In an effort to demystify some of the LDS Church’s history, Church officials released photographs of Joseph Smith’s ‘seer stone.’ Images of the object were published in a book containing the original printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon, which is a central text of the Mormon religion. At a news conference at The Church History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 4, officials said that images of the sacred object would be included in their “Joseph Smith Papers” project, said to be a collection of documents and objects pertaining to the founding of Mormonism.
Though the LDS Church has always possessed the seer stone, which was transported across the country during the Mormon pioneers’ trek from Illinois to Utah in the 1840’s, this will be the first the public has seen of it. The photos also display a leather pouch that was made by one of Joseph Smith’s wives, Emma Smith, and was used for storing the sacred object.
Mormons believe that 185 years ago, Smith found gold plates engraved with writing in ancient Egyptian in upstate New York. Mormons posit that Joseph also used the small, smooth brown and black colored object in the translation of scripture. God helped him translate the text using the ‘seer stone’—along with other tools—and the text became known as the Book of Mormon.
“It’s not something that Church members typically know a lot about, so I think they’ll find this period of time that we talk about and these kinds of things quite interesting,” LDS Church historian Elder Steven E. Snow told KUTV News.
Terryl Givens, professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, told ABC that as an American-born faith that is younger than most world religions, the LDS Church has come under greater pressure to prove its stories.
“Most other churches’ origins are concealed by the mist of history,” Givens said. “Mormonism is the first world religion in which the origins were exposed to public view, to documentation, to journalists and newspaper reporting.”
The manuscript that will be shown belongs to the Community of Christ, a separate religion that was created by Mormons who chose to stay behind when most members of the faith headed west to Utah after the assassination of Smith in 1844. Community of Christ leaders joined LDS Church officials at the press event on Tuesday in what both claimed was a demonstration that the two faiths have moved on from the deep-seated qualms rooted in the historical conflict between the two organizations. Lachlan MacKay, the Director of Historic Sites for Community of Christ told Fox 13 “The collaboration is almost 50 years in the making,”
The seer stone will be put in a display at the LDS Church visitor’s center in Harmony, Pa. The new Book of Mormon manuscripts will be made available to view at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. Although currently under renovations, the museum is expected to be open to the public by October. Digital versions of the documents and images will be printed in the October issue of the Ensign, a magazine published by the LDS Church. Further information can be found at mormonnewsroom.org.