long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Glad tidings from Romania

In the last 3 weeks, we visited a dozen countries in Eastern Europe. We visited missionaries and branches of the Church in most of those countries. Lots of interesting things to discuss, obviously, but in this post I'll mention a famous painting that is still in use in Romania.

The 1999 painting by Simon Dewey was on the cover of the Ensign in February, 2001. 

Here it is on the wall of a branch in Romania.

(Hopefully my mention of this location doesn't lead to getting the painting removed.)

It's a significant painting because it has been used as an example of the supposedly "false" narrative that the Church taught for nearly 200 years, before modern LDS scholars determined that the old SITH narrative from Mormonism Unvailed was actually "correct" while Joseph and Oliver misled everyone.

I'm one of many Latter-day Saints who still believe what Joseph and Oliver claimed instead of the SITH narrative, so it was cool to see this painting still in use at least somewhere in the world.


This painting was featured in an article by Jana Riess about the shift away from the Urim and Thummim toward the stone-in-the-hat (SITH) narrative. Her caption to the photo claims


In her article, she cited "a Gospel Topics essay on the issue in December 2013 that conceded that:

1. Joseph Smith also used his seer stone to seek buried treasure, and

2. He translated much of the Book of Mormon by placing the seer stone in a hat to block out the ambient light, then proceeded to simply recite whatever words appeared on the stone."

It's clever rhetoric to frame these claims as a "concession," but the so-called "concession" directly contradicts what Joseph and Oliver themselves said.

Which is no surprise because the Gospel Topics Essay itself never quotes what Joseph and Oliver said, except for a misleading, truncated quotation, as I've discussed before.

The SITH narrative as taught by Dan Peterson, Jack Welch, and other LDS scholars, was first articulated in Mormonism Unvailed back in 1834. 

The translation finally commenced. They were found to contain a language not now known upon the earth, which they termed "reformed Egyptian characters." The plates, therefore, which had been so much talked of, were found to be of no manner of use. After all, the Lord showed and communicated to him every word and letter of the Book. Instead of looking at the characters inscribed upon the plates, the prophet was obliged to resort to the old ''peep stone," which he formerly used in money-digging. This he placed in a hat, or box, into which he also thrust his face. Through the stone he could then discover a single word at a time, which he repeated aloud to his amanuensis, who committed it to paper, when another word would immediately appear, and thus the performance continued to the end of the book.


Notice that, apart from the term "old 'peep stone'," this description from Mormonism Unvailed is essentially what the Interpreters advocate today. Dan Peterson even made a movie teaching this to the world.

In response to the SITH narrative, Joseph and Oliver both denounced Mormonism Unvailed and explained clearly and unambiguously that Joseph translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates--not with any seer stone.


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