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Lesson Six: Maintaining a Strong Testimony

of the LDS Church Through Faithful History

 

The Unofficial LDS Family Home Evening Resource Book


 


 

 

An earnest discussion of evidence from Joseph Smith's early history, which was largely ignored until recently, yet is now out in the open for all of us to ponder.

 

 
PURPOSE

 

This lesson encourages us to better understand Church history by reading what was written in early accounts. It also teaches us about faithful history. 

 

FOR THE PARENT

 

This lesson was prepared for families who are ready to go beyond a milk only diet and indulge on teaching with substance. It is meant to bring about meaningful thought and discussion; and, challenge the participants to obtain a deeper understanding of the LDS faith. Therefore, parents are advised to first carefully read the lesson all the way through in order to make sure it is appropriate for each and every family member.        

 

PREPARATION


(Optional)

kool-aid

Mix up a package of Lemon-Lime flavored Kool-Aid with sugar and chilled water. Select clear goblets to pour the Kool-Aid into so as not to obstruct the view of the Kool-Aid and what we are about to add to it. Then, add an extra large black olive to each goblet and fill the goblets with Kool-Aid. The reason for including the black olives is explained near the end of this lesson. 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Explain to the family:

 

Today the LDS Church is facing a major crisis because Church members are searching the Internet and finding accounts of foundational Church history which are difficult for them to understand.

 

On this subject, LDS Church historian Elder Steven E. Snow explained:

 

“There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members ... reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history. ... We need to be truthful, and we need to understand our history.” (NY Times article, Nov. 10th, 2014)

 

Using this principle, on Tuesday August 4th, 2015, during a press conference at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library in Salt Lake City, the truth about Joseph Smith's

 

 "use of seer stones"

 

 was made known:

 

"SALT LAKE CITY — In collaboration with the Community of Christ, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has published the original printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon as part of its ongoing Joseph Smith Papers project.

 

The release of 'Revelations and Translations Volume 3, Parts 1 and 2: Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon,' the facsimile edition, was announced in a press conference Tuesday at the Church History Library
...
The new volume, the 11th in the Joseph Smith Papers series, includes images and details the use of seer stones as instruments used by Joseph Smith during the translation process of the Book of Mormon." (The Deseret News, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015)

 

 

Also, during that press conference, for the first time ever, the LDS Church shared photos of Joseph Smith's

 

 "chocolate-colored stone"

 

with the world:

 

"The stone pictured here has long been associated with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon translation. The stone Joseph Smith used in the Book of Mormon translation effort was often referred to as a chocolate-colored stone with an oval shape."

seer stone

Photograph by Welden C. Andersen and Richard E. Turley Jr.

October 2015, Ensign Magazine

 

 

On this subject LDS Assistant Church Historian, Richard Turley, explained:

 

"... the chocolate-colored, oval-shaped seer stone has been mentioned from the earliest days of the church, including general conference talks and church magazine articles.
 
'We felt as we were putting together the Joseph Smith Papers project, it would be helpful for our public to see a visual image of it,' Turley said. 'We live in a highly visual age. A lot of our rising generation of church history like to see pictures of things. We thought that putting an image of the stone in would do a lot in terms of connecting people to it.'" (Deseret News, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015

 

Mention to the family: 

 

Daniel C. Peterson, who is on the Executive Board as Chairman and President of an important LDS apologetic organization: "The Interpreter" said this about Joseph's seer stone:    

   

"Not only did Joseph possess a seer stone prior to receiving the Nephite interpreters: He was already quite familiar with the manner of its use. Matthew B. Brown notes that, 'Joseph Smith reportedly said in 1826, while under examination in a court of law, that when he first obtained his personal seerstone he placed it in his hat, and discovered that time, place, and distance were annihilated; that all intervening obstacles were removed, and that he possessed one of the attributes of Deity, an All-Seeing Eye.'" (THE SPECTACLES, THE STONE, THE HAT, AND THE BOOK: A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY BELIEVER’S VIEW OF THE BOOK OF MORMON TRANSLATION, Roger Nicholson, Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5, 2013) — "Board" page

 

Then, tell the family that while speaking of Joseph Smith's 1826 trial records, LDS Attorney Gordon A. Madsen said:

 

"The pivotal testimony, in my view, was that of Josiah Stowell. Both accounts agree on the critical facts. The Pearsall account states: '[Joseph] had been employed by him [Stowell] to work on farm part of time; ... that he positively knew that the prisoner could tell and professed the art of seeing those valuable treasures through the medium of said stone.'

The Purple account states:

Justice Neeley soberly looked at the witness and in a solemn, dignified voice, said, 'Deacon Stowell, do I understand you as swearing before God, under the solemn oath you have taken, that you believe the prisoner can see by the aid of the stone fifty feet below the surface of the earth, as plainly as you can see what is on my table?' 'Do I believe it?' says Deacon Stowell, 'do I believe it? No, it is not a matter of belief. I positively know it to be true.'" (Joseph Smith's 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting, BYU Studies, p. 105)

 

Mention to the family:

 

David Whitmer wrote a booklet about Joseph Smith using his seer stone:

 

"After the translation of the Book of Mormon was finished, early in the spring of 1830, before April 6th, Joseph gave the stone to Oliver Cowdery and told me as well as the rest that he was through with it, and he did not use the stone any more.

...

The revelations after this came through Joseph as 'mouth piece;' that is, he would enquire of the Lord, pray and ask concerning a matter, and speak out the revelation, ..." (An Address To All Believers In Christ, David Whitmer, p.32)

 

David became so concerned after Joseph quit using the seer stone to receive revelations, that in his booklet he professed faith only, in the revelations which came through the stone:

 

"This is what God gave us through the stone in 1829 as I have before stated, for a warning to us all." (An Address To All Believers In Christ, David Whitmer, p.41)

 

 

The Real "Urim and Thummim" vs. Faithful History:

 

Read what the LDS Church History Department has to say about the term Urim and Thummim: 

 

"Eyewitnesses reported that he [Joseph Smith] also used a dark brown seer stone. JS referred to the pair of stones found with the plates as 'spectacles,' and he later referred to these stones and his other seer stones with the term 'Urim and Thummim ...'" (Joseph Smith Papers, Translate, Summary)

 

Then, read the following example of how the term Urim and Thummim is used today:

 

The
Doctrine and Covenants 

Section 14
"Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to David Whitmer, at Fayette, New York, June 1829. ... This revelation and the two following (sections 15 and 16) were given in answer to an inquiry through the Urim and Thummim." (lds.org/scriptures)

 

Explain:

 

Speaking of how this Revelation was received, David Whitmer spelled out:

 

"The revelations in the Book of Commandments up to June, 1829, were given through the 'stone,' through which the Book of Mormon was translated." (An Address To All Believers In Christ, David Whitmer, p.53)

 

On this subject, the tenth President of the LDS Church said:

 

"The Urim and Thummim so spoken of, however, was the seer stone which was in the possession of the Prophet Joseph Smith in early days. This seer stone is currently in the possession of the Church." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 3: 225)

 

Ask the family members:

 

Are you beginning to understand that history records Joseph Smith used the same seer stone to supposedly see treasure underground, as he did to translate the Book of Mormon and receive revelations from God; and, that seer stone was eventually called the Urim and Thummim: (see endnote)

 

Then, explain the moral of this lesson:

 

Along with drinking the Kool-Aid, swallowing the olive represents people professing faith in Joseph Smith's ability to see things in his seer stone:

 

black olive in goblet

 

We as a family have a choice, we can either swallow the olive along with the Church's statement that Joseph Smith,

 

"... used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. [and] As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture" — Book of Mormon Translation, LDS.org, retrieved February 2017)

 

or, we can toss the olive, along with any notion that Joseph Smith used a seer stone as part of,

  

"... his prophetic calling ..." (see documentation)

 

If we disregard this troubling aspect of Joseph Smith's history, we may be able to maintain a strong testimony of the LDS Church through,

 

 "faithful history"; (see documentation)

 

which is history that is free of accounts which could cause faithful Church members to have doubts.

 

Then, ask the family if anyone would care to read the following real-life stories of faithful Church members disregarding the notion that Joseph Smith ever used a seer stone:

 

■  Ask a Mormon: Cognitive Dissonance and the LDS Faith

■  PREACH MY GOSPEL — A Guide for Missionary Service

 

 

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Endnote:

 

TESTIMONY  OF  DAVID  WHITMER

 

"I, too, have heard Father Whitmer say that he was present many times while Joseph was translating; but I never heard him say that the translation was made by aid of Urim and Thummim; but in every case, and his testimony is always the same, he declared that Joseph first offered prayer, then took a dark colored, opaque stone, called a 'seerstone,' and placed it in the crown of his hat, then put his face into the hat, and read the translation as it appeared before him. The was the daily method of procedure, as I have often heard Father Whitmer declare; and, as it is generally agreed to by parties who know the facts, that a considerable portion of the work of translation was performed in a room of his father's house, where he then resided, there can be no doubt but what Father David Whitmer is a competent witness of the manner of translating. said.

I am aware of the fact that the 'Urim and Thummim' story has long been foisted upon the world as the true account of the origin of the Book of Mormon, but the times demand, and the interest of truth demands that the truth should be told. We need not be afraid of truth; and I greatly doubt if anybody will be ultimately benefitted by the perpetuation of a falsehood, which was invented for the purpose of gaining prestige, in the minds of the people, for ambitious leaders.

The proofs are clear and positive that the story of the Urim and Thummim Translation does not date back, for its origin further than 1833, or between that date and 1835; for it is not found in any printed document of the Church of Christ up to the latter part of the year 1833, or the year 1834. The 'Book of Commandments' to the Church of Christ, published in Independence, Mo., in 1833, does not contain any allusion to Urim and Thummim; though the term was inserted in some of the revelations in their reprint in the 'Book of Doctrine and Covenants' in 1835." (J. L. TRAUGHBER, Jr., Mandeville, Mo., Oct. 13, 1879, The True Latter Day Saints’ Herald, 15th November 1879)