Mormonism: Joseph’s Real Seer Stone (or ‘Sofa so Good’)
Many will be aware of the news story coming out of Salt Lake City about Joseph Smith’s ‘seer stone’ (pictured right, read more here) Conflicting accounts have come out over the years about how the founding prophet of Mormonism translated his seminal work, the Book of Mormon. The original claim was that, buried with the gold plates from which he translated the book, was a device he called the Urim and Thummim. Joseph Smith described the Urim and Thummim as “two stones in silver bows … fastened to a breastplate” (JS—H 1:35). In other words, rather like a pair of spectacles. The Urim and Thummim was described by Smith himself as ‘interpreters.’ The Mormon Bible Dictionary describes it this way:
Urim and Thummim. Heb. term that means Lights and Perfections. An instrument prepared of God to assist man in obtaining revelation from the Lord and in translating languages. Using the Urim and Thummim is the special prerogative of a seer…Joseph Smith in translating the Book of Mormon and in obtaining other revelation…
God led Joseph Smith to the place where the Book of Mormon had been buried for some 1600 years and, with the gold plates, provided the means to interpret and translate it, the Urim and Thummim. Yet, contemporary accounts speak of his putting aside the ‘interpreters’ and using a stone that was said to have magical powers. It would seem the Urim and Thummim was returned, with the gold plates, to the angel who first delivered them to the prophet, Moroni. The stone he used was known as a ‘Seer Stone’ and he is described putting it in a hat, putting his face to the hat, and writing what would appear – in the hat! David Whitmer, one of Smith’s early followers, describes the process:
"Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear."
Questions have been asked about the nature of the stone he used, whether it would be right for a prophet to use what amounts to folk magic; how he was able to see in the dark; where did the hat go; did the real power lay in the stone or in the hat, and why is the Mormon Church hiding the hat, and drawing our attention now to a stone? I can reveal, exclusively, that the power lay neither in the hat nor the stone revealed by the Mormon Church. The stone is a decoy, designed to draw attention away from the fact that they have ‘mislaid’ Joseph’s true instrument of revelation.
Since earliest days Mormon history has been carefully managed, redacted, rewritten, and reinvented (I know, shocking, isn’t it?) to cover up the fact that the Seer Stone disappeared down the back of the sofa in Sidney Rigdon’s house after a family barbecue. A search party was immediately formed as Sidney Rigdon protested his innocence. Joseph Smith never believed Rigdon’s lame story about the sofa, swore he would never crack corn with ‘that man’ again, seeing to it that Sidney, the most natural successor to Joseph, was never again invited over to the Smith’s for as much as a yard sale.
Rigdon was replaced in the prophet’s affections by Brigham Young. Had Sidney succeeded Joseph, Mormonism would be very different today, much more like the Reorganised Church (the Community of Christ). There would be a growing Doctrine & Covenants, women in leadership meetings, communal living, and good stuff like that. Now all that would change. The patriarchal system, Misogyny, Polygamy, and Salt Lake City called.
But the whole thing had to be covered up. The story of the Urim and Thummim was put out to hide the fact that the true instrument of interpretation had long gone missing. Joseph Smith, in the absence of the only true source of light in a hat, had begun making things up! (I know, shocking!) Fortunately, he had been raised on a diet of Dr Seusse, Edward Lear, and classic episodes of the Outer Limits.
As Mormonism has grown, successive prophets, lacking that same rich background, have found it increasingly difficult to pretend to prophecy in the absence of the Seer Stone and sans Joseph’s fertile imagination. This explains why, today, the Mormon Church is ‘led by prophets’ but get their theology from FARMS and other sub-prophetic instruments of theological confusion and apostasy. That is why they don’t add to their supposed ‘open canon’ of Scripture, why they have abandoned the Journal of Discourses as an instrument of published revelation, and why fifteen ‘prophets, seers, and revelators’ attend a biannual conference to say what amounts to nothing much at all; they lack the instrument that would give them light in a hat.
They have the hat! They just haven’t wanted to admit it in case people ask about the stone.
This latest move is perilous for the Salt Lake hierarchy because they have drawn attention to a stone (not the stone) and are so lacking now in prophetic skill they haven’t anticipated that people are bound to ask, ‘what about the hat?’ They have the hat! Now they will be expected to put the stone in the hat (probably somewhere sacred, like the upper room in the Salt Lake Temple, or maybe at the temple of the Golden Arches at 140 S Rio Grande St.) and begin to prophecy. But they can’t because, they have the hat, but don’t have the real stone!
I can now reveal the long-hidden secret of Sidney Rigdon’s sofa. Joseph Smith believed Sidney Rigdon was trying to have the stone and the power to himself but the stone had truly disappeared down the back of the sofa into a space known the world over as the-land-of-lost-for-good. It would take brother Indiana to recover the stone but, since he hadn’t been born yet, hope was slim indeed. Smith never got over Rigdon’s apparent betrayal and Rigdon never got over Smith’s paranoia. I came across this story in a back street chop shop somewhere unpronounceable in mid-Wales some forty-two years ago and have spent the time since tracking down that sofa. I can reveal that I have found it!
Strange Sofa Sails Seas to Swansea Storage
That was the headline in a late nineteenth century South Wales newspaper that I found in a dark and dank archive under the old guild hall in the old port area of the ancient city of Swayne’s Eye. All this can only be described as – old. For the first time I can relate the sad story of Sidney’s increasingly alliterative sofa.
Following the search, the sofa was in a sorry state and it was secreted away (I did say it was alliterative) by Sidney Rigdon’s family to be recovered, sewn, and sold. This is why it was not so easily recognised thereafter. Remarkably, it had made its way across the Atlantic in steerage, brought over by a disappointed convert from Liverpool who was discouraged by the sight of handcarts and snow ( and, to be fair, a mob in Nauvoo) and came back on the first boat, sitting in steerage on the singularly strange sofa. From there it was inherited by her cousin in North Wales and passed down the family, along with a full account of its provenance, which they kept secret because they were ashamed of this association; they thought they were sitting on the sofa of a Mormon fifth columnist. A brief moment of infamy, a newspaper headline, then the sofa was drawn back into the obscurity of a Swansea storehouse for another century
Finally, it was discovered, by me, after over forty years of research and detective work, in a back street warehouse in Swansea. The stone has been found! The land-of-lost-for-good, it seems, does sometimes give up its secrets. There, among the butt ends, coffee grounds, dime pieces, a set of marked playing cards that once belonged to Joseph Smith, and a postcard from Zarahemla I found the stone. Sidney is vindicated and the truth can now be revealed. Here is the real Seer Stone!
The first picture shows a remarkable phenomenon. Clearly delineated is the north coast of South America and the isthmus of Panama. There we see prominently marked the place where Lehi and his family first landed after crossing the largest ocean in the world in a ship that would not be officially invented for another thousand years.
On the reverse is a curiously astronomical pattern. It seems to show planets orbiting a sun that can’t quite be made out in the picture. I can assure you, as the owner of the stone, it is clear when looked at close up. There seems to be one planet closest to that sun and trouble has been gone to in order to make it stand out. This, I believe, is Kolob, to which Mormons would dearly love to hie in the twinkling of an eye, after visiting Temple Square, Carthage jail, and Machu Picchu of course.
The truth is out and the challenge to Salt Lake City is, I have the stone, you have the hat, its time to right a lot of wrongs, and restore revelation to the Restored Church.
With the stone, I found what seems to be a first-hand account of one episode in the founding of Mormonism, written in a curious rhyme on the back of a receipt for a month’s supply of green Jello-O. I am still working on its interpretation, but it is slow work since the stone appears not to function properly without the hat. Make of it what you will.
‘The time has come,’ the prophet said, ‘to speak of many things.
Of rocks-and hats-and golden plates,
of angels without wings.
And why there is no evidence,
for, oh, so many things.’
‘But wait a bit,’ the doubters cried, ‘Before we swallow that;
for we are not so credulous,
And none have seen the hat.’
‘I’ll show you,’ said the prophet,
and they thanked him much for that.
‘The eyes of faith,’ the prophet said, ‘is what we chiefly need.
Eyes that are physically closed,
are very good indeed.
Now if you’re ready, doubters dear,
you’ll see just what you need.’
‘But what of us?’ Some cynics cried, their doubting undisguised.
‘You needn’t think we’d fall for that.’
The prophet was surprised.
‘The eyes of faith!’ the prophet cried.
‘Now kindly shut your eyes!’
‘I have a seer stone, you see.’ ‘We can’t, our eyes are shut.’
‘I was speaking metaphorically!
The stone goes in the hat.’
‘Neither have we seen the hat
So are you sure of that?’
‘Now, look,’ the patient prophet said. ‘We can’t’ the doubters cried.
‘’The eyes of faith’ you said,
and then you told us ‘shut your eyes.’
Now where’s this hat and pebble?’
Their impatience ill-disguised.
‘Their wrapped inside a home-made quilt, to keep them safe from harm.’
‘Well, if you’d said,’ one, Harris, cried,
‘I’m off to sell the farm.’
‘I’ll buy your sofa gladly.’
Sidney Rigdon said with charm.
And so it was that hat and rock and prophet with his wives,
ate at Sidney Rigdon’s house
where joy was undisguised.
Little did they know that day
how it would change their lives.
From that day to this there’s been no Mormon prophecy.
Without the rock, redundant hat
was under lock and key.
If Joe had trusted Sidney
Oh, how different things might be.