The Daily Mail recently published an Associated Press account of the publication a book containing photos of the first printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon and the “seer stone” that Joseph Smith used to translate documents to produce said scripture. While we take no stance on the validity of the founding myth of the Church of Latter Day Saints, it is interesting to note that it was in keeping with the contemporary spiritual culture of the age, especially in upstate New York as well as Europe where mystic “revelations” led to the founding of such institutions as the Gnostic Church by Jules-Benoît Stanislas Doinel later in the century. And a few centuries earlier there were those shennanigans carried on by Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly.
An excerpt from the article states:
“A seer stone was used by some early-nineteenth-century Americans in attempt to gain revelations from God or to find or ‘see’ buried treasure. In the early 1820s, Joseph Smith was paid to act as a seer in attempts to locate lost items and precious metals in the earth and he was known to be gifted at finding lost objects.
“The particular seer stone used to translate text that would become The Book of Mormon was found in 1819 after Joseph Smith borrowed a seer stone from a friend to find another whitish seer stone in an iron kettle 25 feet underground.
“Mormons believe that 185 years ago, founder Joseph Smith found gold plates engraved with writing in ancient Egyptian in upstate New York. They say that God helped him translate the text using his favorite seer stone along with two white ‘interpreter’ stones he called he Urim and Thummim which were attached to the gold plates.
“Smith would translate the text by putting the seer stone into a dark hat. It was said that after doing this he had the divine ability to see the words in English and translate the text.”
read the whole article here:
Meanwhile, here’s Aleister Crowley fictionalized portrait of Smith from his novel “Moonchild” p226
“And now all gave way to a most enigmatic figure. It was an insignificant face and form; but the attributions of him filled all heaven. In his sphere was primarily a mist which Iliel instinctively recognized as malarious; and she got an impression, rather than a vision, of an immense muddy river rushing through swamps. And then she saw that from this man’s brain issued phantoms like pigeons. They were neither Red Indians nor Israelites, yet they had something of each in their bearing. And these poured like smoke from the head of this little man. In his hand was a book, and he held it over his head. And the book itself was guarded by an angelic figure whose face was extraordinarily stern and unbeautiful, but who scattered with wide hands the wealth of life, children, and corn, and gold. And behind all these things was a great multitude; and about them were the symbolic forms of exile and death and every persecution, and the hideous laughter of triumphant enemies. All this seemed to weigh heavily upon the little man that had created it; Iliel thought that he was seeking incarnation for the sake of its forgetfulness. Yet the light in his eyes was so pure and noble and magnetic that it might have been that he saw in a new birth the chance to repair his error.”
thanks to Soror Amy for this tip. In point of fact, ALL the stories stemming from the Daily Mail come via Amy!