Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Urim and Thummim, Seers, and Seer Stones, in the Bible, LDS Scriptures, and early Mormon history

During some internet research this morning, I discovered an online book(let) that gathers together, into a single contribution, dozens of references related to the Urim and Thummim, seers and seer stones, as found in the Bible, LDS Scriptures, and early Mormon history. I copied and pasted this work into a Word document; in this format, it comprises some 67 pages of valuable information, and is an excellent supplement to the BYU Religious Studies Center book, Joseph Smith's Seer Stones, that I referenced in my June 29, 2017 post (LINK).

This online book(let) by Odgen Kraut can be accessed via THIS LINK.


Grace and peace,


Friday, December 1, 2017

Mark Ashurst-McGee's, A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet, now available online for free download

I have a very important announcement to make: as of today, Mark Ashurst-McGee's thesis, A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet (2000), is now available online for free download.

Last week, I pointed out to the Utah State Univeristy's Digital Commons that the above master's thesis was missing from their "ALL GRADUATE THESES AND DISSERTATIONS" site. To my surprise, I received an email that they would soon make the thesis available, and today, they informed me that they have done so.

Back in May, a good friend of mine provided me with a PDF copy of Mark's thesis, but it was an image only scanned document which does not allow text to be copied. The new USU PDF document is OCR (Optical Character Recognition) based, which allows text copying (and pasting), and makes citations so much easier.

The document may be downloaded via THIS LINK

Mark Ashurst-McGee's master thesis is one of the most important contributions on the history of Joseph Smith Jr. as it relates to his involvement in certain aspects of 'folk magic' and 'occult' practices. Mark sees Joseph's participation in such practices as a preparation for his eventual calling as God's chosen prophet for the restoration Christ's Church which had fallen into apostasy, becoming a church in name only, having no divine authority. The following is from the abstract of the thesis:

Joseph Smith Junior, founder of the Mormon faith, presented himself to America and the world as a prophet with the same powers as the widely known prophetic figures of the Bible. Like Moses and Elijah, he made God's will known to humankind. Before assuming this role, Smith had used divining rods and then seer stones to find underground water, buried treasure, lost items, and stray livestock. This thesis charts Joseph Smith's progression from rodsman to seer to prophet. (Page iii)

This thesis is a must read for those who have even just a minor interest in Mormonism.


Grace and peace,


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Apologia Spiritualis - An Autobiographical Sketch, by A. J. Arberry

Last night, whilst engaged in my continuing research for an upcoming post on early Mormon origins, I happened upon an autobiographical sketch, from the above pictured book, by one of the most gifted Islamic scholars of the 20th century—A. J. Arberry. The following selection caught my eye, and impressed upon me the notion that I should bring it to the attention of others:

“What is Truth?” asked jesting Pilate of the Man whom he would presently give on a like Cross, the Man who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” I have said earlier that as a young man, having abandoned formal worship, I resolved to become an academic scholar, abstract truth being the only altar before which I would kneel. In those days I supposed truth to be a thing intellectually attainable, a quest for reason, far removed from the emotions. But the mystical affinity of truth with light was evidently already apprehended by Sir William Jones, that greatest of British orientalists who died in 1794 and whose example has always been my chief inspiration. Jones

     Before thy mystic altar, heavenly Truth,
     I kneel in manhood, as I knelt in youth.
     There let me kneel, till this dull form decay,
     And life’s last shade be brightened by thy day;
     Then shall my soul, now lost in clouds below,
     Without consuming glow.

Truth, then, is Light—a light that shines into the heart. And what is light? The answer seems to be given in that sublime verse of the Koran:

     God is the light of the heavens and the earth;
     the likeness of His Light is as a niche
     wherein is a lamp
     (the lamp in a glass,
     the glass as it were a glittering star)
     kindled by a Blessed Tree,
     an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West
     whose oil well-nigh would shine, even if no fire touched it.
     Light upon Light,
     God guides to His Light whom He will.

Once this light has shone into the heart, no darkness can ever overcome it. I believe that light to be a reality, because I have myself experienced it. I believe it also to be the Truth, and I think it not inappropriate to call it God. I am an academic scholar, but I have come to realize that pure reason is unqualified to penetrate the mystery of God’s light, and may, indeed, if too fondly indulged, interpose an impenetrable veil between the heart and God. The world in which we live is certainly full of shadows. I have had my full share of personal sorrows and anxieties, and I am as acutely aware as the next man of the appalling dangers threatening mankind. But because I have experienced the Divine Light, I need not wish for any higher grace.

I have now for some years resumed my Christian worship, in which I find great comfort, being no longer troubled by the intellectual doubts generated by too great a concern for dogma. I know that Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Parsi—all sorts and conditions of men—have been, are and will always be irradiated by that Light “kindled by a Blessed Tree, an olive that is neither of the East nor of the West”—the universal tree of the Truth and Goodness of God. For God, being the One Universal, has an infinite solicitude and love of each particular, and suffers His Light to shine into every human heart open to receive it. (Apologia Spiritualis - An Autobiographical Sketch, by A. J. Arberry, in Mystical Poems of Rumi, pp. 25, 26.)

Back to my research...

Grace and peace,


Monday, October 30, 2017

More 'food for thought'...

In my last post the author of "The Persecution of Orthodoxy" (10-5-17), used the degradation of Plato's Academy as an introduction to what he believes is a current crisis within the Catholic Church: an internal assault on Catholic orthodoxy.

The following selection is from yet another article that focuses in on the perceived ongoing assault on Catholic orthodoxy (though posted today, it is dated 11-1-17). This contribution utilizes a quotation from St. Vincent of Lerins as a platform for his reflections. Note the following:

A crisis of doctrine, such as the one through which the Catholic Church is now passing, has several sad effects. Most obviously, the truth is obscured, with unthinkable consequences for the salvation of souls. Heretical movements often unleash immoderate rage against orthodox believers (look at the ongoing clampdown on theological debate, and the well-grounded fears of the clergy). But the most obvious result is the very evident grief among faithful Catholics. I keep hearing or reading things like, “It’s so tempting to just give up,” or “I don’t know how to explain this to my kids.” It may be only a small minority who are aware of the crisis, so far, but that minority is growing. The other day I bumped into an acquaintance who I can’t remember previously saying a thing about Vatican politics. Almost the first words out of his mouth were: “It’s terrible, isn’t it?”

St. Vincent of Lerins referred to this as a “great trial” for Catholics: to keep one’s faith when it is coming under attack—hardest of all, when it is being attacked by distinguished teachers. How agonizing, for instance, for Origen’s followers, when he began to teach error. No one was more learned, more virtuous, more courageous, more inspirational, than Origen—and then he started to teach heresy! “Truly,” St. Vincent writes,

thus of a sudden to seduce the Church which was devoted to him, and hung upon him through admiration of his genius, his learning, his eloquence, his manner of life and influence, while she had no fear, no suspicion for herself—thus, I say, to seduce the Church, slowly and little by little, from the old religion to a new profaneness, was not only a trial, but a great trial.

The article concludes with:

I do not know what the correct response is. But in this time of anxiety, the words of St. Vincent of Lerins may offer some comfort. If a heresy spreads and acquires strength, St. Vincent says, it is “because the Lord your God does make trial of you, whether you love Him or not.” St. Paul said that “there must needs be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you.” So each doctrinal crisis, St. Vincent tells us, is a chance to renew our love for Our Lord: “If the authors of heresies are not immediately rooted up by God … [it is] that it may be apparent of each individual, how tenacious and faithful and steadfast he is in his love of the Catholic faith.”

[Full article online HERE.]

When I finally finish a post I have been researching over the last few weeks, I plan to delve—in much greater depth—into the issues being raised by the two contributions referenced in my last couple of posts.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Food for thought...

The following are the opening paragraphs of a truly thought provoking post:

If one considers the transformation of Plato’s Academy, champion of eternal truth, into a center of radical skepticism against which St. Augustine wrote his Contra Academicos, or contemplates the splits and changes that have occurred in all other philosophical schools, one will see that the preservation of Catholic doctrine over two millennia is a miracle. Considering likewise the countless divisions between and within the different Protestant confessions, as well as in other religions, it is evident that the way Catholic teaching has survived intact, becoming increasingly clear with each confrontation with error, is a wonder far greater than healing the sick or making the blind see.

Add to this the fact that many priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes not only lived very bad lives opposed to Catholic teaching, but rejected many Catholic doctrines, or simply did not believe them. Any purely human institution would long since have been dissolved, or suffered inner divisions and contradictions that would have been reflected in its creeds and official teachings. (THE PERSECUTION OF ORTHODOXY)

Grace and peace,


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lost Mormonism: magic dagger, magic parchments, magic talisman and seer stones

 An artist’s rendition of the white seer stone.
Image copyright 2016, Deseret Book.

The above "white seer stone" was pictured on the front cover of the book I wrote about in my last post. Some recent online research has brought to my attention a website that has published images and brief introductions of other "seer stones" used by Joseph Smith, his relatives and close associates. The site also includes images and brief introductions concerning a number of other occultic items owned and utilized by the same aforementioned folk, which include a magic dagger, magic parchments, and a magic talisman: link to LOST MORMONISM.

Listed below are direct links to the above mentioned occultic items:

The "Tags" section on the right side-bar of the site has many other related topics on early Mormonism—topics that I suspect many folk will find to be quite disturbing.

Grace and peace,


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Book of Mormon "translated" via the use of a brown stone in a hat

It was back in 1987 that I first began a serious, in depth study into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter LDS Church or Mormon/s). [For more on my early exploration into the LDS Church, see the opening paragraph of THIS POST.] I began collecting (and reading) hundreds of books, journals, articles, et al., which included the monthly journal, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. At that time, I was able to obtain all the past issues up to 1987, and began a subscription. As I started reading through the issues, one of the many articles that caught my attention was Richard Van Wagoner's and Steven Walker's, "Joseph Smith: 'The Gift of Seeing'" (Vol. 15.2, Summer 1982 - LINK).

Wagoner and Walker examined the extant eyewitness accounts concerning the translation process of the Book of Mormon, and provided the following synopsis of those accounts:

These eyewitness accounts to the translation process must be viewed in proper perspective. Most were given in retrospect and may be clouded by the haze of intervening years. Many were reported second hand, subject to skewing by nonwitnesses. Yet there are persistent parallels among these scattered testimonies. Consensus holds that the "translation" process was accomplished through a single seer stone from the time of the loss of the 116 pages until the completion of the book. Martin Harris's description of interchangeable use of a seer stone with the interpreters, or Urim and Thummim, refers only to the portion of translation he was witness to—the initial 116 pages. The second point of agreement is even more consistent: The plates could not have been used directly in the translation process. The Prophet, his face in a hat to exclude exterior light, would have been unable to view the plates directly even if they had been present during transcription. (Page 53.)

Prior to this detailed article, the common perception of the translation process was much different among the vast majority of Mormons. Artist depictions and written descriptions have Joseph Smith directly using the metal plates and the "Urim and Thummim" at the same time in the translation process. Wagoner and Walker make reference to this dichotomy between the extant accounts and the common Mormon understanding, writing:

The concept of a single seer stone is another problem area, for we have been taught since the Prophet's day that the Urim and Thummim were used. The term itself is problematic. The Book of Mormon does not contain the words "Urim and Thummim." Ammon describes the instrument as "the things . . . called interpreters"—"two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow" which were "prepared from the beginning" and "handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages" (Mosiah 8:13, 28:13-14). Joseph Smith adds in the Pearl of Great Price that "God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book" (Joseph Smith—History 1:35). Furthermore, the Nephite interpreters were not referred to as Urim and Thummim until 1833, when W. W. Phelps first equated the two in the first edition of the Evening and Morning Star: "It was translated by the gift and power of God, by an unlearned man, through the aid of a pair of Interpreters, or spectacles—(known, perhaps in ancient days as Teraphim, or Urim and Thummim)." (Ibid.)

I was soon able to ascertain that Wagoner's and Walker's well researched article had little impact on the vast majority of believing Mormons. Of the literally dozens of LDS missionaries that have contacted me during the subsequent 30 years, it was not until this last year that any of them had knowledge of the single stone in the hat translation process. The same held true with lay Mormons I have met (in person and on message boards). However, this near unanimous consensus understanding started to undergo reductions at the end of 2015, and this due to an article published in the official LDS Church magazine, Ensign. The October, 2015 issue contained a contribution by three LDS scholars— Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin S. Jensen and Richard E. Turley Jr.—under the title, "Joseph the Seer". [Full issue available online HERE.]

This Ensign article (pp. 48-55) mentions the use of, "at least one other seer stone in translating the Book of Mormon, often placing it into a hat in order to block out light" (p. 51). It also includes a large color photograph of the "chocolate-colored stone", that "has long been associated with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon translation effort" (p. 53). For the first time in LDS Church history, knowledge of a single stone in a hat translation process had been disseminated amongst the majority of lay Mormons.

But, as important as the Ensign article was/is for Mormon studies, it was my recent purchase and reading of the above pictured book that prompted me to write this post.

Joseph Smith's Seer Stones, by Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas J. Frederick, was published in 2016, through B.Y.U.'s "Religious Studies Center" (LINK). I obtained this book in early May of this year, and read it the very next day. The following is from the back dust-cover of the book:

When the Church released photos of the brown seer stone that was owned and used by Joseph Smith, the news ignited a firestorm of curiosity and controversy. People wanted more information and wondered why they weren't aware of the stone's existence before.

This book discusses the origins of Joseph Smith's seer stones and explores how Joseph used them throughout his life in a way that goes beyond translating the Book of Mormon. I also traces the provenance of the seer stones once they leave his possession.

Joseph Smith's Seer Stones, is a book of 243 pages, and by far the most comprehensive treatment I have yet to read on the topic of Joseph Smith's "seer" stones. It is well written, and easy to read. It references dozens of other important contributions that will provide the more curious investigators with days, if not months, of informative reading. In upcoming posts (the Lord willing), I shall delve into some of those works that I have obtained, and have been researching. Until my next post, I would like to recommend to folk interested in this topic that they look into the following article from BYU Studies, 55.1, pp. 73-93 (also published in 2016):

Grace and peace,