Joseph Smith Seer Stones: Don Bradley’s Insights into Joseph’s Translations (Part 6)

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

So then, once Joseph Smith Sr. has given him the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the plates, the seer stone, and he starts giving him the story in the Book of Mormon. And he actually emphasizes the early part of the narrative. He tells him stories from the early part of Nephi history. And then he gets really general about it after that, and then they just, they divided it into factions. You know, Jesus came, they destroyed themselves, the end. So why is he emphasizing the early part of the narrative? Well, I think he’s actually deliberately telling his visitors more of the story that they won’t be able to get from the published book, because it’s in the lost pages. So he starts out by first giving them like the basic story with some garbling. 

And the businessman does not remember a single name, not one name, but he remembers the narrative. So he says, well, there was this prophet, and God warned him to go out into the wilderness so they wouldn’t be destroyed. He just remembers one son. And he says, they traveled out three days toward the Red Sea, and then he sends his son back and the son tries to get the record but the guy won’t give it to him, he finds the possessor of the record lying in the street drunk. And although it’s a familiar story, he adds unfamiliar details. Like, the guy was drunk because there was a great feast going on in Jerusalem at the time. But like, that’s not in 1 Nephi

But would that fit? Well, let’s see, it says Laban had been out by night among the elders of the Jews. He’s not just out with run-of-the-mill drinking buddies, I mean these are some pretty high profile drinking buddies, the Elders of the Jews, right? He’s wearing armor and carrying a sword. He’s just casually going out to a tavern with the Elders of the Jews dressed in armor with a sword? There’s a ceremonial occasion here, right? This is a religious festival. Oh, that’s what Joseph Smith Sr. is talking about. And so then you look at the text to figure out, are there other clues to being a religious festival? Yes. Are there clues to what festival? It turns out there are all kinds of clues as to Passover, like 1 Nephi is actually loaded with clues that there’s a Passover context. This makes sense like when Lehi has his opening vision in the text, he sees Christ coming down. And then later he tells his sons, you know, ‘I’ve seen the Lamb of God.’ Lamb of God? In a Passover setting, Lamb of God, it all makes sense. 

So then he keeps on narrating. And, again, thanks to Joseph’s translation using the seer stone,  he gives familiar narrative, sometimes unfamiliar details that when you look at them, it’s like, that would actually fit and it would make a lot of sense with other anomalous details in the text. So then he gives a couple of stories that we do not have in our current text, he gives no indication of timeframe on this at all, but sometime after they’re in the New World, they’re traveling, and they’re being led by this ball, the Liahona, and they have this tabernacle, a portable temple. So this is a clue right here to a timeframe within the book Mormon narrative, because a tabernacle is a portable temple, so they’re on some kind of Exodus and that only happens twice in the Nephi narrative, as far as we know. It’s when Nephi’s family is first in the New World. They’ve left Solomon’s temple, they haven’t built Nephi’s temple. And then Mosiah I leads an exodus from the land of Nephi, where Nephi’s temple had been, to Zarahemla where he built his own temple. 

So it’s one of these two settings. And remember Mosiah I is the first person that indicated that he had the interpreters, because he uses them to interpret this record after he arrived in Zarahemla. So they’re on an exodus, they’re being led by this ball, they have a tabernacle, the ball leads him to an object, and he doesn’t know what it’s for. It’s like God led him to this thing, but what is it? What do I do with it? And so he takes it and carries it in with him in the tabernacle, and the voice of the Lord asks him, ‘what is that in your hand?’ Now, the presence of the Lord in ancient Judaism and the Hebrew Bible was understood to reside particularly in the Holy of Holies, right at the center place of the temple, where it’s behind a veil. 

So this guy comes into the temple, presumably from behind the veil of the Holy of Holies and the Lord asked him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ The man answered that he did not know but had come to inquire. The Lord says put it on your face. Cover your face with an animal skin. He does and he can see anything. It’s the interpreters. So at that moment, the Liahona stopped working. And I’d seen years ago where a scholar had written questioning, why don’t they ever use the Liahona anymore? Like in the book of elements, if they have all these wars? They’re traveling in the wilderness? Which way should we go? Where are the Lamanites? We know that they still had it so why aren’t they using it? 

This would explain that right? It didn’t work anymore and had been replaced by the interpreters. How did the Nephites get the Jaredite interpreter? Well it’s not in the book, so it would have had to have been the lost pages. Joseph Smith Sr. happens to give a story that answers that exact missing question. Like, this is from the lost pages, right? And then the story is riddled with Exodus echoes, like much of the Book of Mormon narrative that we have already. So the first time that the interpreters are mentioned, the first time that the tabernacle is constructed is at Sinai. The covering of the face is first mentioned with Moses. When he comes down from Sinai his face is like glowing, and he covers his face. And they’re instructed to build the tabernacle, using different layers, including an outer layer of animal skin, like beaver skin, or badger skin and then they’re supposed to carry the sacred relics when they’re on the move. They wrap them up, and they place them in badger skin wrapping. 

So going back to the question, ‘what is that in your hand?’ That question is straight out of Exodus 4:1. It’s on Sinai, it’s the burning bush. Moses is at the burning bush and the Lord has just revealed His sacred (until then, secret) name, Yahweh, Jehovah, and Moses asks Him, ‘How am I going to convince these people? Why are they going to believe me? And the Lord asks him, ‘what is that in your hand?’ And it’s his rod. So it’s just Exodus echoes everywhere. This is the lost Book of Mormon narrative that’s answering these questions, right? This story is like the other half of the story of the brother Jared, getting the interrupters where he has a dialogue with the Lord through the veil. The Lord asked him a series of questions, beginning with a question about the Lord’s hand. 
Here, the Lord asked the man a question about his own heart and then they have this dialogue and I actually bring in some evidence from Martin Harris that how the story culminated, is that Mosiah I is on one side of the veil from the presence of the Lord, the Lord tells him to put on the interpreters and once he does, he’s in the presence of the Lord wearing the interpreters, and He sees the Lord. And so it’s similar to the story of the Brother of Jared where this dialogue culminates with him coming into the presence of the Lord. And so then you think about Joseph Smith and the tools he uses to translate, the seer stone, and in a similar idea to the putting on the interpreters and covering his face with an animal skin, then he can see, right? Joseph Smith uses the stone and he covers his face with an animal skin, his beaver hat, and so he’s actually echoing or paralleling exactly what’s going on in this narrative.

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.

About Mormonism Explained

Mormonism Explained is a resource that was designed to provide objective and factual information about Mormonism, its history, doctrines, and policies. Our team of researchers consults experts and primary sources to present factual information on a variety of topics relevant to the Mormon Church.