Friday, January 24, 2020

Implementing the "Gospel Topics Essays"

Here's the latest example of "neutrality" as implemented by our M2C scholars.

Some of us remember when the anonymous Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Geography was supposed to be a declaration of neutrality, but it was obvious the day it was released that the essay would not slow down the efforts of M2C intellectuals to claim prophetic support as they continue to imprint M2C on the minds of the Latter-day Saints.

Since then, Book of Mormon Central has spent millions of dollars in the effort. Other M2C intellectuals continue to lend their support to the cause.

Here's an upcoming example. January 30 at BYU-Idaho.

Chris Allison teaches Book of Mormon classes at BYU-Idaho. This means he's already teaching his students M2C because he's using the infamous BYU/CES  maps which teach students to think of the Book of Mormon in a fictional fantasy world, with the Hill Cumorah far, far away from New York.

Now Brother Allison is making "A Case for Meso-America" right on the campus of BYU-Idaho.

It's a good title. It fits with Brother Callister's M2C-approved book A Case for the Book of Mormon.

It's not difficult to make a case for anything, of course. Any lawyer can make a case for any side of any issue. Making a case has nothing to do with truth; it's a matter of making arguments based on a particular interpretation of selected facts.

I'm curious about this "making a case" trend. It works great as a bias confirmation exercise, but what does it do for open-minded people?

Doesn't "making a case" invite readers, listeners and viewers to seek out the "other side of the story" or at least other perspectives? Thanks to the ongoing censorship by Book of Mormon Central, FairMormon, and other M2C organizations, the only "other side of the story" to M2C that most members hear about is CES Letter, Mormon Stories, and others who claim the Book of Mormon is fiction.

A truly "neutral" position would allow alternative perspectives to be presented at BYU and CES. Let Brother Allison make his case for "Meso-America" and let someone else make a case for the New York Cumorah. Then let students make up their own minds.

BYU fantasy map, teaching a fictional
setting for the Book of Mormon
That would be a big step forward, but it will never happen as long as the M2C intellectuals have their way.

Aside from those who merely seek to confirm their biases, the question for undecided people is whether the case is persuasive or not. The unpersuasiveness of M2C is evident; outside of a handful of M2C intellectuals, their employees, and their followers, no one believes M2C.
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I encourage everyone attending BYU-Idaho to attend the event. You'll surely learn some great reasons why the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah are wrong.

It's virtually certain you'll hear that the anonymous 1842 Times and Seasons articles were written by Joseph Smith. Those ridiculous articles are the entire premise for M2C. Those who have read Mormon's Codex and the related M2C literature from the citation cartel recognize that everything else is bias confirmation and sophistry (not that there's anything wrong with that, because if you want to believe M2C, that's fine with me).

You probably won't hear that M2C originated with RLDS scholars, but you'll hear about the ways the Book of Mormon was mistranslated because Joseph didn't realize the Nephites lived among the Mayans.

You probably won't hear what Joseph and Oliver and their contemporaries and successors taught about the New York Cumorah in Letter VII and elsewhere, unless it is to explain why they were all wrong.

If you go, let me know what he has to say.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Cumorah and the Three Witnesses

M2C advocates claim there are "two Cumorahs" because the "hill in New York" where Joseph found the plates cannot be either (i) the scene of the final battles of the Nephites and Jaredites or (ii) the location of Mormon's depository of Nephite records.

The M2C intellectuals and their followers know their theory contradicts Letter VII. They also know Brigham Young and others taught explicitly that the depository was in the New York Cumorah.

M2C organizations such as Book of Mormon Central and FairMormon readily repudiate the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah by claiming the prophets and apostles who discussed the New York Cumorah simply misled the Church by expressing their own opinions.

However, not many Church members realize that the M2C interpretation of Brigham Young's teaching supports the position of critics of the Church who disbelieve everything about the Restoration.
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M2C scholars claim Brigham Young related a vision, not an actual experience.

The FairMormon explanation omits a critical part of President Young's teaching, along with the historical context. This misleads Church members.

Here's the link:

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_Is_there_a_cave_in_the_Hill_Cumorah_containing_the_Nephite_records%3F

Here is the sentence that precedes President Young's statement: "I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country."'

JOD 19:38.

President Young was not talking about an imaginary or "visionary" hill somewhere in southern Mexico as FairMormon wants us to believe.

FairMormon explains it this way: "The geologic unlikelihood of a cave existing within the hill such as the one described suggests that the experience related by the various witnesses was most likely a vision, or a divine transportation to another locale (as with Nephi's experience in 1 Nephi 11:1)."

Of course, no one said or implied that the depository was a natural cave. The M2C explanation that the experience must have been a vision repudiates Brigham Young's testimony, as well as what others said, including Wilford Woodruff.

The M2C advocates cite Heber C. Kimball's statement about a "vision" to justify their claim that the real Cumorah is in Mexico:

In response to a Brother Mills’s statement about the handcart pioneers, Heber C. Kimball said:
How does it compare with the vision that Joseph and others had, when they went into a cave in the hill Cumorah, and saw more records than ten men could carry? There were books piled up on tables, book upon book. Those records this people will yet have, if they accept of the Book of Mormon and observe its precepts, and keep the commandments.

Those of us who still believe the teachings of the prophets interpret this use of the term "vision" to mean a view or sight.

Consider this. If Kimball's statement was a vision, what about Joseph's statement about his experience with Martin Harris?

"We accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view; at least it was again to me, and I once more beheld, and heard the same things; whilst at the same moment, Martin Harris cried out, apparantly in ecstacy of joy, “Tis enough; mine eyes have beheld,” and jumping up he shouted, hosanah, blessing God, and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly."


The M2C interpretation of Heber C. Kimball's statement relegates Martin Harris' experience as one of the Three Witnesses to a purely spiritual experience.

Which is exactly what critics such as the CES Letter also claim.


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The happiness of Moroni's America

The North American setting for the Book of Mormon, which I call Moroni's America (hence the book of that name) is awesome for many reasons, but one of the biggest is the happiness it brings.

Think of it: the North American setting means we can embrace the teachings of the prophets without resorting to a bunch of sophistry to justify/explain the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C).

After all, President Oliver Cowdery (Assistant President of the Church at the time) declared it was a fact that the hill Cumorah in western New York was the location of (i) the repository of Nephite records and (ii) the final battles of the Nephites and the Jaredites. See http://www.lettervii.com/.

To justify/explain M2C, M2C intellectuals and their followers have to frame Oliver as an ignorant speculator who misled the Church. They have to extend their framing to Joseph Smith as well. And to all the other prophets who reaffirmed the New York Cumorah.

In Moroni's America, the teachings of the prophets are corroborated by archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography. We don't need to resort to word thinking and sophistry to try to fit the Book of Mormon into Mesoamerica, to create "two Cumorahs," and to explain why the Mayan civilization has not a trace of Hebrew or Book of Mormon influence--just as the Book of Mormon has no trace of Mayan culture.

Those of us who still believe the teachings of the prophets are happy to discuss the North American setting, with Cumorah in New York. 

Of course, our M2C friends seek to defend M2C. We can expect that to continue because of their intellectual, financial, and emotional investment in M2C. And that's all fine.

But even they know that most Church members, once they hear about Moroni's America, choose to reject the whole idea of "two Cumorahs" and the associated theories.

That's why the M2C proponents* continue to censor the teachings of the prophets and the evidence that supports and corroborates those teachings.

Censorship ultimately fails, especially in the age of the Internet. So keep spreading the word. M2C will collapse of its own weight once Church members are able to make informed decisions.
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* M2C proponent include Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, FairMormon, BYU Studies, Meridian Magazine, and, sadly, the Saints book, volume 1. At least Saints, volume 2, tried to make up for the errors in Saints, volume 1, but it would be much better to fix volume 1 instead of continuing to teach the obvious false information it contains.
See https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-historians-explain-censorship-in.html


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Moroni's mistaken journey

The standard dogma of M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory) has Moroni hauling one set of plates, plus the breastplate and interpreters, from Mesoamerica to western New York.

This journey would "pose no difficulty whatsoever" according to FairMormon.

https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Question:_If_the_gold_plates_were_originally_in_Mesoamerica,_how_did_they_get_to_New_York%3F

You ought to read the explanation at that link to see for yourself.

Another great one is on the web page of BMAF, the corporate owner of Book of Mormon Central.

[Some people still don't realize that Book of Mormon Central is merely a front for the M2C advocating organization Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum.]

http://www.bmaf.org/articles/joseph_rocky_mountains__christensen
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The trip from Mesoamerica to western New York is about 2,600 miles, if you travel fairly straight over land.

Most people wonder, if this 42-year trip was so easy for Moroni, why was the entire civilization of the Nephites confined to a much smaller area in Mesoamerica for 1,000 years?

The answer is easy: The disparity is the only way to make M2C make sense.

M2C is pure bias confirmation based on a mistake in Church history. It doesn't have to be logical, or even rational. It doesn't require evidence. It doesn't even have to fit the text, because if you believe M2C, you can add anything you need to the text, including volcanoes, massive stone pyramids, jade, jungles, jaguars, etc.

Then, after traveling so far, Moroni stopped at an insignificant, nondescript drumlin, built a stone box, and put the plates and other objects inside.
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If you accept the M2C dogma that such a journey circa 400 AD poses "no difficulty whatsoever," we need to ask, why didn't Moroni go the extra 300 miles to Sharon, Vermont?

According to the Saints book, it took the eruption of a volcano in Indonesia to move Joseph Smith's family from Vermont to New York.

The eruption caused temperatures in India to drop, and cholera killed thousands, destroying families. In fertile Chinese valleys, summer snowstorms replaced a normally mild climate and flooding rains destroyed crops. In Europe, food supplies dwindled, leading to starvation and panic.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/saints-v1/01-ask-in-faith?lang=eng

All this destruction could have been avoided if Moroni had gone just another 300 miles. After all, 2600 miles was no problem. Another 300 miles would have been a walk in the park.

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Alternatively, of course, Moroni might have buried the plates at the Hill Cumorah; i.e., at the scene of the final battles and the repository of Nephite records.

That's what Joseph and Oliver taught in Letter VII.

In that case, it would make sense to move Joseph's family to New York from Vermont, by whatever means necessary--including a volcano.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Cumorah: 2 or 3 schools of thought?

You might think that by now, everyone in the Church knows there are three major schools of thought about the Hill Cumorah and related geography issues.

It turns out, though, that most Church members, especially younger and newer members, know of only two.

Younger and newer members of the Church typically rely on websites such as FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, the Interpreter, BYU Studies, Meridian Magazine, etc. All of these organizations and publications frame the Cumorah issue in terms of only two schools of thought. They censor alternatives from their publications and have their employees and anonymous trolls attack active Church members who dare to offer a third alternative.

School of Thought 1: The real Cumorah is in southern Mexico, where the events of the Book of Mormon took place. Early Church references to Cumorah in New York represented mere speculation that the scholars now know was incorrect. This discrepancy is not a problem if we accept that there are "two Cumorahs" like this: a "fake Cumorah" in New York, and a "true Cumorah" in southern Mexico. M2C is what is being taught at BYU, CES, in Saints Volume 1, and other curriculum today including Come Follow Me and the Gospel Topics Essays.

School of Thought 2: The real Cumorah is nonexistent because the Book of Mormon is fiction. This is what is being taught by critics of the Book of Mormon such as the CES Letter and Mormon Stories. Some BYU faculty also follow this school of thought, as do many active members. Of course, most people who follow this school of thought are inactive or former members.

When these are the only two options, a lot of people choose option 2. Disbelief in the Book of Mormon is a major factor for people leaving the Church and for people to reject the missionaries. That's why, IMO, it is so counterproductive for the M2C advocates to censor the third school of thought.

School of Thought 3. The real Cumorah is in western New York, as taught by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and all their contemporaries and successors (so far). The Mesoamerican "Cumorah" is a fiction created by intellectuals to make sense of their geography theories. Instead, Joseph and Oliver were correct and their teachings are supported by relevant archaeology, anthropology, geography, geology, etc.
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For many years, I accepted School of Thought 1. I had never heard about School of Thought 3. I attended Seminary and went to BYU. I read publications from FARMS, BYU Studies, etc. I attended firesides and conferences, visited sites in Central America--the whole deal. I even bought off on the idea of "two Cumorahs," which seemed strange but necessary to justify the Mesoamerican setting.

In all those years, I never did learn what the prophets had taught about the New York Cumorah; to the extent I heard a conference talk or something, I dismissed it the same way the M2C advocates dismiss it today. I certainly never learned about the extrinsic evidence that corroborates and supports those teachings.

Once I did, School of Thought 3 made sense.

It makes more and more sense all the time.

Whereas, Schools of Thought 1 and 2 make less and less sense, the more you dig into them.
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It doesn't matter to me what school of thought you believe in. You can believe whatever you want. I suppose most active members of the Church who think about this issue choose School of Thought 1 by default because that's what they have been taught by CES, BYU, and COB materials, and they don't know of any other alternative to School of Thought 2.

All I'd say is, if you think there are only 2 schools of thought, and you realize that School of Thought 1 is a contrived hoax that repudiates the teachings of the prophets, don't automatically jump to School of Thought 2.

Try School of Thought 3 first.

And if you're an M2C advocate, realize that by censoring School of Thought 3, you are pushing people out of the Church.
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I recognize that some complain because they think that my criticism of M2C undermines the faith of some people. That's not my intent. I've always encouraged people to make informed decisions and stick with what works. I don't mind in the least if people want to believe M2C.

But I also recognize that M2C is based on a mistake in Church history (the anonymous Times and Seasons articles attributed to Joseph Smith), that it was developed by RLDS scholars in opposition to Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith, etc., and that it is supported today through a cascade of logical errors and contrived interpretations, combined with academic arrogance and censorship of alternative views.

More and more people recognize the same thing and when no alternatives are available--when it is M2C or bust--they go bust.

It's an unnecessary, and unjustifiable, tragedy to deprive Church members of information about School of Thought 3.

I think the teachings of the prophets are clear, consistent, and persistent, with the added benefit of being supported and corroborated by extrinsic evidence. 

I think it is foolish to repudiate those teachings by promoting M2C.

Fortunately, more and more people are learning about School of Thought 3.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Accounts of the translation

Yesterday we discussed the implications of the new "seer stone in a hat" narrative as it applies to King Mosiah. Today we'll look at the accounts of the translaion.


Here's an image from a Church website that depicts the stone-in-a-hat scenario.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/book-of-mormon-translation?lang=eng

Look at this misleading statement (which is also in the Gospel Topics Essay) found in that web page:

"Joseph and his scribes wrote of two instruments used in translating the Book of Mormon."

This is misleading because Joseph never wrote of "two instruments." Nor did Oliver Cowdery.

In 1870, Martin Harris related an anecdote that claimed Joseph used both the Urim and Thummim and a seer stone, but he was referring to the dictation of the 116 pages, not today's Book of Mormon.

The only "scribe" who possibly wrote about "two instruments used in translating the Book of Mormon" was Emma Smith, and both accounts are problematic.

In 1870, Emma Smith wrote a letter to the wife of the RLDS pastor in Independence, Missouri, who had apparently asked about the translation. Emma wrote, "Now the first that my <husband> translated, was translated by the 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, I can not tell whether that account in the Times and Seasons is correct or not because some one stole <all> my books and I have none to refer to at present, if I can find one that has that account I will tell you what is true and what is not."

This statement is significant because it demonstrates that, as of 1870, the term "Urim and Thummim" was not used to refer to both the Nephite interpreters and the seer stone. Modern Church historians have invented a new definition of the term "Urim and Thummim" to include both the Nephite interpreters and the seer or "peep" stone Joseph found in a well, but that definition makes Emma's statement nonsense.

The statement is also significant because it is a direct contradiction of what Joseph and Oliver always taught, as well as Lucy Mack Smith's 1844-5 history. It also contradicts Martin's anecdote.

It is especially interesting that Emma could not remember the account published in the Times and Seasons (which published both Oliver Cowdery's Letter I and the History of Joseph Smith which is today's Joseph Smith--History in the Pearl of Great Price). We will never know whether she would have "remembered" things differently by referring to that account, but it's not a good sign when a witness forgets a more recent event (publication in the Times and Seasons) while claiming to remember an earlier event (the translation). Plus, her statement is ambiguous; she doesn't actually say Joseph translated today's Book of Mormon using the small stone.

By 1870, the issue had already become part of the controversy between the Utah Mormons (who accepted Brigham Young as prophet) and the other groups who claimed to be the rightful successors to Joseph Smith. Brigham Young and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve often reaffirmed Joseph's testimony that he translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim. Others claimed Joseph did not use the Urim and Thummim, but used a seer stone instead. This post is too short to get into the reasons, but the details are discussed in the new book, A Man that Can Translate.

In October 1879, a statement attributed to Emma was published the month after Orson Pratt gave two sermons in which he reaffirmed that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by using the Urim and Thummim. Emma's alleged "Last Testimony" claimed Emma wrote while Joseph dictated with his face "buried in his hat, with the stone in it" but does not specify what part, if any, of today's Book of Mormon he dictated this way. Emma did not write this statement; her son, Joseph Smith III, President of the RLDS Church, published it as an interview several months after she died.

Contrary to the statement in the web page quoted above, neither Joseph nor any of his scribes wrote of two instruments used to translate the Book of Mormon.

Joseph and Oliver repeatedly testified Joseph used the Urim and Thummim. They never wrote or said anything about a second instrument.

Martin said nothing about the translation of the Book of Mormon we have today.

Emma's letter claimed Joseph did not use the Urim and Thummim after the 116 pages were lost, but she admitted she needed a copy of the Times and Seasons to tell what was true and what was not.

Emma's "Last Testimony" claims Joseph dictated with his face buried in a hat with a stone in it, but does not specify what parts, if any, of today's Book of Mormon he dictated this way.
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The only unambiguous explanation for the translation of the Book of Mormon is the one Joseph and Oliver always gave. They said Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by using the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates.

For me, the testimonies of Joseph and Oliver outweigh all the other statements by observers, but others are free to interpret the evidence however they see fit.

However, is it too much to ask to have accurate statements on the Church's website instead of misleading ones such as the one quoted above?
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Here's the official account from the Pearl of Great Price. Note that none of these passages are quoted in the above website on the translation. Note also that the messenger referred to the stones in silver bows as the Urim and Thummim.

34 He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;

35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

42 Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed.

52 Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up. I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, as stated by the messenger.

Maybe someday soon we'll have the statements attributed to Emma Smith and Martin Harris and David Whitmer canonized. We shouldn't be surprised, I suppose. But until then, I stick with what Joseph and Oliver said.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mosiah and Joseph Smith

The Book of Mormon describes King Mosiah as "a man that can translate."

I believe Joseph Smith was also "a man that can translate." Hence the title of my new book about the translation.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1944200797?pf_rd_p=ab873d20-a0ca-439b-ac45-cd78f07a84d8&pf_rd_r=1E2576T8HVB76EV5QB76

Because our intellectuals are so excited about showing that Joseph didn't actually translate the Nephite records, I though we should preview comments from an upcoming post to my supplement for Come, Follow Me 2020.

https://comefollowme2020.blogspot.com/
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Let's take a moment to look at this passage:

Mosiah 8:13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God.

As we saw the other day, some faithful LDS scholars now claim the Book of Mormon is the product not of Joseph Smith translating the plates, but of a translation (if it can even be called that) that was performed by an unknown individual circa the 15th century, which appeared on the stone Joseph put in a hat. They think Joseph didn't even look at the plates, which remained under a cloth the whole time he was dictating the text.

If Joseph Smith didn't really translate the plates, what about King Mosiah? Did he, too, merely read words that appeared on a stone, put there by some unknown translator of the Jaredite record from prior centuries? Did the 24 gold plates, found by Limhi's explorers, also sit under a cloth while King Mosiah put his face in a hat (or Mayan headdress) to read words that appeared on a stone?

Here's how Mosiah 8:13 would read according to this theory:

Mosiah 8:13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can read the words of an ancient, unknown translator; for he has a stone and a hat to put it in, and he can look, and read the words that appear on the stone, and he needeth not any plates or ancient records; and it is a gift from God.

If you think that scenario sounds absurd, I agree. But why would Mosiah be any different than Joseph Smith?

Here's an image from a Church website that depicts the stone-in-a-hat scenario.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/book-of-mormon-translation?lang=eng

Look at this misleading statement (which is also in the Gospel Topics Essay) found in that web page:

"Joseph and his scribes wrote of two instruments used in translating the Book of Mormon."

This is misleading because Joseph never wrote of "two instruments." Nor did Oliver Cowdery.

We'll discuss the other scribes tomorrow.
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One of the most obvious problems with the "seer/peep stone in a hat" scenario is the pointlessness of having the plates at all. The scholars tell us Joseph didn't even use the plates. They sat under a cloth the entire time, as depicted above.

For centuries, the Nephites kept records. For months or years, Mormon abridged those records. He moved them from the Hill Shim to the Hill Cumorah to prevent the Lamanites from getting them. Moroni concealed them in the Hill Cumorah until Joseph could find them.

All this effort only for Joseph to keep them under a cloth the entire time?

As you read the account of Mosiah, see how well it fits this "seer/peep stone in a hat" scenario.

7 And the king said unto him: Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage.

8 And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.

9 And for a testimony that the things that they had said are true they have brought twenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold.

10 And behold, also, they have brought breastplates, which are large, and they are of brass and of copper, and are perfectly sound.

11 And again, they have brought swords, the hilts thereof have perished, and the blades thereof were cankered with rust; and there is no one in the land that is able to interpret the language or the engravings that are on the plates. Therefore I said unto thee: Canst thou translate?

12 And I say unto thee again: Knowest thou of any one that can translate? For I am desirous that these records should be translated into our language; for, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence these records came; or, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of this very people who have been destroyed; and I am desirous to know the cause of their destruction.

13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.

15 And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.

16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

19 And now, when Ammon had made an end of speaking these words the king rejoiced exceedingly, and gave thanks to God, saying: Doubtless a great mystery is contained within these plates, and these interpreters were doubtless prepared for the purpose of unfolding all such mysteries to the children of men.

According to the "seer/peep stone in a hat" narrative, Mosiah didn't need the plates any more than Joseph did. Some unknown translator from the past created the words that appeared on Mosiah's interpreters.

It's true that, according to verse 17, a seer can know anything. In that sense, the plates are unnecessary, theoretically. A seer could reveal the secrets of the past with or without any plates.

But the interpreters were prepared to unfold the mysteries contained in the plates. That's a special translation purpose, a subset of the power of a seer.

It's entirely possible that King Mosiah did merely read words that appeared on the interpreters, words that were put there by some unknown ancient translator. We cannot say that is impossible.

But look at how Chapter 28 describes this process.

10 Now king Mosiah had no one to confer the kingdom upon, for there was not any of his sons who would accept of the kingdom.

11 Therefore he took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, and also the plates of Nephi, and all the things which he had kept and preserved according to the commandments of God, after having translated and caused to be written the records which were on the plates of gold which had been found by the people of Limhi, which were delivered to him by the hand of Limhi;

12 And this he did because of the great anxiety of his people; for they were desirous beyond measure to know concerning those people who had been destroyed.

13 And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow.

14 Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages;

15 And they have been kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he should discover to every creature who should possess the land the iniquities and abominations of his people;

16 And whosoever has these things is called seer, after the manner of old times.

17 Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records, behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam.

To me, these verses establish as plainly as words can be that Mosiah translated the records. He did not merely read words that appeared on a seer stone that were put there by an unknown ancient translator.

I think Joseph Smith did the same thing; i.e., he studied the characters on the abridged plates with the Urim and Thummim and was able, with the gift and power of God, to translate the engravings.