Joseph Smith Seer Stones: Don Bradley’s Insights into Joseph’s Translations (Part 5)

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

And then the Lord gives him two white stones which sounds like a similar description to Joseph’s seer stone. And so, this is in D&C 130 and in Revelation 2:17 that says, “To him that overcometh I will give to him a white stone in the which is written a new name, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.” So another temple connection, right? And this is all happening to the Brother of Jared. Why does the text call him that? It’s withholding his actual name. So there’s this sort of theme of esoteric names, secret names. And you’ve got this giving of the white stone which is connected in scripture with a new name that no one else knows. A secret name. So then the Lord gives the Brother of Jared revelation of things that are so great and so comprehensive, that he’s forbidden to share them in public, so he writes them and seals them off and that’s the sealed portion. So I mean, how temple loaded can this story get, right?

So people go to the temple, and they’re like, freaked out when they go for the first time. They’re like, ‘I’ve never encountered anything like this in my life,’ you know? And we’ve got to have some sympathy for that because they go to church and at church you never encounter it remotely like this. But it’s there in the Book of Mormon. It’s there. And so if we actually taught it in a way that highlights that, when people go to the temple they can be like, ‘Oh, I’ve read this in the Book of Mormon. I’m the Brother of Jared here.’

So this is the story of how the Jaredites got the interpreters. So scholars had noticed for a long time, not very many but a couple, that the Book of Mormon, curiously, never tells us how the Nephites got the interpreters. It tells us how the Jaredites got the interpreters, but how in the world that they get from the Jaredites to the Nephites. People can sort of speculate, but it doesn’t give a narrative. And sometimes people have said things along the lines of, ‘what if they were found with like the 24 Jaredite plates?’ That isn’t the case because when Limhi’s people find those plates, Limhi then later says to Ammon, ‘Do you know of anyone who can translate?’ And he says, ‘Well, the King we’re with can translate’ and they’re called interpreters. And I’ll add that this is a different tool of translation from Joseph Smith seer stones. So King Mosiah II or Benjamin, depending on how you understand the text, already has the interpreters before the 24 Jaredite plates are found. How does he have them? We’re not told. We’re told how the Nephites get the Jaredite plates. We’re not told how the Nephites get the interpreters. 

So why aren’t we told? Well, let’s look at who had the interpreters among the Nephites. Okay, so Mosiah II absolutely has them because toward the end of the book of Mosiah, he uses them to translate the 24 Jaredite plates twice in the earliest text of the Book of Mormon, but that has been eliminated from our text. It said that King Benjamin had them. And the reason it was eliminated is that the people who were doing the proofreading later on thought, ‘wait a minute, isn’t there a chronological contradiction in what it’s laying out here? They must mean Mosiah II.’ But the fact that it’s two different authors in the Book of Mormon, in two different places, who say it, Moroni says it in the book of Ether, and Mormon says it in the book of Mosiah, I think that points to somebody making a mistake.

King Benjamin had the interpreters. And another reason to believe that is that, remember in the Book of Mormon there’s the lost pages and then the narrative picks up in our book of Mosiah, right? Well, our book of Mosiah starts with King Benjamin having peace all the remainder of his days. He’s an old man. He’s about to die. If he’d gotten the interpreters at that point at the end of his life, it would be there in the narrative. So if he was the one who got them, it would have to have been earlier. That would play into some of the lost pages, or it could go back further than him, I would argue. So remember, in the book of Omni it says that there was a large stone brought to Mosiah I and it had engravings on it, so a Jaredite record. It says he interpreted the engravings and told the people what they meant. Well, how do I interpret them? Interpreted them with what? I mean, presumably with the interpreters since that’s what they’re created for. And so it appears that Mosiah I had them and that’s as far back as we can trace them. 
Well Mosiah I’s entire story was in the lost pages, we’re just given the thumbnail sketch in the book of Omni. So why don’t we have the story of the Nephites getting the interpreters? It’s because it was in the lost pages. That’s where it was detailed. So then we go to our historical sources about the lost pages. In 1830, a young businessman in Palmyra and his cousin, Jacob Ramsdale, go and visit Joseph Smith Sr. That young businessman is actually a distant cousin of Martin Harris’s mother. And so he hears the story that The Book of Mormon is then in the press. It’s early 1830 and he can’t read the book yet so he does what I would have done. He shows up at the Smith’s door, like ‘tell me all about this.’ So Joseph Smith Sr. gives him an interview. For a couple hours he tells him about the coming forth of the book. He tells him things about Joseph’s translation process like the seer stone and the emblems of masonry were on the top plate and other things like that. He tells them things that are sort of like, ‘I’m not sure about that.’ Almost like it sounds like he’s confused, or he’s importing some of his memory. But he says a lot of things that we can verify from other sources that were not published at the time that he published his account. So it’s not in doubt that he has inside information like he’s claiming he does.

By Todd Noall, Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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