‘Mormon Land’: Did Joseph Smith use a ‘seer stone’ or other ‘interpreters’ to translate the Book of Mormon?

New volume maintains the traditional story about a “urim and thummim” is the more plausible theory.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) An actor portraying the Prophet Joseph Smith in the church's 2005 movie, "Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration" examines gold plates containing the Book of Mormon.

The question of just how church founder Joseph Smith produced the faith’s signature scripture, the Book of Mormon, continues to be debated.

Did Smith “translate” the Reformed Egyptian writing from gold plates or did he invent the story of a Hebrew civilization living in the ancient Americas who welcomed Jesus Christ after his crucifixion in Jerusalem?

In recent years, the scholarly consensus in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seems to be that Smith produced most of the text using a “seer stone” in a hat, where words somehow appeared on the revelatory rock, without really referring to the plates.

(Rick Bowmer AP) A picture of a smooth, brown, egg-size rock is shown in the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon after a news conference in 2015, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library, in Salt Lake City. The church published photos of a small sacred stone it believes founder Joseph Smith used to help translate its signature scripture.

In a forthcoming book, titled “By Means of the Urim and Thummim: Restoring Translation to the Restoration,” authors James Lucas and Jonathan Neville argue that the evidence for the seer stone is “inconsistent and unreliable.” Instead, they believe the traditional theory that Smith used “interpreters” called the urim and thummim, which the first Latter-day Saint prophet described as “two transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.”

On this week’s show, Lucas discusses why he and his co-writer believe their theory is correct.

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