Mormon History

Urim and Thummim Analyzed - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune November 22, 1879



The last number of the Josephite organ, the Saints' Herald, published in Plano, Illinois, contains further corrobortion of the correctness of the charge that the pretensions of Mormonism have been foisted upon the credulity of the simple-minded by the most unblushing effrontery and fraud. This Josephite journal has, within the past year, been forced to the admission, (made some time last spring) that there was "no written nor reliable oral account in the Church history" of the holy and everlasting priesthood having been conferred by the direct ministration of Peter, James and John -- which knocks the very underpinning from the whole priestly assumption, and now it graciously announces as a fact (have our Tribune articles on Mormonism had ought to do with this discovery or its announcement?)

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 shall be told.

* * * 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.

The story was invented for the purpose of gaining prestige, in the minds of the people, for ambitious leaders.

With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by this authority, I now state that he does not say the Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim, but by the means of one dark-colored opaque stone, called a "seerstone," which was placed in the crown of his hat, into which Joseph put his face, so as to exclude the external light. Then a spiritual light would shine forth, and parchment would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it the translation in English, at least so Joseph said.

Will those who hold the Urim and Thummim story to be correct, still continue to give the lie to David Whitmer, Michael Morse (Smith's brother-in-law) and Mrs. Emma Bidamon (the late widow)? Or will they have the courage to admit that those who held high positions have been guilty of gross fabrication?

The above is taken from a communication in the Saints' Herald of the 15th inst. signed by J. L. Traughber, Jr., and inserted evidently with editorial approval. Said Oliver Cowdery:

I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters.' * * * That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it; Mr. Spaulding did not write it; I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet.

And yet it now turns out there were no "holy interpreters," no Urim and Thummim in the matter, only Chase's peep-stone, which

the prophet had previously used in looking for the money diggers. What a sham it is, to be sure! Yet brother Pratt will get up before his Mormon audiences with all the gravity in the world, and can still hold thousands listening to his yarns. Still the man Cowdery, when he declares that neither Mr. Spaulding nor Sidney Rigdon had aught to do with getting up the Book of Mormon, is claimed to be an honest and truthful witness. Still brother Sharp spreads himself in the columns of the News, airing archeologically, the flimsy pretense that the Book of Mormon Is a genuine and reliable ancient record, while Granny smiles approval. 'Tis pitiful, friends, such stupefaction. Or is it downright and deliberate dishonesty?

But how are the children affected by this imposture? Mormon children are instructed in their catechism (pp. 77-8,) that on the night of the 21st September, 1823, Joseph Smith was informed by a heavenly angel

"that a record, written upon gold plates, an account of the ancient inhabitants of America, was deposited in a particular place in the earth and with the Record two stones in silver bows, which were anciently called the Urim and Thummim, and by which God revelated intelligence to His people"

The young Saints are further instructed in their catechism that on the following day

"Joseph went to the place where the plates were hid, and found them in a stone box, covered with another stone, and hid in a hill, called Cumorah;" that "he raised the stone, saw the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, and made an attempt to take them out, but the angel appeared again unto him, and told him the time was not come, but would be four years longer," that "on the 22d of Sept. 1827, the angel placed in his hands the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate, charging him to keep them safe," and that "he (Joseph) translated them, by the power of God, through the Urim and Thummim, enduring much persecution at the time from religious people, who said he was an impostor."

Mormon children are expected to have this stuff by heart, learned in their Sabbath schools. Now, tell them that the story of the Urim and Thummim is not true, but a made up thing, that the Urim and Thummim is a wicked and shameless exaggeration from a mere "peepstone," such as they or some young friend of theirs may chance to find, and amuse themselves with, think you it will not shake to its centre their childish faith in father and mother and teacher?

Mark, in the above quotation, the vile fling at "religious people," "who said he was an impostor." See how the animus -- the savage and clannish spirit -- against "religious people" is sought to be instiled in the minds even of children, and from their very catechism!

This question, friends, Is Mormonism a fraud? is a pretty serious one, first and last, and it behooveth you to know, (you can if you will, and are resoinsible, if you do not endeavor to find out) whether, [in] spite of your towering faith and overwhelming confidence you have not, after all, been following cunningly devised fables.

Isaac Hale, the prophet's father-in-law, in 1834, affirmed that

the manner in which he (joseph) pretended to read and interpret was the same as he used when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat and the hat over his face, while the Book of Plates was at the same time hid in the woods.

This "Seerstone" the prophet got from one Willard Chase, in Palmyra, New York, in the year 1822, while helping to dig a well for Chase's father. Mr. Hale concluded his sworn statement thus.

Joseph Smith Jr. resided near me for some time after his marriage (Jan. 1823,) and I had a good opportunity of becoming acquainted with him, and somewhat acquainted with his associates, and I conscientiously believe from the facts I have detailed, and from many other circumstances, which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that the whole "Book of Mormon" (so called,) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a design to dupe the credulous and unwary, and in order that its fabricators may live upon the spoils of those who swallow the deception.

Whatever may be thought of Mormonism in Utah, the Josephites have many clear headed people among them and quite a sprinkling of brains; those who have no disposition to be fooled or to stupify themselves in this very serious concern, religion, but on the contrary those who are (as Mr. Z. H. Gurley says of himself to this writer,) "willing to know the whole truth, cost what it may." Well, a lying tongue is but for a moment (as Solomon says,) and the pen of the scribe is in vain, who seek to perpetrate a fraud. Keep on, brethren, and you will strike the very bedrock of this imposture yet.