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The paradigm shift concerning the translation of the Book of Mormon


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Back in April 2019, a new book was published—Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial—which calls into question the 21st century paradigm shift concerning the method/process of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Prior to this paradigm shift, the dominant view among Latter-day Saints was that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith via the use of the "Interpreters" (i.e. Urim and Thummim) that were included with the golden plates deposited by Moroni. This view is being replaced with Joseph Smith instead using a 'seer stone' which was placed into a hat to exclude all light, with words appearing on the stone that he would then dictate to his scribe—the golden plates being locked away in a wooden trunk were not used in this process. (http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2018/06/early-mormon-history-important-paradigm.html)

 

I finished reading this book last week, but personally had my own questions concerning this paradigm shift, which began back in May 2017. My questions were precipitated by the reading of the book, Joseph Smith's Seer Stones (http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2017/06/book-of-mormon-translated-via-use-of.html).

 

After numerous further purchases, and months of research, I published some on my concerns in the following post:

 

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2018/01/early-mormon-history-important-paradigm.html

 

Of the number of questions I raised, foremost among them was:

 

WHY has Kirkham's and Nibley's assessments been jettisoned by so many 21st century LDS scholars?

 

This question remains for me, and has been reinforced by the research provided in Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial.

 

[AMAZON]

 

Are there any other folk out there who have questions about this paradigm shift?

 

 

Grace and peace,

 

David

Edited by David Waltz
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31 minutes ago, David Waltz said:

Back in April 2019, a new book was published—Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial—which calls into question the 21st century paradigm shift concerning the method/process of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Prior to this paradigm shift, the dominant view among Latter-day Saints was that the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith via the use of the "Interpreters" (i.e. Urim and Thummim) that were included with the golden plates deposited by Moroni. This view is being replaced with Joseph Smith instead using a 'seer stone' which was placed into a hat to exclude all light, with words appearing on the stone that he would then dictate to his scribe—the golden plates being locked away in a wooden trunk were not used in this process. (http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2018/06/early-mormon-history-important-paradigm.html)

 

I finished reading this book last week, but personally had my own questions concerning this paradigm shift, which began back in May 2017. My questions were precipitated by the reading of the book, Joseph Smith's Seer Stones (http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2017/06/book-of-mormon-translated-via-use-of.html).

 

After numerous further purchases, and months of research, I published some on my concerns in the following post:

 

http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2018/01/early-mormon-history-important-paradigm.html

 

Of the number of questions I raised, foremost among them was:

 

WHY has Kirkham's and Nibley's assessments been jettisoned by so many 21st century LDS scholars?

 

This question remains for me, and has been reinforced by the research provided in Seer Stone v. Urim and Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial.

 

[AMAZON]

 

Are there any other folk out there who have questions about this paradigm shift?

 

 

Grace and peace,

 

David

Can you expand your post to include enough context that we can discuss your question without needing to do research at other sites?

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but personally had my own questions concerning this paradigm shift, which began back in May 2017.

Your questions started in 2017 or the paradigm of a seerstone being used started?

Edited by Calm
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Quite honestly I don't see the problem. He used stones to induce Revelation on what was in the plates.

To me the further information is just that. Further information. It doesn't change the overall story one iota.

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My understanding of the translation process has grown over the years. I don't actually see a paradigm shift; I see more an acknowledgement of what actually happened versus the customary story.  The process actually makes more sense to me now than it did in the beginning.  

Early on in my mission I studied the German language using the materials provided by the Church, then expanded to a grammar textbook along with a copy of Jesus the Christ in German, and by the time I was finished I was getting all my language instruction from talking with Germans.  That progression looked very similar to what I now know about how the Book of Mormon was translated.  Started with U&T and finally ended with direct revelation.  Tools changed as the process progressed.  Perfectly sensible.

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Hi David!! Stick around! I don't have time to read your sources right now. I can see how it would be a paradigm shift, but I also see it as more of a live and learn thing. I think we were taught that the translation was a one size fits all thing decades ago, but its been a long time since I haven't known that it was done through a variety of methods. But I don't see it discussed in Sunday School. 

I think the whole landscape changed since the release of the JS Papers and a lot of what would have been shocking (and probably still is to some) is kind of ho hum now. At least by those paying attention, which a lot of members don't of course. 

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Hello Cinepro,

You asked:

Quote

Can you expand your post to include enough context that we can discuss your question without needing to do research at other sites?

I will try, but given the fact that the "context" is broad and deep, it will be somewhat difficult to condense it. Here goes...

Fact #1 - Up until the 21st century, the vast majority of Latter-Saints had an understanding of the method/process of the translation of the Book of Mormon as one which had Joseph Smith using the "Interpreters" over the golden plates to translate those said plates. Such a method was supported by statements from Oliver Cowdery and SOME statements from David Whitmer. Further, this method was also supported by one of the earliest non-LDS sources---i.e. Truman Cole (1836).

Fact #2 - The above translation method/process was contested by early anti-Mormon critics--e.g. E. D. Howe, "Doctor" Philastus Hurlburt--who collaborated in publishing the anti=Mormon book, Mormonism Unvailed (1834) which contained some affidavits supporting the 'peepstone' in the hat method.,

Fact #3 - Prior to the 21st century, most LDS scholars discounted the 'peepstone' in the hat method. It was not as if scholars like Francis Kirkham and Hugh Nibley were unaware of the 'peepstone' in the hat method--quite the contrary--they thoroughly engaged such sources, providing solid reasons for not accepting such sources as reliable.

Fact #4 - Following the publication of the Mark Hoffman forgeries, the attitude towards the 'peepstone' in the hat method began to change amongst some LDS folk.

Fact #5 - Even though the Mark Hoffman forgeries were later to proved to just that, 'Pandora's Box' had been opened, and the move towards accepting the 'peepstone' in the hat method as fact began to gain broader acceptance.

QUESTION: Why has this happened? What has compelled so many to accept the 'peepstone' in the hat method promulgated by a number of early anti-Mormons (also later adopted by apostates such as David Whitmer and others who left the CoJCoLDS) ???

Grace and peace,

David

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Hi Calm,

You asked:

Quote

Your questions started in 2017 or the paradigm of a seerstone being used started?

The questions. I have been fully aware (since the late 80s) that the use of a seerstone/peepstone in the hat method had been promulgated as early as 1834.

Grace and peace,

David

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Hello Stargazer,

You wrote:

Quote

My understanding of the translation process has grown over the years. I don't actually see a paradigm shift; I see more an acknowledgement of what actually happened versus the customary story. 

Interesting. What data has compelled you to reject Oliver Cowdery's description (which has support from other sources) and accept the early anti-Mormon explanation of a 'peepstone' in the hat method?

Grace and peace,

David

Edited by David Waltz
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9 minutes ago, David Waltz said:

QUESTION: Why has this happened? What has compelled so many to accept the 'peepstone' in the hat method promulgated by a number of early anti-Mormons (also later adopted by apostates such as David Whitmer and others who left the CoJCoLDS) ??? 

I think the short answer to your question is because that is how people who were in the room and saw Joseph translating described it.

Let's take just one statement.  This is Emma, describing the situation to her son:

Quote

In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us....

https://scottwoodward.org/bookofmormon_translationprocess_accounts.html

What is the most likely explanation for her statement, other than that is what she saw during the translation process? 

Edited by cinepro
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Hello again Cinepro,

You wrote:

Quote

I think the short answer to your question is because that is how people who were in the room and saw Joseph translating described it.

Not ALL the people who "saw Joseph translating". Oliver Cowdery, the primary scribe for the vast majority of the BoM, did not do so. Further, if memory serves me correctly, those who differ with Cowdery had left the CoJCoLDS for good, never returning, and their accounts came decades (mostly in the 1870s and 1880s) later.

Grace and peace,

David

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1 minute ago, David Waltz said:

Hello again Cinepro,

You wrote:

Not ALL the people who "saw Joseph translating". Oliver Cowdery, the primary scribe for the vast majority of the BoM, did not do so. 

But, I think I just read that he was writing that for anti-Mormons of that day and as an apologist (wanting to hide the truth about the rock in the hat translation).  (I will try to find where I read that!)

All other eye witnesses disagree with him, iirc.

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I think a lot goes back to Joseph F. Smith, whom, prior to President of the Church, was the church historian.  When he looked at the various accounts, it appears that he concluded that the references to the seer stones were really references to the U&T.  The U&T is less mystical and more religious, and so it became the easy narrative.  I don't think he was re-writing history.  He was just incorrect in a simple assumption that he made, and that percolated for decades.

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Cinepro,

Thanks much for the link to the Scottwoodward site. I have been to the site a few months back, appreciating the format.

Now, you asked:

Quote

What is the most likely explanation for her statement, other than that is what she saw during the translation process?

Good question. Some salient points: first, her statement comes from 1870, over forty years after what she allegedly saw. Second, her version contradicts the much earlier descriptions provided by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Third, she was no longer a member of the CoJCoLDS, but rather, a member of a competing sect--perhaps she saw some value in promulgating a version that was different than the one presented by Joseph and Oliver.

Grace and peace,

David

Edited by David Waltz
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I'd be interested to read Cowdery's account of the translation process. Can you supply some statements here?

 

From the Scottwoodard site linked to by Cinepro:

 

Oliver Cowdery (Scribe)

 

1834. These were days never to be forgotten to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, "Interpreters," the history or record called "The book of Mormon." (Messenger and Advocate, 1:14) 

 

Shaker Richard McNemar (a Shaker from Union Village)

 

1830. In late 1830 Oliver Cowdery traveled through the Shaker community of Union Village, Ohio. One Shaker recorded that, while there, Oliver Cowdery explained the translation process as follows: "The engraving being unintelligible to learned & unlearned. there is said to have been in the box with the plates two transparent stones in the form of spectacles thro which the translator looked on the engraving & afterwards put his face into a hat & the interpretation then flowed into his mind. which he uttered to the amanuensis who wrote it down." (Goodwillie, "Shaker Richard McNemar," 143; quoted in The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 1, xxxi-xxxii).

 

Evangelical Magazine (hostile magazine report)

 

1831. Oliver Cowdery, one of the three witnesses to the book, testified under oath [during the June 1830 Colesville trials], that said Smith found with the plates, from which he translated his book, two transparent stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates. (Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate, 9 April 1831. Note: that this is quoted by an unbeliever, in an antagonistic magazine, in a spirit of incredulity adds to the force of Oliver's statement)

 

Reuben Miller (Reported Oliver Cowdery's words)

 

1848. [Oliver said:] Friends and brethren my name is Cowdrey, Oliver Cowdrey, In the early history of this church I stood Identified with her. And [was] one in her councils.... I wrote with my own pen the intire book of mormon (Save a few pages) as it fell from the Lips of the prophet [Joseph Smith]. As he translated <it> by the gift and power of god, By [the] means of the urum and thummim, or as it is called by that book holy Interperters. I beheld with my eyes. And handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the Interperters. That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it. Mr [Solomon] Spaulding did not write it. I wrote it myself as it fell from the Lips of the prophet. ("Reuben Miller, Recorder of Oliver Cowdery's Reaffirmations," BYU Studies 8, no. 3 (1968):277-293)

[https://scottwoodward.org/bookofmormon_translationprocess_accounts.html]

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4 hours ago, Stargazer said:

My understanding of the translation process has grown over the years. I don't actually see a paradigm shift; I see more an acknowledgement of what actually happened versus the customary story.  The process actually makes more sense to me now than it did in the beginning. 

I think if you go back the seer stone was always acknowledged as used. It wasn't the main simplified narrative mind you. I think the details of what was used when are still somewhat controversial. It appears the main problem with the Interpreters was their size. Some think that Joseph might have popped one out of the "spectacles" and used that for a while. But the history is far more unclear than the OP makes out. For instance even something simple like whether the Interpreters were returned after the 116 pages is not agreed upon. Those pushing the brown stone as replacement after the 116 pages model tend to emphasize fairly late memories - particularly Emma's which was 1870. 

I think we know far less about the translation process after the 116 pages than the OP appears to presume.

I should note that I have zero problem with the use of the brown stone if that was used. As Mark said why is one stone problematic and an other fine? It's also complicated by some of Don Bradley's research on the 116 pages. There he finds early traditions almost certainly from the missing translation that the last Jaredite prophet had buried them and then Mosiah was led to them. "Put this object on your face and put your face in an animal skin.” He does and at once reports that he can see anything. This is both a hearkening back to Moses in Exodus but also obviously to Joseph's own use of the Interpreters. What makes it more interesting is that the stones may be tied to the stones of the brother of Jared. 

I raise this simply to note that Joseph was emulating the Brother of Jared and Mosiah. If he was having problems with hte Interpreters he could have asked the Lord to convert his own stone to function in a similar fashion. Who knows? The assumption that the Interpreters were somehow magic and the seers stone mere superstition tends to be a bit problematic when you stop and think about it. More accurately we're used to the story of the Interpreters as the Urim and Thummim whereas we're not used to the seer stone narrative. 

1 hour ago, tkv said:

I'd be interested to read Cowdery's account of the translation process. Can you supply some statements here?

FAIR has a pretty complete list of descriptions of the process organized by date of publication. It's at the bottom of the page.

I think we have to be careful with references to Urim & Thummim as that phrase was used for both the seer stone and the Interpreters. We know that was in place by 1835 although I think Don Bradley has also found evidence that the connection was on the lost 116 pages as well. 

 

 

Edited by clarkgoble
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2 hours ago, rockpond said:

I suspect the shift in though among church members is most likely due to the publishing of the Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon translation.

For me it was because I wanted a seerstone when I heard about them. What kind of hat is best for this? Fedora?

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Hi Clark,

A thought provoking post for sure...you wrote:
 

Quote

 

I should note that I have zero problem with the use of the brown stone if that was used. As Mark said why is one stone problematic and an other fine? It's also complicated by some of Don Bradley's research on the 116 pages. There he finds early traditions almost certainly from the missing translation that the last Jaredite prophet had buried them and then Mosiah was led to them. "Put this object on your face and put your face in an animal skin.” He does and at once reports that he can see anything. This is both a hearkening back to Moses in Exodus but also obviously to Joseph's own use of the Interpreters. What makes it more interesting is that the stones may be tied to the stones of the brother of Jared. 

I raise this simply to note that Joseph was emulating the Brother of Jared and Mosiah. If he was having problems with hte Interpreters he could have asked the Lord to convert his own stone to function in a similar fashion. Who knows? The assumption that the Interpreters were somehow magic and the seers stone mere superstition tends to be a bit problematic when you stop and think about it. More accurately we're used to the story of the Interpreters as the Urim and Thummim whereas we're not used to the seer stone narrative. 

 

Is there an online source for "Don Bradley's research on the 116 pages" ? Also, forgive my ignorance, but what is "the OP"?

Grace and peace,

David

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