent documents as genuine. Click for list of known forged documents.
Discusses money-digging; Salem treasure hunting episode; fraudulent 1838 Missouri treasure hunting revelation; Wood Scrape; “gift of Aaron”; “wand or rod”; Heber C. Kimball rod and prayer; magic; occult; divining lost objects; seerstone; parchments; talisman The following parallels are noted:

Phrase #1 Phrase #2
I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion (verse 2, part a) and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion (verse 2, part b)
Concern not yourselves about your debts, for I will give you power to pay them. (verse 5) Concern not yourselves about Zion, for I will deal mercifully with her. (verse 6)
I have much treasure in this city for you, for the benefit of Zion, and many people in this city, whom I will gather out in due time for the benefit of Zion, through your instrumentality. (verse 2) And it shall come to pass in due time that I will give this city into your hands, that you shall have power over it, insomuch that they shall not discover your secret parts; and its wealth pertaining to gold and silver shall be yours. (verse 4)

Anderson suggests that "such similar phrasing suggests that paying debts and the welfare of Zion were but different forms of the same hope." The "gold and silver" mentioned in Verse 4 is equated with the "treasure" of "many people" in Verse 2, which suggests that "the gathering of the converts is at the same time a gathering of their resources."

Fulfillment of the revelation

It became evident to the leaders of the Church that the "treasure" referred to by the Lord was the conversion of people in Salem to the Gospel. In 1841, five years after the revelation was given, Erastus Snow and Benjamin Winchester were called to serve a mission in Salem. Cannon notes that the elders were sent explicitly for the purpose of fulfilling the revelation:

[Hyrum Smith and William Law] gave Erastus Snow a copy of the Salem Revelation and requested to fulfill it. Snow and Winchester arrived in Salem in September of 1841. They preached at public meetings, published a pamphlet addfressed to the citizens of Salem, and challenged the notorious Mormon apostate, John C. Bennett to debate. Their efforts bore fruit. By March of 1842 they had organized the Salem Branch with 53 members. By the end of that summer, the branch had 90 members.[32]

These conversions were sufficiently noticed to have been commented on by two of Salem's newspapers, the Salem Gazette on Dec. 7, 1841, and The Salem Register on June 2, 1842.


W.I. Appleby (1843): "If Mr. Smith dug for money he considered it was a more honorable way of getting it than taking it from the widow and orphan"

W.I. Appleby:

If Mr. Smith dug for money he considered it was a more honorable way of getting it than taking it from the widow and orphan; but few lazy, hireling priests of this age, would dig either for money or potatoes.[33]


Joseph Smith (1838): "Was not Joseph Smith a money digger?"

Joseph's tongue-in-cheek response to one of a list of questions that were asked of him during a visit at Elder Cahoon's home:

Was not Joseph Smith a money digger? Yes, but it was never a very profitable job for him, as he only got fourteen dollars a month for it.[34]


"Treasure hunting" trip to Salem

Summary: Was Joseph Smith commanded by the Lord to go to Salem, Massachusetts to hunt for treasure in the cellar of a house? Upon arriving there, the treasure was nowhere to be found.


"find buried treasure by placing a magic stone in a hat"

The author's unresolved question

"(25 June 2014 revision): find buried treasure by placing a magic stone in a hat"

Response to the author's claim


Joseph Smith, his family, and friends never referred to his seer stone as a "magic stone"—only hostile sources and critics of Joseph Smith call it that.



Gospel Topics: "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," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013):

Joseph Smith and his scribes wrote of two instruments used in translating the Book of Mormon. According to witnesses of the translation, when Joseph looked into the instruments, the words of scripture appeared in English. One instrument, called in the Book of Mormon the “interpreters,” is better known to Latter-day Saints today as the “Urim and Thummim.” ....

The other instrument, which Joseph Smith discovered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, was a small oval stone, or “seer stone.” 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.[35]


Question: Why would Joseph Smith use the same stone for translating the Book of Mormon that he used for "money digging"?

Would God approve the use of a "magic peep stone" in translating a sacred record?

Joseph was given a set of Nephite interpreters along with the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was produced. In addition, Joseph already possessed and utilized several seer stones. Although Joseph began translating the Book of Mormon using the Nephite interpreters, he later switched to using one of his seer stones to complete the translation. Critics (typically those who reject Mormonism but still believe in God) reject the idea that God would approve the use of an instrument for translation that had previously been used for "money digging."

Regardless of the perspective (believing or non-believing) from which we tell the story of the translation, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged

The conclusion that Joseph used a "magical" or "occult" stone to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon is entirely dependent upon one's own preconception that the use of such an instrument would not be acceptable by God. Believers, on the other hand, ought not to take issue with a distinction between one set of seer stones versus another. As Brant Gardner notes: "Regardless of the perspective from which we tell the story, the essential fact of the translation is unchanged. How was the Book of Mormon translated? As Joseph continually insisted, the only real answer, from any perspective, is that it was translated by the gift and power of God." [36]

  • The point is not necessarily that the stone had the same ability, but that it provided a means for Joseph to exercise his spiritual abilities.
  • If one stops assuming that Joseph was a liar and deceiver, we can consider the matter from Joseph's point of view:
    • He's being called upon to reveal things that are hidden, and to translate an ancient record.
    • Joseph is painfully aware that he cannot do these things.
    • How could Joseph know that he wasn't going crazy or being delusional? Tying his early prophetic work to something with which he had already had objective success (the use of the seer stone) allowed Joseph to trust both God and himself.
    • The Lord seems to have used Joseph's preexisting beliefs about how the world worked (including seer stones to reveal hidden things) to help Joseph gain confidence in his own abilities.
    • The Nephite interpreters had been blessed and dedicated for the purpose of translating the Book of Mormon—this would have increased Joseph's faith, and they did help him receive revelation more effectively, initially. This is what excited Joseph more than even the plates themselves—he was able to do more with the Nephite stones.
    • With time, Joseph was able to translate with his "original" stone—thus, his own ability had increased, because he no longer needed the "stronger" Nephite stones.
    • Eventually, he did not require the "prop" or "crutch" of the stone at all—his faith and experience had grown.
  • Critics of the Church often act as if the stone or Urim and Thummim were a type of "magic translator" that anyone could have looked through. They weren't. Joseph always insisted he was only able to do what he did "by the gift and power of God." It is probable that anyone else examining the stones would have found nothing unusual or different about them.
  • The power to translate or reveal hidden things came from God—as Joseph's experience and spiritual maturity increased, his reliance upon a physical instrument became less and less.


Question: What role did Joseph fill in the community as a youth?

Joseph acted as a "village seer"

Brant Gardner notes that Joseph filled the role of "village seer," and that the invitation of village seers to assist local treasure diggers was actually an English tradition. According to Keith Thomas,

There was not necessarily anything magical about the search for treasure as such, but in practice the assistance of a conjurer or wizard was very frequently invoked. This was partly because it was thought that special divining tools might help, such as the 'Mosaical Rods' for which many contemporary formulae survive.[37]

Gardner continues by confirming that "[w]hat the modern world tends to know about the village seers is the result of only one of the ways in which their talents were put to use. Since they could see that which was hidden, local seers became involved in the mania of digging for lost treasure."[38] Add to this the statements regarding Joseph's money digging activities mentioned in the Hurlbut affidavits, and it is easy to see why critics wish to make an issue regarding Joseph's utilization of the his "treasure seeking" seer stone to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon.

For a detailed response, see: Joseph Smith and "money digging" and The Hurlbut affidavits

Question: Didn't Joseph's 1826 Bainbridge appearance before a judge prove that he had previously been using his stone for nefarious purposes?

The actual evidence indicates a favorable outcome for Joseph Smith

Even Joseph himself noted that he was sought out by Josiah Stowell ("Stoal") to use the stone to find hidden valuables. (JS-H 1:55-56) Stowell "came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye."[39]

Stowell eventually joined the Church; some of his family and community religious leaders[40], however, brought charges against Joseph in court for events related to this treasure seeking effort. This led to what is commonly referred to as Joseph's 1826 Bainbridge "glasslooking trial." Although this proceeding was used to accuse Joseph of being a "disorderly person" and attempting to defraud Stowell, it should be noted that Stowell actually testified in Joseph's defense. The report of the result of this proceeding varies depending upon who is telling the story. Some say that Joseph was found "guilty," or "condemned." Others indicate that he was "discharged." Constable De Zeng indicated that the proceeding was "not a trial." A synthesis of all the evidence indicates a favorable outcome for Joseph Smith.[41]

Gardner concludes that "[t]he implication is that since Joseph used a peep stone, he must be seen in the same category as those who ran a scam with one. Clearly the 1826 court appearance tells us that some contemporaries considered him in that category....However, the fact that the communities would be willing to follow the confidence scheme simply tells us that there was an existing belief system in which seer stones were considered effective and acceptable."[42] More recent critics, notably Dan Vogel, have suggested that Joseph belongs in the category of a pious fraud,[43] a model that others have found incoherent and inadequate[44] to explain Joseph's successes and failures as a village seer (and later prophet) and his tendency to polarize acquaintances into believers or debunkers.


For a detailed response, see: Joseph's 1826 glasslooking trial

Question: Why would Joseph Smith not continue to use the sacred interpreters provided with the Nephite record?

Ultimately, it was more convenient for him to use the seer stone

Joseph used his white seer stone sometimes "for convenience" during the translation of the 116 pages with Martin Harris; later witnesses reported him using his brown seer stone.[45]

The Nephite interpreters which were given to Joseph along with the plates consisted of two stones set in a bow, resembling a pair of "large spectacles." Martin Harris described the Nephite interpreters as being "about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre.... They were joined by a round bar of diver, about three-eights of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which with the two stones, would make eight inches."[46]

The Nephite interpreters, therefore, were yet another set of seer stones. It is unsurprising that Joseph would be completely comfortable with these instruments, given his experience with the use of seer stones up to that time.

Latter-day Saints associate the term "Urim and Thummim" with these interpreters. Gardner notes,

We all know that Joseph used the Urim and Thummim to translate the Book of Mormon—except he didn't. The Book of Mormon mentions interpreters, but not the Urim and Thummim. It was the Book of Mormon interpreters which were given to Joseph with the plates. When Moroni took back the interpreters after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages, Joseph completed the translation with one of his seer stones. Until after the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Urim and Thummim belonged to the Bible and the Bible only. [51] The Urim and Thummim became part of the story when it was presented within and to the Great Tradition. Eventually, even Joseph Smith used Urim and Thummim indiscriminately as labels generically representing either the Book of Mormon interpreters or the seer stone used during translation. [52] [47]

After the loss of the 116 pages, contemporary accounts are very clear that Joseph continued the translation using his seer stone. In later years, the term "Urim and Thummim" was retroactively applied to both the Nephite interpreters and to Joseph's seer stone. Thus the use of "Urim and Thummim" tends to obscure the fact that two different instruments were employed.


For a detailed response, see: Chronology of statements regarding translation methods used for the Book of Mormon

Question: Did Joseph use his seer stone to view the location of the gold plates in the Hill Cumorah?

There is an account which indicates that this may have happened

Joseph's seer stone may even have played a role in the location of the plates and the Nephite interpreters themselves. There is considerable evidence that the location of the plates and Nephite interpreters were revealed to Joseph via his second, white seer stone. In 1859, Martin Harris recalled that "Joseph had a stone which was dug from the well of Mason Chase...It was by means of this stone he first discovered the plates."[48]

Some critics have sought to create a contradiction here, since Joseph's history reported that Moroni revealed the plates to him (JS-H 1:34-35,42). This is an example of a false dichotomy: Moroni could easily have told Joseph about the plates and interpreters. The vision to Joseph may well have then come through the seer stone, as some of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants (e.g., Section X) would later be revealed. One account from Henry Harris in Eber D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed matches this theory well:

I had a conversation with [Joseph], and asked him where he found them [the plates] and how he come to know where they were. he said he had a revelation from God that told him they were hid in a certain hill and he looked in his [seer] stone and saw them in the place of deposit.[49]


Question: Did Joseph Fielding Smith say that it was not reasonable for Joseph Smith to use a seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon?

Joseph Fielding Smith said "It hardly seems reasonable to suppose that the Prophet would substitute something evidently inferior under these circumstances"

Joseph Fielding Smith said the following:

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. [50]

One critical website makes the claim: "So apparently even the 10th president of the Church thinks that using a stone to translate the Book of Mormon with 'hardly seems reasonable.'" [51] This is incorrect.

Joseph Fielding Smith did not say that it was not reasonable to use a stone to translate the Book of Mormon. After all, the Nephite interpreters were themselves comprised of two seer stones. Joseph Fielding Smith had no issue with that. What Joseph Fielding Smith thought was unreasonable was that Joseph Smith would use his own "inferior" seer stone instead of the Nephite interpreters.

Joseph Smith considered the Nephite interpreters a more powerful version of his own seer stone

When Joseph Smith first obtained the Nephite interpreters, he considered them a more powerful version of the stone that he already possessed. Joseph Knight recalled that Joseph appeared to be more excited about receiving the glasses than the gold plates themselves.[52] After Joseph returned from retrieving the plates, Joseph Knight recalled,

After breakfast Joseph called me in to the other room and he set his foot on the bed and leaned his head on his hand and says, “Well, I am disappointed.” “Well,” say I, “I am sorry.” “Well,” says he, “I am greatly disappointed. It is ten times better than I expected.” Then he went on to tell the length and width and thickness of the plates, and, said he, they appear to be gold. But he seemed to think more of the glasses or the Urim and Thummim than he did of the plates for, says he, “I can see anything. They are marvelous. Now they are written in characters and I want them translated.” [53]

In the beginning, Joseph believed that the stone itself possessed some special quality

Joseph's belief that the stone or the Nephite interpreters possessed some quality that made them special was apparent:

The idea that the Nephite interpreters were a more powerful version of Joseph’s seer stone is interesting, since it implies that there was something special about the stones themselves. It is more likely, however, that it was Joseph’s own perception that the stones were superior because these stones had been consecrated by God for the purpose of seeing things.

Joseph Fielding Smith did not believe that Joseph Smith would substitute an inferior seer stone for the Nephite interpreters, which were themselves stones

However, the idea that the Nephite interpreters were superior to a common “seer stone” was accepted by twentieth-century apostle and Church historian Joseph Fielding Smith. In response to accounts that indicated that Joseph may have used his own seer stone during the translation of the Book of Mormon, Elder Smith flatly stated that he did not believe this to be true, since the stone was inferior to the Nephite interpreters.[52] </blockquote>

Joseph Fielding Smith was entitled to his opinion, and he clearly stated that it was his opinion. He based this on scripture from the Book of Ether which indicated that the interpreters had been preserved for the purpose of translation. This is certainly a reasonable conclusion. However, statements made by Joseph Smith's contemporaries clearly indicate that the seer stone was used in the translation, and that by 1833 the title "Urim and Thummim" was later applied to the seer stone in addition to the Nephite interpreters.


Question: Why is the "white stone" that we are to receive upon entry to the Celestial kingdom not discussed extensively in Sunday School?

The "white stone" mentioned in D&C 130 ties into LDS temple practice and involves things which are held private and sacred

One critic of the Church asks regarding the "white stone" mentioned in D&C 130:

If seer stones, whether in the form of the Urim and Thummim or a peepstone, are so important that perfect, celestial beings would receive one, why did Joseph say they were only for beginners?[54]

The "white stone" mentioned here involves things which are held private and sacred: it ties into LDS temple practice, which FairMormon and other believing members will not discuss in a public forum. So, part of the reason this is not discussed in more detail is because it involves temple doctrines. Those who attend the temple can reflect upon these passages and realize that they play a large role in LDS temple worship.

  • Joseph seemed to regard his own seer stone as a "stepping-stone" to greater knowledge and revelatory experience. This is exactly what D&C 130 says the "white stone" given to the exalted will do: "things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known."
  • LDS doctrine teaches that we will continue to learn and progress after this life, until we receive "all that the Father hath." A urim and thummim will, according to Joseph, play a role in that process. But, one would also expect that it too will become unnecessary when we, like Joseph, master the spiritual discipline and principles which the urim and thummim aids in developing.

Orson Pratt, who watched the New Testament revision (JST) and wondered why the use of seer stones/interpreters (as with the Book of Mormon) was not continued reported:

While this thought passed through the speaker's mind, Joseph, as if he read his thoughts, looked up and explained that the Lord gave him the Urim and Thummim when he was inexperienced in the Spirit of inspiration. But now he had advanced so far that he understood the operations of that Spirit and did not need the assistance of that instrument. [55]

Brant A. Gardner, "Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?"

Brant A. Gardner,  Proceedings of the 2009 FAIR Conference, (2009)
Two pictures:

The manner of translation was as wonderful as the discovery. By putting his finger on one of the characters and imploring divine aid, then looking through the Urim and Thummim, he would see the import written in plain English on a screen placed before him. After delivering this to his emanuensi,[sic] he would again proceed in the same manner and obtain the meaning of the next character, and so on till he came to the part of the plates which were sealed up.

Truman Coe, Presbyterian Minister living among the Saints in Kirtland, 1836

I cheerfully certify that I was familiar with the manner of Joseph Smith’s translating the book of Mormon. He translated the most of it at my Father’s house. And I often sat by and saw and heard them translate and write for hours together. Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe while he was translating. 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.

Elizabeth Ann Whitmer Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery’s wife, 1870

These two descriptions of Joseph Smith translating the golden plates paint radically different pictures of the same event. It easy to accept the finger-on-the-plates translation, but the rock-in-the-hat feels completely foreign. Nevertheless, it is a much better attested description of the process than the first.

Why do we have both of these pictures if the second better fits the majority of descriptions? To answer that question, there are two stories that must be told: first–why would anyone think of translating with a rock in a hat?–and second–why we are so surprised at that?

Click here to view the complete article


Joseph Smith and the "occult" or "magick"

Citing Joseph Smith's experiences with folk magic, treasure seeking and seer stones, it is claimed that Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences were originally products of magic and the occult. Some charge that only much later did Joseph retrofit his experiences in Christian, religious terms: speaking of God, angels, and prophethood rather than in terms of magic, treasure guardians and scrying. It is also claimed that a "vagabond fortune-teller" named Walters became popular in the Palmyra area, and that when Walters left the area, "his mantle fell upon" Joseph Smith.

The origin of Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences

Summary: Were Joseph Smith's spiritual experiences originally products of magic and the occult?

Jump to Subtopic:

Joseph Smith's family and "folk magic"

Jump to Subtopic:


"Joseph was still able to convince many people that he had special powers"

The author's unresolved question

"(25 June 2014 revision): Joseph was still able to convince many people that he had special powers"

Response to the author's claim


How exactly was the young Joseph Smith able to "convince" people that he had "special powers"....unless he actually had them?


Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, Elders' Journal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [Kirtland, Ohio] 2 no. 3 (July 1838), 43. Also reproduced in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 120; History of the Church 3:29; Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 271.
  2. Palmyra Herald (24 July 1822); cited in Russell Anderson, "The 1826 Trial of Joseph Smith," (2002 FAIR Conference presentation.) FairMormon link
  3. "Wonderful Discovery," Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, New York] (27 December 1825), page 2, col. 4. Reprinted from the Orleans Advocate of Orleans, New York; cited by Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 170–171.
  4. Richard L. Bushman, "Joseph Smith Miscellany," (Mesa, Arizona: FAIR, 2005 FAIR Conference) FairMormon link
  5. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).
  6. Mark Ashurst-McGee, "Moroni as Angel and as Treasure Guardian," FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 34–100. [{{{url}}} off-site] wiki  (Key source)
  7. Larry E. Morris, "'I Should Have an Eye Single to the Glory of God’: Joseph Smith’s Account of the Angel and the Plates (Review of: "From Captain Kidd’s Treasure Ghost to the Angel Moroni: Changing Dramatis Personae in Early Mormonism")," FARMS Review 17/1 (2005): 11–82. off-site  (Key source)
  8. Stephen E. Robinson, "Review of D. Michael Quinn Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (1987)," Brigham Young University Studies 27 no. 4 (Date?), 88. PDF link; see also John Gee, "Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 185–224. [{{{url}}} off-site]; William J. Hamblin, "That Old Black Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 225–394. [{{{url}}} off-site]; Rhett S. James, "Writing History Must Not Be an Act of Magic (Review of Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, by D. Michael Quinn)," FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 395–414. [{{{url}}} off-site]
  9. Daniel C. Peterson and Donald L. Enders, "Can the 1834 Affidavits Attacking the Smith Family Be Trusted?," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon: The FARMS Updates of the 1990s, ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 286—87. off-site
  10. Donald L. Enders, "The Joseph Smith, Sr., Family: Farmers of the Genesee," in Joseph Smith, The Prophet, The Man, edited by Susan Easton Black and Charles D. Tate, Jr., (Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1993), 220–221.
  11. Enders, "Joseph Smith, Sr., Family," 219, 221.
  12. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 165.
  13. William H. Kelly, "The Hill Cumorah, and the Book of Mormon," Saints' Herald 28 (1 June 1881): 167; cited in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:121.
  14. Cited from a typescript by Truman G. Madsen, "Guest Editor's Prologue," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 3 (Spring 1969), 235.
  15. Stories from the Notebook of Martha Cox, Grandmother of Fern Cox Anderson, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah)
  16. Deseret News, 20 January 1894
  17. Autobiography of Joseph Knight Jr., 1, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah
  18. Martin Harris, quoted in Edward Stevenson to the Editor, 14 October 1893 Deseret Evening News (20 October 1893); reprinted in Millennial Star 55 (4 December 1893): 793-94; in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 5:326.
  19. Martin Harris, quoted in Edward Stevenson Reminiscences of Joseph, the Prophet and the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Edward Stevenson, 1893), 30-33.
  20. Enders, "Joseph Smith, Sr., Family," 222–223.
  21. "The Divining Rod," The Worchester Magazine and Historical Journal (October 1825): 29; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 66. Buy online
  22. "The Divining Rod," The American Journal of Science and Arts (October 1826): 204; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 65–66.
  23. Gabriel Platts, A Discovery of Subterraneal Treasure (London: 1639), 11–13, emphasis added; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 66. Buy online
  24. See discussion in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 140, 182–192.
  25. A Book of Commandments for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to law, on the 6th of April, 1830 (Zion [Independence, Missouri]: W.W. Phelps and Co., 1833) 7:4.
  26. Joseph Smith, cited by Brigham Young, "History of Brigham Young," Millennial Star (20 February 1864), 118–119.; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 184. Buy online
  27. "Mormonism," The Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian (Montrose, Pennsylvania) (1 May 1834): 1, column 4; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 184. Buy online
  28. Donald Q. Cannon, "Joseph Smith in Salem, (D&C 111)" Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (editors), Studies in Scripture, Vol. 1: The Doctrine and Covenants, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), pp. 433.
  29. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:410–411. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  30. Joseph Fielding McConkie, Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000), p. 896.
  31. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 350.
  32. Cannon, 436.
  33. W.I. Appleby, Mormonism Consistent! Truth Vindicated, and Falsehood Exposed and Refuted: Being A Reply to A. H. Wickersham (Wilmington DE: Porter & Nafe, 1843), 1–24.
  34. Joseph Smith, Elders' Journal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [Kirtland, Ohio] 2 no. 3 (July 1838), 43. Also reproduced in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 120; History of the Church 3:29; Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 271.
  35. "Book of Mormon Translation," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (2013)
  36. Brant A. Gardner, Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, 2009 FAIR Conference presentation.
  37. Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, 234 quoted by Gardner in Joseph the Seer...
  38. Brant A. Gardner, Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?, 2009 FAIR Conference presentation.
  39. Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853),91–92.
  40. David Keller, The Bainbridge Conspiracy, Fair Blog, March 23, 2008
  41. David Keller, Not Guilty, Fair Blog, Dec. 17, 2008.
  42. Gardner, Joseph the Seer
  43. Trevor Luke, "The Scandal in the Practice: Joseph Smith as a Religious Performer" 2009 Sunstone Conference
  44. David Keller, Seer or Pious Fraud, Fair Blog, May 5, 2008
  45. See Mark Ashurst-McGee, "A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet," (Master's Thesis, University of Utah, Logan, Utah, 2000), 320–326.
  46. Joel Tiffany, "Mormonism—No. II," Tiffany's Monthly (June 1859): 165–166; cited in Richard Van Wagoner and Steve Walker, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing'", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought vol. 15, no. 2 (Summer 1982):62, footnote 27.
  47. J. V. Coombs, Religious Delusions: Studies of the False Faiths of To-Day as cited in Gardner, Joseph the Seer. Van Wagoner and Walker note that "These stones could not have been the Nephite interpreters, yet Joseph specifically calls them 'Urim and Thummim.' The most obvious explanation for such wording is that he used the term generically to include any device with the potential for 'communicating light perfectly, and intelligence perfectly, through a principle that God has ordained for that purpose,' as John Taylor would later put it." as cited in Gardner, Joseph the Seer.
  48. Mormonism—II," Tiffany's Monthly (June 1859): 163, see also 169; cited in Ashurst-McGee (2000), 286.
  49. Henry Harris, statement in E.D. Howe Mormonism Unvailed (1833), 252; cited in Ashurst-McGee (2000), 290.
  50. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:225–26.
  51. "Translation of the Book of Mormon," MormonThink.com.
  52. 52.0 52.1 Roger Nicholson, "The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer's View of the Book of Mormon Translation," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5 (2013) 121-190.
  53. “Joseph Knight Sr., Reminiscence, Circa 1835-1847,” in Early Mormon Documents, 4:15. Spelling has been modernized and formatted for readability. Original spelling and formatting is as follows: “After Brackfist Joseph Cald me in to the other Room and he set his foot on the Bed and leaned his head on his hand and says well I am Dissop[o]inted. well, say I[,] I am sorrey[.] Well, says he[,] I am grateley Dissop[o]inted, it is ten times Better then I expected. Then he went on to tell the length and width and thickness of the plates[,] and[,] said he[,] they appear to be Gold 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[.] Now they are written in Caracters and I want them translated[.]" Cited in Note 40 of Nicholson, "The Spectacles, the Stone".
  54. "Translation of the Book of Mormon," MormonThink.com.
  55. Richard L. Anderson, "The Mature Joseph Smith and Treasure Searching," Brigham Young University Studies 24 no. 4 (1984). PDF link
    Caution: this article was published before Mark Hofmann's forgeries were discovered. It may treat fraudulent documents as genuine. Click for list of known forged documents.
    Discusses money-digging; Salem treasure hunting episode; fraudulent 1838 Missouri treasure hunting revelation; Wood Scrape; “gift of Aaron”; “wand or rod”; Heber C. Kimball rod and prayer; magic; occult; divining lost objects; seerstone; parchments; talisman ; citing Orson Pratt, "Discourse at Brigham City," 27 June 1874, Ogden (Utah) Junction, cited in Orson Pratt, "Two Days´ Meeting at Brigham City," Millennial Star 36 (11 August 1874), 498–499.