To begin, I should tell you that I am a rock, an ordinary, everyday rock. I am dark brown with tan lines running over me. I think I am quite nice looking myself. My family used to compliment me on my looks before I brought shame upon them by getting involved with that charlatan, Joe Smith. I can see I am getting ahead of myself so I will back up.
Generation after generation, I enjoyed the association of family and friends 30 feet below the surface of the earth, in what is known as upper state New York. One day, we heard a rumbling noise coming from up top and for the first time I saw human beings. It turned out the Chase family thought they owned the ground my ancestral family had occupied for ages. I was violently snatched from my family and ended up in the hands of this Joe Smith, that I had mentioned earlier. This was the start of my travails.Chase later reported these events in this manner,
“In the year 1822, I was engaged in digging a well. I employed Alvin and Joseph Smith …. We discovered a singularly appearing stone …. Joseph put it into his hat, and then his face into the top of his hat.
After obtaining the stone, he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it …. I ordered the stone to be returned to me again. He had it in his possession about two years.
Some time in 1825, Hiram came to me, and wished to borrow the same stone …. I told him if he would pledge me his word and honor, that I should have it when called for, he might take it.”
Chase then described a dispute over the ownership of me this way,
“In the fall of 1826, a friend called upon me and wished to see that stone …. On going to Smith’s, and asking him for the stone, he said, “you cannot have it;” I told him it belonged to me, repeated to him the promise he made me, at the time of obtaining the stone: upon which he faced me with a malignant look and said, “I don’t care who in the Devil it belongs to, you shall not have it.”
That is how I wound up with this person. Let me give you a little background about his family.
The Smith’s spiritual world did not typically include organized religion, but it did include treasure divining. Joe’s father would claim to have been divining for treasure for thirty years, presumably since the first decade of the century.Both he and his son Joseph were immersed in the lure of divining and held magic world views.In the 1830s, as the Mormon Church faced financial crisis in Kirtland Ohio, Joe Smith. turned first to divining and then to banking. That turned out to be a disaster, I can tell you.
Joseph Smith learned divining lore from his father and also from Luman Walter. Walter arrived in Ontario County some time after August of 1818, when he escaped from jail in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, having been convicted of a charge of “imposing himself upon the credulity of people in this vicinity, by a pretended knowledge of magic, palmistry, conjuration, &c.”The magical orbit of the Smith family in Ontario County was thus filled with influences running back to the various sectarian-occult traditions of the late seventeenth century migrations. (Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism, 53-111)
Joe Smith used three seer stones during his divining years. He found the first of these, described as “a whitish opaque stone,” in September 1819, by borrowing Sally Chase’s green glass; he found me, his favorite, I might add, while he and his brothers were digging a well for the Chases in 1822. Sometime after 1825, while in the Susquehanna Valley, he was given a green stone by Jack Belcher, a diviner and salt digger.(Quinn, Early Mormonism, 38-41)
By 1825 a group of participants in the Smiths’ money-digging ventures had emerged. This group actually thought they could use ordinary, everyday stones to locate treasure. Ha! I could of told them that would not work when I was first pulled from the ground. Who knew humans were so gullible.Here is what Martin Harris had to say,
“There was a company there in that neighborhood, who were digging for money supposed to have been hidden by the ancients…. They dug for money in Manchester, Palmyra, also in Pennsylvania, and in other places.” Peter Ingersoll claimed that he “had frequent invitations to join their company, but always declined being one of their number.” But on one occasion he did join in working the mineral rod with Joseph Sr., being “at leisure” while his oxen were feeding. When the elder Smith challenged him for his skepticism, Ingersoll “thought it best to conceal my feelings, preferring to appear the dupe of credulity, than to expose myself to his resentment.” (Lists of the money-diggers are given in the Harris interview, in Kirkham, edl, New Witness, 2:377, and Tucker, Mormonism, 38-39. For Peter Ingersoll, see affidavit, in Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined, 134-8)
To make a long story short, this idea of digging for treasure was tied to the idea of wealthy people might bury their treasure like pirates from a novel and poor people could use magical means to find it and then they trade places with the wealthy. Joe was pulled into court for these activities. It is at this point I need to clear up the historical record. Most humans think it was here that Joe decided to change course and pursue a money making venture with the idea of a book written on gold plates. In fact, that was my idea. Consider it a moment of foggy thinking on my part. I was raised better than that so please do not hold this poor decision over the heads of my parents.
On September 22, 1823, a day listed in local almanacs as the autumn equinox, Joe later recorded that he went to a prominent hill near his home, and found the location of the gold plates along with some other artifacts, including two stones to help him translate. (I told Joe not to put that part in because it would cause trouble later on, but he was always stubborn). In 1838, Smith stated that this location was shown to him in a vision while he conversed with Moroni. However, according to a Palmyra resident Henry Harris, who said Smith told him he located the plates using his seer stone. In yet another account, the angel required Smith to follow a sequence of landmarks until he arrived at the correct location.Joe could never keep the story straight.
The plates, according to Smith, were inside a covered stone box. However, Smith stated he was unable to obtain the plates at his first visit. According to an account by Willard Chase, the angel gave Smith a strict set of “commandments” which he was to follow in order to obtain the plates. Among these requirements, according to Chase, was that Smith must approach the site “dressed in black clothes, and riding a black horse with a switch tail, and demand the book in a certain name, and after obtaining it, he must go directly away, and neither lay it down nor look behind him”.Smith’s close friend Joseph Knight, Sr. corroborates the requirement that Smith was to “take the Book and go right away”.
Joe starts translating these plates by putting me in a hat and sticking his face in it and telling his scribe what to write. I told him the words and he repeated them. Very tedious business making up a book. I mean what did I know about human history? No wonder scholars later cam along and could see all these anachronisms. How was I to know elephants and horses and so on were not in America during the time frame of the Book of Mormon? What about the chariots you ask. I thought I was being clever and pulling from books I had read. Have you ever read The Late War? Don’t get me started on all the mistakes we made.Why didn’t Joe or Oliver ever say anything? Not to bright, those two.
The Book of Mormon gets published. Joe starts his Church in April of 1830 and things are looking up at that point. I figured to get a little something for my part in all this. I mean, a guy has to get paid and all. Even a rock expects some kind of compensation.Joe of course could not stop looking at the ladies. That was always the worst part for me. I really liked Emma. I have only fond memories of her. So how do I get rewarded? I don’t! Outside of that weird Wilford Woodruff who seemed to have some sort of rock worship going on, I was censored out of history.
I was locked away in a vault and rarely mentioned. Most members did not know about me even though they pretend now they knew the entire time. The Church published all these phony pictures of Joe thinking real hard while touching the gold plates and doing translating. I wish there had really been gold plates. I would have taken them and been gone before this whole mess had a chance to take hold.
South Park helped. In the 2003 episode “All About Mormons,” Stan gets a crash-course introduction to LDS history from Gary, a new Mormon kid in his class. Part of the episode’s flashback to Joe Smith shows Joe translating the Book of Mormon with his face plunged in a hat.
While many members dismissed the South Park explanation as anti-Mormon hogwash (a conclusion hastened by the refrain of the scene’s song, which accused Mormon theology of being “dumb, dumb, dumb”), Parker’s vision of Joe pulling a translation out of hat was more historically accurate than the sanitized, Church-approved images taught to the faithful.
Things changed for me in 2015, when the Church officially admitted I existed and put out a stunningly good photo of me! Even my family, who had long been disappointed, admitted as much.All in all, things are starting to look up for me. I still have a bit of anger at the Corporation for how I was treated for many years. Even today, the best artwork of me is from outside the Church.Now if they would only tell the true narrative of the book.
Questions to consider:
Why was I necessary when the plates had stones buried with them for the very purpose of translation?
Why all the trouble of even having gold plate when they were not necessary to translate?
Why use a stone to translate that was never able to find treasure?
Would Christ have censorsed me out of the narrative as Church leaders did? What does that say about them?
Does anyone with an intellect actually think people translate by sticking their head in a hat and looking at a rock?
In 1841, Joseph showed his whitish stone to the Council of the Twelve in Nauvoo and told them, Brigham Young reported, “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.” (Bushman, p. 48-52) How come the brethren do not teach humans about getting stones today? Why don’t they each have one and demonstrate the great blessings that comes from rocks?
“The seer stone referred to here was a chocolate-colored, somewhat egg-shaped stone which the Prophet found while digging a well in company with his brother Hyrum, for a Mr. Clark Chase, near Palmyra, N.Y. It possessed the qualities of Urim and Thummim, since by means of it — as described above, — as well as by means of the Interpreters found with the Nephite record, Joseph was able to translate the characters engraven on the plates.” (1907, 1:257; 1909, 2:108; 1930, 1:129; also Widtsoe 1951, 260, as quoted in Quinn, p. 145). How come the brethren do not use me to assist the great latter-day work today?
Dumb dumb dumb
Here is a photo of me. I have long been considered photogenic.