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Joseph Translating out of a Hat


StuddleyG

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Critics of the church enjoy making fun of the image of Joseph Smith translating while staring at stones in a hat. Yet they also like to point out all the sources Joseph could have used to write the BOM. All though it is a funny image, doesn't tranlating while staring into a hat kind of prove he did it by revelaton? Its hard to believe that Joseph dictated everything out of his head while scribes wrote. The accounts from the scribes of Joseph are contrary to the view of Joseph surrounded by a collection of source material. Does anyone think its possible that anyone could simply dictate a book like the BOM out of thin air?

joseph_smith_hat.jpg

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My understanding is that, in the later stages of the translation process, he did exactly that, translated out of thin air, without the plates even being in the same room, and, if I am not mistaken, without even the hat or the stone.

Now that doesn't constitute translation -- it constitutes revelation.

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Darn. I spelled "translating" wrong in the title of the topic. I can't edit it. How embarrassing.

It's not a spelling bee here, so don't worry about it. Everyone knows what "tranlating" is. And BTW, you spelled it that way at least once in the OP itself. Consistent, at least. Maybe your "S" key has a dead spot.

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Darn. I spelled "translating" wrong in the title of the topic. I can't edit it. How embarrassing.

Don't worry, Studdley, the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon has all kinds of errors like this, which critics have picked on. So you're in good company. :P

On the topic of how Joseph Smith translated and what the implications of the process are, including why people get so worked about Joseph Smith translating "out of a hat," please see my paper "Written by the Finger of God? Claims and Controversies of Book of Mormon Translation" in a forthcoming issue of Sunstone.

Don

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I found the apologetic response interesting to this over the years. When I became interested, the apologists flat out denied that such a thing happened and that it was ridiculous. Whitmer, the source of the story, was never in a position to see the translation, that no one saw JS do any of the translation.

Then someone pointed out what you did, that it is kind of hard to read while your head is in a hat so revelation must be the source.

Now there is a level of acceptance of the story. I really don't have an opinion, but marvel at the spin involved. Either that or the story was verified and I missed it. History is a moving target it seems.

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The translation out of a hat method has three possible implications:

1. The source of the translation was of God

2. The source of the translation originated with some other spirit

3. Joseph Smith was pretending to see things and was simply making it up.

It seems to me that LDS simply assume the first without giving much consideration to the other two - particularly the second possibility. LDS do defend against the third possibility on the grounds that Joseph was a poorly educated farm boy that couldn't have possibly made it all up and so on and so forth. Ok that's fair enough. But what about the second option? It doesn't seem to ever enter the LDS calculations when considering the origin of the BoM. Could it be that some other spirit was responsible for this? If so, how would we know? It seems to me the only reliable thing to do would be to test it against already revealed scripture rather than to seek a spiritual confirmation of unknown source that is independent from Bible scrutiny.

I am reminded of Paul's dramatic and supernatural conversion experience. What a powerful testimony that would have been! But what does Paul admonish us to do? Like the Bereans in Acts 17, we are to test even his message by scripture. Despite the miraculous way in which he was converted, Paul tells us that the best test of the truth is scripture. He commended the Berean church for carefully searching the scriptures everyday to ascertain whether what he was saying was true. This has always been the bedrock of the church. Scripture has always been the way we test any teachings.

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The translation out of a hat method has three possible implications:

1. The source of the translation was of God

2. The source of the translation originated with some other spirit

3. Joseph Smith was pretending to see things and was simply making it up.

It seems to me that LDS simply assume the first without giving much consideration to the other two - particularly the second possibility. LDS do defend against the third possibility on the grounds that Joseph was a poorly educated farm boy that couldn't have possibly made it all up and so on and so forth. Ok that's fair enough. But what about the second option? It doesn't seem to ever enter the LDS calculations when considering the origin of the BoM. Could it be that some other spirit was responsible for this? If so, how would we know? It seems to me the only reliable thing to do would be to test it against already revealed scripture rather than to seek a spiritual confirmation of unknown source that is independent from Bible scrutiny.

I am reminded of Paul's dramatic and supernatural conversion experience. What a powerful testimony that would have been! But what does Paul admonish us to do? Like the Bereans in Acts 17, we are to test even his message by scripture. Despite the miraculous way in which he was converted, Paul tells us that the best test of the truth is scripture. He commended the Berean church for carefully searching the scriptures everyday to ascertain whether what he was saying was true. This has always been the bedrock of the church. Scripture has always been the way we test any teachings.

The vision of Paul's conversion has three possible implications:

1. The source of the vision was of God

2. The source of the vision originated with some other spirit

3. Paul was pretending to see things and was simply making it up.

Any questions?

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I am reminded of Paul's dramatic and supernatural conversion experience. What a powerful testimony that would have been! But what does Paul admonish us to do? Like the Bereans in Acts 17, we are to test even his message by scripture. Despite the miraculous way in which he was converted, Paul tells us that the best test of the truth is scripture. He commended the Berean church for carefully searching the scriptures everyday to ascertain whether what he was saying was true. This has always been the bedrock of the church. Scripture has always been the way we test any teachings.

Yes that is a great idea. And if you bothered to read the BoM you would find that it passes Pauls test with flying colors.

I have a question for your.

What is scripture?

It seems to me that LDS simply assume the first without giving much consideration to the other two - particularly the second possibility. LDS do defend against the third possibility on the grounds that Joseph was a poorly educated farm boy that couldn't have possibly made it all up and so on and so forth. Ok that's fair enough. But what about the second option? It doesn't seem to ever enter the LDS calculations when considering the origin of the BoM. Could it be that some other spirit was responsible for this? If so, how would we know? It seems to me the only reliable thing to do would be to test it against already revealed scripture rather than to seek a spiritual confirmation of unknown source that is independent from Bible scrutiny.

I have considered it a few times. But we have a book that tells us to turn to Jesus Christ and to live by his example and to be born again.

So what you are saying is that the devil told JS to or isnpired JS to write a book telling us to turn to God and be born again. That is indeed brilliant.

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The vision of Paul's conversion has three possible implications:

1. The source of the vision was of God

2. The source of the vision originated with some other spirit

3. Paul was pretending to see things and was simply making it up.

Any questions?

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. (Sung in a nice operatic voice.)

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1. The source of the translation was of God ... It seems to me that LDS simply assume the first ...

You imply that we LDS accept the Book of Mormon is from God without really thinking about it. I don't think that is the case at all. We are all encouraged to gain a personal testimony of the Book of Mormon through study and prayer. We are taught that we shouldn't rely on someone else's testimony.

We choose the first case because we have asked God and He has answered.

You also mentioned that we should test it against already revealed scripture. The Book of Mormon passes that test. What was your result when you tested the Book of Mormon this way?

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The translation out of a hat method has three possible implications:

1. The source of the translation was of God

2. The source of the translation originated with some other spirit

3. Joseph Smith was pretending to see things and was simply making it up.

What about a fourth implication: He memorized a previously written text?

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Does anyone think its possible that anyone could simply dictate a book like the BOM out of thin air?

Even if there were only one person in the history of the world who could do something like that, it would only take one.

In the immortal words of Oscar Hammerstein II..."

".
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What I don't get is why critics zero in on the rock in the hat. Why is that so much sillier than using the urim and thummim?

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What I don't get is why critics zero in on the rock in the hat. Why is that so much sillier than using the urim and thummim?

And yet, it is...

I think the distinction is that the Church presents the story as Joseph Smith being a nice, christian farm boy who is called to do the miraculous translation, and is given instruments by God to help him.

The face-in-the-hat version of the story is more along the lines of Joseph Smith having his own seer stone that he used to (unsuccessfully) look for treasure, mines, and wells for years before being introduced to the Gold Plates, whereupon he uses this same stone to now successfully translate a modern book of scripture.

Neither version is probably accurate enough, and there are all sorts of suggested scenarios that help ease any uneasiness about the hat. But for people raised with the first story (and emotionally invested in it), any movement towards the second one can be a little unsettling.

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The translation out of a hat method has three possible implications:

1. The source of the translation was of God

2. The source of the translation originated with some other spirit

3. Joseph Smith was pretending to see things and was simply making it up.

It seems to me that LDS simply assume the first without giving much consideration to the other two - particularly the second possibility. LDS do defend against the third possibility on the grounds that Joseph was a poorly educated farm boy that couldn't have possibly made it all up and so on and so forth. Ok that's fair enough. But what about the second option? It doesn't seem to ever enter the LDS calculations when considering the origin of the BoM. Could it be that some other spirit was responsible for this? If so, how would we know? It seems to me the only reliable thing to do would be to test it against already revealed scripture rather than to seek a spiritual confirmation of unknown source that is independent from Bible scrutiny.

I am reminded of Paul's dramatic and supernatural conversion experience. What a powerful testimony that would have been! But what does Paul admonish us to do? Like the Bereans in Acts 17, we are to test even his message by scripture. Despite the miraculous way in which he was converted, Paul tells us that the best test of the truth is scripture. He commended the Berean church for carefully searching the scriptures everyday to ascertain whether what he was saying was true. This has always been the bedrock of the church. Scripture has always been the way we test any teachings.

LDS have considered the other possibilities and have done as Paul directed. My question Why do anti-mormon detractors not consider # 1?

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And yet, it is...

Only because we grew up hearing about the urim and thummim more. If we thought he was just translating from the plates by revelation and then years later we find out about the urim and thummim, it would sound just as weird as the rock in the hat.

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The translation out of a hat method has three possible implications:

1. The source of the translation was of God

2. The source of the translation originated with some other spirit

3. Joseph Smith was pretending to see things and was simply making it up.

It seems to me that LDS simply assume the first without giving much consideration to the other two - particularly the second possibility.

This argument reminds me of the pharisees and sadduccees in the bible who attributed the miracles that Christ did to satan. I think that Christ's response is as applicable to what you have said as to what was said in the N.T.-

"If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub."

Why would an evil spirit do something that would eventually persuade millions of people to repent, have faith in Christ, and desire to live a life centerned on Christ and shun satan from then on out?

Isn't that the very definition of a 'house divided'?

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My take on the "translating out of a hat" is that given our modern technological miracles why would it seem odd for a seer-stone to be used as a method of translation? I mean computers can translate text that is input into them, OCR software has a means of "reading" characters off of scanned in information. Also the wireless transmission of data is another mind bending accomplishment. If puny men can do such things then why do we seek to limit what God can accomplish? Since He has all knowledge and all power His technological advances would be infinite and our minds could scarcely begin to imagine the possibilities. The first description of the U&T being two stones set in bows and attached to a breastplate provided laughs for our enemies as they called them magic eyeglasses and they assumed it would used like reading glasses to "magnify" the characters etc... But what if all the assumptions are wrong? What if all the "descriptions" of the translation process are just suppositions? Why could Joseph not remove the two stones "attached" to the breastplate and put them in a hat as a practical means of using them. As for putting them in a hat, if anyone has ever used a professional digital camera it is very well known that the images are difficult to see in bright sunlight, then what about crystal stones that are thousands of years old? The Liahona is another of the "Lord's technology" that is not too far from our modern GPS systems. The sixteen stones touched by the finger of the Lord and became ancient "light-bulbs" are not so odd in today modern world. In Joseph's day they were "laughable" today enemies are not laughing so loud, instead they try to make it sound like an extension of "folk-magic" and taint it with talk of divining rods and "peep-stones" and ouiji boards. It is also interesting that these devices of the Lord did not work like our modern devices do, they work according to faith. It gives me reason to believe that faith is almost like another sense, like vision, hearing, touch or smell etc... Or perhaps faith just enhances the spiritual senses? The Ark of the Covenant was much more than just a piece of furniture for the Holy of Holies, it seemed to be a type of "God's technology" as was the U&T of which little is known from the biblical accounts. These devices may have been the means of developing revelatory power and increasing faith, which seems to be the key in all of these things.

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Maybe it wasn't a "seer stone" but a cell phone. He had to put it in the hat to be able to read the text messages as they came in.

After all, I have to put my cell phone in my hat to read the text when I am in the sun light. :P

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