Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Brigham Young and the translation

In his journal, Brigham Young explained that on December 27 1841, Joseph "explained to [the Twelve] the Urim and Thummim which he found with the plates, called in the Book of Mormon the Interpreters."

Then, in General Conference, Brigham explained that "He would read the plates, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, and they [his scribes] would write."

Brigham's explanation is consistent with everything Joseph and Oliver said about the translation. None of them left any room for speculation about he use of a "stone-in-the-hat" or SITH. In fact, Joseph and Oliver were responding to the SITH narratives that critics kept repeating, starting with Jonathan Hadley and Mormonism Unvailed.

This narrative of reading the plates with the U&T is also consistent with the Lord's directions to Joseph Smith: "Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi."

(Doctrine and Covenants 10:41)


Here is the printed version of Brigham's journal: 

(click to enlarge)

Brigham also said that Joseph "said that every man who lived on the earth was entitled to a seer stone, and should have one, but they are kept from them in consequence of their wickedness and most of those who do find one make an evil use of it: he showed us his seer stone." This clearly distinguishes Joseph's private seer stone from the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates.

Here are two conferences addresses in which Brigham discusses the translation.

The Lord had not spoken to the inhabitants of this earth for a long time, until He spoke to Joseph Smith, committed to him the plates on which the Book of Mormon was engraved, and gave him a Urim and Thummim to translate a portion of them, and told him to print the Book of Mormon, which he did, and sent it to the world, according to the word of the Lord.

(1864, BY Earth the Home ¶21 • JD 10:303)

I defy any man on earth to point out the path a Prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be. The first act that Joseph Smith was called to do by the angel of God, was, to get the plates from the hill Cumorah, and then translate them, and he got Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery to write for him. He would read the plates, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, and they would write. They had to either raise their bread from the ground, or buy it, and they had to eat and drink, and sleep, and toil, and rest, while they were engaged in bringing forth the great Work of the last days. All these were temporal acts, directed by the spirit of revelation.

(1864, BY Temporal ¶14 • JD 10:364)

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