Did Joseph Smith really translated the Book of Mormon with a Peep Stone ? Why was I never taught that?
Critics and ex-members frequently claim that the Church covers up the fact that Joseph used a seer stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon. They argue that Church members are taught that Joseph translated the record only by means of the Urim and Thummim. This is an oddly ironic complaint. Are they arguing that translating by means of a rock inside a hat (the seer stone) is strange, whereas translating by means of a rock outside of a hat (the Nephite interpreters) is normal? If Joseph Smith was a prophet, and if the translation came by the gift and power of God, does the method of translation matter?
Admittedly, many members are not very knowledgeable about Smith’s methods of translating. Part of the problem, however, stems from the fact that in Joseph’s own day contemporaries often referred to both the seer stone and the Book of Mormon interpreters interchangeably as the Urim and Thummim. In fact, after the loss of the 116 pages, the term “Urim and Thummim” generally applied to Joseph’s seer stone—the means by which Joseph received most of the Book of Mormon translation. As the histories were written, the ambiguous Urim and Thummim led most members to believe that the Nephite interpreters were the sole tool utilized in translating the Book of Mormon. To claim that the Church has “covered up” Joseph’s use of a seer stone, however, is demonstrably false, and we find mention of Joseph using his seerstone in a hat in a variety of LDS publications including, numerous Church magazine articles.
In summary, while some of the beliefs and practices of past generations may seem strange to us, future generations will likely be amused at some of our faulty beliefs and practices as well. Our Christian heritage is replete (from the Bible and even modern history) with examples of practices that would be frowned upon or misunderstood by some of today’s “enlightened” Christian critics.
Frontier Christians had folk beliefs that included divining and the search for lost or hidden treasures. Such beliefs melded with their interpretation of Christianity, angels, and unseen forces, and likely prepared Joseph for the revelation, unearthing, and translation of the Book of Mormon plates. As Joseph matured in the gospel, however, his understanding of spiritual things eclipsed his frontier folk beliefs. “Magic,” notes Bushman, “had played its part and now could be cast aside.”
Michael R. Ash, Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt