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, August 2, 2019

Who teaches what: Peep stones vs Urim and Thummim

The first 4 parts of this series go through the history of the competing explanations for the translation of the Book of Mormon. Some readers want a summary.

To review: the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed observed that there were two separate explanations for the translation. Joseph Smith used either 

(i) the "peep stone-in-a-hat" (the stone he found in a well) 

(ii) the Urim and Thummim (the Nephite interpreters that accompanied the plates). 

In response to Mormonism Unvailed, Joseph and Oliver and all their successors consistently taught the Urim and Thummim narrative. They repeatedly explained that Joseph translated the engravings on the plates by using the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates.

Their opponents, and later the opponents of Brigham Young, taught the peep stone story.

I think it's fair to say the peep stone story is less credible than the Urim and Thummim narrative. That's why Mormonism Unvailed and modern critics love that story so much.

The peep stone story originated with people who sought to destroy Joseph, the Book of Mormon, and the Church. I think it started out innocently; these people were honestly reporting what they observed, but they observed a demonstration that they simply inferred was the translation. This is pretty obvious when you consider the accounts in detail, the constraints Joseph was under, etc. (I go through it in detail in my next book.)

In recent years, some LDS intellectuals have "rediscovered" the peep stone accounts from Mormonism Unvailed and other later accounts. For whatever reasons, they embraced the old, discredited peep stone narrative over the accounts from Joseph and Oliver. 

To make their theory more persuasive, they created a false historical narrative present to justify their interpretation; i.e., they invented the idea that Joseph and Oliver were actually referring to both the peep stone and the Nephite interpreters whenever they used the term "Urim and Thummim."

Fortunately, Joseph and Oliver directly explained that when they used the term "Urim and Thummim" they were referring to the interpreters referred to in the Book of Mormon that Moroni said were prepared for the translation and that Moroni put in the stone box with the plates.

Not once did Joseph or Oliver refer to the peep stone as the Urim and Thummim.

It's fascinating how materials such as the Saints book (Vol. 1) embrace the peep stone story instead of what Joseph and Oliver taught. I discussed that here:

Here's a comparison table of who teaches/taught which. Of course, this is just a small sample. You can add to it as you do your own research.

Peep stone in a hat (stone from a well)
Urim and Thummim (Nephite interpreters)
Book: Mormonism Unvailed
Book: Joseph Smith - History
William E. McLellin
Joseph Smith
Anthony Sweat (BYU)
Oliver Cowdery
David Whitmer
Brigham Young
Saints, volume 1
Wilford Woodruff
Gospel Topics Essay on Book of Mormon Translation
Heber C. Kimball
Book of Mormon Central
John Taylor
Emma Smith (according to Joseph Smith III)
Erastus Snow
Martin Harris
Lucy Mack Smith


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